One time I was so crazy about running that I ran a marathon. And was completely badass while doing it, though it looks like I hit a wall and shit my pants here.
I trained so poorly that I was actually injured before, during, and after said marathon. In fact, 4 years ago right about now was when I decided to train — about 6 weeks before the event. And I use the word “train” loosely. Because of my horrific training regimen, I’m able to give you list of things NOT to do while training for anything — whether it’s a marathon, a 5K, a lifting competition, or an eating competition.
1. Don’t decide to start your training 6 weeks before the event (unless you follow my procrastinator’s plan — you should be golden).
I had an epic 15-mile run a few weeks before the Des Moines Marathon in 2008. So I figured, what the hell? What’s 11.2 more miles? Can’t be that hard.
Yeah. Don’t do that. Upping mileage, weight, or general stress on your body that fast will likely lead to injury. Pick a training program and an event that works with that training program’s schedule. Usually training programs are 9-12 weeks. I was hell-bent on running a marathon before I was 25, so this was my chance, and I took it, but have been paying the price for nearly 4 years (could be permanent).
2. Don’t think stretching is for amateurs — or don’t just plain forget to stretch.
Biggest mistake leading up to an injury? Sitting on my butt drinking beer for 4-5 hours after my long Saturday runs (and after the marathon). I had a social life and that required me to appear at our local watering hole only a few hours after my long runs. Sitting and drinking a beer or two after a long run wasn’t great recovery, but it did lead to interesting bar fights and me ultimately getting kicked out of a bar (true story).
Find out what stretches to do to avoid common injuries in whatever sport/feat for which you are training. Learn them, and do them often. And don’t pick fights with loose women.
3. Don’t fuel your body with crap.
See aforementioned statement about sitting at a bar while marathon training. While certain things are fine in moderation, my training diet of eating whatever the hell I wanted because I had all these extra calories I was burning … not recommended. Though, Ben and Jerry highly profited from my marathon.
Your body needs fuel — likely protein and complex carbs. I recommend finding a nutrition plan if you’re attempting something extremely challenging on your body (lifting competition, half-marathon, marathon).
4. Don’t forget to cross train.
I ran every day, so I only used my running muscles, and therefore, the supporting muscles needed for me to perform in all other tasks (and to support my running muscles) diminished, leading to my injury. Cross train. The good news is that cross training will likely be written into a pre-determined training program.
5. Don’t forget to listen to your body!
Your body will tell you if you’re putting too much stress on it. I took ice baths, popped ibuprofen, went through bottles of biofreeze and ignored the fact that my leg barely functioned.
That being said, know the difference between a stitch in your side or a blister on your toe and a real injury. If it hurts the second you start doing whatever activity you are training to do, and only gets worse then you probably have an injury (or a really annoying blister).
BONUS: Rest is important!
I never rest. And I am constantly suffering from minor overuse injuries. Take an entire day to sit on your ass. Go to a movie. Watch the entire series of Breaking Bad on Netflix. Bake some cookies. Knit a blanket. Be lazy and revel in it.
Have you trained for an athletic event? How did you perform?