My head is down and slowly shaking from side to side as if to indicate, “No way. You didn’t do that.” I glance up with a smirk and I ask “why?” Except you don’t have a great answer. Your shoulders shrug with uncertainty. Your rebuttal? “I don’t know. Is it that bad?”
On my paper I scribble, MOI: 14% sprints on treadmill. MOI. Mechanism of Injury.
The 14% sprints on the treadmill is interchangeable between so many patients. A quick substitution can be made for many other high risk activities: explosive exercise (plyometrics), all-out hill sprints, playing pick up basketball for the first time in years.
In life there are few shortcuts. Well, at least to things you want. You can certainly take a shortcut to your next injury. Building up a consistent base of fitness takes years and further improvement can be painstakingly slow. Injury speedbumps along the way make the process that much longer—and frustrating. While getting injured is inevitable in running, many are avoidable.
The name of the game is managing your injury risk. Think of your body as an monetary investment. As a young gun you can push risk to the background and engage (or invest) in riskier activity; however, as our body (investment) ages, many runners fail to alter their risk portfolio.
Like risky investments, risky training behavior has the sexy factor. It can offer a ton of short term upside and speed. Unfortunately, the following years are plagued with injuries. Would you sacrifice a few solid months of racing for the next 5 years of consistent training?
So what increases our risk? Here are my top 3 risky behaviors that runners engage in:
Running is pretty straight forward, literally. When runners engage in non-running related activities (ie basketball or other cutting sports) they introduce a ton of risk for minor (muscle pulls) or major (ACL or meniscus) injuries.
If you choose to incorporate to cutting or other high risk sports you’ll want to start slow and be consistent. Dabbling once or twice a month in a high risk activity is committing running suicide.
2. Frequent 100% Max Efforts:
All out efforts are a risk-reward proposition, particularly for runners over 40. The risk amplifies when racing is thrown into weeks emphasizing 100% efforts. I’m not suggesting you shy away completely, but if you’re hitting the track weekly and running max efforts you’re asking for it.
Instead of running in a faster group or paces that are max efforts, keep your efforts strong and slightly below 100% and appreciate your recovery.
3. Explosive Exercise:
I discussed the detriments of plyometrics in this article, but it’s worth emphasizing again. The same goes for hill sprints or high inclines on treadmills.
When you ask more out of your body it’s more likely to break. Powerful movements amplify the effect. The strain to the system eventually becomes too much for most runners.
I’m ready for the backlash of success stories who claim that hard efforts and explosive exercise has had a profound effect on their running. Other “dabblers” will insist that this method of crosstraining is the sole reason they remain injury free.
That’s great, but there’s zero doubt about it. You are opening yourself to risk and, unfortunately, most runners pay the price—eventually. If you’re ok going for broke then proceed, but if you’re looking for lifelong, consistent running that is free from major interruption then you need to manage your risk.