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Top 10 Tips To Avoid Injury

The other day, one of the athlete's I work with, emailed to let me know that her foot was sore when she got up for her run, so she rode the bike instead.  It was such a brilliant move, I almost couldn't believe what I was reading.  An athlete making a smart call on their own, without the direction of their coach?  That is one smart athlete.  By the next day her foot was fine and she had only replaced one easy run with an easy bike instead.  Contrast that with the athlete who continues to run on the sore foot so that they don't miss any training, until the foot is so sore, walking becomes an issue (we may, or may not be talking about me).  This athlete is then forced to take 4 weeks totally off while the foot heals.  It's pretty obvious to see, which athlete made the right call.  

This entire situation got me thinking about injuries and injury prevention in general.  What are the things we should do to avoid injury altogether (as best we can)?  Below, my top ten tips to avoid injury:

1) LISTEN to your body.

Like the athlete in my story above, you have to commit to listen when your body speaks!  Running through pain isn't a sign of toughness.  It's a sign of an athlete that isn't being smart about injury.

2) STRENGTH train to balance the body.

Running is good at making some muscles very strong, but also leaving some muscles weak and unused.  These imbalances create injury risk.  The simple solution is to strength train some key areas to balance the body out.

3) BUY properly fitting and appropriate running shoes.

There are a multitude of different types of running shoes available and not every shoe is right for every runner.  Go to a specialty running shop with knowledgeable staff who can help put you in the right shoe.  And, once you find the correct shoe, make sure you replace them when they've become worn.

4) BUILD volume and intensity appropriately into your training schedule.

It's easy to fall into a MORE MILES, RUN HARD ALL THE TIME mindset.  But it's a trap!  While it may lead to short term gain, this approach often leads to injury and burnout in the long term.  Having a coach to set up your schedule appropriately can be of huge benefit.

5) RUN on soft surfaces, sometimes.

If you have access to soft surface trails, use them!  It's worth a drive once a week, if need be.  And in the winter when trails might be not accessible due to ice and snow, consider running on a treadmill once a week for a softer ride.

6) DO NOT race too often.

I like to race just as much (if not MORE) than the next guy, but racing too frequently is also a trap that should be avoided.  It might be fun in the short term but again, leads to injury risk and burnout, in the long term.  Save your biggest efforts for your big goal races.  It will pay off.

7) COMMIT to a consistent foam rolling, stretching, bodywork routine.

I know stretching and foam rolling might be the last thing on your mind right after a run.  But if it meant staying injury free, most runners would agree that it would be worth it!  It doesn't have to take too much time, but a consistent body work routine and focus on tight areas, can make a big difference.

8) RICE 

Rest.  Ice.  Compress.  Elevate.  Most runners are good with the "I" part of the equation, but tend to ignore the RCE and most especially the R!  RICE can provide immediate treatment and relief IF done properly, when you feel the start of an injury coming on.

9) SAFETY first in non-ideal running conditions.

Since its winter, it's worth a mention to be conservative in icy, snowy conditions.  And also remember to wear bright colors and reflective gear when running in the dark!

10) BE patient.

Progress and improvement can be addictive.  If we get a little, we just want more!  Which usually means we push beyond what we should.  And that often leads to injury.  Patience is not one of my strongest traits.  But if there is one things I've learned, it's that you can't rush success.  It requires patience to let yourself develop as your body dictates, but it's always worth it!

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