I’ll admit it: I have injuries on the brain. It’s hard not to when the literal pain-in-my-you-know-what reminds me every waking moment of the day. But like any good friend I want to spare you from experiencing a similar fate. So read on about the most common running injuries afflicting women runners (I think I’ve had all but one of them at some point, yikes! I need to go in a time machine and give my younger self this advice!) And then read about the 5 easy ways you can avoid these pesky little training interrupters.
Shin Splints. Painful shins caused by inflamed connective tissue of the shin. Ugh. This is one of those super annoying injuries that mostly afflicts women early in their running career. Both times I came back from pregnancy I had a short bout of shin splints. Not cool! Luckily there is a super easy way to prevent them!
Plantar Fasciitis. A painful heel and sometimes arch of the foot. Oh man. This one is no fun. I have several good friends who needed to take off months to fix this one. I’ve had it flare up a bit a few times, but luckily for me it was always mild and manageable. It’s still no fun. Sore arches and heels stink, so follow the advice below: avoid it!
Patellar Tendinitis. A very tender spot under the kneecap (patella) caused by an inflamed knee tendon. This is another injury that hits a lot of beginners. I also had this pretty bad years ago and it delayed my running renaissance a few years. Little did I know there was something I could have done all along to keep this yucky condition at bay.
IT Band Syndrome. Sharp, burning knee or hip pain caused by a tight iliotibial band. Yikes. I had this too. I sound pretty fragile, but I swear other than my early bout with ITBS I have not really been injured until my current situation. Oh, but ITBS stinks, but you can avoid it!
Stress Fracture. Severe pain in a localized spot. Common areas subject to stress fractures are: the tibia (shin bone); metatarsals (bones in the feet and toes); and pelvis (ouch!). This is the mother of all common injuries: who the heck wants a broken bone? Behave. Follow good advice. Don’t get one!
Now here’s what you can do to keep these ouchies away:
- Stretch Your Calves. Tight calves cause both shin splints and plantars fasciitis. Tight calves can also contribute to stress fractures in your tibia and achilles tendonitis. These all suck, so stretch your calves daily before they get tight. If you’re not sure how to stretch your calves, take a look here. The link will take you to a super cool race walking site. There are 4 calf stretches outlined on their site. You will have to click through them and they progress from easy to difficult.
- Strengthen Your Quads. Surprisingly, runners tend to have relatively weak quads. Strong quads are necessary to stabilize the knee. Luckily strengthening your quads can be summed up in one word: lunges. Check out this video for a tutorial.
- Get in a Good Warm-Up. If you’re running faster than easy pace it’s essential you ease your body into the run. Start slowly. Run a good 10 or more minutes at a conversational pace before embarking on your workout. If you’re planning to push really hard throw some short strides in the warm-up to get the legs used to really working. A good warm-up and help prevent tight muscles which are often the root of these common injuries.
- Switch up Your Running Surfaces. A really easy way to keep you strong and injury free is to regularly switch running surfaces. If you switch pavement with a soft track, a treadmill, grass or dirt trails you will stress slightly different muscles on each surface. This is great for avoiding all of these overuse injuries, plus you’ll have more fun enjoying the variety on the run!
- Get Your Calcium and Vitamin D. Calcium and Vitamin D are critical nutrients to keep your bones healthy. Who can forget Deena Kastor pulling out of the 2008 Olympics with a fractured foot? She attributed her misfortune to low levels of vitamin D. For calcium aim for 1200 mg a day (about 4 servings of dairy, greens like collards, or fortified orange juice). If your a woman of child-bearing age and experiencing amenhorrea (lack of period), you should first see a doctor, but you also will likely need to up the calcium intake closer to 1700 mg a day as the lower hormones you’re experiencing can lead to bone density loss. For information on choosing a supplement, go here. For vitamin D aim for 600 iui a day. Most milk is vitamin D fortified and an 8oz glass of milk will likely contain 100 iui. Fatty fish, some mushrooms and sun exposure will provide more. For more information on meeting your body’s vitamin D needs go here.
Now quit reading and go stretch your calves after doing your lunges while drinking milk in the sun before your warm-up for a trail run!