I didn’t always like running. In fact, I think I was more on the “hate” side of the love/hate relationship I shared with running. Which is funny, because I’ve been running in some fashion since 2nd grade.
As many kids do, I started out strong in running and quickly got bored. I won a school-wide race and thought I had proved myself enough to never have to try hard again. But, I kept running throughout middle and high school, switching around from the 200m, 800m, 100m hurdles and 300m hurdles. It wasn’t until an assistant coach told me that if I “put in an effort” I might be able to win something that I really started getting serious. I was able to hit an 800m time my junior year that opened a couple of doors for collegiate running.
I started at Columbia University for my freshman year and was hurt on and off all year. I transferred my sophomore year, missed the entire year with 2 hip surgeries, and returned with a fury the summer before my junior year. This is when I truly began to love running. I trained hard with the goal of making the NCAA Championships on the varsity XC team.
Although I knew how to train hard and push my body to its limits, I knew very little about injury prevention and recovery. For these reasons, I ran into trouble with overtraining and eventually some injuries that made me end my college running earlier than planned.
This string of injuries and working with a coach after college who was extremely invested in keeping athletes healthy by using strength work, inspired me to learn more about correcting muscle imbalances. I decided get certified as a personal trainer not out of the immediate wish of training others in a traditional sense, but in an effort to become more educated about the exercises I want to share.
Questions you might ask:
What are the most important things to introduce into a daily routine to avoid injury?
A consistent warmup. Hip mobility and glute strength everyday. CORE. Strength training at least 2-3x/week. (squats, lunges, deadlifts and some arm stuff).
What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?
Hmm. I guess missing my entire sophomore year of collegiate running to get bilateral labrum repair surgery wasn’t the best experience, as far as running goes. Those injuries were the “worst” because I couldn’t actually do anything myself to make them better. Also, it took over a year of being hurt to get a diagnosis, a few months after that to actually get the surgery, and then some time after to become a runner again. But also, I have this MRI image of my grade-4 stress fracture that happened during an 800m race (like I was fine before and could barely walk after) and it’s almost impressive to share.
What’s the most fun you’ve ever had in a race?
As I will likely share later, I’m kind of a “non-competitive type competitive-runner”, which means I naturally tend to shy away from competing with other people.
This makes it interesting and challenging to be in a race. If I am running a workout “all-out” or trying to hit a specific assignment in practice, it’s easier for me to push myself because I’m not trying to beat someone else. I’m just getting the work done. But in a race, I generally have some anxiety about all the things at stake (or things my mind creates as being “at stake”). For example, if “so-and-so beats me, I’m now the nth on the team now” or “I want to be a x:xx runner, not a x:xy runner”. Meaning, times that you run during a race seem to define you as a runner. I never liked this.
But, I’ve had a few races that I’ve been able to forget about all that bullshit and just have fun. One particularly was the Regional XC race during my junior Cross Country season as a Buff. I remember running relaxed and knowing that my team was going to nationals so it didn’t really matter what happened. I ran a 6k pr, smiled most of the time, and had a good kick at the end. Then I couldn’t stop talking about how much fun I had. This is a rarity in cross country for me. Because cross country never feels good. Finding a way to realize that running objectively really just doesn’t matter that much, and you’re just out there for fun; that’s what will make you have the best time.
If you could change anything about your collegiate running experience, what would it be?
Well, in college my coach always told us to be “autonomous”. He meant we should pay attention to how we feel and run our own workout accordingly (and disregard what anyone else is doing). I only know maybe one or two people on the team that actually did this. If I could, I’d go back and run my recovery days slower, run less mileage, be less hard on myself and give my body time to develop into the runner I wanted to be— not try to rush there in a matter of months.
What injuries have you had and how did you get rid of them?
Achilles Tendinitis: This one lasted for about 4 months and came on extremely suddenly (one day it wasn’t there, one day it was). It finally went away when I stopped trying to run on it and let it totally recover. I cross trained on the bike and did 3×15 loaded eccentric heel drops everyday. I had some massage and dry needling done as well. I think the eccentric drops were the most effective and anytime I feel tightness in my achilles now, I’ll do the drops for a few days and it feels so much better.
IT Band Syndrome: I experienced this in high school when I had no idea what a foam roller was and didn’t take stretching seriously. If I had stretched, gotten massage and done hip mobility, it could have been gone in just a couple weeks. This is an extremely painful one that requires a little bit of time off to reduce the inflammation in your knee. Ice cupping, hip mobility and stretching are all effective.
Stress fractures: I’ve had one stress fracture and a couple of reactions. These are common in runners, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy or ok. If your bones are breaking in a non-impact or accident related way, you’re doing something wrong. A combination of nutrition, recovery, and periodization in training will make it less likely that you’ll get a stress fracture, but really just being an overall well-balanced and strong runner will help.
Shin Splints: OH yes. I’ve had plenty of these. I had shin splints in high school when I was hurdling and doing a lot of speed work on the track in my spikes. Then I had chronic shin splints all throughout college. I haven’t had a problem with my shins in over a year after a coach helped me fix my stride. Yep, it turns out running on your toes for every step of every run isn’t the most effective for your body mechanics. We looked at my stride and now I am no longer a toe-striker. This change completely got rid of my shin splints.
Hamstring Syndrome: If you feel a pinching in your glute after sitting for a long time or feel like the top of your hamstring is “pulling” constantly whenever you run, you might be suffering from hamstring syndrome. There are a lot of things that could cause pain in the upper hamstring/glute (piriformis syndrome, sciatic nerve issues, etc.) but my pain was caused by high hamstring tendinopathy (hamstring syndrome). Lots of eccentric exercises (deadlifts 2x per week. 3×10 at 80-90% body weight), decreased running volume and strength work helped this one go away.
Digestion Issues: I guess this isn’t really an injury, but in college I had some pretty severe digestion problem. I’ll get into more details in another post probably….but every run I went out knowing there was a chance I would have to stop 1-10 times to go to the bathroom and would likely have cramps and terrible stomach pain the remainder of the day. I’ve figured a lot of these issues out after college by eliminating some foods that I determined were causing issues, adding a probiotic (a small change that works miracles), and limiting the amount of fibrous veggies I eat (which used to be a lot).
Labral Tears: In your hip joint, there is a ring of cartilage that follows the outside rim of the socket, acting as a cushion between the femur and the hip. Many people have slight deformities on the top of their femur heads that constantly rub on the labrum, causing a tear. This is an overuse injury that I didn’t feel until my freshman year of college and didn’t get properly diagnosed until my sophomore year. It’s actually extremely common in athletes and non-athletes, but doesn’t cause any symptoms in most people. For me, I felt a dull pain in my hip that progressively got worse and worse, making it so I couldn’t run at all. I would take a few weeks off and then return to running without pain. This happened a few times until I transferred to CU and got properly diagnosed. Fortunately, I was able to get surgery on both hips and have them repaired successfully.
What is the longest distance you’ve ever run?
I’ve run 13.1 miles twice and 13.0 miles a few times for a long run. Someday I plan to run at least one marathon, very slowly, just to say “yes” when people who hear I run ask me if I’ve run a marathon.
What are your PR’s?
800m: and 2:12.9 (Denver altitude, if that means anything to you)
400m: 57 (high school)
6k Cross Country: 20:52
What are your running goals?
Currently: get healthy in all other areas before thinking about training for something again.
Long term goals: Once I’m healthy… I want to get my speed back. I’ll train and race whatever distances make me happy (I still have my eye set on an 800m PR..). If I am healthy enough to train hard and be consistent for a couple years, my PR’s from 800m- half marathon are all coming down.
Short term goals: Gain a lot of strength and be ok with being stronger. Health. Balance. Happiness.
More running photos!