Disclaimer: I’m no expert at running, nor am I an expert on injury prevention so I offer only my own meandering experience.
I tend to be a little type-A sometimes and I tend to ignore nagging pains until they get so severe it completely prevents me from running. I’ve learned that self-care, rest-days and maintenance are just as important as the miles and workouts I put in.
Almost every runner I know has something going on with their body as they start and as they continue to increase mileage. For those of us who overdo it, we quickly reach for quick fixes as pains arise. Over the past several years I have incorporated massage therapy as one tool to prevent injury. Contrary to the working-class, Midwestern mentality that massages are “luxurious indulgences” that was instilled in me from childhood, an elbow in my gluteus maximus is not equivalent to “luxury”.
Regardless of whether I’m hurting or not, I try to get into my massage therapist at least twice a month. Deep-tissue and trigger point release seem to be the most effective for my body. Over the past couple of weeks some lower-back pain has crept back preventing me from being able to bend over without looking like a 90 year old woman. I saw a physical therapist for this issue a couple of months ago and she recommended some exercises and stretches (due to weak glutes and a misaligned pelvis) which I haven’t been doing as religiously as I should. I blame the last flare-up on an advanced yoga posture I tried to push myself into. Darn ego!
In addition to plastering myself with Salon Pas patches, and occasional Aleve, I have found a gifted massage therapy student I can get into between visits to my regular massage therapist. Thanks to a great massage on Thursday, the pain diminished just enough to complete the Sageburner 25k in Gunnison this weekend. After the race, I indulged in the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Contrary to all of the hype about ice baths aiding post-race recovery, I much prefer warm, natural spring water when available. After the Collegiate Peaks 25 miler I spent 3 hours in Cottonwood Springs and was hiking with minimal soreness the next day.
The peskiest of running injuries I’ve had to deal with is plantar fasciitis. I purchased a trigger point ball to roll under my foot to break up the fascia. I keep it in the shower so I remember to use it as I’m a multi-tasker. I’ve tried heel inserts in the past but didn’t find them effective. When it really flares up I freeze a water bottle and roll it under my foot.
My goal over the next few months is to add more gym-work/strength training (which I dislike) to help improve muscle imbalances and increase power in my running muscles. I will continue to practice yoga which I attribute to helping prevent injury and keeping me sane. Now that school is winding down, I will have more time to cross-train on the bike and in the pool which will help me maintain fitness while giving my feet a break from the pounding of running.
The hardest lesson of all that I’ve learned about recovery is that it’s o.k. to take days off. Sometimes my competitive “guilt” button is triggered and I push through pain even when I shouldn’t. I have learned the hard way to listen to what my body is telling me and taking a couple days off often helps me race better. It’s better to race on fresh legs. The amount of fitness I would lose from taking a couple days off is negligible. Sometimes our bodies just need to rest. The key is being mindful enough to know when.