How to Train Smarter and Avoid Injury

Do you ever wonder if all those exercise memes, quotes, and motivational posters about pushing through pain, leaving all excuses behind and giving it all you’ve got could be harmful?  We’ve all seen them; we even share some here on our blog and other social media accounts at times. Most of these memes can be inspirational and uplifting when we’re ready to throw in the towel, give into flimsy excuses and let our goals go.  Yet, are there memes that can set us up for disaster?  Could those “encouraging” words sometimes encourage us to go a little too far in our training? 

Maybe it just takes a certain type of personality to read those quotes andhear, ‘It’s not supposed to be easy, so keep going even if it hurts... a lot.’ ‘I’m a quitter if I stop before I finish this run or follow my training plan perfectly.’ ‘My small gains don’t matter if I don’t reach my goal in time.’  ‘You’re injured?  Bear down, grit your teeth and push forward because pain is temporary.’  Well that is until... it isn’t.

I have far, far too much experience with training with this flawed attitude in mind and end up training for events injured and ultimately miserable.  When I’ve let a small pain fester and go untreated, then turn into a full-blown injury, I find myself in those final weeks of training having an internal battle that sounds a lot like this, ‘I want to see what I’m made of!’  ‘Can I really do this?’ ‘Should I do this?’ ‘I HAVE TO DO THIS’, ‘WHY the h%$* am I doing this?!?’.  Miraculously, I’ve managed to always come out of each race okay, though not great.  I’ve finished half marathons with double stress fractures, painful IT Band issues and 3 weeks post-op after appendicitis.  Every April, no matter my struggles or circumstances, you’d find me on that starting line of the Salt Lake City half marathon ready to find out what I was made of.  I have a learned a few things about myself each time I’ve completed a race injured.  I have the determination to overcome obstacles.  I give everything I’ve got no matter what.  I will finish whatever I start, and I don’t always train so smart.  Gratefully, I’ve most recently begun to learn, that finishing a race doesn’t have to be painful and that goals can be re-evaluated.

I thought this year would be different.  I really did.  I really foolishly did.  I thought that my training would finally go just the way I planned without any hitches, but no such luck.  After starting a new position at the elementary school as the PE paraprofessional in December I’m back in injury mode.  It is a FUN position that involves teaching 10 classes back to back on Tuesdays and 8 classes on Wednesdays.  We have a great time learning sports, fitness skills, running, dancing and more every week.  I enjoy participating with the kids.  I LOVE to demonstrate the skills we’re learning that day and have found the kiddos do much better when I’m involved in the fun.  However, I did not anticipate how this position would impact my training goals.  During those long hours jumping, hopping and running with the students, I quickly developed plantar fasciitis.  I thought, well, I’ve run through worse so I can keep going.  That was until... I couldn’t.  I found that after my training workouts and a full workday I was having trouble just standing while trying to make dinner for my family without serious pain.  I couldn’t even sit and not have my feet scream at me for respite.  I soon couldn’t complete 1-mile pain free let alone the 8+ miles I should have been able to do at that point in my training.  

As the April 18th Half Marathon date loomed ever nearer, I started the all too familiar internal struggle.  ‘Do I or don’t I?’  ‘How do I not?  I’ve been registered for a year for heavens sake!’  Ultimately, I stopped and thought, ‘What would I advise someone I cared about to do?’  I realized that I wouldn’t tell them to run in such conditions.  I would tell them to stop training harder and start training smarter!  I simply needed to follow my own advice.

Though hesitant, I contacted SLC Marathon and requested a registration change from the half marathon to the 26.2 bike tour.  I was surprised at the amount of relief I felt when they agreed!  I realized that I had just given myself the ‘okay’ to rest and heal properly.  I would still need to train hard; the hills of Salt Lake City are not for slackers.  But, now I could focus on an area that was actually doable for me and can make me a stronger runner when I’m healed.  What’s even better?  Now I get to ride the exact course that my husband will be running for the full marathon a few hours after me.

So now what?  HOW am I actually going to train smarter?  It just so happens that I recently attended a Triathlon Training Clinic hosted by Michael Hays at Personal Best Performance that focused on injury prevention in training and how to proceed if you are already injured with two guest speakers, Stephanie Liddle of Performance Therapy and Dr. Sarah Vlach of Eastern Idaho Spine Center.  Perfect!  There were so many great nuggets of information that they shared.  I wished I’d remembered a notebook to write them all down!  Here are a few that I’ve been trying to incorporate since the clinic and finding to be very helpful.


Keep a Record.

Implement a training log, jotting down a quick assessment of any pains and making sure to rate the pain on a scale of 1 – 10. (10 being the most painful thing you’ve ever experienced such as childbirth or passing kidney stones).  The more data available the better when it comes to enlisting the help of a physician or physical therapist. 


Get a Diagnosis.  

If you’ve got an acute pain situation, don’t just keep training and hope it will go away on it’s own.  Sure it maybe, possibly could, but it will be better to find out right away and address the underlying cause so as to avoid it in the future.  This will also get you back out there doing what you want to do faster than letting it fester.


Practice Prevention. 

Incorporate balance training and proprioceptive exercises in your workout regimen to train the neuromuscular system to react properly when faced with unexpected uneven terrains as well as to improve agility and kinesthetic awareness.  Also, soft tissue work can be very helpful to keep things loose and injury free.  (Foam rolling, anyone?)


Strengthen Your Core. 

A strong core is essential to all functional movement.  Core exercises will improve your balance and stability and typically do not require specialized equipment or a gym membership.  Most importantly, incorporating core exercises will help in the prevention of injury!


Long story short, incorporate exercises that will aid in prevention of injury and when acute pain is involved, let your pride go and get started on recovery as soon as possible!  Let me have learned the hard lesson for you so you can workout and move forward toward your goals without pain and the hassle of the injury-recovery cycle.

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October 18 2016


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