Sunday, January 17, 2010

Learn to read/injury prevention

Learn how to read

January. Time to start our spring Mini Marathon training. For some of us this means building on our winter base training. For others it is time to find our shoes and our winter gear and to head out the door for the first time. Over the next several weeks we will be adding miles and possibly introducing some quality (speed). During any change in our training, which requires an increase in effort, it is important to determine how our bodies are responding to this change in work load and give them time to adapt. We need to know when to push and when to back off. In other words we must learn to read our aches and pains to determine what we can ignore versus what may be trouble brewing.

I would like to clarify this with a scenario that occurs every year.

“Jeff” decided to begin his Mini Marathon training program. He has been active over the winter doing the elliptical and spinning classes. He found the same shoes that he wore in last year’s race. They have about 400 miles of wear on them.

In the first two weeks of the training program he ran 2 miles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He continued to do his Friday spinning class. Later that day he felt a dull ache on the back of his heel where the Achilles tendon is attached. Saturday when he woke up he felt fairly stiff and noted that his Achilles was even stiffer and a little sore. He stretched his calf muscle really hard. By the time he started his scheduled 45 minute tempo run his aches had gone away. He was really feeling good, so he pushed the pace. Half way into his run he felt that ache again. He stretched really aggressively but it seemed to make the aching worse. Sunday was a scheduled rest day but he decided he would run anyway. His Achilles ached the entire run. On Monday morning he was almost limping on the way to his spinning class. His Achilles was sore the entire class and during his day at work. He really had to push himself to finish his Monday night run.

On Tuesday he could barely stand and walking was very painful. When he tried to stretch he thought he felt a “pop” on the back of his lower leg. Jeff now has a very severe injury to his Achilles tendon.

Where did Jeff go wrong in this scenario? How could he have avoided this injury?

First Jeff should have started out by purchasing a pair of new running shoes. Wearing shoes that are worn or have greater than 300 miles on them increases the risk of injury significantly.

Sunday he should have stuck to his training schedule. Rest is rest and is just as important as a training day. Our bodies need rest in order to recover and remodel so we can become stronger. Ignoring rest days will lead to burn out and injury. Jeff may have benefited from decreasing the intensity and frequency of his spinning class as he is starting his Mini marathon training. Spin class should be considered as a hard training day. It is not to be considered as a running rest day just because it isn’t running. They have very similar demands on the legs and in Jeff’s case, spinning continued to load his irritated Achilles tendon. Cross training is generally fine but sometimes doing an activity that doesn’t load the legs is a safer option. Swimming with a pull buoy is a good choice.

Jeff’s biggest mistake was his inability to read and listen to his symptoms. When he felt the aching the first time, he should have used ice on his heel/Achilles and avoided the aggressive stretching. When symptoms are felt during a workout and they don’t go away or if they worsen, STOP. At least slow down and shorten the work out. ICE and avoid aggressive stretching. If an area is aching, stretching needs to be gentle and non painful. Stretching aggressively may make a minor injury much more symptomatic.

If the symptoms go away and don’t return, a work out may be completed. It is still prudent to shorten the workout and ice. If symptoms are felt during the day just walking around, it is better to not workout. REST or cross train without loading the sore area. ICE frequently. Do no running until pain-free during everyday activities. Then the return to running needs to be short and easy and should be followed by a rest day. This will allow Jeff to evaluate how the Achilles is handling the return to running with less chance for re-injury.

Learn to read your body.
I hope this is helpful!

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