Three Things Every Runner Needs to Stay Safe and Healthy
Original article link: http://irun.ca/index.php/how-to-run-safely-after-an-injury/
I’ve been quiet post-Houston, not because I’ve been injured but because I’ve been out playing in the winter-wonderland that is Canada and we all know that mobile devices just do not like to cooperate with the cold.
Last weekend I went out to ski country in Ontario, I went up to play in the town of Blue Mountains. It offers nordic and alpine skiing, snowshoeing, and a host of other fun wintery-things you can do. From snowshoe running, to alpine skiing, and a deep winter snowshoe up and down the escarpment, I got in a lot of activity.
Monday coming home I decided to meet up with a bunch of my old teammates and do a tempo-style, easier workout on the indoor track. Lots of laughs were had and I was feeling great as I eased back into training.
Tuesday morning I woke up and could put almost no weight on my right foot. My ankle had locked up and every step felt like someone had stuck a knife in medial side of my ankle bone. Driving to get my teeth cleaned at the dentist I thought I was going to vomit from the pain so I called my chiropractor for help.
Thankfully Dr. Tim of Bayview Chiropractic was able to get it to settle down quite quickly, but he did suggest that I not run on it while it was still sore. We agreed that the single leg hop test would be how I tested my ankle each day to see where I was at.
What’s the single leg hop test?
The single leg hop test is a little bit just what it sounds like, stand on your injured foot and start hoping. The idea behind this test is to determine whether or not your injury is fit for running, since running is, after all, just a series of hops from one foot to the other. You have to figure out if the pain you’re experiencing warrants running or not.
Dr. Kris Sheppard DC, CSCS of The Runner’s Academy offers some great insight into pain and understanding what it means. According to Dr. Sheppard “pain is biologically advantageous for humans” since it tells us whether or not we are in danger. Pain is categorized in two ways, complex and simple. Complex pain is that pain that has persisted for a long time, where as simple pains are usually soft tissue injuries (muscles, fascia, tendons, bone and/or bursae), which the type of pain associated with most running injuries. Injuries can be categorized as acute, meaning they happen from an incident, or chronic, from overuse.
Once you can identify your pain, the next step is to identify the level of pain from this simple scale Dr. Kris offers:
- 0 – 3 (The Green Zone): This mild pain level generally means that it is ok to run, as long as the pain level doesn’t increase during or after your run. In addition, your pain should go away within a few days.
- 4 – 7 (The Yellow Zone): You can still run through this amount of pain, although Dr. Kris doesn’t recommend it and neither do I. This is the pain threshold where you should seek out help and consider cross-training in a way that eliminates pain.
- 8 – 10 (The Red Zone): Stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200! This severe amount of pain is likely causing you to modify your gait (your running stride) because you’re compensating to avoid causing yourself pain.
In an effort to help you navigate your pain I created this wireframe diagram with simple yes or no questions to help you find the solution that works best for you.
Here are my final thoughts as it relates to injuries:
- If you feel a niggle or any slight pain, stop, just stop. I know what you’re thinking ‘but I am missing a workout?’ Dr. Brittany Moran, another fantastic chiropractor at the Runner’s Academy and someone whom I am lucky to call a friend, reminded me that missing one workout doesn’t make a race, but it might break it. That extra running you do in pain that one day could mean days, weeks or months off training.
- Communicate your discomfort to your coach and your training partners. This has been incredibly helpful for me. Sometimes you are numb to the pain in the middle of a tough workout, but an altered gait means you’re protecting something. When that happens my teammates and coaches let me know and I pull the pin on the workout.
- Listen to your gut. Your body really does know you best and if there is a voice back there in your head that says to you ‘this isn’t a good idea,’ it might be time to listen. A friend once said to me, ‘if you feel really guilty about missing the [insert type of activity here] you probably need that day off.’ It is sage advice that has helped me reflect when I struggle with whether or not to take time off.
Injuries suck but they happen. Following the simple steps of the wire framework is intended to help you minimize time off due to injuries. Just remember to listen to what your body is telling you. I listened last week, I cross-trained and was conservative and when I got back out running Saturday it was pain free and enjoyable. From one of my favourite books, The Power of One, author Bryce Courtenay offers some sage advice, “first with the head then with the heart.”