Prehab for Injury Free Running

After 25+ years of running and coaching I know of two types of runners; those that have been injured and those that will get injured. Research says that in a given year anywhere from 50-80% of runners will be injured.  Why is that number so high?  One reason is that “too much too soon” is not a good thing for runners.  And that “too soon” could be ramping up mileage too quickly so your body can’t handle it, or adding too much speed work when your body isn’t ready for it, or both.  Another reason could be muscle imbalances or certain running muscles are weak and the body overcompensates which h isn’t a good thing.  Finally, you could have weak muscles/muscle imbalances AND be adding mileage/speed too soon.  Granted injures can occur for other reasons to even the most muscularly sound runner but that is rare.  BUT, what if I told you there was a way to run almost injury free and minimize the chance of injuries.  And you don’t have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling for it.  Would you want to hear (read) more?  I hope you would.

 

First a glimpse into my prior running life: I have an hour to run, I will jog slowly for 5 minutes as a “warm up”, run 7 miles and try and touch my toes in the shower as my post run “stretching” routine.  Sound familiar or something similar?  I was everyone else trying to get in as many miles as possible in the short amount of time we devote to running each day/week.  I wasn’t about to “waste” time with a pre run warm up or a post run cool down/stretching routine.  Those aren’t miles in the log so they are wasted time.  And this worked for quite some time and I ran some decent times; until it finally didn’t.

One day I woke up with severe pain in my lower back and was surprised that it hurt so bad even though for the last 2-3 months my lower back and hip would get tight during runs. After my 3 days off, I tried running again.  No luck.  One week off, no luck.  So I bit the bullet and went to the doctor hoping she would say it is nothing and I just needed a few more days rest like all runners hope to hear.  Long story short, after my MRI I found out I had a stress fracture in my sacrum (lower back/hip area).  I was out!  No running for at least 6 months and tons of physical therapy.  This is when I learned the value of what I will tell you.  Even though my leg muscles were strong, the “correct” running specific muscle that are fairly small were super weak.  Thus the rest of my body did what it could to make up for those weak muscle which put them under unnecessary stress every time I put my foot down running.   Imagine how many times your foot hits the ground when you run, no imagine that it isn’t good for your body each time your foot hits the ground too.  Something had to eventually break and when it did it was big for me.

After the 6 months off it took another 4-6 months to get back to anything worth calling “running” and it hurt as my body adapted to the new me. Finally after 24 total months I was running injury free and feeling BETTER than my old self.  So do you want to be like me and by that I hope you mean that you want to feel better than you feel now, not that that you want to learn the hard way and take a year off of running and struggle to get back to running.

Glad you chose the first. Here is the advice- prehab.  Huh?  What’s prehab?  I’ve heard of rehab but “prehab”?  Basically it is preemptive exercises/stretching/warm up routines to keep you from needing to rehab an injury.

 

What I did was incorporate a 5-10 minute warm up routine (Jay Johnson has a great lunge matrix warm up routine- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5GV77-oDPM ) for EVERY run even short 2-3 mile runs. I also added a post run stretching protocol that I got from my PT.  I haven’t missed doing it yet and it’s been 2+ years since starting.  And sure my 7 mile hour run would only be 5 miles and then all the work but 5 miles is better than zero while injured.  Finally and this is a big one and one that most will shy away from, I started doing leg workouts to work on my weak muscles/muscle imbalances.  I know the gym can be intimidating but these exercise don’t have to include weights right away.  Most can be done and actually should be done with body weight to get the form correct and then you can add exercise bands once your body weight isn’t cutting it anymore (or gain weight but that isn’t usually the right way to add weight to your workouts).

You might be wondering where to start with all of this and while the internet can be a great resource you have to go to trusting websites. Athletes treating athletes (https://athletestreatingathletes.com/), runners connect (https://runnersconnect.net/), Jay Johnson (http://coachjayjohnson.com/running-times-circuits-parts-1-2-and-3/) and the Pre-Hab Guys (http://www.theprehabguys.com/) again are great resources.  But if you truly want to be your best, go see a sports specific PT and get a full body running evaluation and exercises to fix the problems.  Yeah it might cost $200-300 once but isn’t that worth saving months or years of sitting on the couch wishing you could run?

Hope my story and advice help because I want to see you out there running and feeling good doing it!

Happy Running!

 

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