Rest is an extremely important component for the successful treatment of running injuries. In normal resting phases, the body recuperates and remodels itself. But when a runner trains too often or hard, the body doesn't have the time to repair strained tissue or muscle [source: Karas]. Listed as the first component of the RICE method, rest can be described as either "absolute," meaning little activity and no exercise, or "relative," meaning exercise may be possible, but not at the same rate or intensity [source: Pribut].
The road to recovery isn't always an easy trek. It's unreasonable to think that you'll be able to pick up where you left of in your training after a running injury. Runners who want to continue exercise during recovery should talk to their doctors about the possibility of cross-training during relative rest periods. Cross-training may include less strenuous exercises such as light swimming, cycling, running in a pool and other activities. Even if your doctor approves of a run every now and then, the activity should be added to your workout gradually and with care.
In a perfect world, you could prevent running injuries -- or any injuries for that matter -- from happening. Though you can't always control your body's reactions to exercise, these tips could help you prevent an early end to your running season:
- Stretch before and after exercise. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to limber up.
- Warm up and cool down with a 10 minute speed walk or light jog.
- Don't rush a workout -- your mind will be elsewhere, limiting your focus on pace or form.
- Keep a running log -- it'll allow you to document your mileage, running conditions and how you felt after each run.
- Bring plenty of fluids to drink during breaks.
- Carry a roll of sports bandage in your pocket if your doctor suggests you tape or wrap an area.
- Slow down if you feel you're straining a muscle. Stop running if you feel acute pain.
- Avoid running too often on hills, uneven surfaces or hard asphalt.
- Change running shoes as needed (usually before 500 miles of use).
- Give your body the rest it needs between workouts. Don't feel guilty for taking a day off.
- Stay in touch with your doctor, and don't be afraid to ask questions about your training.
For lots more information about how to treat running injuries, head to the next page.