As a runner we all know pain. Many of us have torn, dislocated, sprained, or tendonitis-ed ourselves into an injury at some time or another. Usually before we are sidelined there are signs of impending injury.
So what do you do? How do you recognize these signs and when you do, what do you do about it?
First, don’t rush speed work. Usually having a solid base will keep you from injuring yourself during a training cycle. What do I mean by a base? Aerobic running for several weeks. I like to get in 8-12 weeks of aerobic (injury free) training when coming back from an off season. 4-6 weeks of all out speed training is usually as long as I want to push it before a race. More than that usually leads to burn out.
So you are building your base, and getting little twinges here and there…what do you do? Aches and pains are always normal, what is important is how we deal with them, heading off major injury. Often more running is a cure, the only way to get better at something is to practice, but in order to keep our bodies running like a well oiled machine there are several different therapies I have tried.
Here are my reviews;
FOAM ROLLING(trigger point therapy)– This is part of my daily routine for injury prevention. I actually own a hollow pvc pipe for serious muscle knots. This is the first step to self-myofascial release. Other great tools are golf balls and lacrosse balls. They really get into tight muscles and help bring back range of motion. Word of warning, do not roll over joints with these tools, they are for soft tissue only.
YOGA I have several running friends who teach yoga and are in-tune with active stretches that are beneficial to runners. Single leg standing poses help with balance, inversions are good for lower leg circulation, and hip openers facilitate good running form. I try to do this weekly, several times is probably best, but in a time crunch once a week will do.
MASSAGE There are many types of massage techniques, to be effective it should be a deep tissue, or bodywork massage, nice relaxing massages are great, but aren’t exactly beneficial for race training. (It is wonderful post race, however.) I have two favorite people I go to, David Beadle and Carolyn Levy. I see them when foam rolling won’t release stuck tendons. Usually ITB problems are relieved by bodywork. My ITB is one stubborn tissue and I don’t weigh enough to release it on my own.
GRASTON This technique is one of my favorite techniques. I liken it to getting my “tires” rotated. I usually walk out with some interesting bruises, and I won’t lie, it can be painful, but building mileage, or adding in speed work will create little adhesions in your legs, and after it is always feels so amazing to get that range of motion back. It is described as a “patented form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that enables clinicians to effectively detect and treat scar tissue and restrictions that affect normal function.”
FELDENKRAIS Some people have running coaches, or do running drills to help with their running form. I have a PT who is a Feldenkrais practitioner. I get muscle aches and pains often, but when something doesn’t respond to foam rolling or other methods of myofacial release methods, I usually know that my pain is due to improper mechanics. For example, this winter after running a mountain race, I expect stiffness and aches. I had a bit of pain in my knee, I poked around and discovered I had a really tight ITB and when I rolled it out it aliveated my knee pain completely. Everything is connected, right? (So says the song “the knee is connected to the leg bone…”) After working out the soft tissue kinks, I still had hip pain, and was aware enough that something was turning that food outward medially. Feldenkrais addresses our movement by making us body aware. The mind-body connection is strong, and just telling someone to do 100 squats won’t correct a lousy gait. Sometimes it really is all “in our heads.”
Finally, ACUPUNCTURE. I do not use acupuncture for aches and pains, I have used it for endocrine/immune system recovery. This is my story with acupuncture. The first time I went to an acupuncturist, and also wholistic practitioner, I had been dealing with a stubborn case of giardia for 7 months. An herbal concoction, and certain eating pattern finally did what western medicine had failed to do, cure me of GI distress. Then onto last summer, for fun, a friend and I decided to see, at the end of a 3 month build up, how far we could run in a week. He hit 200, I was right around 160. I then decided to sign up for Grindstone 100 a month later. Last fall, due to government shut downs, Grindstone was cancelled, and after all that running and preparation, I was crushed. I know it was just a race, but all that time, effort, and stress it caused in my personal life…I was just emotionally devastated that I had worked so hard for nothing. Fortunately I was really lucky to be able to jump into Pinhoti, a month later, but the emotional and physical stress was too much for my immune system. (I did have a wonderful race, led the women’s field for the first 1/3, had a low in the middle, and came back to finish 5th in the end.) It left me just wasted though, I was breaking out in hives, couldn’t sleep, was irritated, didn’t feel like running. I gave myself time off, ate healthy, slept a lot..but still wasn’t feeling myself. I thought perhaps I was allergic to some sort of environmental irritant so I went to my acupuncturist.
He looked me over, noted the hives my runny nose and my overall itchy body, and stated that I was still having an inflammatory response to the past few months of stress (both physical and mental). After going to see him twice, and having some painful pricks (usually they are sort of unnoticeable) my hives cleared up, and I was back to training. This is of course, my own personal experience, but I have to say it was pretty amazing. It helped with my overall inflammation, and he said it could help with more localized inflammation as well.
Philip Kosdan is who I see, he is not only an acupuncturist, but also has his M.A. in Chinese Medicine/herbs.
I know there are lots of other therapies out there, what are your favorites to keep you running strong?!