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Overcoming and avoiding running injuries

By Bill Goins
Kunsan Air Base Health Promotion Program

Readiness in the military is critical to success. Part of being “ready” is being as fit as possible at all times. We never know when we may have to call on our physical fitness to support contingency operations around the world.

One of the most popular ways to improve and maintain our fitness levels is through running. While injuries can occur during all activities, running carries with a few common injuries that must be dealt with appropriately. I’ve compiled a few strategies to help someone overcome common running injuries so they can continue to strive toward their fitness goals.

1. Create a customized exercise plan
If your goal is to improve your speed during the 1.5-mile run, but you are unable to run 30 minutes without stopping, you need to create a plan to increase your endurance first and then tackle your speed goals. This relatively short goal generally requires runners to create an eight to 12-week exercise plan. If your goal is to run a marathon, you are probably looking at building a plan lasting between 16 to 24 weeks or more.

2. Be patient and manage your expectations
Most of us lack sufficient patience when it comes to our expectations for exercise. Most runners would be well served to adopt a mindset where patience is the first thing considered when making decisions about training, analyzing training and coping with injuries. When you get injured, you MUST fight the natural feeling of impatience. You’re injured. It happens. The key now is to focus on addressing the injury appropriately and to put the original training plan on hold for a bit.

3. Take advantage of physical therapy
You need to appropriately identify the injury and then work on rehabilitating that injury. If you continue to press on with your current exercise plan, you’ll not only prevent adequate healing of the current injury, but you’ll also run a very high risk of creating a secondary injury as your body over-stresses another muscle or joint when it tries to compensate for the original injury.

4. Seek advice from certified health professionals
Once you’re ready to resume your training and exercise plan, seek out help from a certified health and wellness professional.  You can’t just jump back in to your training program where you left off before being injured. The program must be adapted, and you may even have to adapt your overall fitness goals. Your base health promotion program coordinator can help you do this safely and effectively.

5. Persevere, and adjust plans and goals accordingly
It’s imperative that you accept you had an injury, and you may have to adjust your original goal and plan and create new short and long-term goals. Your goal shouldn’t be only about your “race.” Your goal should be about the journey of getting to the race and achieving your goals. This requires perseverance to be flexible and adapt as injuries occur. That perseverance makes achieving your goal that much sweeter. Once you accomplish one of your goals, start again. New goal. New plan.

Running injuries may seem inevitable. However, if you deal with your running injuries appropriately, it never has to mean your running days are over.