That said, I have to admit, since I started doing ultras, especially since I started doing 50 milers and 100 milers, I have a lot less injuries.
"Wait, back up? Your knees are supposed to be destroyed. C'mon, I got shin splints training for a 5k last autumn." I've heard this before. But it's true.
Why? Well, I've been running since I was 13 - that's 19 years. I know my body. I know when to replace shoes (which can go a lot longer for me than for most). I know when to take a day off, even when I don't want to. I strength train, which has made a lot of my less-utilized muscles not have to freak out and strain the others. I cross-train. I stretch. I eat during and after running. I sleep a decent amount. I drink lots of water, eat very well (including chocolate, which is key to lifelong happiness).
But it seems like ultrarunners are injured a lot less than road runners. I hear a lot more pain stories from my local road running club than my ultrarunning friends - some of whom quadruple or more the others' mileage. Why? I think it's experience and we got all the minor injuries out of the way earlier, but I decided to ask ultrarunners what their secrets are.
I reached out to the Ultra list and got some great responses:
- Drink lots of whole milk, and to keep from getting sick, eat lots of habaneros. --Lazarus Lake
- Running within your limits, whatever they may be. The older I get, the more restrictive these limits become. --Dan Baglione
- Plenty of rest days, plenty of sleep. --Julian Jamison
- The top three things are: 1. I've found that ice is one of the best approaches, but I apply it for far longer than most, often for 3-4 hours at a time. (Never use a gel pack - they are the work of the devil. Only use ice in a plastic bag.) 2. Massage is critical IMHO. I use the stick, the foam roller and other body parts (knee to calf, elbow to quad). 3. I believe that minimalist running and good form are significant factors.--from Jonathan Savage who maintains an awesome wiki on injury prevention
- Form and building my base mileage with LSDs. --Chase Williams
- Whole chocolate milk and habaneros have healing powers. --Naresh KN
- You need fat in your diet. --John Price
- Understanding the difference between discomfort and pain. Generally, discomfort can be overcome with training: that same generalization leads to the idea that pain is a hint to find out what has gone wrong, fix the problem, then continuing. Rest. Rest is good for me (us?). And looking back - understanding that all the stuff I did last week, last month, and especially the last few years is intended to be remembered and used. Run gently out there. --John M, who also reminds us that naps, naps, and chocolate chip cookies are good too
- The biggest thing that I face personally is when to back off...I have a hard time telling myself that it's okay to take a few days off. I have even more of a hard time doing something else, like core work or upper body for those days. Mainly because I don't get the same "fix" from anything other than running. Really letting myself take a couple of days is hard. --Vinny Capp
- Another vote for LSD/RGOT. [FYI, that's Long Slow Distance and Run Gently Out There.) Lots of slowish miles on dirt.--Mark Swanson
- Step 1: Run a lot (Read: whatever it is you're trying to do, be it run, ross train, or pogo stick, do it consistently, keeping in mind that making drastic changes in mileage, running days/week, weights lifted, or hops on said pogo, are all forms of inconsistency.) Step 2: Rest when you need to (Read: most people have a very funny definition of need, but if you can master the primordial art of listening to your body rather than listening to other people's bodies, you'll know when to rest.) Step 3: adapt as necessary (read: if you successfully apply Steps 1 and 2, you will necessarily proceed to Step 3, which will mostly be accomplished involuntarily by your body's magical healing/rebuilding/repairing/adapting abilities, but can - and should - be augmented by the application of the second ancient lost art of common sense) Should you successfully complete these 3 easy steps, you'll remain injury free, and you'll turn into a rather impressive runner to boot...-john nevels (who is apparently feeling a little snarky this morning...)
- Rest is greatly underrated...YMMV. --Patrick McHenry
- My oneaveragerunner's perspective: 1. I run every day. 2. I listen to my running self; on days I fell like running, I air it out; on days I don't, I just run. 3. When I'm in a race, I give it everything I've got. (That said, my last race was pathetic-had a pretty good string of 25 or 30 going into that one though.) Anyway, I get training mileage in, and when I race, I race, even though I'm never better than an average racer. 4. TRX. Cross train/ strength training ojn TRX/ RIP 2-5 days per week. 5. I always have a race on the schedule, usually within the month; I run a lot of races. I think that makes me a lot more durable. 6. Aging and the aging process; I flat-out refuse to participate. --Tim Hardy, who refuses to grow up, just like Peter Pan :)
- My big thing is recovery. I used to force myself to get out the door everyday no matter how crappy I felt, but now I'm much more kind and forgiving of myself. Not stressing out about having to run EVERY day, equals a happier and calmer me with less fatigue and hence less injuries. I also have to agree on the fat topic. I've stopped caring about eating high fat foods. Bring it on! I now buy full fat dairy, I make myself 4 eggs every morning with a generous amount of butter. I eat an avocado every day. I eat spoonfuls of coconut oil and almond butter. I eat lots of red meat now and sausage. I love me some brats! When I first switched to high fat foods, I thought I would get fat. The opposite happened. I've lost 3 lbs and 1% body fat. That never happened when I was eating the lowest fat diet I possibly could. Oh, and skim milk isn't milk at all, it's basically murky water. --Sarah Jurgaitis
- For me, three strengthening exercises keep me from getting injured. 1) stand on the edge of a step, go up on your toes, then while on one foot slowly drop down until your heel is below the height of the step. I work up to 4 sets of 10 for each leg 2) leg extensions. From a sitting position with a light weight (6 lbs or less) hanging from the end of my foot, extend my leg so it is straight out (parallel with the floor) then lower it 45 degrees, then back up. I work up to 5 sets of 20 with each leg 3) IT band. Lie on your side, then with a light weight on your ankle (5 lbs) raise your leg. I also work the inside on my leg while doing this. I work up to 3 sets of 10 for each leg. --Kurt
- I don't know that I have just one item for injury prevention and I really don't know that any of what I do truly works. I do think some people are just more injury prone than others. I try to run with good form, eat a healthy diet, vary training paces (uses different muscles and helps to avoid repetitive stress injuries), vary my shoes (again uses different muscles and helps avoid repetitive stress injuries). Run on softer surfaces if I am feeling beat up. I still do some of my running on roads and I think the variety of working different muscles is good. I don't drink that much milk but when I do I use 1%. I don't mind the fast I just don't like the taste of whole milk. I also eat LOTS of dark chocolate, get sleep, avoid stress, and see my chiropractor every 2 - 3 weeks. He likes to work specifically with athletes and he addresses any problem areas although he says it is amazing how well aligned I am considering what I put my body through. Also, at least 2 - 3 times per year take 3 - 4 days in a row off. At least 1 - 2 months per year train without a plan. I also lift weights but not sure that keeps me from getting injured. I've only been so injured I didn't run 2 times since I've been running marathons and over in 8 years. Started running ultras in 2007. The first time was after my second 100 miler in 2010 and my medial tendon felt like it was sprained so took about 2 weeks off. The other time was just this year in January with my 3rd metatarsal stress reaction which I think was from running too many miles in shoes that were too light. I took off 8 days and then cut back on my running. I've had a few other injuries but was able to run through them and get better fairly quickly. --Andy