Runners are, by default, odd human beings in the most pleasant of ways. This is a subgroup who views running as one of the toughest sports in the world, yet the moment you add a ball and goalposts, it suddenly isn't running anymore; it just isn't "pure" when you do that. You know why? Because running is unencumbered by silly trappings, that's why. You don't see runners relying on a bunch of gear to make running more interesting, do you?
Okay, so maybe there are a few accessories that go with running. It's not the same thing, though...right? Anyway, that's not the point. What was my point? Honestly, I can't remember. Looking at the title, I think I was trying to explain how not to get injured running. In my opinion, the best way to accomplish that is—wait for it—not to run injured.
Oh, right! That's where I was trying to go. Running is a tough sport, but too many runners self-congratulate when they run "through" an injury. *raises hand sheepishly* That right there is a surefire way to get injured even more. It makes no sense when held up to what other sports recommend, which is where I was going with that opening paragraph before Google image made me look like an idiot. Any other sport, you would be on the bench until things mended.
Not running, though. Oh, no--can't have that.
But the truth is, one of, if not the, most underrated solutions to running injury free is not running at all at times. That brings us to cross-training. Cross-training is one of the easiest things to implement into your training and it pays back dividends like healthier joints, better overall athleticism, improved running form (in some instances), and even brand new friends. Crazy, right?
The trouble with a lot of runners is that they only consider cross-training once they get injured, rather than implementing it early and often in their program. By that time, it's too late and now you are in the catch up phase of another sport and the rehab phase of your running. That can be overwhelming and you sometimes see the runner just retreat to the couch for "Netflix and chill"
The idea is to get cross-training early and often in your running program. But don't just do any old activity and call it cross-training; figure out an intelligent way to add in an exercise, or even a sport (*gasp*), that is going to support your running. This is an idea I refer to as "integrated cross-training" and that I will reference as ICT from here on out for brevity (plus initialism is cool--not as cool as an acronym, but cool).
ICT is where you take a good hard look at your training program and try to make decisions about alternative means of working out that still get a training effect consistent with your running goals. A good example of this would be using heart rate training to ensure you are still in the correct zones, even if it is by different means, like cycling or skipping rope.
That's a good start, but you could also look at running as being a primarily sagittal plane exercise and add in something that works across the coronal plane, like a slide-board or skating workout, or even the transverse plane like, say, boxing or kickboxing (which kind of does all of the planes if you do it right--yay, kickboxing).
See, with a little planning and forethought, you can practically make yourself injury proof--well, injury proofish. This isn't about acute traumas like twisted ankles or gunshot wounds; we are trying to address repetitive stress injuries or injuries that occur as a result of imbalances, not unseen potholes or drive-bys. With me on that? Great.
So how do we do it?
This is by no means scientific, but it does work for me and this is it:
Five easy steps to becoming the ultimate cross-trainer bad ass. Just don't forget what we started with--the best way to avoid running injuries is not to run injured in the first place.