Running Injuries: My Pain Management Plan

It’s 6:55 AM.  I’m wrapped in ice while scarfing down a healthy bowl of cereal and writing this post.  I just got home after an invigorating 4:40 AM run with my friends Rushton, Rob and Dawn.  We logged 9 1/2 miles in the cool morning breeze, which felt great…for about the first 6 miles.  That’s when my other buddies decided to join in for the last 3 1/2.

You may in fact know them.  They go by many names…Mr. Ache, Mr. Twinge, Mr. Tightness, Mr. Cramp, Mr. Stitch, and, my least favorite, Mr. Stab.  Call them what you want, but together, they hold the keys to a club where the password to get in is PAIN.  

This morning, the Pain Gang made their arrival known when I suddenly felt lower-back tightness, which quickly shortened up my stride.  A half mile later, I felt a tweak in my right arch followed by a grabbing sensation in my left calf a little further down the road.  My mind quickly went to work thinking, I need to get this running pain under control, stat.

When I mentioned my pain to Rushton about 8 miles into the run, knowing my sports medicine background, she challenged me with one stern question: What are YOU going to do about it?

Keeping Little Pains From Becoming BIG Injuries

I’m sure you’re wondering what a professional like me would do to solve training woes like the ones I encountered.  You’re in luck!  Here is the plan I immediately put into action to combat my three running injuries and keep them from forcing me to walk home and/or miss my big race next weekend:

During the Run

1. I slowed my pace while slightly shortening my stride to balance the sound and feel of my foot strike on both sides.  I noticed that I was striding too short with my right leg and too long on my left.  Balance your body played on a loop in my head.

2. Every 3 minutes, I performed three Carioca drills on each side while keeping my knees low to emphasize trunk rotation and loosen my hips and lateral thighs.  I do this during all my long runs and races as well.

3. I switched to the other side of the road to change the road angle to relax my legs.

4. I trusted my body’s ability to work through the problem instead of adopting a very disruptive Damn, this is just my luck that I’m injured again! mindset.

After the Run

1. I drank 15 oz of a water and Gatorade mixture to hydrate my inflamed tissues.   (1 minute)

2. I elevated my legs against a wall while pumping my ankles, wiggling my toes and setting my quads to help drain leg waste products produced during my run.   (4 minutes)

3. I aggressively rolled out my quads, IT bands, hamstrings and calves.   (4 minutes)

4. I performed Active Release Techniques on my right plantar fasciitis and left calf strain.   (3 minutes)

5. I quickly stretched my hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves and toe flexors under the enthusiastic supervision of Marshall, my official Flexibility Advisor.   (4 minutes) 

Marshall, Flexibility Advisor

6. I took 600 mg of Advil.  (30 seconds)

7. Finally, with my legs more relaxed, my muscles more pliable and my mind more at peace with my injuries, I iced my calves and thighs with my 110% Play Harder cold compression sleeves.   (30 seconds)

Is This Worth 1.2% of My Day?

Do the math.  It took me a grand total of 17 minutes to complete my post-workout rehab to reduce my running pain by 80%!  That represents about 1.2% of my day.  The old I just don’t have time to take care of my injuries is simply not part of my vocabulary, and I suggest you adopt the same rule.

Simply put, I just can’t afford to disrupt my training or let running pain interfere with my busy schedule, and neither can you.

Take Home Points

  • Addressing a running injury quickly and properly is key for mature athletes to stay in the game.
  • Time to treat injuries won’t just appear out of thin air.  Instead, make the time, and remember that a significant time commitment is not required.
  • The first step to get healthier below the neck is to get your mind right above it. Visualize yourself as a healthy and happy athlete, then do what is needed to make this become a reality!