A race is a celebration of your training so heaven knows the last thing an endurance runner or triathlete wants to miss is a race, especially after so much heart, soul, dedication, not to mention time, have been invested. The key – avoiding and overcoming running injuries.
Endurance athletes alternate periods of intensive physical training with periods of rest and recovery. An imbalance caused by overly intensive training and inadequate recovery, can result in overuse, and ultimately, the dreaded running-related injuries.
While all runners are unique, two common running problem/injury-prone areas are the knee and the illiotibial band (or IT band).
The Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)
The primary symptoms of a knee injury are PAIN along the medial (inner) aspect of the kneecap or just below the kneecap when climbing or descending stairs or hills, can be worse after prolonged sitting with knees flexed and at times the knee may want to “catch” or feel like it wants to “give out”.
Stretching, strengthening and supporting along with ICE and REST have been found to be the simplest and most effective treatment for these injuries.
1. Stretching of the hamstring, quad, calf and IT band will help to decrease pressure at the kneecap.
2. Strengthening of the quad will help the kneecap to glide more correctly through the groove at the knee joint.
3. Supporting the foot with proper shoes and insoles, can prevent or help to eliminate the vast majority of lower leg problems due to faulty bio-mechanics.
The Illiotibial Band (IT Band)
The primary symptoms of an IT band (fibrous band that spans from the hip to the shin that lends stability to the knee) injury is PAIN in the lateral knee exacerbated by running. May also be aggravated by prolonged hill running, running on a slanted road shoulder.
The IT band can be rested, iced, compressed and elevated (RICE) to reduce pain and inflammation, followed by stretching. Using a foam roller will help to loosen the IT band. Ultrasound and electrode stimulation can be used around the area to relax it. This can result in more comfort and/or a wider range of motion.
Healthy training and gear practices will help runners avoid injury, but if you do find yourself to be one of those running lovers who has a tendency to ignore the signs, you may not only find yourself missing your scheduled workouts, but on the sidelines cheering on your would-be competitors!
Experience should make you wiser about injury avoidance and the importance of strengthening your weaknesses. If you’ve fallen victim to one of the two injuries mentioned above, the upcoming off-season is the perfect time to give yourself some TLC and get the rest and therapy your body needs so that you’re ready to go when the new season rolls around.
Be smart. Listen to your body and enjoy your sport free of pain.