Lacing Up and Hittin’ the Ground Running

Runner’s Strengthening Guide

This is a convenient and extremely helpful guide for anyone looking to: ease into running if you’re a beginner, return to running post-injury, build mileage, OR if you just want to keep running and prevent injury! Basically, in short, this guide is for ALL runners. No runner or jogger is exempt from this guide, and it is advised that you consult mine if you want to continue on the path to lifetime running 🙂

Family Medical History

Consult the family history. It is just a good pre-cautionary method for all beginning athletes and runners to know their family’s medical history. Make sure you know of any histories with joint issues, asthma, heart problems, etc. This is just good to clear the air with. Certainly if there are health concerns in the family, be sure to get all this straightened out and cleared with the doctor.

Personal Athletic History

Okay, now that we’ve moved on from that, you’re going to have to examine your own! Besides medical needs, I am talking about your own past injuries, weaknesses, vitamin/health deficiencies such as iron or calcium, nutrition overall, progression of activities, current state of activity, and weekly mileage. These are all areas that need to be examined. So now, I get to break these down a bit.

Past Injuries

Your past injuries are VERY important! From a trainer/coach’s point-of-view, we have to evaluate why the athlete became injured in the first place. Was it caused by poor nutrition? Not even strength training? Or was it too much strength training in the wrong areas? Did he or she only run on hard surfaces including concrete and sidewalks? Is the runner involved in outside activites that caused the injury? Overtrain?

YEAH. Identifying the injury is not simple. This is not a one-time trip to the trainer’s office, they diagnose you, and you go home knowing exactly what it is and how to cure it. No way! There can be so many problems, and that’s why it’s extremely important that you make sure to be monitoring any signs of abnormal weaknesses, pains and to examine what you eat and how often you hydrate. More details on this later.

So keep a record of your injuries. Do they all seem similar? Repeated injuries? Probably. And the areas affected may be closely related like hips and knees. Keep records of what the diagnosis was AND the treatment given. Typically, once runners get injured, that injury is likely to happen again if the runner does not keep with the exercises continually, even when you are healthy!

Weaknesses and the Three R’s

This goes with injuries, because you typically become injured if joints/muscles have grown weak or tired. As mentioned earlier, examine your treatment given. If you run on your own and are not choosing to make a doctor’s appointment (which unless it’s a severe case, you really don’t need a doctor’s appointment.) then you just need to rest, re-evaluate, and research. 

  • Rest- Clearly, your body needs to take some time off to allow itself to heal. If you are finding pain within just the first mile of the run, or worse when you simply walk everyday, then it’s time to hunker down for a bit and not do that same activity over and over.
  • Re-evaluate- Something went wrong under your radar, and we can’t all go injury-free no matter what. When it happens, examine where it hurts. This when you have to ask yourself a lot of questions: what surfaces were you running on, what does your nutrition look like, did you up your mileage too fast…basically the questions above in the Past Injuries section. Evaluate, and then evaluate a different option.
  • Research- Once you have come to a more definite conclusion of what your injury looks like (IT-band syndrome, patellafemoral pain syndrome, shin splints, stress fracture, etc.) Research it! Find exercises you can do to strengthen the affected areas. I will also spend more time explaining some research-backed exercises later on. If you can cross-train, then cross-train. Biking and swimming are usually the most recommended activities to do while injured.

Once you know your weaknesses, you HAVE to keep strengthening the areas that are likely to get worn down quickest. For example, my weak areas are my hips and glutes. I am constantly doing mobility and strength routines targeted for those each day.

My hip/glutes routine in the gym. I use ankle weights and a theraband every time. Details to come.
My hip/glutes routine in the gym. I use ankle weights and a theraband every time. Details to come.

Vitamin/Health

I won’t go into all nutrition here because that’s for separate posts and would take too long. Eat healthy. 😉 But in regards to your actual health needs, any deficiency you may have could pose a problem. And it could not! Honestly, the main vitamins and minerals you need to be concerned with are: Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, and Omega 3 is a fatty acid, but it is strongly advised to have this supplement taken around 3-4 times a week for optimal health as well. There are plenty of other supplements that you may need to be taking for joints or other needs. I would suggest going to a doctor if you have more questions with this. However, it’s also okay to discover as you go as I did 🙂

Here is what I highly recommend to all long-distance runners and especially female runners with high mileage: Get your ferritin levels checked. In other words, get a blood test to check and see how much iron you have in your body. You obviously do not want your levels to be too high as too much iron is not okay. So please get this checked before you begin your taking iron regularly. You want your level to be around 30-50, and one of the guys on my cross country team had his at a 100 and apparently, that was just fine for his case at 80 miles/week. Again, please talk to your doctor if you think you are at risk of being anemic as low iron has very negative effects on performance and causes fatigue.

I am anemic to begin with, so I have to take my iron! I recommend taking it in liquid form and with Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps quicken the absorption rate.
I am anemic to begin with, so I have to take my iron! I recommend taking it in liquid form and with Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps quicken the absorption rate.
My favorite One-A-Day multi-vitamin! This supplement is amazing, all-natural, highly recommend.  Perfect for athletes.
My favorite One-A-Day multi-vitamin! This supplement is amazing, all-natural, highly recommend. Perfect for athletes.

Current State of Activity and Mileage

This is where the road diverts a bit. If you a beginner, you will want to ease into your first race through a run-walk or a jog program. And how active have you been normally? How much activity do you typically do? And even if you are a beginning runner, did you play a different sport like tennis or soccer? There are lots of elements to consider as you start to create a plan. Your plan might be having you run 3 days a week whereas another person may be walk/jogging the first few weeks. You have to be realistic with your goals and know your body. Know what jumps you can take and what progressions seem reasonable. Remember: progress is still progress.

If you are intermediate/advanced, creating plans shouldn’t be too difficult at this point. But as always, evaluate each race accordingly. A half-marathon will go for more tempo runs and mile repeats. A 5k will call for 400 repeats, 1000 repeats; shorter distances sprinted/exerted with vigorous effort and with a proper warm-up and cool-down.

Mileage is huge. I mean all of this is huge, but mileage you need to be cautious with. DO NOT MAKE DRASTIC JUMPS. Don’t run 20 miles the last week and 32 the next. That’s too big of a jump. Increase your mileage by 10% each week. If you did 20, go 22 next week. If you did 50, then 55 the next week. Slow and steady wins the race. And keeps you at less risk of getting hurt from over-training 🙂 Watch your other activities as well if you’re very involved. I’m talking even about the occasional soccer intramural game or basketball at the neighbor’s house. All I’m saying is, be careful. Because I have heard one too many horror stories of runners missing out on races because they got hurt in other activities! Not even in running! So…save the hardcore athleticism for the track and not in sand volleyball 😉 Your next race will thank you.

So that is my bit of a crash-course to getting the best out of running, plenty more details to follow. These are all things you should be evaluating your whole running career. We don’t just lace up and run, we have about a billion other things to tend to but it’s what separates us from the less dedicated.

You know you’re a runner/jogger when you have read this whole list and still nod and say yes to the miles ahead 🙂

Have a fantastic night and have a great run tomorrow! xoxo

To A Great Day: Don’t Get Burned Out

5 miler

A completely, unashamed selfie taken after my first 5 miler today since the stress fracture!! I have been doing a ton of 3 milers and 4 milers (1’s and 2’s at the very start of course). And have been consistently running 5 days a week since the first week of December. So I haven’t been consistent for very long, but here I am! Very excited, and very happy.

With completing this feat, I have been thinking of the new year ahead. Last year, I entered 2014 still being injured and the injury lasted until mid March. The recent stress fracture was from September through mid November. Though when I wasn’t injured, I had an incredible straight 5 months of races and pure, good running!

My goal is to keep this year injury-free. With that, I am actually not concerned with the whole #15in2015 thing. If I do 15 races, great! If not, whatever! Did I stay injury-free and have a great, full year of running and races? If that answer is yes, I’ll have had one of the best years of my running career.

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet for you and compile a list of Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind in your running, workouts, sports, etc. This list is for everyone, from beginners to the most elite athletes.

Runner Girl’s List of How to Avoid Injury/Burnout

  1. Do not overlook anything. Whether you’re an athlete in school, or an athlete post-school, you cannot overlook the smallest ticks. Especially if it seems irregular. If something seems out of the blue, or worse, you’ve experienced these symptoms previously which led to injury, then you HAVE to tend to it! Do not ignore strange pains/atypical symptoms.
  2. Tell your coach/trainer at first signs of pain. Do not wait for it to worsen because I assure you that it will. When you explain the situation immediately, then the healing process is A LOT faster. Catch it early, fix it fast, get back to running sooner.
  3. Do your exercises!!! The trainer is going to give you a lot of exercises to help; do not do only two things on the list and be done! Complete each exercise fully and completely. Basically, just listen to your trainer. Do your work. It’s good for you.
  4. Research. If you do not have a coach or trainer and do things on your own, then you have to be responsible for researching exercises. If you are a veteran athlete, chances are, you learned a lot from your school sport/track/cross country. Regardless, go to Runner’s World. That’s a great place to start, and just research the heck out of your early stages of injury.
  5. Don’t overtrain and do progress slowly. Research states to increase your mileage by steady 10% increments each week when building your weekly mileage. Don’t jump from 15 miles per week to 30 the next. The body isn’t ready to make that jump.
  6. Mix it up. Want to keep running but don’t want to ONLY run? Or do you just want to stay active and have no idea how to not get bored? Well there’s Insanity, P90X, yoga, pilates, swimming, cycling, outdoor adventure biking, hiking, HIIT, aerobics classes, dancing classes, basketball at local gyms (YMCA offers a very wide range of activities)….there’s so much out there. Keep testing out new things and bring friends!
  7. Do local races/themed races. Chances are, you’ve heard of glow runs, color runs, Tough Mudder. These can be a lot of fun to do and are exciting to anticipate!! Again, if you need friends, call them up! Do it as a group! I promise, it’ll be one of the most fun and rewarding things you’ll do. If you’re a solo runner like me, keep looking for local races and again, test your abilities. Step up and do 10Ks, half marathons, though don’t over-commit yourself.
  8. Since that last thought is important, Don’t over-commit yourself. Be practical with your schedule, and ask yourself “Will I be tired every day if I try to train for a marathon right now? Work has been crazy, the kids still need a lot of my time…maybe I can just do a 5k or two right now.” There are tons of other ways to stay active than setting aside hours to run and train for a marathon.
  9. Eat right!!!! Ahhh. Can’t stress this enough. You will hurt yourself or get burned out if you’re eating crap and trying to run. Please visit this site for superfoods that are amazing for runners! http://www.runnersworld.com/photos/41-superfoods-how-they-can-help-your-running   Try incorporating some into your everyday diet. Nutrition is a huge topic, so I’ll have to talk more in separate posts or this bullet point would get obnoxious.
  10. Good ole dynamic stretches. Alright, and lastly, before EACH run, do some dynamics!! Don’t just go out cold! Do some calf raises, butt kicks, high knees, lunges, walking quad stretch; there’s a ton of them. Look into it if you aren’t too familiar 🙂

I hope this list helps you in your training! There’s a lot to running. That’s why there’s a million magazines and books and coaches dedicated to talking about it and helping everyone else 🙂 And there’s me too, who will hopefully have a book and be a coach someday 🙂

Thanks for reading, have a wonderful Saturday! xoxo

#15in2015- My Comeback from a Stress Fracture

So I never knew this was a thing….shows how involved I am in the world of creating hashtags and events termed by hashtags. Regardless, yeah I’ll do it! I just race; I find them as they come, but I can accept a specified challenge. I know I didn’t run 14 races last year (due to being sidelined by my first stress fracture), so I would love to make 2015 my year of races 🙂

So how many of you have actually had a stress fracture? Horrible isn’t it? I can’t even begin to tell you how angry and frustrated I felt from the beginning of September through mid-November. I made it worse all on my own, which I am notorious for doing by the way! Being an athlete and cross country runner, we want to ignore the injury, pretend we don’t actually have it. So what do we do about it? Run through it! Haven’t we all heard that? Just run through it; it’ll make you feel better.

But it didn’t.

Yeah, Coach, not this time. He claimed my shin was just inflamed. So, naturally, I did not stop running on my stress fracture since I thought it was only inflammation. Thus, I prolonged my own injury, running on it until it became excruciatingly unbearable. Running on it until I wanted to cry and at the same time, chop off my own shin. When I get mad at my legs for not working properly…I tend to want to chop them off. I feel as though that’s the best solution, like another shin, or hamstring will grow in its place. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Regardless, we discovered that, oh gee, this isn’t just inflammation at all. I described how it was hurting and where, and Coach realized it was more serious. The pain really felt like it was inside my bone, like I had broken something within it and the two parts were rubbing against each other with each step. Walking became painful. Going down stairs is the worst with a fracture!

So I began cross training…A LOT. Swim, swim, swim. That’s all I can say. Bike, bike, bike. I guess I can say that too. Elliptical made itself available within a few weeks, but we wanted to keep as much pressure off my shin as possible for the bone to heal. This was like my IT band syndrome all over again (which that story is another post, another time). I had to cross train around twice a day, but what was even all the more frustrating was knowing that my fitness would slip. This ate me up entirely; I knew this would backtrack me so much, the thoughts were unbearable. I had just had an incredible summer of races (see my gallery of pics on my sidebar menu) and now I was going to have to rebuild?! Build my base back up?! Come on!! I felt like I was just getting into the swing of things then

BAM! Sidelined again.

But like previous injuries, this one is no different. I learned a lot from it.

  1. I learned that I need to stay and keep with my freakin strength routines. (runners hate doing strength, we just want to run. Can I get an Amen?) Consistently having and executing a solid strength routine is CRUCIAL. I can’t stress this enough, especially if you’re a skinny, tiny distance runner like me. I have horrible hips. They constantly need strengthening and attention. When I neglect strengthening my key joints, problems happen. Like stress fractures and IT band syndrome. (well that’s overtraining too)
  2. I learned that I can still be happy for others and their running. Some of my friends were training for their first half, and I’m over here like, gee, isn’t that fantastic. You probably won’t ever have to experience what I have. But I learned to push such very negative thoughts out of my head and focus on being happy for my friends and their new accomplishments. We all have our rain, but we don’t need to rain on those who currently have the sun. Let them have their time to shine.
  3. Above all, I was humbled again and learned to appreciate every single run. Being injured is one of the most humbling experiences there is. You can’t go and go and go without experiencing road bumps. And because I am a follower of God, I also see injuries as a time when He’s wanting to scream something at me that he’s been trying to say for a while. Running is a gift; it is a tremendous gift. Be grateful for your legs, that they even work properly and you are able to do this. Be grateful for the miles and miles you can go, because there are thousands who are physically unable to go one. I learned to also be grateful for EVERY run, EVEN the slow ones. Again, every run is a gift. Do not take any one of them for granted, even when coming back from an injury.
Isn’t it incredible?

You and I are allowed to come out of an injury and setbacks without detrimental and permanent repercussions (unless you had your leg amputated or something). But the point of the matter is, even when we do have the rain, we still have the sun. Because we can shine again. Because our clouds shift eventually. Because the sun has always been inside of us, waiting for its chance to break through.