Training Tip

Great Strides 2007 Shelly Florence-Glover
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When injured check with your doctor. This information is not a substitute for medical advice.

Runner's Handbook
Recommended Readings

  • Specific Injuries: Page 495
  • Illness: Page 487
  • Running With Health Challenges: Page 440

Curriculum Textbook

Most running injuries have one or more of the following four causes:
1. Inherited physical weaknesses
2. Improper health practices
3. Environmental influences
4. Training errors

An important part of running is learning to prevent injuries. Seldom do injuries occur as a result of accident; most often they seem to happen for no reason at all. But there are reasons. You just have to ask yourself some questions. If you become injured, review the following checklist to see if you can determine the causes.

Few injuries are caused by one particular reason or run. Shin splints, for example, are caused by several potential factors, including poor running form, biomechanically weak feet, tight calf muscles, worn running shoes, or training errors.

Most injuries respond well to ice. Icing should begin immediately after an injury. Apply for 10 to 20 minutes--longer application increases circulation in the area instead of decreasing it. The area should become red and numb, not white. Alternate 10 to 20 minutes on and off for the first 3 to 4 hours after an injury. Later, ice for 10 to 20 minutes, three times a day for up to a week. Ice after each run until there is no further pain or tenderness.

Ice massage is recommended by Physical Therapist Ted Corbitt, a 1952 U.S. Olympic marathoner and former NYRRC president. He recommends freezing water in a paper cup; use a rubber glove or towel to protect hands while applying; and peel back the paper cup and gently massaging the area on and around the injury for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the ice moving to provide a massaging effect. Don't allow the ice to touch bare skin for too long or you could give yourself frost nip.

Alternatives are crushed ice between two towels, a plastic bag filled with ice, reusable frozen commercial gel packs, and chemical bags that mix to produce cold.

Don't apply chemical packs directly to the skin. Leaking chemicals burn. For large areas, try soaking a towel in ice water. Then place it on the injured area. As it warms, re-soak and reapply. Continue this process for 15 to 20 minutes.

Another option is a bag of frozen peas--it molds to the body! This allows you to ice both sides of the shin, Achilles tendon, or the entire knee. Frozen peas don't melt like ice, and stay cold longer than frozen gels.

Questions to Ask When Injured

  • What have you done differently that may have caused the problem?
  • Are you doing too much, too soon or have you made any sudden changes in training?
  • Are you under-trained for the race distance?
  • Do you have unequal leg length, biomechanically weak feet, over-pronate or over-supinate?
  • Are opposing muscles (abdominals, quadriceps, shin area) relatively weak?
  • Do you have sufficient flexibility? Do you stretch properly and regularly?
  • Do you warm up and cool down properly for all runs?
  • Do you have previous injuries? Did you return from an injury too quickly?
  • Do you have good running form?
  • Are you training on uneven or slanted terrain?
  • Have you changed from one running surface to another (such as dirt to pavement)?
  • Have you been running in poor footing: ice, snow or sand?
  • Have you changed shoes? Are they in good repair? Do they fit your needs?
  • Are you overweight or underweight? Is your diet adequate for your training?
  • Are you taking proper care of your feet?
  • Have you changed any daily habits, such as driving, sitting or lifting more?
  • Are you getting enough sleep? Are you under a lot of stress?
  • Is playing other sports or doing other physical activity affecting your running?

A Little More

Running Coach Shelly Glover has a master's degree in exercise physiology from Columbia University. She co-authored The Runner's Handbook and The Competitive Runner’s Handbook, is a veteran road runner and marathoner. She also coaches The Greater New York Racing Team is available for private coaching. Coaching Services