The Care and Feeding of Sports Injuries

So, I’ve been back in Israel for a few weeks now.  Upon returning home, I plunged right into writing my holiday recipe e-book.  I was also super busy with a wonderful round of new clients who all started up in the last few weeks.  

During this time, I have also written a number of blog posts.  They were all very eloquently, well-written versions of:


I have been reluctant to hit “publish” on these posts because I felt crappy and discouraged and that is never fun to share.  But things are on the upswing and now I feel ready.  Plus, several of you have mentioned that, you too, need this post.

So here’s the deal:  After my last glowing post about my Vibrams, I must report a sad downturn of events.  The Plantar Fasciitis that I bought the Vibrams to cure, is not going to go down without a fight.  There was about a week there where I almost couldn’t walk, let alone run, and I have had to delay the official start of my race training until I heal.

Now, I am not a doctor or a physical therapist.  I’ve taken ONE college-level course in anatomy and I know the difference between quadriceps and biceps, but I claim no official medical knowledge.  None-the-less, I can tell you this:


When you get hurt, you need to stop and rest.  Rub arnica into your sore spots, ice them down, get massaged by a professional, try foam rolling, and do other things in the meantime, such as swimming, yoga, spinning, walking… whatever does not aggravate your injury.  But most of all, be patient and wait.

I know it is an ugly suckfest to get derailed right when your train has begun forward momentum.  I know because I am super crabby about it myself.  But it happens and if you keep going, you will get really, really hurt and that’s when people start with the “running is bad for you” business.  It’s NOT bad for you if you listen to your body and don’t push through injury pain.

So, there’s the pain of injury but there is also the pain of plain old soreness.  Do you know how to tell the difference?  This is important, because that good old soreness responds best to MORE exercise, whereas injuries, as we said need to be rested.

Soreness can feel very painful, but if you try to exercise again, it will probably start to feel better.  If it doesn’t, it feels worse with exercise, or if the pain is very SHARP and localized, it might be a more serious injury.

Soreness is a “hurts so good” sort of pain.  It may make you whimper, but you’ll laugh while whimpering.  Injury, on the other hand, may make you weep and swear.

Here are some of the most common running injuries you may experience:

1.  Shin splints

I don’t know exactly what shin splits are but they hurt like the dickens.  If you have them, you will feel terrible pain anywhere along the top of your foot up your shins to your knees.  Once when I was running track in high school, I had such bad shin splints I had to stop and sit on the side of the road while the team ran on without me.  I don’t remember how I got home, but it wasn’t on my own two feet!

Shin splints are usually caused by over-training and they are especially common in new runners.  The cure is to stop running for awhile until they stop hurting.  There is also this cure I use myself (but remember I don’t know jack, so at your own risk, baby):

Sit on the edge of a chair.  Put your feet on the floor.  Now put your right foot on top of your left foot (pigeon-toed).  Push down hard with your right foot while pulling up hard with your left.  Repeat on the other side.  Do a couple of times to build up your shin strength.

2.)  Plantar Fasciitis

PF happens when the ligament on the bottom of your foot is too tight and tears every time your foot strikes.  The tear isn’t what hurts but the calcification that builds up around it hurts like an SOB.  This is felt as stabbing or throbbing heal pain, arch pain and sometimes ankle pain.  The classic symptom is not being able to walk to the bathroom first thing in the morning.  Yes, I have honestly crawled to the toilet and apparently I’m not the only one.  As the day progresses, the pain lessens, except after periods of sitting or inactivity.

PF is fickle.  It can come and stay, or appear suddenly and disappear just as quickly.  Current treatments involve custom orthotics, steroid injections, a boot to wear at nighttime, and some sort of laser or sonogram wave treatment.  I have never had any of these treatments.  I get PF and I stop running.  It goes away and sometimes doesn’t come back for years.

But I can tell you that if your arches are low or flat, or your calves or hamstrings are very tight, you MUST spend a good amount of time stretching the bottom of your feet, calves and hamstrings.  Down dog pose in yoga is a good one, as is that runner’s stretch where you lean against the wall and stretch your calves out behind you.

 3.)  Knee pain

There are so many causes of knee pain, I’m afraid I can’t offer much help here.  Your best bet is to ice sore knees, rub them down with arnica, take ibuprofin, and if the pain persists, get to your doctor.  

It’s always a good idea to make sure the muscles surrounding your knee are strong and balanced.  That takes quite a bit of strain off the knee itself.  Consult a personal trainer or physical therapist if you are not sure how to strengthen these muscles.

4.)  Other foot pain

Some foot pain can indicate a stress fracture.  If it doesn’t get better, see the doc and get an xray.

5.)  Hip pain and back pain

This can be anything from alignment issues, poor strength levels, muscle strains, or arthritis.  Doctor, doctor, doctor…

For all of these injuries, athletic taping can be a real lifesaver.  But again, you need a pro to show you how to tape, so don’t be shy to get help.

Overall, exercise should feel good.  Yes, there will be soreness and pain as you push your physical limits, but you really must not live in denial about being injured.  Err on the side of caution and treat pain before it ends up being something seriously wrong.

This is one of my favorite quotes about exercise.  It’s by former Ironman (and Vegan Ironman, at that!) Brendan Brazier, from his book Thrive:

Training is really nothing more than taking advantage of our body’s ability to heal itself.  When faced with post-exertion muscle damage, the body will surmise that it must grow stronger to perform the task more effectively next time it is called upon.  Really, the body is taking the easy way out;  it’s easier for it to grow stronger now to reduce strain placed on it next time it must perform.  Little does the body know, as soon as it demonstrates its improved strength, more demand will soon be placed upon it.

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