Updated: Jun 15, 2021
As human beings we like to push ourselves to the limit. In any sport that line is the difference between peak performance and injury. As you increase your workout or running load on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, there are some key supplementary things you can do to help support that growth and reduce the risk of injury.
This article is an overview of what I will talk about in this blog series. I am speaking from my personal experience, it is important to note that this is what worked for me. You are more than welcome to try out what has worked for me and see how it feels for you. If you are injured or in serious pain please seek professional help.
For me, there are four main areas that I focus on to ensure that I support my increased run load so that I don’t wear my body down and increase my risk of injury. These areas are:
Adequate Sleep and
Similar to building proper form, it is important to listen to your body so you are aware of the messages your body is sending you. You need to know the difference between tightness, soreness, aches and pains. So you want to start to recognize what is normal for you and what is not normal. This will start to allow you to recognize the intensity of any of these sensations and then take the appropriate actions. As you collect more data about your body, you’ll be able to interpret those signs faster and more effectively.
Strengthening Your Core
As your primary run muscles (calves, quads and glutes) grow and become more powerful, it is important to have a strong support or core muscles. These secondary muscles help to keep your body aligned and stable while you’re performing the exercise (ie. running).
When you perform any exercise, the muscles that are the primary focus receive the largest amount of strain and therefore will grow and adapt the fastest. Although secondary muscles are being worked, generally speaking, they will not grow as fast as the primary muscles. So as your run load on a daily, weekly and monthly basis increases, the secondary muscles will fatigue faster than the primary muscles. This imbalance creates more risk for injury. Focused exercises to strengthen your core/supporting muscles can help them adapt faster, reduce the imbalance and decrease risk of injury.
This doesn’t mean that you need to spend an hour working out your core. Focused exercises target that muscle group are highly efficient. Sometimes even 2 mins a day can help increase their strength and start to rebalance the inequities between the primary and secondary run muscles.
In the article on strengthening your core, I will give examples of some of these exercises that you can do on a daily basis to build that strong support.
Your muscles work most efficiently when they are relaxed and recovered. Stretching after a run and continuously over a longer period can help your muscles relax and support the recovery they need to grow and adapt to your increased running. It is important to listen to your body and recognize the signals it is sending you. You need to be able to feel the difference between tightness, aches and pains and know what is normal for you and when to seek professional help.
The article on stretching talks about why and when to stretch and how it can benefit you. As well as gives you some examples of the stretches that work best for me. Again it's important to figure out what works best for you.
Sleep is when your body is most efficient at recovery, so it's important to get enough sleep and high quality sleep. Additionally your body best recovers when it's in a relaxed state. When you are in your anxious or fight or flight mode, your body spends its attention on being alert not repairing. It’s easy to say “Get more sleep” but a lot of us know we need more sleep and if we could, we would. This article talks about what I find helps me sleep more and helps me switch out of fight or flight mode and into relaxation mode.
In order for muscles to grow they have to have the right materials. Protein is a part of that and I think society does a great job drilling that home; however, you also need other nutrients. As you increase your run load, your body will be rebuilding and growing more, which means that you need to have more nutrients in your body.
If your body doesn’t have enough nutrients it will not recover to peak levels, which means that you are at a higher risk of injury. This doesn’t mean you will get injured, but as you increase your workout load, you want to make sure that you are also reducing your injury risk at the same time.
The article on sleep and nutrition will talk about some of the strategies that I use to increase my sleep and ensure that I have the proper nutrition in my body.
This blog series has strategies and exercises that I have found worked for me. It is important to try these out slowly and listen to your body and how they react to these individually. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, try something else. It is best to start experimenting with these before you are injured or at high risk of injury. If you are ever concerned about injury or aches and pains in your body, it is best to seek advice from a professional.
Make sure that you are supporting your run growth with proper recovery.
Listen to your body and the messages it is sending you about your run progress.
Strengthen your core so that your secondary muscles grow at the same rate as your primary muscles.
Stretch, get enough sleep and eat properly to help reduce risk of injury.
Seek professional advice when injured or in pain.
To start off, I will go deeper into the benefits and important of having strong secondary muscles: