Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fighting with Injury

After these past few months, I feel as though injury is one of the things I'm most qualified to talk about. But even my most avid readers don't know all my serious run ins with injury, so here is a brief history:
  • Senior year of track I developed ITBS and was unable to compete during my final season
  • Runner's knee struck me a few weeks prior to my first half-marathon in August 2005
  • I got an over use injury in my ankle when training for the 2006 St. Louis Marathon, I had to take several months off running and watched the race from the sidelines
  • After my peak when training for the 2006 Detroit Marathon I had to take a week off because of a similar ankle injury but was still able to race
  • Most recently, I injured my hip a month before the 2007 Chicago Marathon and ended up taking several months off, although I still finished the race
Now some of you may say, "My God, Doug, you're so unfortunate with those injuries!" but each and every one has been a learning experience. I have found out what works, and what doesn't. I now know the difference between "hurts so good" and "hurts so bad."

Since everybody (except one lucky SOB) I know has dealt with injury at some point, here is a list of things I do to stay injury free. The first few correspond to the items on the list above. If you'd like to add anything, leave it in the comments!
  • Replace your shoes every 300-400 miles. Shoes are expensive, I know, but relatively cheap compared to surgery or physical therapy! This alone would have saved my senior track season!
  • Stick to a schedule! Either use a cookie cutter plan like Hal Higdon's or do research and create your own. I suggest getting a book on the topic, since anything published at least had to jump through a lot of hoops to get there; anybody (even me!) can post something on the internet. When you're your own coach, you need to learn how to plan a week out without hurting yourself. Plan a week out in advance, make sure it makes sense, and stick to it!
  • Learn the difference between good pain and bad pain. Generally, muscular pain is good and joint/bone pain is bad, but its not always the case. If its persistent, figure out whats wrong before it sidelines you for several months. Take a few days off. You won't lose that much fitness in a couple days. You'll lose much more if forced to take several months off!
  • Do core work. It is one of the best things you can do to stay injury free, since it will keep your body stabilized. Plus, has anybody ever said "No, I'd rather not have a six pack"?
  • Build up slow, but steady. Don't increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. I've found that when I break this rule, bad things happen! Be patient, it will pay off big time.
  • Accept that an injury is not like a switch. Injuries do not heal over night. You are not injured one day, and perfectly fine the next. When coming back, ease back into it. I wrestled this bear for months before realizing I couldn't just jump right back in.
If this helps even one person stay injury free in 2008, I'll be glad I took the time to write it! Do you have any tips for myself, or others, to help stay injury free?


chirunner said...

I've learned a lot of the lessons you listed more than once. If you want to get rid of those injuries once and for all, check out This technique got me running again -- pain free -- after 8 years off. And, although I'm not fast, other ChiRunners are. The winner of the 2006 Air Force Marathon is a ChiRunner.

Midwest said...

I completely agree about good vs. bad pain. No need to quit because of a little ache, but the serious stuff you've got to take seriously.

Jess said...

Those lessons would be very helpful to a new runner. Unfortunately, many of us have had to learn them all the hard way -- through trial and error.

Nancy said...

Great advice. Also nice to remember that not everyone is injury free all the time (except that one lucky SOB) which is what it feels like when you get sidelined. :D

nwgdc said...

just another reason to not like bill...he's lucky he's such a nice guy!

Viv said...

Thanks Doug for the post. You are one relentless runner 4 sho :-)
I am finally giving in to learning the difference between the oh so good pain, and the bad ugly pain.

Marcy said...

Those are good Doug! Except you need to add "Get a iron pan and whack yourself over the head when you start to feel the "bad" hurt" You now how runners are and how stubborn they can be when it comes to not resting and running :P

My Life said...

Good words, good words...

Bill Carter said...


This is such a great post I would be tempted to take everything you said, make a poster, and put it up at Lifetime. I think the recommendation about core work is one that is probably the most overlooked.. I also think it might be the most important.

It is a bummer that you've had a few injuries, but you sure have accomplished some amazing things anyway. I know I am going out on a limb, but I think you could probably do some amazing things in the triathalon if you put your mind to it. But first we are getting you ready for Boston '09.

Can't believe you called me a "lucky SOB".. :-) Is that payback for my wanting a handicap or only getting you cheese sticks and not a big ol' burger? Next time we go running, we're getting a couple beers after... my treat.

Stuart said...

Great post, you should TM it and sell it to Nike etc for them to print on their shoe boxes!