Injury Free Trail Running
By Dr. Daniel C. Batchelor
Ever since I was a little boy, I've loved to run trails. Even now, several times per week, rain or shine, I average 5 miles per session at a local mountain. My dog loves it also as it is easy on his pads and great for his mind and body.
I love to train and race on trail terrain. In fact, 95% of my training is done on trails. I am fortunate to live near a perfect area for trail running. Running on trails, wood chips, dirt, grass, pine needles etc help to prevent the usual overuse syndromes that are prevalent in concrete and asphalt runners.
Since most of my runs are on grass, trails, or soft surfaces, this creates less impact than running on concrete or asphalt or treadmills. Not only is it better for your legs but you will be running with plants, trees, birds, and the glory of nature.
On the pavement, you have to deal with exhaust, constantly off centered hard surfaces, cars, bikes, curbs, intersections and pedestrians.
Over the past 40 years, I have run over 60,000 miles and have won over 350 road races. Many of my chiropractic patients ask me how I am able to stay so injury free for so many years. The answer is simple. Cross training, stretching, rest, following a specific mileage and speed regime, genetics, chiropractic, massage, diet, and running on soft trails.
Have I ever been injured? Of course. If you run, the question is not if you will become injured but when you will become injured.
In fact, I was injured in a recent triathlon. It was an off road race in the mountains. When I came out of the water, I found myself in 8th place. The second portion of the race was a hot, hilly, humid trail run. I was able to catch and pass the front runner with some degree of difficulty. Now that I was in the lead, my goal was to hold the lead and to increase the distance between myself and the second place runner until I made it to the mountain bike portion of the race. I knew that if I could hold the lead all the way to the bike, I could maintain that lead until the finish line.
Midway during the run portion of the race while running at high speed over uneven terrain, my right ankle rolled over and I sprained the lateral anterior ankle ligament. A loud pop accompanied the immediate pain. I walk for a minute and evaluated my options. I decided to continue the race in pain.
When you are in a bloody battle with the enemy and the endorphins are saturating every cell of your body, there is no time to lick your wounds. The drive to win can overwhelm any logical decision making process.
The last and final event was the mountain bike. Since the lateral/anterior ligament in my ankle was injured, it became increasingly difficult to lift the pedal during the upstroke as the mountain bike portion of the race began. As a result of the injury, I ended up placing 3rd at the end of the grueling race.
After the race, I went directly to my clinic for intensive care. I knew this was not a minor injury and I wanted to have as little down time as possible. At my clinic, I x-rayed the ankle and found that it was a talo-fibular ligament sprain. I licked my wounds by treating the injury with physiotherapy and application of an ankle brace.
I swam in the pool almost every day during the next month of rehabilitation. I did ankle exercises, biked, continued the therapy at my clinic and walked on evenly cambered soft terrain surfaces until I was 100% better.
Now, my ankles are stronger, more flexible than ever and able to withstand more extreme range of motion forces than they could withstand previously.
Continuing the race after the ankle was sprained was not a logical decision but I was in the bloody battle and there was no time for sympathy. That was my mistake and I paid the price by needing a longer rehabilitation time to reach maximum improvement.
Trail running is fun but you need to be prepared for it differently than hard surface running. Concentrate on developing ankle flexibility. Get shoes with a more stable heel counter and slightly stiffer midsoles. Carry a cell phone and some form of protection such as a knife or mace. Carry a small backpack with a small basic snake bite kit, some water, and an energy bar. Above all, enjoy the trails and the wonders of nature that our creator has provided for us.
After Dr. Batchelor graduated with honors and received his doctorate in 1980, he continued to excel as a doctor and as an athlete. He has treated some of the best athletes in the world, including Craig Virgin - World Cross Country Champion, John Tuttle - Olympic Marathoner, Kelly Jenson - Olympic Steeplechase champion, Keith Brantly - Olympic 10K runner, Marcos Barreto - World Class 5K champion, Atlanta Falcon football players, Olympic soccer players, professional hockey players, etc. Dr. Batchelor is presently one of the top athletes in Atlanta and winner of over 350 running races, kayak races, bike races, and triathlons.
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