Injury — the one word that strikes fear and distress into every runner’s heart. When I initially decided to write about injury prevention for this blog post I’d never experienced an injury before (besides a painful bout of Plantar Fasciitis here and there). I must have been sending a sign to myself because just a few short weeks and an MRI later, I learned I had a stress fracture in my femoral neck (hip). Sadly, this means racing Houston is out of the picture for me (I’m hoping to run/walk the half), but my recovery period has taught me more than I could have ever imagined about injury, recovery and self-care.
Listen to your body.
The best thing you can do to prevent injury is the simplest. Listen to your body. Our bodies are innately intelligent and will let us know when things are going wrong. For me it meant an intense, shooting hip pain during and after running. As runners we’re tough. We like to push through, but there’s a difference between strength and grit, and pain and injury. Learn the difference between them and listen to it.
Mix it up.
Running is hard on the body. It’s an impact sport after all! And, for us distance runners the constant pounding on concrete starts to take a toll. Consider adding a mixture of surfaces to your training repertoire. If all your long runs must take place on the road, run on gravel surfaces or the track on your shorter runs and speed workouts.
Fuel your body well.
Good in, good out. The more you fuel your body with the nutrients it needs, the better you’ll perform and the less vulnerable you’ll be to injury. I suffered a stress fracture which can often be caused by Vitamin D and Calcium deficiencies. While that wasn’t the case in my injury, it’s heightened my awareness to the importance of eating well to stay healthy.
It’s always so much easier to focus on the things we’re good at instead of taking time to work on the areas needing improvement. Training for a marathon takes up a lot of time so it can be tempting to skip the other exercises that make us stronger, more mobile and less vulnerable to injury. Look at your schedule and pencil in realistic timeframes to strengthen and stretch. Maybe it’s a weekly yoga class or 15 minutes in the gym after your easy run day. Both stretching and strength exercises — specifically those that focus on your weaknesses — will help reduce the risk of injury.
Rest is just as important to your training program as the work. If you never give your body time to recover from hard runs and workouts, you compromise all the hard work you’ve put in! To go back to number one, truly listen to your body and heed its requests. If you’re feeling run down, take a day off or switch your morning run to the evening. One of the biggest benefits of running is its flexibility. Use that fact to your advantage and rest when you need to rest. You’ll come back even stronger!
Running a marathon is one of the biggest accomplishments you’ll achieve, and it’s even more amazing when you can cross the finish line feeling strong and healthy! Keep self-care top of mind as you approach the last couple months of your training. It’ll pay off dividends in the end!
#HouAmbassador, Lindsay McClelland is a digital marketing professional, yoga teacher, former collegiate swimmer, marathon runner and fitness blogger. Her running adventures have taken her to 13 marathons (and more half marathons than she can count!), including a recent Boston Qualifying time (BQ). Lindsay is a four-time race ambassador for the Chevron Houston Marathon. She teaches yoga at Revolution Studio and loves when runners come to her classes! Lindsay catalogues her fitness adventures and stories from the road on her blog, Loving Life on the Run.