Recovery & Injury Prevention
Becoming a stronger, faster, happier, and more competitive runner is a long-term process that requires the steady accumulation of days, weeks, and even years of training. It’s important for athletes to stay patient and trust this process and to do everything they can to stay healthy and ready to train each day. Any time we do a run or a workout, we’re placing a stress on a system of the body. The stress phase is not where the body gets stronger or faster. In fact, following a run or workout, the body is actually a bit broken down or weaker. The system gets stronger when it overcompensates, preparing to be stronger for the next time this system is stressed. Continuing to stress a system without adequate recovery will lead to injury and a disruption of the long term process. Stress + Rest = Growth is language that we’ll use throughout the season and both side sof the equation are critical to improvement. Thus, recovery and injury prevention is not an addition or afterthought, but an essential part of the training and development of a young runner.
Here are some important principles to remember and follow.
WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES: Athletes should wear proper running shoes that are a good fit for their feet/gait and general biomechanics and replace them when they are worn out. See equipment section for more information.
FOLLOW THE PLAN: Our coaches put a lot of thought into developing a training plan that follows scientific principles designed to allow the body to adapt and absorb training. This means that each workout has a specific purpose and is designed in terms of pace, distance, time, etc to meet that purpose. This includes days that athletes are running Easy or Slow. Easy means Easy. This allows the body to build aerobic capacity at a low physical load and is essential in allowing the body to absorb and adapt to heavy training loads without breaking down. Training too hard every day is a path to injury, not a path to quicker improvement.
SLEEP: Simply put, sleep is an essential component of distance running training. An athlete should shoot for 8-10 hours of sleep per night. In addition, they should try their best for their bedtime and wake time to be as consistent as possible (ie. not staying up until the wee hours Saturday night and sleeping until noon Sunday before snapping back to a normal routine on Monday). This also means planning ahead for your schoolwork and not leaving a big essay or homework assignment until the night before it’s due, causing you to stay up until midnight to finish it. Often, we may have early buses for meets or athletes’ nerves may keep them from sleeping well the night before a race. The most important night of sleep is “the night before the night before” (ie. Thursday night for a Saturday race).
EAT WELL: As a growing teenage athlete running many miles and challenging their brain in the classroom, our athletes are asking a lot of their bodies. In order for their body to grow in a healthy way, absorb the training load, and perform well in the classroom, it’s essential to fuel it well. Athletes should focus on eating a well-rounded, balanced diet from all of the food groups and should focus on making sure they are eating enough to focus in school and fuel their workouts. A good analogy is for athletes to think about their bodies like a high performance race-car that requires enough high quality fuel to perform at its best without running out of gas. Overall, we do not want our athletes to be concerned about how many calories they are eating. Instead, they should focus on quality fuel, eating when they are hungry, and making healthy choices. Making poor choices tends to happen when we’re famished, a common feeling for teen runners after a long day of school and practice, so runners are encouraged to pack a healthy snack for after practice, particularly on days of harder, longer workouts.
HYDRATE: As high altitude runners, our bodies are constantly in need of hydration and the best source is plain old water. All runners should have a water bottle that they keep with them and use throughout the day everyday. Slow, steady drinking all day long is preferable to gulping during practice. If any teachers restrict water bottles during class, please ask Coach Miltenberg to speak to them right away.
CORE AND DRILLS: Staying healthy as a runner requires a body to be strong and efficient. While there is no perfect stride, small weaknesses or imbalances can compound over several thousand steps and lead to injury. Maintaining a strong core and seeking out the most efficient stride for each runner will help to avoid this. Athletes should maintain a commitment to core circuits, strength work, drills, and strides throughout the summer. These are the little things that are often overlooked by those focused just on putting in the miles, but it is the little things that keep you healthy and staying healthy is the key to long term success.
STRETCH:Maintaining a regular stretching routine is key to keeping a balanced, efficient running economy. There are many different schools of thought on stretching routines but what matters most is a consistent practice. We know stretching is one of the first things to go when runners are busy so our routine is designed to be efficient, allowing athletes to complete it in 5-10 minutes and should be completed following each run.
ICE: Icing may help stem inflammation and speed the recovery process. Runners may take an “ice bath” or submerge their legs in cool water after hard workouts, but this is not necessary every day. Athletes should be vigilant about using ice on areas that are particularly sore. This should be done AFTER running or in the evening for 15-20 minutes at a time.
CROSS TRAIN: To prevent or allay oncoming injury or to maintain fitness during injury, athletes may be asked to cross train on a bike or an elliptical machine or in a pool. This can be a highly effective way to maintain fitness and often helps salvage a season for a runner.
COMMUNICATE: In the stress of the season, it’s common for aches and pains to pop up for a day or two. Don’t stress too much about these. However, athletes must communicate with coaches about any aches and pains lasting more than a few days so that further injury resolution or cross training plans can be developed.
STRESS MANAGEMENT: The mind-body relationship is complex but there is one simple axiom we can keep in mind: All Stress is Stress. Our running training will involve quite a bit of physical stress on the body and high school student-athletes already experience quite a bit of mental, social, and emotional stress throughout their day. Too much stress of any kind without adequate recovery will lead to breakdown, injury, and illness. We’ll talk often about ways that student-athletes can manage the stresses of their day-to-day lives and successful athletes will follow these recommendations.
AVOID ILLNESS: Runner’s can’t benefit from the training cycle effectively when they are sick and teams cannot perform at their best when illness strikes on race day. While some illness is unavoidable, there is a degree to which we can control this by washing our hands often, not sharing water bottles and drinks, and eating, sleeping, and hydrating well.