Marathon Training Week 3: Injury, Recovery, and Prevention
Header via Hello Magazine
Last Saturday was a long run day. 16 miles, to be precise. I woke up early, put on all kinds of layers, prepped my playlist, and planned my route to include nothing but sidewalks so I wouldn’t die.
Miles 1-6 were a breeze. Despite running in the literally the freezing cold and snowy ground, I was feeling confident.
Around mile 8, I felt pain near my left knee. It persisted. At mile 10, it was awful. By mile 12, it was excruciating. Trouble was, I still had four miles to my destination that I had to hobble through.
I have done distance running in the past, but I have never encountered anything more than expected muscle pain. This was something else. As it turns out, I had irritated my Iliotibial Band or ITB. This tendon runs from about your hip to your calf, and, if it gets irritated it, will rub against your knee.
And that. Is. Agonizing. If you have this, you’ll feel the pain along the outside of your knee.
So, what happened?
Causes of Injury
Considering my daily affirmations that I am the Wolverine, I was curious what on earth could have caused this. Once I saw the list of causes typed out, I realized I had done a play by play version of them.
Running in below freezing weather. Well, I had certainly done that.
Running on concrete, especially over long distances. Does 12 miles count?
Lack of warm up, cool down, and stretching. All of those phrases are very, very new to me.
Constant hill climbing or descending. I live on the top floor of my apartment building and take the stairs every chance I get. You know, to stay in shape?
Okay, so I’m injured. How do I recover?
Step #1: Rest & Ice
When I tried walking on my leg after the injury, it was awful. So, I planted my butt on the couch and beat Infamous on PS3. Lazy, yes, but a day of relaxation left my leg feeling much better. Trying to rush back after an injury like ITB will only make it worse, so rest is crucial. Icing the entire leg is a good way to speed the decrease of inflammation.
Step #2: Stretch
The ITB isn’t always part of your average stretching routine, so be sure to perform exercises that single it out. You should feel the pull right in your hip when you do it, not where the pain is. Keep this in mind for any injury: find stretches and warm-ups that soothe the muscle without enhancing the ache.
Step #3: Drugs (Legal Ones, People)
Simple anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen aren’t a permanent fix, but they are decent way to ease the pain for a bit and prevent the ITB from perpetually swelling.
Step #4: Foam Roll/Massage
To loosen up the ITB, get a foam roller or a professional massage. A foam roller is the easy DIY method, but some might find it painful if they’re not careful. If you don’t mind suffering through it and don’t have the means to pay for a massage, it’s a decent way to go.
If you can pay for massage, I’d give it a shot. Always aim for a program/person that is specifically trained for sports-related injuries. A spa day isn’t going to do you much good compared to deep tissue types of massage.
Moving Forward & Prevention
Okay, so the steps to recovery are in place. “Now it’s time to make sure this horrid occasion DOESN’T HAPPEN AGAIN!” he says with a fury reserved for war tribunals.
Prevention Tip #1: Get Good/New Shoes
What do your running shoes look like? If you answers are “old,” “really old,” or “do chucks count?” you’re likely in need of new ones. I know many people are skeptical about the power of running shoes, but I will say from personal experience that shoes designed specifically for moving forward, instead of side to side like basketball shoes, is a major advantage. Find a pair that fits your foot and running style.
Prevention Tip #2: Ease Into Heavy Training
My macho mind keeps telling to go all out and get right back into the 8-10 mile runs. My leg would beg to differ. If you’ve got time to spare, there’s no rush to get into heavy distance. Your body won’t lose its conditioning overnight, and you’ll have the time to recover. Still itching to be active and get the heart rate going? Cross training with cycling, swimming, or pool running can keep your cardiovascular fitness up while not putting extra strand on the ITB.
Prevention Tip #3: Listen to Your Body
Muscle pain is relatively normal on longer runs, especially if your body isn’t used to them. Sharp pain that isn’t an abdominal cramp should take your immediate attention. Be extra wary of this coming back from injury. If after five days you can run five miles without pain, fantastic; but, if not, don’t push yourself for the sake of “the cause.” You’ll probably just injure yourself further.
This Week’s Highlighted Run: Savage Race
Mud. Ramps. Water. Balance beams. Climbing. Ice baths. Barbed Wire. Fire.
If I was running this, a painful ITB would be the least of my worries. The Savage Race is an obstacle-laden 5-6 mile obstacle course that features over 25 roadblocks and challenges to overcome. Your reward? Beer and a party. Makes a normal Saturday night sound much more worthwhile.