On Thursday nights, I put on a neon green soccer jersey, lace on my cleats and play co-rec soccer with a team of other haven't-played-soccer-since-4th-grade folks on my co-rec team, Bugaga (I have no idea where the name came from, a war cry?). While cross-training in another sport can give your primary running muscles a break for a day (quads, gluts, hamsprings, etc) , and helps to develop your stabilizer muscles (great for trail running or dodging traffic), soccer can sometimes be a little rough on the body. The violent cuts back and forth, the quick sprints and battles for the ball can leave you bruised on even the easiest of games.
How do I know this? I'm laid up in my bed right now.
Bugaga is winless this season, so during last night's game against the fierce Scarlet Begonias, I was pushing extra hard to get a win. This unfortunately, didn't work out well.
Early in the second half I was playing midfield when I cut hard right for the ball and rolled my right ankle to the outside. I hobbled off the field, angry that I'd have to sit out the rest of the game, and dreading a delay in my training schedule for my upcoming race. This was my first delay since in training running last fall. Fudge.
Injuries can sideline any athlete. However, runners are particularly susceptible. This is because running is such a full-body activity, and because it pushes you aerobically harder than most sports (think ping pong and golf, etc). Even a minor injury or sickness can potentially sideline you for a few days, if not longer.
What can runners do? Here are some tips that have helped (and are currently helping) me. NOTE: I'm not a doctor. Please seek medical assistance from a professional to get the official answers.
- Make sure you know your injury When you're training for a race, any lost training time can impact your race time, or even if you can finish, so finding out what injury you sustained is critical. If you're like me, and rolled you ankle playing soccer, go to the doctors as soon as possible to make sure there isn't a hairline crack in your bone, torn ligament or worse. Time is of the essence, so making sure you know what's wrong.
- Take care of yourself Once you are sick or injured, drop the tough guy front and give in! As long as it isn't serious, let friends take care for you, rest when you feel tired and eat healthy foods. If you are really sick and need more then just a few Tylenol, go to the doctors. Even a checkup that finds nothing major can put your heart at rest and can ensure you don't spend your energy worrying.
- Getting back to things When you're over your cold, or healed form your injury, try to take it slow getting back into running. I know we all know this, but its worth restating. A formula I use is to start back at 1/4 intensity and 1/4 distance of your normal run. Then slowly increase both intensity and distance each week by a quarter until you're feeling back to your old self. This of course all depending on how long you've been out of things and how ill you were. Try to take it easy and just be happy that you're out and about, no matter your time or distance.
- Preventing injuries Injuries, at some point, are unavoidable. However, I've found you can greatly cut down on the likelihood of getting hurt by doing a few simple things. Try to listen to your body and know when you're pushing yourself too far. Cross-train in another sport or activity at least once a week to add variety to your training schedule and to rest your primary muscles. Lastly, make smart decisions. Don't run in unlit areas that you're not familiar with (potholes and pits can snag feet).
Ok, I've got to get back to icing my ankle. If you have any tips on healing or staying healthy, feel free to add a comment below.