How to Not Get Stress Fractures
In my ten years of running, I’ve never had one.
Year after year, I have witnessed friends, teammates, and competitors drop like flies, plagued by one common running injury — the stress fracture. It has been heartbreaking to watch. When I was in college, I worked out with my teammates every day. I saw the countless hours of hard work they put in, only to be sidelined for months and forced to rest so that their fractured bones could heal.
About half of my former teammates had one at some point in their careers. But it wasn’t by coincidence that they suffered these injuries and I didn’t.
There were very specific measures I took which greatly reduced my risk of developing this devastating injury. And while it’s not possible to guarantee that you will avoid injuries completely, the following are some steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of preventing stress fractures, which often occur as a result of overuse, and are common in demanding sports with repetitive motions, such as running.
Increase Mileage Slowly
The worst thing you can do as a new runner is get over excited and start pounding the mileage before your body is ready. This has been known to lead to injuries.
So, no matter how much experience you have, you should always increase your mileage gradually. This will give your body time to adjust to the heavier training load. If you need to, you can even split your mileage into two shorter runs over the course of the day to make it more manageable.
Take a Rest Day When You Need It
As runners, we often take pride in pushing our bodies to the limit. But when we run ourselves straight into the ground, we not only risk injury, but burn out as well.
If you find yourself having unusually low motivation for a prolonged period of time, it might be time to take a rest day.
And don’t feel guilty about it either. Know that you are giving your body the break it needs to come back and crush your workout the next day.
The human body uses sleep to repair itself. Every single person on this planet can benefit immensely from getting on a good sleep schedule. Runners especially should focus on this, because we place high demands on our bodies each and every day, and we break them down more than the average person.
So, those precious hours of sleep each night are crucial to ensure we give our bodies time to repair, rather than break them down even further.
Avoid Dairy and Sugar
The idea that you must drink milk to build strong bones was disproved a long time ago. There are plenty of other calcium rich sources that don’t have mixed results pertaining to the effects of the beverage on your health.
In regards to sugar, the natural stuff (like fruit sugar) is ok. It’s the processed sugar which causes inflammation in the body and keeps your body from recovering well. So, try to minimize the amount you are consuming on a regular basis.
This is, hands down, the most important point. Insufficient fueling in the sport of running is a very large problem. This leads to stress fractures. Why? Because when the body isn’t provided enough energy, it begins to break down, ultimately leading to injury.
Furthermore, under eating while exercising intensely can cause very serious health issues. For women, when the body detects a severe lack of fuel, it shuts down all unnecessary processes — including the reproductive system, which can cause missed periods, known as athletic amenorrhea.
This can lead to long term health consequences, such as osteoporosis, so it should not be taken lightly.
Thus, it’s always important to make sure your body is getting the proper nutrients that it needs to power you through your workouts. This will help you stay healthy ensure you get to keep doing what you love.
While injuries are sometimes inescapable in running, taking the necessary measures to reduce your risk of developing them is crucial to help you find longevity in the sport. That way, even if you are sidelined for a bit, you’ll be able to come back stronger and more determined than ever.