7 for 7: Injury

I have no idea why I left injury for the conclusion to 7 for 7. Maybe it’s because I have such a sunny disposition. Who knows.

The list of injuries I’ve sustained while running range from the humorous to the frustrating. There was the time I ran into a hidden tree branch in downtown Denver and spent the evening in Denver General waiting for stitches. In retrospect, pretty funny. I’d give anything to have video of me as I ducked through what I thought were some leaves, but were actually camouflage for a ninja sawed-off tree limb. What aren’t typically very funny are your garden-variety “overuse injuries,” to use the catch-phrase bandied about by so many general practitioners whose last experience with athletics was that time they were picked last for kickball in 2nd grade. I love that phrase…”well, you overused it, so it’s hurt. Stop if you want it to not hurt.” Thanks a bunch, doc…

The injuries I battle most are plantar fasciitis and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. The former is a painful swelling in the tissue on the bottom of your foot, usually concentrated around the heel; the latter is an inflammation of the iliotibial band, a long piece of connective tissue which runs pretty much from your ankle through your knee, and up to your hip. My plantar fasciitis is bad enough that it occasionally wakes me up in the middle of the night, but my IT band issues typically flare up and take off again if I spend some time on the foam roller.

I have no idea why I have these recurring issues. I have a feeling my IT bands are tired of being attached to my wickedly bowed legs, but the plantar fasciitis is beyond me. It showed up in 2005 for the first time in my life, and has been an uninvited guest ever since. I just sort of suck it up and do some painful golf ball massage when it gets really bad.

Running injuries in general can be incredibly frustrating for the reasons I allude to above – naturally we want to know the cause so we can fix things. But there is rarely an easy answer, except in the case of trauma. It could be just about anything, from physiological responses to life stress, to the complicated relationship of your core strength to your running stride. Thankfully, injuries that threaten to sideline you rarely show up overnight, which means an attentive mind can correct identify and correct issues early in the process.

 A powerful aid for this is your training log. As soon as something start feelings off, maybe a bit wrong. You need to write down as much info as possible and continue to document it throughout training. Nothing is worse than trying to figure out exactly when the pain started as you try to figure out possible causes. A good rule of thumb – if something painful develops and grows worse over about three days, you’re probably staring down the barrel of something bad and you need to intervene immediately. What that intervention looks like is completely individual. For some, it’s simply anti-inflammatory pain meds and pressing forward. For others, it’s aggressive deep tissue massage and plenty of ice…it all depends on the athlete and the injury.

Something else to remember about injury – it’s your body’s means of communicating with you. The message: “Dude, something is wrong and you need to fix it.” Overly conservative folks will immediately assume time off is the called-for panacea, but I tend to err on the aggressive side in that time off is usually the last thing on my mind. These days, I start with my core and my life. Is my core strong or have I neglected it for three months straight (the answer to that question is “yes,” which is why my lower back has been nagging me)? Am I recovering adequately between sessions with quality food and sleep or am I travelling tons, eating lousy airport meals and working 18 hour days? Find what is lacking, put it back in and see if it helps.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: injuries suck. The disappointment associated with putting in the training, only to be derailed by a stupid injury should not be underestimated. However, I’ve never read a study that indicated self-pity was the Rx that cured the problem. It’s natural to be depressed and disappointed, but you have to turn that emotion into something positive…like ruthless determination to fix the problem and never have it again.

Injuries – they’re a big bummer but they hold important lessons for us if we have the foresight and wherewithal to make it happen.

I hope you enjoyed 7 for 7, because this iteration is officially over and out. Next time, I’ll try to deliver on the whole “7 days” aspect as opposed to 10…but I’m sure you didn’t mind a few days off J It’s been a good habit-builder to me as my day has started to feel incomplete if I don’t post at least a little something each day. I’m already dreaming up my next series, so keep alert for updates…

7 for 7: Training

Ahhhh. The training. I love it, I hate it, I love it and hate it all at the same time. I love it for what it provides, but I hate it for the suffering it inflicts.

My take on training starts pretty simply: do it. Training is what gets us from here to there. It’s the one thing you can control in the process, really. You can’t control how you feel, your luck, or the genetic coding your parents passed along. Training is the one thing that not doing guarantees failure.

My second foundation for training is consistency. In his classic novel Once A Runner, John L. Parker Jr’s character Quenton Cassidy talks about a concept called “The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials.” I think it accurately depicts the concept and importance of consistency. The miles required to achieve the goal, the sum itself is a challenge and opportunity for victory. In the same way, each one of those miles is its own little challenge and victory once completed. It’s a day in/day out  commitment to put numbers in the mileage box of your training log, and watch as those numbers add up over weeks, months, even years depending on what you are trying to achieve.

Consistency is also perhaps the most difficult aspect of training to achieve, especially with life’s standard infringements. Work demands are my primary enemy when it comes to consistency. Having spent about six of the past twelve months on the road, I understand first hand the difficulty of staying on schedule.

My last, equally important approach to training is the importance of quality work. Quality work is what you might think of as “sprints,” but you might want to re-categorize as “anything harder than just going out for a jog/run.” This, combined with regular old running is what makes a program, and achieving goals requires both. Track intervals, fartleks, hill repeats, sustained moderate/hard runs…it’s all deadly.

Beyond the foundational tenets of doing the training, doing it consistently, and doing the quality work, there is the issue of methodology. I think of methodology as how you put it all together into a cohesive training program. There are many, many ways to train. From the ubiquitous cookie-cutter programs available on any online running website, to systems devised and led by individual coaches; there are simply a ton of options. I can find it a bit overwhelming, to tell you the truth.

I currently train predominantly off Coach Jack Daniels’ (I know, cool name, right?) methods. His book, Daniels Running Formula, 


 is starting to fall apart from me paging through it constantly. It’s in-depth as well as simple, and includes recommended training plans for runners of all abilities and distances. I also inject some of Michele’s workouts, which she took from Alan Storey. Unfortunately I don’t have any resources for him, which is unfortunate due to the fact that he’s got some killer hard workouts.

 There are several others out there I trust. Mark Twight’s stuff on www.gymjones.com is pretty much my sole resource for strength these days.

Chatting with Coach Jay at the 2010 Chicago Marathon Expo

He tells me that he’s working a research project on strength for endurance athletes, which I eagerly await. Additionally, Coach Jay Johnson, www.coachjayjohnson.com, has some wonderful stuff both on his website and in the podcast videos on www.runningtimes.com with regards to building a strong body capable of handling the toll running can take.

Lest I totally geek out, I’m not going to get into the details of my training right now, since I could go on forever. I will say that I’m currently focusing on trying to run 16:30 for 5k by the end of Jan. As such, my training is focused heavily on shorter, faster intervals with some sprinklings of the moderate sustained work. I will also say that I stay very flexible due to my travel schedule.

Here’s a depiction of the four weeks of training done prior to this week:

Training Snapshot for 1 Nov - 28 Nov

As you can see, I do 2-3 quality sessions a week, usually Tue/Thu/Sat in order to give me some recovery in between. I’m running higher mileage volume and long runs than is typical for most 5k programs, but I’m doing that to see how I react to sustained higher mileage.

Alright, that’s it for today. Like I said, if I get going into the science stuff, you’ll be here (and bored) all day. Check out some of the links for more information if you’re interested. Hope you found all this informative…in the future I will probably post some of my own recommended training plans.