Runners, New Activities, and Injury

As runners, we tend to be pretty confident in our physical fitness … and we should be. Many of us […]

By on May 5, 2009 | Comments

As runners, we tend to be pretty confident in our physical fitness … and we should be. Many of us also tend to be pretty focused individuals – how else do you explain the drive to get in the miles when you’re tired, it’s 35 F and raining, and your friends are going out for margaritas? I’ve come to admire such traits, but they sometimes come with a cost. Twice in the past four months, I’ve engaged in an entirely new athletic activity and ended up with lingering problems. Perhaps that which makes me a decent runner also opens the door for injury…

The first incident involved me snowshoeing 50 miles across Yellowstone National Park over three days (but less than 48 hours). Heading into the adventure, I’d never seen anyone snowshoe, let alone done so myself. That said, my cardiovascular conditioning and leg strength, I had relatively few problems once I got used to the new equipment. Upon my return to DC a few days later, I went for an easy, relatively flat run commute home. My calves started out very tight and a few miles in something let loose in my right calf. I tried the same run a few days later with worse results. In the end, I ended up taking two weeks off in the heart of Marathon des Sables training because of that injury, which I directly attribute to the many miles of snowshoeing that I would neither have attempted nor been able to complete without my running background.

The Snowshoe Incident in progress

Fast forward three months to my first ever yoga class after taking part in a Lululemon event for runners. The class was certainly challenging. No, I’m not flexible. I do, however, have an open mind and tried every pose to the best of my ability… and that’s what got me into trouble. While I can run and engage in dynamic balance for hours on rocky trail, I’ve got zero foundation for prolonged periods of static balance. By being sort of able to do most positions (to some extent or another) and by focusing on doing them to the best of my ability, I beat the crap out of the lower half of my lower legs! I was very sore for two days and the session continues to affect my running negatively. A week later, my calves remain very tight such that I’ve cut my two most recent runs down 2 miles and 2.5 miles. Ouch.

Awhile ago, I heard that runners often injury themselves in their first few yoga sessions because their competitiveness pushes them to work to hard and they have the tools to damage themselves. I didn’t rule out that scenario and now know it to be true… and not be restricted to yoga. In neither of the two instances noted above did I feel myself pushing myself to a point where I was doing damage to myself. However, in merely doing that which I thought myself perfectly capable of doing, I harmed myself.

  • What do y’all think about this?
  • Anyone else have stories of hurting themselves through overexertion while trying a new sport? (Come on, I doubt I’m the only one!)
  • Has anyone found a way to keep themselves from hurting themselves when trying a news sport?
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.