How I achieved injury-free running, for now at least  :) - Trek, Trail & Fish NZ

How I achieved injury-free running, for now at least :)

Over the last 12 months, I found myself becoming increasingly injury-prone.  A couple of falls (up a mountain on a wet, boggy day, and then again in dense bush with plenty of trip hazards, so at least they each came with a pretty good excuse...).  So, I went for stickier, grippier shoes, and worked on my physical strength and balance with the help of a physiotherapist.

But then, as I started increasing my weekly mileage, I started getting niggles, always on my left side. Left foot, left ankle, left calf, left knee...  There was a clear pattern, but how to break my left-sided curse?  I increased my strength training, started doing single-leg training and some plyo, riding on the bike more and even invested some time into what I hoped would be my perfect shoe rotation, with some foot-shaped shoes, and a pair of zero-drop shoes in the mix, plus some of my personal favourites, just because they feel good.  I also got into the habit of warming up thoroughly before and stretching after.  These all helped - to an extent.  I was still getting unexplained niggles and was concerned this might become a longer-term problem that would impact my training. With my first ultra coming up, I was starting to worry.

Then I read somewhere that running with a phone, camera, or dog lead in one hand can lead to imbalances, especially as your mileage starts to get up there.  I nearly always run with a dog lead in one hand, and my dog pulls a bit too, and sometimes I run with a Go-Pro.  But I was dubious.  And I really didn't want to sideline by favourite running companion.  My husky loves running so much and she spins in circles excitedly when I put my running shoes on.  So, I put that piece of information to one side and carried on.

A while later, I re-discovered my Coros Pod 2, which had disappeared a while back.  It turned up in a rarely used pocket of my handbag.  This turned out to be excellent timing.  I charged it and wore it for a few runs.  And I noticed that when I ran on the treadmill, my left-right balance was near perfect, and when I ran on the road, my left-right balance wasn't too bad. But when I ran with my dog, my left-right balance was way off.  It shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was the evidence I needed to motivate the necessary changes.

The solution I came up with was to use a dog running belt, rather than a handheld lead.  And I haven't looked back.  The other steps I took were likely still an important part of my journey to injury-free running, but this appears to have been the clincher.  And for now, at least, I have no niggles on my left side.  So I am a pretty happy runner right now.


The lessons I learnt from this experience, when trying to reduce running injuries are:

1. Have a look at your shoes. Make sure you have good stable grippy shoes, especially for technical and wet conditions. It can also pay to track shoe mileage and/or check them occasionally for wear, so you know when they need replacing.  If you know you pronate, or supinate, consider investing in stability shoes.  I'll talk more about that in a later post.

2. Consider building some variety into your training with a shoe rotation.

3. Warm-up before you run and do some stretching and/or mobility work after your run.

4. Incorporate strength training, cross-training and/or plyo (or review current strength training / cross-training / plyo).

5. Consider anything in your running that may be causing even the most minute imbalances.  This might involve analysing your running with a Coros Pod 2. Or you could video yourself running and see if there's anything obvious, or get an experienced runner or coach to have a look at your running.

6. Other tips include to only progress either speed or distance at any one time, not both, and limit your weekly increases to no more than 10%, with the odd recovery week to absorb the training.  And ideally around 80% of your running should be at conversational pace. There are other schools of thought on progressing training, but this is the an excellent place to start. 

The Coros Pod 2 can be a handy tool for analysing your running.  When worn on the waist, it records your ground time, stride ratio, stride height and left-right balance, giving you data to work with and improve on.  For more information on the Coros Pod 2, please click here.


Coros Pod 2


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