Recently I had the privilege of meeting a number of climbers while running a free hand massage event. These wiry, cheerful people happily recounted grim and shocking details of severe injury to their bodies, grinning all the while, as I eased out years of knots from their long-suffering hands. I went home happy to have helped, but with a sense of unease. Why did these people do a sport that wreaked such havoc on their bodies? What motivated them not just to tackle the wall again but to yearn for it after it had taken them to physiotherapy, A&E and beyond? And who did they remind me of…?
Yes, you guessed it. RUNNERS. As a runner myself, I know the tension inside when I’ve not had (or made) time to get out, the strange combination of extreme effort, your heart bursting out of your chest, and euphoria – that point where your head clears, your shoulders loosen, your legs suddenly feel they could do it all over again… and want to.
But of course, we runners are some of the worst for injuries. Despite the average take-up age for male half marathon runners being 39, or perhaps because of it, we are repeatedly told by so-called health professionals that running is the problem. We should give it up, try something gentler, that’ll sort us out. Injury? What else did we expect?
Of course, we don’t listen to them. They miss out the key component of challenge, enjoyment, need to run. However, forewarned is forearmed. For some reason, when people take up tennis, or football, or hockey, they go and get lessons, attend regular training. People who want to try running often just strap on some dusty ancient trainers and head out the door. There are a plethora of running clubs around Nottingham that can offer support and advice, and no doubt empathy with your latest twinge. But it’s good to have an idea of what exactly some typical injuries are, so you can head them off at the outset. Runner’s World have a great injury diagnosis tool, and some helpful advice on how to manage them. But what can you do to stop getting them in the first place?
So without further ado (and I admit there’s been a little – I like writing!) here are my:
Top Three Injury Management Golden Rules
Please please, if nothing else, do this. Your body has worked hard for you so think about giving it a reward. A rewarding dinner is fine, but muscles benefit from a more direct approach too. Stretching not only increases flexibility but encourages circulation in tired muscles and consequently promotes healing of any micro-damage you’ve just sustained on those hill sprints. It’s the singular best way, in my opinion, to keep injury at bay. And remember, hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, any less and you won’t get the benefit.
Don’t Ignore Yourself – Listen to Your Body
Too many runners come to my physiotherapy practice long after a niggle began and finally developed into an injury that stopped them entirely. I myself have been ambushed by tears watching a youtube video of a child running as I nursed a torn calf on the sofa. Such a beautiful motion, an amazing feeling. How could we ever stop? It’s hard to let go when your body reaps such rewards, but while you are out there clocking up the miles, take a moment to switch off your ipod and listen to what your body is saying. Which leg has a smoother movement? Which arm is leading? Is that ache getting worse or better? Do your feet sound the same as they hit the ground? Meditation in running may seem a little far out to you (or maybe not) but everyone can benefit from tuning in to themselves. Try it (instructions here!), see how you get on. By the time you get home you’ll have a much better idea of what’s going on with your particular niggle. And you’ll most likely feel very ‘Zen’ too.
I’m sure that most runners are pretty up to speed on what calories are, how many is ‘normal’, and how many a 5k run burns off. But have you ever heard of Tensor Fascia Lata or Gluteus Medius? If so that’s great, because they are both hip muscles and extremely relevant to runners. They play a key role in the common affliction of Runner’s knee and many other leg problems. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to be an expert (or understand Latin) but if you can learn some basic anatomy and the principles of training you will be well on your way not just to managing but preventing injury.
Some of you may think this blog has come too late: you may already be sitting on your sofa, crying at running videos, nursing your latest strain, tear or aching joint. The good news is, you can still follow all three of my Golden Rules, and reap the benefits of nurturing your body as well as challenging it.
For a full assessment of your injury or for a remedial massage, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or book online at www.arcadia-therapy.com/book .