Injuries happen all the time. Athletes of all levels and even those who aren’t athletes can experience an injury. Recovery can be as simple as a little ice or heat and elevation. It can also be as complicated as surgery and take months. The key to recovering is understanding your injury and preventing it from happening again.
Were you tackled in a football game? That’s easy to source. Do you have daily low back pain and discomfort? Maybe your hamstrings are tight, maybe it’s something else. Are you having knee pain because you’re heel striking while you run? Are your knees falling in when you squat under weight? Lots of day to day and chronic injuries are not so easy to pin down but discovering what caused the problem is the best possible thing you can do to move forward.
Unfortunately just taking time off until your injured body feels better isn’t the answer. Without understanding your injury you’re likely to go out and sooner or later go through the same thing again. So what’s the solution? Treat the problem (poor mobility, bad form), not the symptom (pain, strained muscle). Ask yourself these questions when you get hurt to get to the bottom of what went wrong:
What was I doing?
Are my movement patterns correct?
Do I have adequate mobility to perform these movements safely?
Am I using the correct equipment?
Do I take care of my body before and after a workout properly?
Am I over training?
If you can’t answer these questions or answer them satisfactorily, get help from a trainer, doctor or teacher who will guide you in the right direction. Stripping your activity down to the bare minimum will highlight the root of what caused your injury and help you avoid it in the future.
Your feet are your base. They hit the ground first with every step you take and bear the brunt of impact. Amazing structures with 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons, strong feet help runners do important things like balance, engage their cores and maintain proper posture. Of course, our feet don’t operate alone. They’re attached to our ankles so those need to be tough, too. That’s why building a better athlete starts at the bottom with strength and stability in our feet and ankles. Here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to earn strong feet and improved performance:
Bare them: Lose your shoes as much as you can and go barefoot (or socked). Proprioception, the ability to sense where parts of our body are in relation to the others and the strength required for movement, gets destroyed by wearing shoes. This makes us visually dependent which slows reactions times and increases our risk of injury. By improving proprioception in bare feet we improve our foot’s ability to respond to the ground it touches, even when it’s back in a shoe, for better balance and fewer potential missteps.
Work them: Do toe gymnastics. Spread your toes out as far as you can then pull them back together or try moving each toe individually. You can also practice balancing on one foot. Keep your big toe flat and foot long to exercise the foot’s muscles as you work towards holding it for one minute with your eyes closed (an additional challenge). This will help develop balance and the strength of the tendons and ligaments that support your ankle as well. You might be surprised how hard this is on your first try but it can quickly improve with a little work.
Love them: After all that work, strong feet need a little love. Take care of them with a roller ball or massage, it’s easy to do while you’re catching up on the paper or news. This keeps blood and nutrients flowing to one of our most important body parts. Remember that each step starts with your foot then rolls up through your body. Take good care of your feet and they’ll take good care of you.
Spending a few minutes each day working towards strong feet will make anyone a better athlete. Get started today!
Having a bad race is pretty much the worst. Yes, there are horrible things going on in the world but the moment you cross that finish line after a less than desired performance can get emotional. With fall race season rapidly approaching it’s important to remember that bad races happen and don’t mean the end of your running career. Look how gracious Meb was after a not-so-wonderful Olympic experience! We’re not all that talented but we work hard for those PRs and it hurts to miss a goal. Here are 3 ways to bounce back after a challenging race:
Vent: Be angry. Be sad. Be mad. Feel all of the feelings. Let it all out so you can move forward. It might take one beer or four days but failing to move on will impede your next training cycle by lowering your confidence and sucking up your motivation.
Your pre-race ritual: While you can’t go back and change anything that happened during the race, you can change what happens before. Did you eat right the nights before? Were you sleeping enough? Was your taper adequate? Did your travel plans give you time to adjust to the altitude and time difference or recover from flying? Each of these factors can change your body’s ability to perform at its best.
The Weather: There’s only so much anyone can do about weather. Which is a whole lot of nothing. High winds, freezing temperatures, loads of humidity and heat waves can all have a major impact on your performance. Sometimes a bad race isn’t all your fault and remember, everyone else out there had to deal with it, too.
Your goal: Was your goal really reasonable? Aiming to shave 30 minutes off a marathon over one season is noble but probably not attainable.
Your training: How did your training go? Did it include enough speed work? How about a long enough base phase? Did you train for the terrain you would be racing on? Take a good hard look at your journal while examining what workouts were good and which ones weren’t. Most importantly, make sure you weren’t overtraining or pushing through an injury.
Move on: At the end of the day, OK, it was a bad race. Was it the worst race ever in the whole world? Probably not. Look at all the things you learned! Focus on positive parts of the event, make sure you’re emotionally ready then sign up for another.
Mental toughness sounds cool, even useful, but what exactly does it mean? A mentally strong athlete is dedicated, comfortable suffering and driven. When the going gets tough they hunker down, embrace the suck and remember what they’re working for. It’s someone who has the ability to cope with many demands in a consistently superior way to their opponents while remaining focused, confident and determined. That’s the kind of athlete East Coast Run Project builds.
An invaluable asset in competition, mental toughness is more than just being dedicated. Yes, believing in your goals is a huge part of succeeding but ‘mind over matter’ isn’t just something people say for the sake of saying something. It’s true. Your brain is programmed to sell you short. Ever feel like you can’t run one more step then accelerate when the finish line comes into view? A big fan of the status quo who’s adverse to pain and suffering your brain will shut things down long before your muscles. Here’s a study that explains it in detail. In short, your mental state does not always reflect your physical state. You are truly stronger than you think you are.
Part of mental toughness is about accessing everything you’ve got. Most importantly it’s finding the strength to use your brain to beat, well, your brain. After you’ve accepted that your body can do more than your mind wants to you can use it perform at a higher level. By misleading cyclists about a competitor’s speed this study discovered they magically had the ability to perform at a 2% (!!!) higher ‘maximum’ speed. They pedaled faster than their ‘100%’ because they thought they weren’t there yet. Their brains were tricked into thinking it was status quo when it wasn’t.
The fastest way to trick our brains? Positive self talk. Instead of muttering ‘this sucks’ or ‘is it over yet?’ in the middle of a muscle shredding workout, smile. Saying ‘I got this’ or ‘this workout feels good‘ can actually make it easier. It’s been shown that a repeated positive statement can give you the extra push you need to hit a new PR, finish within the time limit or conquer that fear. Step one in developing mental toughness is finding that phrase. Find the words that will keep you moving forward when things get hard and learn to use them.
Note: Telling yourself you’re fine when you aren’t isn’t always a good idea. Injury and over training happen when we ignore and push through pain signals from our bodies. Part of being a mentally tough athlete is listening to your body, knowing the difference between good pain and bad and knowing what’s on the line if you push past it.