“Turn a setback into a comeback”

Injuries. They’re the worst, whether you’re a casual exercises or a professional athlete. You know it’s really bad when you drive by the gym or see someone out running and are overcome with feelings of jealousy and sadness. And no one is immune; all of us have dealt with an injury at one time or another.

QuestionFace

The face that screams, “Ask me anything.”

A couple weeks ago, as I was heating up my soup in our cafeteria, one of my coworkers asked me about plantar fasciitis. A few months back, while washing my hands in the bathroom, another coworker asked me about hamstring issues.

Not just at the office and my coworkers, I’ve been asked about injuries, particularly running injuries, in a variety of places and by different people. Kaia’s question most recently about plantar fasciitis made me realize it would be a perfect topic to address in this edition of my health and fitness Q&A series.

Q: Why did I get (insert common running injury) and how do I deal with it?

A: As I do with many entries, I feel this one especially needs my standard disclaimer: I’m not a certified, formally-educated health and fitness expert. I’m just a girl who works out, runs a lot, and has experienced a ton of health and fitness-related things.

Also, know that every injury – its cause, symptoms, and coping strategies – is different for everyone. What I’ll do here is mix my own experience with common scenarios I’ve heard over the years to provide a little advice for dealing with three of the most common and annoying running injuries.

1. Plantar Fasciitis
You probably have it if…
…you feel a prickly, stabbing, or burning sensation in your foot or towards your heel. It’s typically worse in the morning, right after you get out of bed, and makes walking unpleasant, running downright painful.

It was likely caused by…
…your feet not getting the support they need. Whether you need stability or cushioned shoes, custom or standard orthotics, everyone’s feet, arches, and gait are different. So, everyone’s shoe and support system needs to be tailored to them.

You can address it by…
…getting the right set up for you.

If you’re not sure of your arch type and gait, an expert at a good running or sporting goods store can help you find the right shoes, and an orthopedist or other physician will advise on orthotics. You can also do the towel test to get an idea of your arch – see more about that in the first part of this blog.

Pain can be eased by wearing specially-designed socks at night that keep your foot stretched. You can also roll a frozen water bottle or tennis ball under your foot.

Going forward, ensure you’re changing your shoes and orthotics as frequently as needed to match your miles and wear you’re putting on them. I also recommend arch-support socks – not sure there’s actual science behind them but I wear them and have had no issues with PF since. And, finally, your non-workout shoe choice matters. Hard-soled shoes are good. Ladies, high heels are bad. JUST SAY NO to flip-flops.

As for recovery, I hate to be the bearer of bad news – plantar fasciitis usually requires taking a hiatus from running or walking. The good news is, biking, swimming, and other exercises are okay, as long as you’re not putting impact on your foot.

2. Irritated or Overstretched Hamstring
You probably have it if…
…you have stiffness or pain along the back of your leg, from the lower hammy area, all the way up and through your butt.

It was likely caused by…
…so many possible culprits here. Your quads are too strong and hamstrings too weak, you’re overtraining with running, you’re overstretching or improperly stretching.

HamFoamRoll

Roll out those hams.

You can address it by…
…first, getting introduced to your new best friend, the foam roller. In a seated position with the roller under your butt, roll along the full distance of your hamstring, stopping right before your knee. You can also do single-leg rolling, focusing on the inner and outer hamstrings.

Second, stop any current hamstring stretches you’re doing. If you’re overstretched, they’re doing you way more harm than good. I know, I know, I’m the post-run stretch nazi. But the foam rolling will take care of those muscles.

Third, strengthen your hammys! Both dual and single-leg deadlifts, as well as hamstring curls, are great options. But take it further; build up your glutes, too, as they play a huge role in overall balance of the lower body.

The good news is you don’t necessarily have to halt all running. Ease up a bit, sure. Listen to your body, absolutely. Take care of your injury the way it works for you.

3. IT Band Syndrome
You probably have it if…
…your knee hurts when walking or running, typically on the outside of the knee. Because of the area of pain, it’s common to chalk it up to “bad knees” and assume nothing more.

It was likely caused by…
…for me, my IT band started showing signs of aggravation when I began doing speed work. For most, it’s a one of those classic overtraining, overuse injuries. It can also occur if you run a lot on uneven surfaces, on a track going the same direction, or if your shoes are overly worn.

But there’s also evidence that a weak pelvis is actually the root cause of many IT band syndrome cases.

ITFoamRoll

This one might hurt some days – but that’s good!

You can address it by…
Remember that old pal of yours, the foam roller? Get further acquainted. Lying on your side, roller under your lower hip area, roll along the full length of your upper leg, stopping at the knee.

Work on strengthening your pelvis, too. Bridges, wall squats and dead bug crunches are a few examples of targeted exercises, but keep in mind that strengthening your overall lower body with good old squats and lunges are great too.

Like plantar fasciitis, ensure your shoe and orthotics game is on-point. Unlike plantar fasciitis, there’s better news in terms of taking time off. Unless your injury is really bad, IT band syndrome doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop running. Pulling it back and decreasing mileage is a good idea, and just like with the hamstring issue, listen to your body then adjust workouts as needed.

Running injuries – at some point or another, they happen to us all. Now, I know that doesn’t make you feel better if you’re currently dealing with one but hang in there! With the right care, it’ll get better, and now that you know some of the main causes, you can be a prevention machine.

Do you have questions about running? How about lifting, food, or working out in general? Submit your question to be answered in an upcoming blog by leaving a comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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