Running Reader Q: I Cross-Trained And Still Got Injured—What Gives?

Regularly rolling out your legs after running helps ease tightness by breaking up the fascia around your muscles and can prevent injuries down the road.
Regularly rolling out your legs after running helps ease tightness by breaking up the fascia around your muscles and can prevent injuries down the road.

Emily P., a regular Some Kind Of Runderful reader, is dealing with her first running-related injury. She’s fairly new to pavement pounding, and she was smart with the build up. She ran an easy pace three days a week for the past five months, “Plus, I did two days of exercises with weights in the gym,” Emily says. Despite her careful routine, she still managed to pull a hammy. “It was during my very first 5K two weekends ago. I was a few feet from the finish when something in the back of my leg popped. I practically had to limp to across the line,” she says. A quick trip to the doctor confirmed a strain and, luckily, no major muscle tearing.

Now, Emily is nursing a sore hamstring and a bruised ego. “I just don’t get it,” she says. “I’ve been cross-training and I thought I was doing everything right. Where did I go wrong?” To help me find the best answer for her, I reached out to Dan Trink, a fitness trainer and director of training operations at Peak Performance in New York, NY.

Dan, what do you think brought on Emily’s injury? Most running injuries are not acute, meaning someone doesn’t run out from behind a tree and hit your leg with a stick when you’re in the middle of a 5K. The injuries incurred from running are caused by overuse or muscle imbalances.

But Emily’s been hitting the weight room to build muscle. She may have been focusing on the wrong types exercises, or ones that use the same muscles and motions as running. Too many people mimic the energy system that they utilize in running in their strength training, which means that they try to build strength-endurance by only doing high-rep sets or metabolic circuits. Most runners are better served by increasing their strength with high-weight, low-rep sets in the weight room. Logging miles gives you plenty of endurance for running, but you’ve got to rely on your strength training to help you get stronger and keep injuries at bay.

What’s the best way for Emily to work through this injury? Very often overuse issues and muscle imbalances can be resolved with a smart strength-training program that not only builds foundational strength, but also incorporates foam rolling and soft-tissue work, dynamic warm-up and activation drills, and pre-hab or rehab movements as well as strength movements that will give you more stability and reduce your chance of the injury recurring when you return to running.

What should Emily do when she’s done with rehab and ready to run again? The key is not to get carried away, thinking she can drop everything else now that she’s running again. She should maintain a strength-training program that still includes all of the factors I mentioned before.

Thanks, Dan. This is great advice. Any time! By the way, how are your arms? Are you still working on your upper body strength?

…Um, no comment.

I’ve been through my fair share of injuries and I know how frustrating the recovery period can be. Your body will tell you when it’s ready to run again—but you have to be gentle with yourself and listen. Wishing you many more happy miles, Emily P.!

What’s the worst running injury you’ve ever been through? Got any rehab tips to share?

You Heard It Here First: I’ve Got Weak Arms!

Big thanks to Carly Abel of TLCommunications for snapping this photo!

Earlier this month I spent a morning at Peak Performance pushing sleds, tossing medicine balls, and hanging from TRX straps. And I learned something really interesting about my body: I have weak arms.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, since most (ahem, all) of my fitness endeavors focus on my lower half—running, the once-a-week spin session.  Even the SurfSET class I tossed into the mix for fun a week ago was predominately squats and lunges (on a wiggly surf board, so my abs were engaged, too—but, still).

I like running. And I want to be a better runner. Should I even bother beefing up my bird-like biceps and triceps? The not-so-shocking answer is: “Yes!” says Dan Trink—he’s the hunky personal trainer, strength coach, and nutritional consultant for Peak Performance pictured here. “It’s fantastic for you to be passionate about your sport,” he’s quick to add, “but logging all those miles can lead to muscle imbalances and injury.”

I finished off my last two runs with push-ups and tricep dips on a park bench. Not bad, but I can do better. Dan wants me to supplement my running routine with an upper body weight-training program that will ultimately make me faster when I sprint towards a finish line. “It will help create a better running posture and give you forward propulsion,” he says.

Adding arm moves into my already hectic work-run-date schedule is going to be tough. But it will be worth it come race day. (Which, by the way, is May 6 for The North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon at Bear Mountain. Can I get a whoop-whoop?)

What’s your weakest body part? And what are you doing to whip it into shape?