What I Learned from Running Injuries

by tinareale on August 29, 2012

Running injuries. They just plain suck. Often times they happen somewhat unexpectedly…or at the peak of motivation and goals. Or when they really get in the way of plans. Who am I even kidding? They like to do all those things. No one likes to deal with a running injury – sidelining us from an activity we love to do on a regular basis and that helps keep us happy and sane. At least I know that’s the case for me.

Ever since March of this year I have dealt with running injury off and on. First up, the top of my foot – which I never got a clear diagnosis for but luckily felt better (although never 100%) after a couple weeks off. Then, I made it through my first marathon…only to find myself sidelined with intense pain on the side of my knee any time I tried to run in the weeks following my marathon. After all of that, I finally felt better and started to come back…just to feel my heart injured due to the consistent frustration of the previous months all compounded.

I’m finally back in my running shoes and feeling pretty good. I’m sincerely hoping to take what I have learned and avoid future problems as much as possible. I certainly learned a lot and want to be sure to log it – so hopefully it can help someone else out there and keep me accountable to not making the same mistakes twice. Winking smile 

running injuries

Follow what fits YOUR body. Big lesson numero uno. Training for a marathon, I thought that meant I had to run 5 days a week. Pretty much any plan I discovered had that suggested amount of running. Turns out, no good for my body. I know my body does so much better with 3 (maybe 4) days of running per week and ample strength and cross training instead. That will be my focus from here on out. Even when I train for my next marathon…which I have to admit I’m looking at this one…

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Do NOT go too fast or try too much too soon! By not listening to what works for my body training wise, I ended up ramping up my mileage way too quickly. Go from 3 days of running to 5? Yep. Bound to happen. In the future, I will plan to not only run less days, but be very cautious in how often and by how much I increase mileage from week to week. Remember that rest/recovery/scale back weeks are your friend!

Another lesson? Running with the running group may not work so well for me. My local Running Divas group has a lot of superstar runners who log 8:30 – 9:00 minute miles on their long runs easy breezy. I would try to keep up during my training and it was too fast for my body. I would rather run alone and safely at my own pace, than risk injury. I can still catch up with them before/after runs…or on days I’m doing a shorter distance tempo run!

When you feel pain, seek help. Thanks to the awesome Heather I found my new best friend when it comes to running pain. A local sports chiropractor has helped me so much!!!! He has miracle hands. On my initial visit, he analyzed my gait and any muscle imbalances I may have. He performed torturous techniques (like the Graston Technique or Active Release Therapy) to relieve muscular tightness and adhesions.

I may have paid good money to end up with ugly bruises, but somehow they helped immensely in the long run thanks to his professional care. I now plan to visit him at least once a month for general injury prevention.

Rest when your body tells you. Just listen to your body. I feel very lucky that my injuries never knocked me out for greater than a month and were relatively easy to care for and resolve. I credit it to listening to my body and taking time off from running when I felt the need to do so. Even when I just needed a mental break – like in my recent hiatus of a few weeks.

STRETCH. Then, stretch some more! So many injuries come from imbalances that stem from tight muscles. My calves are my weakness and I know I need to give them some tender loving care with the foam roller on a regular basis now.

For goodness sake, find the right shoes. Shoes. Shoes. SHOES! I have a bit of a sore spot with running shoes. I ran in a pair that never gave me problems at all for a year. Got fitted and tried something new and different. It did okay for awhile…then the company remodeled the pair completely at the peak mileage of my marathon training. I tried to go for a similar style from a different brand than have my feet adjust to all the crazy changes. Well, that landed me in a pair of much too stable shoes and hobbling thanks to my ITB issues. Lesson learned that the type of shoe makes a world of difference and while it can get expensive, it’s worth it to find a good pair that fits your feet and running.

Look at the WHY of your running injury. NUMERO UNO!! Do this above anything else!!! Sure, when overcoming my injuries I received some pretty painful effective treatments, got new shoes, iced like mad, made the foam roller my security blanket, seriously considered buying stock in KT Tape, and rested up. However, I don’t think any of that would do me any good in the long run if I didn’t try to discover WHY I kept having these issues pop up.

Thanks to the sports chiropractor’s in depth analysis of my wacky legs and feet, I now know that I had serious issues with my running form and that my left gluteus medius muscle was lazy as all get out. I let my hips go all loosey goosey and do NO work in my running, which forced my lower legs to take way more of the brunt work than they should. Enter injury one with the foot pain…which led to injury two of the ITB from compensation and weak hips. Now I have stretches and exercises to strengthen these issues and know what to pay attention to in my running to help avoid future problems.

There you have it. A long winded reminder to myself that I hope can help another avoid or at least handle a future running injury. Let’s run smart, so we can run strong!

Your Turn – Ever dealt with a running injury? What did you learn from it? Any tips for others?

{ 53 comments }

1 Miz August 29, 2012 at 6:51 am

somehow someway I GOT A RUNNING INJURY and Im not a runner.

I learned those same lessons, Tina.
HECK Im still learning them.

great post.

2 Paige @ Your Trainer Paige August 29, 2012 at 6:58 am

I can’t agree more with how running affects different bodies in different ways. I just couldn’t understand why *I* couldn’t run 4/5 days a week, but so many other people could. three days (well, now two that I’m just training for a 10k – kind of:)) fits me better.

3 Lindsay @ Lindsay's List August 29, 2012 at 7:06 am

I’m still dealing with plantar fasciitis so no running for me. :( sucks hard. But I’m willing to heal it this time around instead of making it worse. that’s one of the reasons why i’m taking this rest week.

4 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats August 29, 2012 at 7:08 am

I needed this today! My legs are completely exhausted and fatigued, I couldn’t barely get through 4 miles yesterday with constant stopping. Today I’m supposed to run 9 and a HUGE part of my desperately wants to just push through it, but I can feel how tired my legs are just sitting here at the computer… it’s so hard for me not to do one of my training runs but I know skipping today’s and tomorrows are what I NEED to be able to run 18 on Saturday. Still so hard not to run! This is where being type-A and stubborn kicks me in the butt!

5 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey August 29, 2012 at 7:15 am

It sucks that sometimes you need to learn these things the hard way, huh? Glad you’re going to do things differently next time around!!

6 Coco August 29, 2012 at 7:44 am

I have learned the same lessons — the hard way! You are so lucky to have found a good chiro. I am glad that you are feeling better and hope you stay strong through the fall running season. Have you seen the Runner’s World (?) book Run Less, Run Faster? I have not read it, but I’ve heard good things about it.

7 tinareale August 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I have. I plan on following the weekly layout. I do runs Mon, Wed, Fri and XT with spin on Tu/Th. Fri and Sat or recovery/active recovery (with yoga on Fri and complete rest on Sun). I will eventually build up to some of the workouts but don’t think I could do all the speed stuff it emphasizes right now. Eventually I want to though and think it looks like a good plan to either follow or base your own training off of.

8 Annie August 29, 2012 at 7:56 am

This post came at just the right time! I’ve reconnected with my love for running in the past couple of weeks unfortunately my knee has decided otherwise! I keep experiencing weird on and off pain on my longer runs and it’s really frustrating! Debating whether to see a doctor or not. I know you’re not in the medical trade but because you’ve been running for much longer than I have and are more experience maybe you have any ideas as to what it could be? It’s sort of like a stiffness on the outside of the knee that seems to appear after 4 miles.

9 tinareale August 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm

You’re right I’m not a doctor but the outside of the knee pain I had was ITB syndrome. I would get it looked at and get some help because the ITB is a very testy area that doesn’t like to play nice I discovered. Knee pain with runners can be a world of things, though, so that’s just my experience. Either way, a professional opinion is always good. :)

10 Cheryl @ Happy is the new healthy August 29, 2012 at 8:01 am

Such a good topic to touch on, Tina!

” Just listen to your body. ” is KEY! And I think you hit the nail on the head with figuring out why. It’s important to realize that running takes a big toll on us — and I know from experience so I’ll just add in — it’s better to be a bit undertrained/not as fast on race day than it is to miss race day because you ran through real pain and ended up hurt/sidelined!

:)

11 tinareale August 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

As I have to miss Chicago bec of all of this, I give a HUGE AMEN to that!

12 Christine @ Love, Life, Surf August 29, 2012 at 8:19 am

These are great tips Tina. It’s been 5 months since my knee surgery and it’s HARD to come back from injury. Especially now that I’m older, things don’t heal as quickly so it’s definitely been a lesson in patience for sure. I think that the most important lessons are to seek help and to give it time to properly heal. Better to take a little more time to heal now than to deal with a longer term injury. And Graston? OUCH! But totally works.

13 tinareale August 29, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I had it done right before our beach trip. It was quite the attractive sight to have a HUGE bruise running all down my leg. I could literally see the shape of my ITB. It was crazy!

14 Lauren (@poweredbypb) August 29, 2012 at 8:24 am

This is totally helpful! I had a knee injury earlier in the year so took about 6 weeks off running. Since then it has been fine (fingers crossed). I’m making sure I don’t ramp up my mileage too quickly, and do lot of stretches. I find 4 runs a week works best for me alongside strength training/cross training.

15 Sarah @ Blonde Bostonian August 29, 2012 at 8:37 am

This is so timely! I am training for a half marathon in 6 weeks and have been battling a mystery knee injury for a while now. I finally broke down and scheduled an appointment with a sports medicine doctor for this week. My stubborn nature immediately kicked in and wanted me to run through it. I know I shouldn’t, and your post reminds me of that. Thanks for the tips.

16 Heather (Where's the Beach) August 29, 2012 at 9:05 am

Right there with you. I feel like it’s an uphill battle sometimes. And I have tried to learn from the injuries like you say. To really understand the cause so I can prevent. I’ve definitely taken some drastic, painful physical therapy measures as well – just desperate to try anything that would help. Glad you’re back in your running shoes!

17 Cat @ Breakfast to Bed August 29, 2012 at 9:42 am

running injuries make me grind my teeth. and cry. then grind my teeth again.

great post.

18 Bethany @ Accidental Intentions August 29, 2012 at 10:05 am

Love, love, LOVE this post! I’m not injured at the moment *knock on wood* but I have been in the past, and it’s just awful. I’ve found that being injured is the hardest when you’re training for a race (at least for me), because it’s SO hard to stop running, even when you know stopping before you’re too injured is way better than aggravating your injury. I’ve done a pretty good job of staying uninjured since my injury last year by not being stupid and pushing myself when I shouldn’t, but it can definitely be a challenge.

19 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat August 29, 2012 at 10:25 am

Dealing with tight IT bands over here – but following a training schedule, foam rolling daily, and yoga 2-3 times per week is definitely helping!

20 Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef August 29, 2012 at 10:28 am

these are all great tips… don’t have much to add but i definitely agree with the part about being careful who you run with. as a former college runner there was pressure to keep up with the group. maybe that’s all well & good when you’re on a team, but post-college a group can sometimes encourage you to go faster & do more than you thought you could on your own… or it can push you harder than you can handle and you can wind up injured. like everything else in life, moderation is key!

21 Kim @ Redefining Kim August 29, 2012 at 10:39 am

When I was training for my first 5K, 4 years ago I developed severe inflammation in my knee. My doctor thought I had torn something – turns out it was just tendonitis caused by too much training. I learned that when training for a race, I have to take rest days and focus on cross training.

22 Jess August 29, 2012 at 10:46 am

I was nodding my head throughout your post — saying YES to every single one. I actually blogged about something somewhat similar today. About making training your own, making sure you do right by your own body and what you KNOW will work for you, not what will work for the runner next to you. I’m SO glad you learned so much through training for your first marathon, I’m just sad you had to experience the injuries and heartache with it. Injuries are awful, and so very mental to boot. I’m SO glad you’re on the mend, happy and healthy and refreshed! :)

23 tinareale August 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I saw it. Read on my phone so it’s always hard to comment. But anyway it made me wish I had waited to have Chicago as my first so we could have trained together. Having you going the 3 runs a week thing would probably have kept me focused on the same and kept me healthy.

24 Jess August 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm

You know what? No regrets my friend — everything you learned through training for your first marathon has only made you wiser, stronger and even MORE in love with running than ever before. Look at it that way, right?? And just think how incredible your next marathon experience will be because of it (because you are indeed crazier than me…I don’t think I’ll do any other marathon after Chicago, one and done!!) xo!

25 jobo August 29, 2012 at 11:00 am

Wow, SUCH good perspective and pointers, Tina. I think the hardest part for me if I ever have a running injury (pray that doesn’t happen though!) would be surrendering to the injury and allowing recovery. At first. It would be a huge adjustment given I run 3-4 days a week too and cutting it completely to heal would be hard, but obviously extremely worth it. So smart to cut back your running to what works for you – 5 days of running is COMPLETELY rare for me, once in a blue moon. 4 is my usual, 3 if it’s a tough week or I run longer than normal. What suits you doesn’t suit the next and that is rule number one for me too!! Glad you are feeling better and back at it!!!

26 Lisa August 29, 2012 at 11:32 am

Even though I’m not a runner, I have suffered from other injuries and these are all such important tips! Sometimes we try to just push through the pain, but that is not the best thing to do. Its great to just listen to our bodies and stop when our bodies are clearly telling us they want to stop. Glad you are back to running!!:)

27 Carol @ Lucky Zucca August 29, 2012 at 11:55 am

Thank you for sharing this Tina!! It has some really awesome info. And reminders! I always want to just run through the pain and feel guilty for “making excuses” but really pain isn’t an excuse… it’s a legit thing! I have to convince myself of that from time to time.

28 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles August 29, 2012 at 11:57 am

All great things to consider!

Although I’ve never had what I consider to be a real injury, I do notice a bit of knee pain sometimes after a long run. Wearing a knee brace helps, but I feel like I should see a physiotherapist to figure out why it occurs.

Definitely with you on the running 3 days a week thing. Although other people can run 5 no problem, 3 is best for me to avoid fatigue, mental burnout and injuries.

29 Jen August 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I do hate running injuries. I love this post! Thanks for sharing.

30 Brittany @ Delights and Delectables August 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Love this post!! I had the Graston Technique done on me… ouch!! I have IT band issues due to a weak gluteus medious as well!! No fun… I had to take almost 2 years off of running for it to completely heal up. Now, I’m back to running a slow 2 miles to work my way back up!

31 Laura @ Mommy Run Fast August 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Great points! I’ve definitely learned a number of them the hard way. I am also a much stronger runner with 3-4 days of running, and ran my first full marathon on it. Lots of plans out there make you think you need to be logging serious miles, and it certainly helps= but you can also count some of that cross training and lessen your chance for injury. Glad you’re feeling good these days!

32 Leonor @FoodFaithFitness August 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I had ART and cupping done on my ITB to break up scar tissue. It’s no fun! I agree, funny you wrote about this because I have a draft on the same topic.

33 Heather @ Side Of Sneakers August 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Oh Tina, I SO could have written this post word for word. Minus the marathon part. Same pain, same treatment, same lessons. Hope you stay injury free here on out!

34 Annette@FitnessPerks August 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Any injury can be almost always avoided with good shoes, good form, weight training, and listening to the body-with lots of rest, ice, and sleep. In my experience ;)

I’ve never been injured, and I fully believe it’s because I try to stay balanced, and I know not to run too many days per week. Hope things keep moving forward for ya, Tina!!

35 Heather @ Better With Veggies August 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Listening to your body is HUGE, but it’s hard to discern sometimes. That’s why I think custom training plans are so important, because the cookie cutter training plans you find aren’t tailored for where you are now. Unless you really know what works & doesn’t work for you, it can cause injuries.

I’m SO glad you love Dr Nik as much as I did. Miss having access to him!

36 Michelle@Peachy Palate August 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I had trouble with my sciatic nerve…too much too soon, too much in general, lack of stretching and no foam rolling as well as tilted pelvis…I’m no listening to my body, foam rolling, stretching, running no more than three times a week and have sorted the pelvis tilt..lots of lessons learned!

37 LindseyAnn August 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Can you elaborate with your shoe experience? As a running store employee, I like to hear this feedback so I can help people better. Thanks!

38 Amy Lauren August 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I loved this :) . I like how you emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I think people see the training plans online and think they need to adapt to fit that but in reality, they need to listen to their bodies and train smart, not necessarily harder. Like you, I do better when I alternate with cross training such as bike, weights, etc. But I know some runners who mostly just run or do two-a-days then take a day off… that’s fine too. Whatever works, as long as you listen to your body.

And being injured stinks! Better to take a break if you feel something coming on than to get hurt and be out for awhile (plus running keeps some of us sane, haha).

39 char eats greens August 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I wonder how I run sometimes. I want to go and get fitted and have them actually watch me fun to analyze, but I haven’t done it yet! Luckily, I haven’t had any major injuries. I’ve just experienced hip flexor pain and a little bit of knee pain last year.

I know I haven’t been a good stretcher lately and really want to get a foam roller asap. I think those are both important things for me to do in order to prevent injuries. I’m glad you’re recovering good :)

40 Calee (@chimes) August 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Tina! You have no idea how much I needed this post.

I’m with you on all this, except this time I’m dealing with a random-crappy-happenstance injury. Not something that happened from using my body (overuse injuries are the bain of runners’ existence).

I’m on the fence about Graston. My chiro who I see regularly for prevention said she doesn’t believe in it. I’m also worried about it causing long-term damage even though it’s a quick return to athletics. I’d like to run the rest of my life with these short breaks (be they ever-so-frustrating) than to have to stop short. My dad had both his knees replaced at 40 (see last week’s post on Monday about my crazy fast dad) and I would prefer not to go that route.

I’ve had ITBS a few times and love the foam roller.

AND for those who are still wondering how shoes can make the difference … last time I swapped shoes (2008) I shaved 2 minutes off my average mile time. TWO. This was coupled with re-learning how to run after an injury (there’s re-coordination that has to happen).

Definitely with you on the 3-4 days a week of running. I ran 5-6 days the first time I trained for a marathon (ha, first time? only time so far) and my body hated that. I was planning to run a 10 mile race next month and then start marathon training, but I’m going to have to put that on the backburner for a while. I might be able to run another marathon next year (October?), but we shall see.

anyway. sorry for the long comment. this is top of mind right now!
I’m sidelined currently. Ugh. :/

41 SaraO@TheLibrarianReads August 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

*Fingers Crossed* No real ‘injuries’ to speak of when I run. I’ve got good natural form. Ha. Jealous?

Don’t be. For some un-explainable reason my feet shift and swell A LOT in a running shoe and for years, YEARS, I ran with 2 to 4 inch blisters up the arches of my feet. It was so bad my hubby wouldn’t touch my feet under the covers at night! Pedicurists stared in alarm! It wasn’t until I found the Saucony Cortana this spring that *magically* all I get is some slight callousing on my big toes. Summer Sandals Rejoyce! I’ve purchased at least one pair of these shoes a paycheck so as to stock up. Because you never know when they’re going to remodel the shoe.

Shoes. Are. Huge. ;)

42 Pavement Runner August 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Fantastic post… I’m dealing with a Top Of Foot Pain right now… like, literally right now. As I type this I have a heating pad on it. I’m going to try a short, flat run tomorrow. This is my 3rd day off of it. Hoping it was a really minor injury that goes away quickly.

43 tinareale August 30, 2012 at 11:45 am

Hope you’re feeling better!

44 Lauren August 29, 2012 at 8:32 pm

GREAT tips! I wish I was better at listening to my body and stretching! Two things I know I need to work on.

45 Amanda @RunToTheFinish August 29, 2012 at 8:32 pm

don’t go too fast has been my new motto. every time my IT band has flared has been right after I jumped gung ho into crazy speed work. now i’m easing my way in to it

46 Angela @ Happy Fit Mama August 29, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Awesome advice! Injuries seriously suck as I know all too well right now. I’m slowly coming back to life. Good luck in training the smart way for your next race !

47 seewead August 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm

you had to post these common sense things about running and injuries? are people just plain stooped anymore? I am thinking so. gawd!

48 Mariella Lombardi August 30, 2012 at 2:02 am

Hi Tina,

Very good advice. I must say that I never had an actual injury where I had to go to the doctors for it, but I do have some on and off knee problems. I was doing some Tai Chi a few years back and it put a lot of strain on my knees, so I just decided to take a break from that for now.

49 Lee August 30, 2012 at 8:52 am

I have never had a real running injury but I think I would like to see a sports chiropractor anyway. Mostly because of my uneven running gate.

Where is Albany, GA?! I have no idea.

50 william charschan DC,CCSP August 30, 2012 at 10:30 am

As a sports chiropractor, I am glad to see you discovered the benefits of methods such as ART or Graston have to offer. The key to running pain free and injury free is symmetry. What most runners do not know (and most articles never mention) is that we inherit features such as our body style. In my book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain (available on Amazon.com), I explain what body style is and why people develop pain from the way they are built.

If you are built asymmetrically, you will undoubtedly develop painful problems, which are worsened by running. Eventually, the core torques, causing your stride to shorten. As it shortens, you will hit the ground harder. This exacerbates over and understriding beyond your control because of the effect of the shortened myofascia surround your core.

This is why someone who understands runners can be of a huge benefit to them. Myofascial release (art, graston are forms of this) is enourmously helpful to runners.

Other things that should be considered are the right shoes and foot orthotics for those of us who have asymmetrical gait styles.

For more helpful hints, visit our blog at http://www.backfixer1.com/blog/

51 Michele @ Nycrunningmama August 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm

SUCH a great post, Tina. Going to share it now. I agree with everything you said, especially the ones about doing what works for you!! Too often we compare ourselves to others – whether it’s the mileage, # of days running, or pace and feel that we need to keep up. We may be able to for a few weeks, but in the end it will bite us in the end.
Glad to hear that you learned all of this and had the awareness to write it all down – it’ll definitely come in handy if you have to deal with another injury!! =)

52 Lisa September 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with injuries. I’ve been there a few times now. Most were little annoying things that a week off from running cured. A few years ago I injured my IT Band and that took forever to get over. I had to take 2 months off from running and it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I realized just how imbalanced my body was and started lifting weights. I fell in love with strength training and re-imagined my workouts so they were balanced in all things–running a bit, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, and yoga.

53 Nicole V October 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Thank you for this entry!! I am 4 days out from a 10K, 11 days out from a half marathon and I am dealing with SOME awkward leg pain that makes running SO difficult!! Thanks for all of the great tips!

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