3 things I wish I would have known a year ago about injury prevention.
“We all suffer one of two things. The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” Jim Rohn
A little over a year ago I signed up for my 1st marathon. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew it was a big challenge and I wanted to see if I could finish one. Well, I did it. I then proceeded to finish two marathons and a 50k in 2015. I did a lot of things right when I was training, but I also made a lot of mistakes. My biggest regret was having to take time off due to injuries. Here is what I learned from my mistakes and what I am doing right now while I train for my next big challenge- the Silver Rush 50 at Leadville.
#1: You can’t out exercise a bad diet.
I know we’ve all heard this when we talk about losing weight and becoming fit. However, it goes further than just that concept. I think we over consume carbohydrates & fat and under consume protein. All the advice I was ever given was to make sure I have enough carbs to get me through long runs. There are a few things people leave out- sugar, refined flours, enriched grains are not good carbs for running. I have since moved to getting 90-95% of my carbs from fruit and veggies. You’d be surprised how many carbs you take in throughout the day and how well your body uses those carbs during long runs. I eat about 50-80 grams of carbs a day and I have plenty of fuel for 3+ hour runs and workouts.
I have had to add fat back into my diet too. With my background in weight loss, I didn’t eat a lot of fat. Over the last three years, I have trained my body and mind not to crave the high fatty foods I had eaten my entire life. Since allowing myself to have 40-70 grams of fat a day, I have noticed my body composition changing for the better. Many of my joint aches and pains have gone away. The cushion on my spine and hips allows me to do more functional fitness on a hard surface with less discomfort.
Protein is the other essential nutrient to rebuilding muscles. I learned this from a nutritionist who works with athletes that focus on heavy weight lifting and functional body movements (anything that gets you moving from the ground to above your head). We are literally tearing and shredding our muscles as we’re working out and running. Protein is essential to helping our bodies rebuild the muscle. As they heal they come back stronger and stronger. Without protein, we can’t effectively rebuild and we increase our risk of nagging injuries. Based on my body weight and physical activities, it is recommended I take in almost 200 grams of protein per day. I don’t make it most days, but over the past 120 days I hit about 150-175 grams a day and I feel better than ever!
I also think protein has been my key to decreasing the “runner’s munchies”. When I was lacking protein, I would come home from a 20 mile run and eat the entire house. I would literally be hungry for the next 3 days. My body couldn’t get enough food and I assumed it needed it because of the stress I just put on it. So, I didn’t worry about it and I let myself eat. Since updating the way I eat, I have not experienced the “runner’s munchies”. The 1st thing I do when I get home from a run is have a 45 gram protein shake with whole milk, a banana and natural (no added ingredients) peanut butter. This has helped me curb the food cravings and my body and mind feel so much better. Improving my nutrition has been one of the hardest transitions for me to make, but I believe it has been (and will be) my #1 key to success or failure as I train for Silver Rush.
#2: Running Gear
For those of you that don’t know me, I’m not the average runner. I’m 6’1” 225 pounds. I have been a big human being my entire life and I topped out at just under 400 pounds 3 years ago. With the size of my body comes big feet… Now imagine wearing a size 14 extra wide/15 and being a runner. The two don’t really go together.
January 2014, when I started running more miles I noticed my feet and legs began to hurt. I was following my 1% rule so I knew I wasn’t over training so I figured it was time to invest in some real running shoes. After searching for weeks in stores and online, I finally found a pair of Brooks Ravenna’s, size 14 extra wide that I could squeeze in to. It was the only pair I had seen that would work so I bought them. They were fine, I couldn’t have told you what a good or bad pair of running shoes was anyway- my plans included 1 marathon and I was going to “retire” from running. About 400-500 miles into this pair of shoes, I went through major aches and pains in my legs and knees. I was sidelined for several weeks due to injuries and pains I just couldn’t run through. So someone recommended I replace those shoes because they were probably worn out. So I ordered another pair. I didn’t know what else to do, they were the only shoes that were “big enough” for me.
Through the first marathon training period this is the only shoe I wore. I quickly discovered trail running after the Colfax Marathon and instantly fell in love. I began looking for trail shoes and could not find a running store (or brand) that carried shoes big enough for me. So I ran my road shoes on the trail which caused more and more problems for me. Injuries, lost toe nails, aches and pains, slipping on rocks, etc.… Then like it was meant to be, I found Altra.
When I first saw the Altra Olympus 1.5, my first thought was- “what the heck is this?”. It had a huge heel, wide toe box and funny grips on the bottom. How had I never heard of this shoe before? Did I over look them because I didn’t see a wide size? Pam let me try them on and walk around. She even let me take them for a spin on the treadmill. .2 miles and I was hooked! My feet had so much room. This was the first time I had ever run and my feet didn’t want to fall off when I was done. I told Pam I’d take two pairs. I thought this might be a fluke and I’d never find this type of shoe again so I wanted to be prepared.
Changing shoes has been absolutely essential to my training. Not only do I wear Altras for running, but I wear them as casual shoes now too. My feet feel funny without them. The support and comfort they give my knees and ankles is second to none. The Zero Drop has helped me transition to a mid strike from a heel strike which has decreased the pain and injuries in my legs. It has also helped me train more muscles in my lower legs which has helped me with my functional fitness/cross training. I’ve tripped and rolled my ankles on many trails, but since I made the switch to Altra, I have decreased the nagging aches and pains in my legs. As for toe nails- I haven’t lost one since I made the switch! Yeah, I’m proud of this one!
#3: 6 days of work 1 day of rest
With everything I’ve done with my fitness, I have based my concepts off business books. This sounds funny, but it’s true. I have found there are a lot of similarities between the two. You won’t go anywhere without setting high goals then working and taking massive action to reach those goals. In fitness, like business you have to let your body and mind recover from hard work. If you truly put in six days of massive action, you need to take a day off. I learned this as I burned out at my previous job. I would put in six days of massive action and then I would answer emails and texts on Sunday. It made me a lot of money, but it took a toll on my family life. I have since learned running is no different. Take massive action for six days and take an entire day off. Once I finish my run on Sunday morning, I’m not allowed to work out or run again until I wake up at 4am Tuesday morning. This gives me about 45 hours straight for my body to rest and recover from everything I put it through. Rest and recovery has been the hardest for me to learn. I really enjoy running, I would love to do it every day. But, I have learned my body needs the time to heal and recover. This is one reason I don’t do any mileage challenges or run streaks.
I’ve been building my strong base for 2016 and I’ve used the principles above to make sure I have a successful 2016. As I move into my training program in February, I will be using my 1% rule to train for the Silver Rush. Build a base and every day you focus on making yourself 1% better. Over time this 1% adds up and compounds. Next thing you know you’re doing 100% more than you could do right now. I will go into this more next week! Remember to Out Run Your Excuses and Run Epic my friends!
Gary Stotler is a father, husband, running, fitness, weight loss and personal development addict. Since 2013, Gary had gone from 400 pounds to ultra-runner. Believing if we take it One Step at a Time, nothing is impossible. He is determined to let his actions show people what is possible and hopes to help you Out Run Your Excuses.