People will often say they have the answer to running injury-free; they tried something and now they don't get injured, therefore they've found "the secret." It's impossible to prove any preventative exercise works, so most runners end up not doing any non-running maintenance until they get injured and can't run (and will try anything).
Here's one of my favorite photos (copyright, Track and Field News), with three world record holders in the mile: Steve Cram (325), Steve Ovett (341) and John Walker (in black, behind Ovett).
The short cut
So, if you can't prove that any preventative measures actually work, you're likely not to do any and to wait until injured to deal with injuries. When I started running, I ran with guys 10-20 years older and, if they hadn't had a specific injury, they knew someone who had, and I listened to find out how they dealt with it. I learned a lot of anatomy that way - as well as some bad habits. Today, the standard is to go to a G.P., who sends you to a specialist, who sends you to a physical therapist (who invariably finds 20 things wrong with you; I'll cover this in another post) and you end up doing a set of exercises that you aren't sure of and which no one seems to be able to explain properly. And you stop doing them as soon as you're able to run again.
[Disclaimer: when injured, get professional help. The following is not a substitute.]
Now it's possible to get a very good assessment of problems online and a variety of treatment programs as well. My favorite place to go first is the Running Injury Oracle. It gives a very good quick guide to all but the most unusual injuries and the diagnoses tend to be very good (sometimes a problem looks like a combination of two injuries and one should assume one has both). Unfortunately, when it comes to treatment, they want you to sign in, so I prefer to go a different route: do a Google search on the diagnosis you get from the oracle. Treatments generally go: ice, foam roller, heat, mobility, stretch, massage, pressure, taping, strengthening, and then more sports-specific exercises. Almost any treatment plan you find will work, but you can easily mix and match and you can find demonstrations on how to do them on YouTube.
My favorite site for treatment plans has disappeared. If they ever complete it, Athletes Treating Athletes (Thanks, Robyn) will be a great substitute.
Unfortunately, dealing with injuries only when they're obvious leads to a running career full of injuries. I've had all of them (except those only women get) - ALL of them. Often dozens at a time. Eventually, one ends up doing rehab more than running.
The solution, then, is to detect injuries the moment they begin, rather than let them worsen until one cannot run and to treat them quickly and continuously. That's what I hope to cover in upcoming posts.
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