An injury that sidelines a runner is both physically and mentally taxing, especially during race training. I have been dealing with patellofemoral pain syndrome aka runner’s knee in my left knee for the past year and recently have been having slight pain in the arch of my right foot. Pushing through pain is never a good idea, I always know when it’s time for a rest day (or week or month). Since my knee has been a known issue I use preventative treatment to keep any pain and severe injury at bay. Please note: I am not a doctor, the following is what I’ve found works for me. If you’re having pain or are dealing with an injury I urge you to see a doctor ASAP.
1. Foam Roller: When I started doing CrossFit on a regular basis I decided to invest in a foam roller. My muscles were constantly sore and tight and my compression socks alone weren’t cuttin’ it. Foam rolling is done to provide myofascial release, which means to breakdown adhesions and scar tissue between the fascia (the soft connective tissue just below the skin) and your muscles and bones. This is similar to a deep tissue massage (and slightly painful like one) except you control the pressure. Obviously these adhesions and scar tissue cause soreness and they also contribute to reduced flexibility and range of motion. No good for runners! This article does a really good job of explaining the purpose of foam rolling and includes the basic exercises. Also check out Peanut Butter Runner’s foam rolling 101 video post. Her how-to videos are great and I watched them before I got started rolling.
2. Tennis Ball: I use the tennis ball for the pain in the arch of my foot. This is similar to foam rolling except it is more of a trigger point therapy. The FootWheel would also be a good tool but I had some cheap tennis balls laying around and didn’t feel like spending $20.
3. Knee Brace: I was just starting to peak on my first marathon training cycle when I started having pain in my knee while running. Previously I only had soreness afterwards. I took a few rest days (though it pained me mentally to do so) and started researching knee braces. After trying a few different ones I settled on the Pro-Tec Short Sleeve Knee Brace. Now, I never went to the doctor to be officially diagnosed with Runner’s Knee. I knew it to be a common problem and my symptoms were text-book so I decided to try at-home remedies first. If the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and knee brace didn’t help I would have gone to the doctor immediately. Luckily I am able to run pain free with this knee brace and I don’t even notice it.
4. Ice Pack: To help reduce any inflammation or irritation from running I ice my knee almost every night. I’ll lay my leg straight out in front of me and put the pack on my knee with a dish cloth in between. I never leave it on my knee longer than 20 minutes (unless I accidentally fall asleep with it on there- oops!) and then let my knee come back to room temperature for another 20 minutes before I’ll move it. After long runs I’ll ice a few times throughout the rest of the day if I’m a bit more sore than usual.
5. Good Shoes: A few years ago I went to a local running store and got fitted for proper running shoes. They watched the way I walked to see how I pronated and then made some suggestions. I fell in love with the Mizuno Wave Inspire because of their light weight and the just-right amount of support they provided. I’ve worn these ever since and am on my 5 millionth pair (ok, maybe 10th). I make sure to replace them when necessary, usually every 6 months or if the sole starts looking like this:
6. Compression socks: After long runs, speed work and leg heavy CrossFit sessions I always throw on my CEP recovery compression socks. I swear these things are magic! I also have Zensah compression sleeves that I’ve worn during races. Now, I haven’t really noticed a difference when wearing the sleeves while running. If I wear them while running, it’s more for the warmth factor (I’m not a fan of pants or capris while running). I must say though that the socks for recovery have definitely made a difference. The theory behind the graduated compression in the socks is that it increases the blood flow and therefore the oxygen your muscles receive. A really good article I found that includes some research can be found here.
Of course I have the hot pink ones!
Before I started this training cycle I knew that I was going to be putting my body through unnatural hell. I accept that my body will rebel and that there may be forced rest days along the way. It seems crazy that I’d be willing to do all of this (icing, foam rolling, awesome sock wearing) in addition to the 18 weeks of intense training and strict diet so that I can then run 26.2 miles. The best answer I can provide to the ‘why’ question- it’s the feeling of crossing the finish line. Knowing that you just finished 26.2 miles and you gave it all you had.