If you run for any length of time, you’re going to encounter challenges. A twisted ankle, a pulled hamstring, low back pain or even sciatica. If you get injured once, you may just pass it off as “unlucky” but if it keeps happening, is it time to hang up your running shoes?
I’m of the opinion that if you get injured, you should look it as a wake up call for how you’re doing things, but not necessarily an indication that it’s time to quit. If you love running, you should figure out why this problem keeps occurring and take steps to make a difference.
Unfortunately, many people try only one thing; they just stop running. They tell themselves that “running just isn’t for me” or “I’ve heard about other people with chronic injuries, I don’t want this to happen again.”
If you do find yourself dealing with these problems, here are some good steps to at least try before you just throw in the towel:
Change Your Rest & Pace
It’s possible that you are overtraining. Give yourself some time to recover. If you’re just running once per week, rest is not your problem. You may be running too hard and infrequently, so finding the right pace for your available running time may be more appropriate to evaluate.
Check Your Shoes
Time to go to an actual running store and have someone take a look at your style of running and your gait. Do you need more supportive shoes? Less supportive? More flexible? Chances are you cannot evaluate this on yourself. Your running shoe may change over time as well. If it’s been awhile, have an expert take a look.
Do Active Recovery
Without fail, runners that come into my office with back pain do a poor job of stretching after they run. Most have jobs where they sit all day dealing with tight hamstrings and hip rotators, and then they run for distance and never stretch. While they may have gotten away with it in the past, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to take a hard look at when they stretch, how long they stretch, and what they stretch.
Foam rolling is also a great tool to break up the tight fascia and scar tissue that may be altering your gait and possibly causing imbalances in how you move. We regularly instruct patients how on to use a foam roller.
I’m a chiropractor, so I always find myself evaluating people’s stride when I see people running. If your pelvis is out of alignment, you’ll see a difference in how your legs move. Instead of a clean gliding movement, the side that is locked up will have more of a swinging motion to it.
That swinging motion is equivalent to driving your car with the wheels out of alignment. Your tires will wear out unevenly and your car will shake at higher speeds. Having your wheels (pelvis) in alignment will keep your pelvis, hips, knees, and ankles moving they way they are designed. This is a relatively easy thing to correct, yet most people don’t know to even look for it.
The bottom line, you can’t keep running the same way and doing the same things and then expect that your running injuries will go away. I’ve had plenty of patients that “used to run” before their back issues became a problem. Finding out that they never stretched, foam rolled, or got adjusted prior to giving up only gives me hope that they will be able to run again once we get them back on track.