Step-by-step Recovery Tips for Injured Runners

This week’s post has been sent to us by one of our very own WOOT members. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we are so blessed to have amongst our group, a great number of talented women who are able to contribute to our blog by providing us with knowledge on topics that they understand well. One topic that we can all relate to as runners, and which we could ALL stand to learn much more about, is how to prevent injuries, and perhaps more importantly, how to manage injuries once they have occurred. Fortunately for us, WOOT member Carey Hicks, is a certified occupational therapist and she will be giving us some great pointers on this topic (and more) over the next few weeks!

Post by Carey Hicks

Anyone that has run long enough has had an injury of some sort. According to the Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, an estimated 70% of runners will suffer an injury. Research and experts agree that the top cause for injuries is self inflicted, in other words…training errors. Yet we keep on running and hope we don’t end up a statistic.

If you are part of the majority, you eventually find yourself describing the circumstances of your injury to another runner. Mid story, you notice that their eyes are glazing over and when their facial muscles start twitching you realize that they are fervently praying for 1. Your story to end, and 2.that they remain healthy and uninjured.

In light of the statistics mentioned above, a four step intervention has been devised to help deal with an injury when it occurs.

Step 1: The first step to recovery is admitting to yourself that you have a problem (sound familiar?) You are injured and you need to take time off. “Who me? I’m not really hurt. It’s only a little swollen and it doesn’t hurt that badly.” You think you have a slight limp but everyone else wonders if you are hiding a recent amputation.

Step 2: Admit to your running partner/group that you do indeed have a problem. “I rolled my weak ankle this morning at 5:30 running in the dark.” What were you doing up at that hour to begin with?

Step 3: The third step is actually TAKING TIME OFF to allow your body adequate time to heal. For those of us that are endorphin addicts this is the hardest part. We need our run like a crack head needs their pipe.

Step 4: Finally, after taking time off, you need to return to your routine SLOWLY. Sure, you have been getting an hour in on the elliptical, rower or swimming ‘cause you need your fix. “I can do an hour on the precor without pain and I’m not hurting so I am headed out for a quick six. Be back in an hour.” Only you return 3 minutes later, limping and pondering how you are going to meet your running goals. At least you listened to your body this time.

Why can’t you just jump back into your normal routine? The biomechanics of running are completely different than walking, swimming, biking, rowing, elliptical training, etc. Let’s take a quick look at what is happening when you go out for a leisurely jog or run…we aren’t talking about sprinting or racing here. Ideally, it would look something like this:

  • Your core muscles (abdominals) are engaged to protect your spine, you lean slightly forward and your limbs (arms and legs) are relaxed and free of tension. Your muscles alternately perform concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) contractions and you move fluidly with great efficiency.

We’ve all seen THAT runner that makes it look effortless (and hopefully you get to run with her every week). This is the mental image you have of yourself, where back in the land of reality, you may look, well, downright deranged.

This week, try these tips to stay injury free:

1. Warm up properly…run easy for 5-10 minutes then STOP (I know it’s hard) and stretch. Stretch your hamstrings, glutes, calves, quadriceps, lower back and chest. See Anna’s post below on stretching!

2. Check your running shoes. How long have you had them? You should replace your running shoes every 2-3 months and only run in your running shoes- don’t wear them around casually.

3. Start listening to your body. If it hurts to walk, you shouldn’t run. If it hurts to run then don’t. And if it hurts to move, then make an appointment with your friendly family doc.

I hope that you have laughed, learned a little and reminded yourself of things you already know. Now, go out and have a great week.

Carey has a BS in Biology, and a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology. She worked in cardiac rehabilitation before going back to school and obtaining her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy (Carey is a board-certified, state-registered Occupational Therapist). Carey is also a certified personal trainer and pilates instructor!

For those of you who need some tips on dynamic stretching, see Anna’s post below:

Post by Anna Boom
Dynamic warm up
A hot topic of debate

Do you stretch?

There has been a lot of talk about whether it is right or wrong to stretch before or after your run.

We have all been through gym class where the teacher has us bend over and touch our toes and count to 10. Is this worthy of our time? Or is it possibly causing damage?

When Jeff Galloway came here to speak, he recommended against static stretching, comparing your muscles to rubber bands. Keep pulling them and they are bound to one day snap.

One area that has agreement is to do dynamic warm-ups. This is a way to activate your muscles without the risk of static stretching. It also leads the body gently from easy running into a hard race or workout.

Have you tried it yet? There are numerous sites that lead you through various types of warming up. I found good examples on Runner’s World and Running Times:

Running Times lists the following dynamic stretches to warm up:
Light jog for 10-15 minutes (always try to do this as it does prevent injury); then for 10-20 meters, try the following:
REACH for the SKY; walk and reach up one arm at a time, as high as you can. You should feel it all the way down your side to your hip.

SWIM; walk and swim freestyle. Swim fast enough to feel momentum, and let your hips rotate naturally.

HUG those KNEES; walk and bring your knee up to your chest and give it a hug. Stay upright. Bring your knee to your chest, not your chest to your knee.

KICK-OUTS the HAMMIES; walk and kick out your legs while reaching for your toes with the opposite hand. Bend toward your outstretched leg.

Try this before your next race or hard workout. See how you feel and report back if it worked, please.

Use these dynamic warm-ups anytime during the day to loosen up after sitting at work or after a long study session.

Stay loose!