UPDATED: 15 JUNE 2018 – Running injuries are rubbish. Whether it’s shin splints, ITB pain or something else, they can put you out of action, risk achievement of goals, and generally get you really frustrated. Here’s how I turn my experience of injury into a positive one…
Having the odd injury seems to be par for the course when you’re a runner. Over the years since starting running, I’ve suffered, and learned, from having:
- shin splints – see this post
- horrendous blisters on the bottom of my feet – see this post
- ITB pain – see this post
- sore lower back
- foot arch pain
- achilles bursitis
What they all have in common are that a major contributor to getting them is inherent weaknesses/imbalances in my legs and biomechanics when running. The second major contributor is over-training. Too much, too long or hard too soon.
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Why I see it as a positive?
Becoming an informed runner
So each time I had an injury, I learned a huge amount, from speaking to other runners, physios, sports massage therapists and consulting google. I read up on the possible causes of the injury, the parts of my anatomy affected, and the mechanics of running, how the tendons and muscles work, the forces involved. So for each injury, there was a solution – both to rehabilitate from the injury, but equally importantly – to reduce the likelihood of it recurring.
What I learned has undoubtedly made me more aware of my biomechanics, and I actively focus on how I am running, and my form, when training and racing.
Learning to love cross-training and strength work
When I’ve been out of running action for some weeks with injuries, I’ve sought other ways to keep fit, such as cycling, swimming, strength, and other gym-based cardio workouts. It’s good to work your body in different ways, and strength (particularly leg and core strength) work makes you a stronger runner, helping to correct the imbalances and build on the weaknesses that caused the injury in the first place.
The biggest revelation for me was using gym leg and core work to overcome ITB pain.
I used to get ITB pain, without fail, when running over about 15k, particularly when running on roads, as the pavement-pounding can be repetitive, hitting the body in the same way with each foot strike (another reason why I prefer trails!). A mixed workout programme of lunges, squats, leg lifts and other similar drills focused on legs and glutes meant that I trained myself out of getting ITB pain- although it can recur when I get tired or lazy. A great programme to follow to rehab from ITB issues can be found here: How to Stop IT Band Pain while Running: Exercises That Actually Work.
Next time you’re put out of action by a common running injury, don’t just focus on overcoming the immediate problem. Focus on learning why it happened in the first place, what you can do to stop it happening again. By thinking of it as a learning process, injuries have the potential to make you a more well-balanced and stronger runner when you come out the other side.