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Anonymous asked, “I’ve been reading your blog for a few years and remember that, especially at first, you were always suffering from some running-related injury.  First it was your knees, then a spot on your shin.  I remember you once had to take a three-month running hiatus due to the pain!  More recently, it seems like you never get injured.  What do you think changed, and why do you suffer from less injuries?  I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong!”

 

Ah, yes.  It’s true.  In the early days of my healthy living journey / keeping this blog, I nicknamed myself the Queen of Injuries.  It felt like I was always getting injured in some way.

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My biggest trouble spot was my knees.  It took me a long time to get properly diagnosed, but I suffered from Runner’s Knee (fancy name: patellofemoral pain syndrome), which is when the patella bone rubs against the femur.  It can be caused by many things, but my Runner’s Knee was triggered by weak inner thigh muscles and strong outer thigh muscles.  It was incredibly painful, especially when I ran for long distances, and for well over two years, I had to wear knee braces to prevent the symptoms.

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Eventually, I found a great sports medicine doctor who got me the help I needed – mainly, physical therapy (a complete explanation of the techniques that ‘cured’ my Runner’s Knee is included in this post).

 

But staying injury-free has been about much more than strengthening moves and icing.  For me, it was truly about re-envisioning how running fit into my life.  All of my sports-related injuries were triggered by and exacerbated by running.  Runners are very prone to injuries – it’s simply such a high-impact and grueling sport. 

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Source

Here are the six ways that I stopped re-injuring myself, over and over again. Don’t get me wrong – some people can run back-to-back days and can train to run far and fast simultaneously without getting injured.  The biggest mistake that I made when I started to run was that I assume since some people could do these things, I could, too.  Like I said, to become injury-free, I really had to evaluate how to make running work for me – not someone else.  Maybe some of these points apply to you, too.

 

#1:  I stopped tackling two goals at once – Running long distances is hard on your body.  Running fast is hard on your body.  Why?  Well, the further you run, the more often your feet strike the ground, sending impact waves through your entire body.  Similarly, the faster you run, the harder your foot hits the ground.  If you’re going to try to run further or faster, it’s very important to slowly incorporate this goal into your training routine.  I found that I could not try to run far (increasing distance) and fast (doing speedwork) at the same time without injuring myself.  That’s why I didn’t focus on time when training for my first marathon – I just wanted to finish the race.  For my second marathon, when my body was better adjusted to the distance, I paid more attention to pace.

 

#2: I ditched the tunnel vision – My biggest running offense in the early days was that I didn’t ever cross train.  Ever.  I loved to run, and it was a fast and efficient workout.  I had tunnel vision – all I wanted to do was run.  I began to realize how important cross training was when I was injured while training for the National Half Marathon in March 2011.  I compared my National Half Marathon schedule to my previous marathon schedule and realized that I ran twice as far a week during marathon training but suffered twice as many injuries during half marathon training.  The difference?  I did twice as much yoga while training for the marathon and slacked on it when training for the half.   When I got into triathlons and started to do more swimming and cycling, I not only strengthened my body in new ways, but I also gave my body a break from the constant pounding of running… and that’s when I really stopped injuring myself.  Bottom line:  you must cross train. 

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#3: I stopped doing back-to-back runs – I got really into running when I lived in Orlando; fellow blogger Meghann and I were frequent running buddies.  Meghann is a  machine and can run every day of the week without hurting herself.  I mistakenly assumed that I could do the same thing.  But I’d wake up after three days of running in a row feeling beat up and sore.  Finally, I wised up and realized that I needed a day off, especially after a hard run.  My body just doesn’t bounce back as fast as others. 

 

#4:  I listened to warning signs – So many of us ignore the warning signs because we just don’t want to admit the truth!  “Ouch!  Hmmm.  Is that a twinge?  Meh.  I’ll just ignore it… maybe it will go away… I bet if I go for a run, it will stop hurting.”  Here’s the hard truth:  You cannot run yourself healed.  I finally realized that, if something hurt, I needed to take time off.  I stopped sacrificing the short-term for the long-term and ended up much better off overall  (How to tell if your pain is ‘normal’ or an impending injury.)

#5:  I wore the right shoes – The right shoe made a huge difference in my injury frequency.  It’s helpful to go to a running store and have an educated sales associate analyze your gait.  Here’s more information on finding the perfect running shoe.

 

#6:  I got a second opinion – The first ‘sports medicine doctor’ (and I use that term very loosely) that I saw about my knees told me the only solution was to stop running.  Forever.  I’m sure that, for some, the solution is to stop running… but that should be the last resort, not the first option!  If you are suffering from an injury and you’re not meshing with your current doctor, get a second opinion.  I highly recommend calling a local running store and asking for a recommendation – it’s really important to see a doctor who understands runners. 

 

More on injuries from yours truly:

 

 

And for even more:  Check out this article on Runner’s World for The 10 Laws of Injury Prevention, including whether you should shorten your stride, the best surfaces for running, and what part of your body you really need to stretch.

 

Can you run back-to-back days without injury?  What’s your favorite form of cross training?  And how do you prevent injuries?

{ 38 comments }

 

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  • Trainer Kjirsten @ Balanced Healthy Life June 27, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I used to suffer from bad hip pain from too much running and once I backed off running (got pregnant), all my hip pain went away. Now I only run maybe twice a week max and my body is so thankful for it and the hip pain has stayed away!

    Reply
  • Caitlin June 27, 2012, 1:37 pm

    I 110% agree with the need to cross-train. I decided to train for my first half-marathon and was only running 3-4 days a week, but yet 1/4 of the way through the training plan I started to experience horrendous hip pain where I would be unable to walk the rest of the day as well as the next day. After trying to run away the pain, which as you stated, clearly does not work I finally decided to stop and just take a break. I gave up running for a bit, healed up, and then found a love in other activities and without realizing it strengthened all those muscles that I had injured. Now I run a few days a week and cross-train and have been injury free!

    Reply
  • Janae @ Bring-Joy June 27, 2012, 1:41 pm

    Cross-training & good shoes are the #1 things in my book for preventing injury. I’ve taught up to 15 group fitness classes a week & have been teaching injury free for over 6 years. I’ve had bouts w/ running, but I never run more than two days in a row, or for that matter, do the same thing two days in a row. I think there are many reasons to cross-train, but injury prevention is probably the most important one.

    Reply
  • Megan@ The Running Doc June 27, 2012, 1:41 pm

    I used to suffer from horrible shin splints. Once I discovered that I could get just as good a workout from cross-training with a fraction of the physical pounding as running they went away. And whenever I start to feel any discomfort I immediately ice as soon as I get home. Even if the pain isn’t the start of an injury, I figure better safe than sorry.

    Reply
  • Dori June 27, 2012, 1:45 pm

    I was just like you, same exact knee injury and I even got the same knee sleeves based on your recommendation. I had knee pain on many runs (even short ones) and most races, most notably my first three half marathons. Now I don’t need them (I don’t even have them anymore) and I haven’t had knee pain since October, 2010. I ran a marathon and gotten tons of PRs since then — all without pain! I credit this to a combination of the right shoes and the right type of resistance training.

    Reply
  • Samantha Angela June 27, 2012, 1:45 pm

    I think weight training is really helpful in preventing injuries from running.
    It strengthens muscles that might be under-utilized in running and keeps your strength balanced throughout your body (assuming, or course, you train your entire body)

    Reply
  • Claire @ Live and Love to Eat June 27, 2012, 1:48 pm

    I’m an injury magnet – my IT band hates me, especially! I even try to follow all of these rules – I just think I’m not meant to be a runner.

    Reply
  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat June 27, 2012, 1:48 pm

    Amen to all of the above! This week is my return to running after a 1 month injury – achilles tendonitis. It’s the first real injury I’ve ever had but it totally put me out of running – like absolutely no. can. do. I’m so much more careful now that I am feeling better. Yesterday I did 15 mins and today was 30, but I know I need to listen to my body and not take things too quickly. I have a half marathon coming up on August 11th and I know that’s soon, but I’m just telling myself that I know I have the cardio base to get it done. It might not be my best, but I know taking my training a day at a time is the best plan!

    Reply
  • Denise and Laura June 27, 2012, 1:58 pm

    So happy you wrote this because I was wondering the same thing about running back to back days. I realized I ran best when I have “fresh legs”. And yoga definitely makes a big difference, stretching out the muscles helps with sore muscles.

    After having Henry are you worried about preventing any new injuries? I’m not close to having a kid but are there any new things you need to watch out for now when you start running again?

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 27, 2012, 9:31 pm

      Yeah – apparently the hormones stretch out your ligaments so I need to be very careful when I start running again. Slow and steady!

      Reply
  • Annette@FitnessPerks June 27, 2012, 2:00 pm

    Great tips! I too do not like running back to back days. It is so not good for me. I also can’t do more than 1 longer-ish running day per week, but I like doing faster shorter runs-and that goes well for me. I think lots of water and sleep are also huge reasons I don’t get injured–ohhh and foam rolling and strength training!

    Reply
  • Alex @ Healthy Life Happy Wife June 27, 2012, 2:10 pm

    I definitely listened to your advice about not running back to back days – & as of yet, I have not gotten injured! (knock on wood!) I’ve also worked on my cadence trying to make sure my steps-per-minute are around 180. It feels weird at first but now it is like second nature. I feel like it has definitely helped!

    Reply
  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats June 27, 2012, 2:22 pm

    I am so jealous of people who can run everyday! I’ve definitely learned I can’t, and that I need to increase distance slowly!

    Reply
  • Janelle June 27, 2012, 2:35 pm

    Interesting. I used to run with my husband, but running multiple times in a row let me VERY sore. I haven’t been running lately and have instead just walked a LOT. It would be good to start running again, though, and just give my body breaks when it needs it.

    Reply
  • Helene @healthyfrenchie June 27, 2012, 2:36 pm

    Thanks for all the great advice! I am newish to running and I keep my runs to 3/4 a week. I also love to cross-train and strength train. I think balance is very important.
    That and sometimes accepting that you might need to stick to shorter distances :)

    Reply
  • Cortney June 27, 2012, 2:44 pm

    I find that cross training and having a strong core are super important for me. It is too hard to pick my favorite form of cross training because I love them all! Which is good, I guess.

    I also read Chi Running and those alignment principles were VERY helpful.

    Reply
  • Sarah June 27, 2012, 2:50 pm

    I’ve gone through a similar injury-journey. I schedule my workouts over a 2 week period and that helps me really space things out. Now I run only 4-5 times in 14 days. (And strength or cross train the rest of the time so I’m active nearly every day.)

    I actually enjoy running MUCH more this way because I am so well rested between runs. This has pretty much eliminated nearly all my “bad” runs.

    Sure training for my 10k is taking me a bit longer, but enjoying every single workout (and injury-proofing myself) is so worth it!

    Reply
  • Laura P June 27, 2012, 3:42 pm

    This post comes at the perfect time for me – I started running again three months ago and have been consistently upping speed and intensity and it’s just reaching the point at which it’s starting to tell on my body (aches, twinges etc) – and I don’t cross-train! Lots of helpful things to investigate here – thank you :-)

    Reply
  • Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See June 27, 2012, 3:51 pm

    It’s amazing to me how much shoes make a difference! As someone with wonky hips and knees, it’s really important :)

    Reply
  • jillian June 27, 2012, 3:56 pm

    Great post! I can relate to all of this :) I’m training for marathon #3 now, and after spending most of the past 2 training (and racing!) seasons injured, i have reassed my plans. I am now only running 3 days a week, and cross training much more. I’m doing more strength, stretching, and foam rolling, and also other forms of cardio (HIIT and elliptical). Here’s hoping the third times a charm! :)

    Reply
  • Tara June 27, 2012, 4:02 pm

    I’m currently rebuilding my mileage after a hip injury (still no firm diagnosis) that began in February (but actually really began last fall during marathon training). I run four days a week now and do yoga twice per week. Sometimes, if I’m feeling creaky, I’ll replace one run with a cycling or elliptical session. I’ve really had to force myself to stop focusing on running so much for the sake of my body. I know a lot of people say to lift weights to get stronger and prevent injury, but for me, I think it tipped off my injury. Two months into a lifting program, I found myself in excruciating pain. I think some people’s bodies handle strength training worse than others. For me, power vinyasa yoga is strength training. Weights be damned.

    Reply
  • Hillary June 27, 2012, 4:10 pm

    I cannot agree more with the shoe thing. I seriously hurt myself training for my first half marathon—turns out I was wearing shoes that were completely wrong for my feet/stride. When I told the employees at the running store what I had trained in, they were like, “And let me guess: you have intense knee and hip pain right now, yes?” YES! New, proper shoes made all the difference in the world for me.

    Reply
  • Emily June 27, 2012, 5:16 pm

    Great ideas! I felt much like you in the beginning. Now, I found that three things helped: (1) The correct shoes; (2) Not doing too much too soon; letting my body get adjusted to new distances; (3) ballet, weirdly enough! I’ve had no foot pain since I’ve started dancing 2-3 times a week, and I think it’s because my feet are so much stronger!

    I don’t run 2 days in a row, since I’m prone to injury too. :)

    Reply
  • Lisa June 27, 2012, 5:33 pm

    GREAT post! I was injured 2 years ago too and had to take a break from running. I have followed a lot of the things you’ve said above–most importantly: spacing out my running and biking! Not doing it two days in a row has helped.

    What else has helped me tremendously is strength training!

    Reply
  • Peach June 27, 2012, 5:42 pm

    Thank you for this! I am currently training for my first half marathon and this post was just the motivation I needed to add more cross training to my week…it is easy to just get sucked into running only.

    Reply
  • Gloria June 27, 2012, 6:05 pm

    Perfect timing for me to read this! Thanks for the great post. I think your blog is probably the most helpful/inspiring blog that I read, while still being really fun and genuine. Happy Wednesday :-)

    Reply
    • Caitlin June 27, 2012, 9:33 pm

      Thank you :)

      Reply
  • Carly June 27, 2012, 6:49 pm

    Great post. Thanks for the advice! I am running obsessed right now but suffering from shin splints and have been for the last year. I was just properly fitted for shoes a few days ago and while waiting for my shins to heal I have been biking and swimming. I don’t like cross training, I just love running! But you are so right, it’s necessary to strengthen other muscles and keep active during running rest days.

    Reply
  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin June 27, 2012, 7:35 pm

    These are all great tips! I never run on back-to-back days either. I’ve never tried, so maybe I would be able to do it without injuring myself, but I’d rather not risk it! :P

    Reply
  • Clare June 27, 2012, 8:34 pm

    Brilliant post, Lady. Especially this:

    “some people can run back-to-back days and can train to run far and fast simultaneously without getting injured. The biggest mistake that I made when I started to run was that I assume since some people could do these things, I could, too.”

    That was my downfall. I fell in love with running and got a bit carried away, running 6 days a week for at least an hour and a half. It doesn’t matter how much energy you have, or that you’re in the best shape of your life; when you feel that first twinge you need to stop and change something before it’s too late. Now I run every other day (and mix it up with walking the dogs, yoga and swimming) and no more than 5K at a time. I may not be as fantastically fit as I was (even though my weight hasn’t changed) but my bones are much happier for it.

    Reply
  • Charlotte Geary June 27, 2012, 9:20 pm

    Excellent post, Caitlin, thank you! You have inspired me to get more consistent with yoga and other cross training. This was just what I needed to read right now.

    Reply
  • BroccoliHut June 27, 2012, 9:26 pm

    Great post!! I’ve had everything from plantar fasciitis to piriformis syndrome to a double stress fracture. Like you, I’ve learned that alternating activities so that I run every other day is great for avoiding injury. These days, with it being so hot I am loving swimming as cross training!

    Reply
  • Alett June 27, 2012, 10:16 pm

    At 42 years old I cannot stress enough the importance of cross training – mainly strength training and flexibility. It is amazing how it is harder to bounce back from injury when one gets older.

    I have also found that changing my foot strike from “heel” strike (which puts MUCH more vertical load on your hips and knees) to forefoot strike has been incredibly beneficial. That being said changing my foot strike came at a big cost – namely a calf injury as this type of foot strike really works your calves and “someone” (me) was not keeping up with their yoga.

    I cannot do back to back running days anymore; rather I really don’t need to. That being said when we do the Goofy challenge in 2015 I will slowly have to wean that in to my training regimen.

    Happy wednesday!

    Reply
  • Kelly June 28, 2012, 6:19 am

    This is a really great post! I’ve learned a lot of these things over the last few years. I’m always amazed by people who can run every day, or never do anything but run but that is just not my body :) It’s kind of good in a way because I’ve had to get into so many other things.

    Reply
  • Lauren T June 28, 2012, 11:13 am

    Thanks for this post! I just started a running plan, and would (obviously) really like to avoid injury because I am one of those people who would get hurt from running too much. These tips are really helpful! I’m glad I just found this when I’m starting out. I plan to incorporate a lot of yoga and hopefully some biking into my plan. I would like to get some good running shoes too, but I wish they weren’t so expensive!

    Reply
  • Tori @ Get a Word in Veg Wise June 28, 2012, 12:00 pm

    Great advice, but I would definitely add in weight/strength training. Like a lot of other runners, I am a cardio freak and I love a good runner’s buzz over a sweaty weights sesh. After YEARS of hearing about the importance of weight training, I finally got sick of being injured and knew weights would help me run…and what do you know, it worked :) Why is it so hard for runners to lift weights sometimes?

    Reply
  • Amber June 29, 2012, 6:18 am

    Well I can run back to back but I only do it once a week. Currently I run Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. I’ve noticed when I add in palaties or yoga everything mind and body is better but sometimes life is just to busy. Other than that during ‘running season’ I don’t cross train too much. Not good I know :(

    I do ride my bike to the store whenever possiable though.
    Amber

    Reply

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