Monday, January 18, 2016

Running Injury Prevention

About 2 years ago when I started seriously running and training for the Army Ten Miler, I was cautious about not doing too much too soon, exceeding my limits, injuring myself and subsequently derailing my training program.

Some browsing around the internet found TONS of articles on injury prevention.  Many of the articles provide very similar advice, and two short articles I will share with you below summarize the two key take-aways that have influenced my training routine:  dynamic stretching before the run and GSM (general strength and mobility) exercises after the run

This first article explains that static stretching (for example, standing still touching your toes for 30 seconds) does not help you, but dynamic stretching techniques such as the lunge matrix will help you.  I spend 5 minutes before each run doing the lunge matrix or some form of dynamic stretching.  There are videos in this article that show you how to do the lunge matrix.

This second article drives home that if you have an hour to exercise each day, you are better off doing 5 minutes dynamic stretching, 45 minutes running, and 15 minutes of general strength and mobility (GSM) exercises than you are to just do 60 minutes of running which is more likely to result in injury, after which you'll be spending 0 minutes per day running because of your injury.  If you click on the "GSM" link in the article, it will take you to Coach Jay Johnson's website where he has videos showing how to do an 8-week progression of GSM exercises after your run.

That routine carried me through many miles over many months, and I've added one more element to my routine since then.  The Pentagon Athletic Club gives out a t-shirt for those who log running 1,000 miles.  I began running 20-25 miles per week, and I set a goal of running 1,000 miles in 1 year.

Last March, I was just 11 miles from my goal when I went on a trip to San Diego, and I was so excited to complete my goal with a gorgeous run around Mission Bay.  After parking out on Crown Point, doing my warmup, getting my headphones in and my playlist started, I started off on my run.  About 30 seconds out, I suddenly had a sharp pain in my left knee and came to a screeching halt.  I hobbled along for a little bit trying to see if it would work itself out, but no such luck.  I limped back to the car in disappointment.

I happened to be at a conference with a bunch of Navy doctors and runners at the time and told them what happened.  When I described my symptoms, they told me about "runners knee" and about the IT band that attaches at your hip, goes down the outside of your thigh, and wraps around under your knee cap.  A personal trainer at the base gym taught me how to use a foam roller before my runs on the outside of my thighs to "roll out my IT bands," and she recommended getting one with a hard-plastic core or even just a piece of PVC pipe.

I bought the Foam Rollerpictured above for use at home, and it's been perfect.  When I started traveling for work, I noted that most hotel fitness centers don't have foam rollers, so I bought a compact foam rollerthat fit nicely in my carry-on bag to take with me on travel.

It took me a week or so of rest for the pain in my knee to subside and get back into my running routine, but I was able to complete my goal of 1,000 miles in 1 year toward the end of March.  I also completed my goal of running 1,000 miles in 2015 around the middle of December.

In summary, as it stands now my injury prevention routine consists of doing the dynamic stretching and rolling out my IT bands on the foam roller before going for my run, and doing some general strength and mobility exercises after my run.

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