Runner’s high, it’s a real thing and something only a runner would understand. As runner’s, we are used to sacrificing sleep, lunch dates, relaxation time and more, just to get a run in. There has to be something we get out of it, something that keeps us coming back for more! While not every run is always super fun and makes you feel joy with every step, the satisfaction you feel from a solid run, even on occasion, makes the mediocre and even the not so great runs worth it. With this addictive high, it is no wonder that overuse injuries are extremely common in distance runners.
So, what are the best ways to avoid overuse injuries? Here are a few key points to remaining healthy as you enjoy all the (natural) high that comes from running.
- Start with good quality shoes- the importance of good quality shoes is often overlooked, especially by new runners. I always recommend to patients who are interested in running that they make sure they have had a gait analysis done to determine what the best shoe for them might be. Most running shoe stores can do this for free and they are knowledgeable in the different models of shoes that work for the various running styles. Running is generally inexpensive compared to other sports, but this is the one piece of equipment that needs to be high quality. Skip the discount stores or off brand shoes for this one.
- Sleep- I have learned from experience that trying to train on too little sleep is a recipe for injury. Make sure you are getting good quality sleep, especially if you are trying to get to that next level and are pushing the boundaries. Your body needs those precious 8+ hours of sleep/night in order to allow it to “do it’s thing” to help with recovery.
- Ramp up slowly- whether it’s increasing the distance, or increasing the speed of your training, start these changes slowly. Drastic changes in training plan are the #1 risk factor for injury. The typical recommendation is no more than 10% per week. Though this hasn’t been strictly supported by the research, it’s a good general rule to help you progress conservatively.
- Listen to your body- there are times and places where it might be worth it to ignore your body and push ahead. For example, if you are running in the olympic marathon race and you are competing for a medal, I would say that might be a time to ignore an ache or pain that comes up and push through the pain to victory. However, if you are in a training run and you are feeling extra fatigued or something in the body is causing pain, listen to it and adjust your workout. You can always find a way to cross train to keep your fitness while you take a couple days off running.
- Get help when you have an injury that seems to be recurring or not going away. As a physical therapist, I cringe when someone says that an injury caused them to be “unable to run anymore”. There are some situations where this may be the case, but for most people, the right rehabilitation and proper training plan can make the difference between being able to run or not.
If you are interested in learning specific training plans and exercises to help you remain healthy while you train, please check out my ebook: Pain-Free Running!