I treat a lot of runners in my Physical Therapy practice.
I love and invest in the treatment of all of my patients, but runners are my favorite because I understand them.
I get that split shorts are better and why a person would put chocolate Gu with caffeine on their toast before a morning run.
I understand runners because I’m one of them. And I know how hopeless it can feel when you’re injured.
That’s why it kills me when I see a patient come in with symptoms I know we could have prevented with just a little foresight and prehab work.
There are specific protocols for treatment of most running injuries, but it’s easier and saves so much more time and pain just to integrate solid movement and preventative practices on the front end.
Here are five of my favorite injury-prevention practices for runners.
Be a good historian
Those who don’t study their injury history are bound to repeat it.
At the end of every month or training cycle, take a look at your injury history and how it’s impacted your training.
Pattern recognition is key here. If your hamstrings start acting up with hill repeats, it’s best to pay heed and modify your workouts and your mobility programming.
Have a Physical Therapist, Trainer, or other Sports Med professional you trust watch you run and go through a full movement screen with you once a year.
If you come to a yearly PT check up with your injury history in hand, you can save yourself double to triple the amount you spend on running shoes in time and money you’d spend on rehab.
Do a Daily Systems Screen
Make your dynamic warm-up a mini pre-flight systems check.
As you do mobility drills, pay attention to what movements seem smooth and efficient, and which ones feel forced. Take a mental note of any hot spots.
Don’t forget to look at your morning Heart Rate. Even a 3-5 beat/minute increase might be a sign to take it easy in training.
Evening mobility drills, dynamic warm ups, and self myofascial and joint mobility drills are all part of the programming for every runner I coach. But they can only go so far when training intensity ramps up.
Even if it’s a monthly treatment or a one time only appointment during your toughest training cycles, seek out a maintenance session by your PT or Massage Therapist.
I’m really guilty of letting this slide and trying to self treat, going so far as to dry needle or do IASTM on some of my own trouble spots – but you just can’t beat tissue specific work from a specialist.
Periodize Your Training
There’s a reason at least 70% of runners experience an injury every year – running is hard on the body.
And runners all eventually learn that there is an off-season – it just comes when you plan it or when you get injured.
Plan to have at least a few months a year where your running volume is replaced by an extra day or two in the gym doing heavier strength work, or where you’re doing some comfortable cross-training.
The body responds best to stress when it can use it productively. If you increase intensity to prep for races, why wouldn’t you decrease intensity to rebuild your body?