How to (Not) Aggravate an old injury: Why My Knee Hurts

I think runners especially have been lied to as a group. The lie we’re going to talk about today is that once you rehab an injury it’s healed and gone forever. In my experience and the experience of runners I know that’s just not the case. More often than not the same old injury pops up, flares up and nags at you time and time again. Since injuries need to be managed long term and no one wants to get another visit from one today we’re going to talk about how to aggravate one so you can avoid that. This post (like so many here) is going to be running focused because that’s what I’m most familiar with but I imagine that there are nuggets here for all sports. Even though we’re talking about old injuries here, guess what? This hold true for making brand new injuries too.

Now do I take my own advice? Usually yes but we’re all human and we all do stupid things too. Obviously this running season has been very different than all the other ones in the past. I thought I was going to be doing my regular spate of races but… that turned out not to be the case. So I decided that I’ll run as much as I can this year but focus on work and bring in lots, and lots of dolla, dolla bills yo! The summers are the time of year I have the opportunity to make the most money doing the work I love the most so why not right? Instead of following a regimented training plan I’ve been running a (tiny) bit during the week when I and mother nature feel like it but I’ve still been getting out there for my long run every weekend. I’ve also been increasing the distance of my long run too. Well busy weeks and less than perfect spring weather means that weekday running has been scarce but I can usually carve out some time on the weekends for a midday (see warm) long run. Now my knee hurts again and spoiler alert I’ve been off for about 6 weeks again. Even though at the time of aggravating my runners knee I knew I was headed for it I did it anyway and here we are. I’m getting back to running slowly and my knee is feeling better but let’s dive into all of the ways you can aggravate an old injury and avoid it even if you know better. I’m calling all the runners out today, even me!

Too much too soon

Almost every time I try a new activity I love it initially. I loved pole dancing lessons, rock climbing, swimming like a mermaid and HIIT but guess what none of that stuck. It’s totally normal that you try something new, it makes you feel great and then you want to do it all of the time. But we need to resist that urge otherwise we’re likely to end up injured. In running the 10% rule is pretty universal for new runners and experienced ones alike. I think it’s probably a good place to start for all sports though. The 10% rule states that we should not increase our weekly milage by more than 10% ever! Not when we’re first starting out, not in our 25th spring return to running either. If you break this rule it’s generally regarded that you are headed for injury. So hold back ramp up slowly and avoid making an old (or new) injury mad.

If you’re starting a new activity from scratch by definition you have to break that 10% rule because 10% of zero is still zero! So how often can you do something new? A good rule of thumb is to start out performing that new workout every three days. If you want to be more physically active than that you can do something else on the off days. So for example, if you are a new runner schedule your runs for Monday, Thursday and Sunday on the days in between you can do something else as long as it’s totally different. Hold that pattern for a month without increasing your distance per run and start off short (maybe 4k?). After a month move to every second day at the same distance to give your body time to get stronger and make the necessary changes. After two months like that you’re probably ready to follow a more regimented training program and jump all in. At this point still don’t break that 10% rule okay!

Not running enough to support a long run

Here is where I got into trouble this year… I wasn’t running enough in the week to support my weekend long run. This would have carry overs into other sports if you are not doing enough each week outside your hard workouts for the week. Basically not all of your workouts can be at an intense level you need the ‘easy’ stuff to support those! For runners ideally your long run represents about 35% of your weekly milage. 40%, 45% is okay too but if your long run is 50% of your weekly milage you’re getting into the danger zone. This spring my weekend long runs were about 68% of my weekly milage and often I was only running once a week outside that long run. During the week I might find time for one (or 2) runs of about 6k (sometimes less). But each weekend my long runs were in the range of 12 km. I knew while I was doing that I was setting myself up for injury and wouldn’t you know that’s exactly what happened.

What I should have done was be disciplined and forced myself to get up early once a week and get about 6k in. That’s it, that’s all I needed to do to keep that long run just under 50% of my weekly milage. If you’re going to be participating in any ‘serious and hard’ workouts during the week you need to be active in the sport 3 to 4 times during the week overall, not twice. If I really didn’t have time for that I should have kept those weekend runs shorter. We can’t demand our bodies to perform at a high level at something most of the time because that is a recipe for an injury. When we get into trouble this way what we are really lacking is consistency which is unfortunately really important too. As much as I love those long runs it’s all the other runs in the week that make them possible while staying injury free. Lesson (hopefully) learned this time.

Not having quality gear

Yup buy new sneakers. You have my permission. You should replace your sneakers pretty frequently about every 500-650 km. Some people will get more out of them some will get a lot less. If you’re heavy or have a hard step you might only get 300 km out of a pair. I’m pretty light and light on my feet and around 450 km I can feel that they are almost done. At that point I take them out of regular rotation, just saving the last few runs for the perfect outfit, a mud run or move them over to being work shoes. I love to buy new shoes and often ask for them for presents but some people will drag out a pair of shoes for as long as possible. It could be money, time or love of a particular color but it’s not worth it. I get it though, one pair I’m sporting now has developed toe box holes around 300 km. It sucks and it’s too soon!

See that hole developing…

Not listening to your body

Here’s another thing we all do we push through pain. Well not pain really but a niggle at first, then an ache comes up and you don’t cut your run short. Pretty soon you have a lingering soreness after your run but you keep on with your training program anyway. I’ve been all those places, most of them recently. You know what we don’t do when that happens immediately start our physio exercises up again. You don’t end up limping again after one bad run but if you’ve been injured before you already know that. We all need to be on the lookout for the very first signs of injury and react then if for no other reason than it leads to more running in the long term! Certainly after your first flare up you know what the warning signs are. It’s not enough to just take it seriously you have to actively watch for the warning signs!

Do you have any injuries that flare up time and time again or have you been lucky to be the one and done type? For me it’s my left runner’s knee. If you find yourself falling into these traps don’t be too hard on yourself even though we’re runners we’re still human after all!

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