Dr. Caitlin Alexander on Long-Term Injuries and Disrupted Motor Patterns

Overuse injuries are common among endurance runners, though we can usually treat them quickly. But what happens when niggles become chronic and turn into long term running injuries?

long term running injury

Training for big goals is inherently risky. Distance runners must push themselves past discomfort during individual runs but also over long periods of time.

Weeks of difficult training become months. Months become years.

We’re consistently trying to run higher mileage, more frequently, longer long runs, and more consistent workouts.

It’s this constant push forward – this drive to ever higher levels of fitness – that can often cause problems. Because if we don’t heed the early warning signs, a small niggle could turn into a full-blown running injury.

And that injury can become a chronic, persistent issue that haunts your running.

Instead of resting, we often make things worse. We…

  • Compensate for small pains by altering our running form
  • Push through pain, mistakenly believing that “no pain, no pain”
  • Rigidly adhere to a training plan, thinking any missed run is a disaster

The same mindset that helps us achieve our goals also leads us down the path to injury if we’re not careful.

To help us escape the deep hole we dig for ourselves with chronic injuries (and to better prevent injuries in the future), I asked Dr. Caitlin Alexander to join us on the podcast.

How to Prevent Long Term Running Injuries

Dr. Caitlin Alexander is a physical therapist at Build Sports Performance Lab & Physical Therapy in Boulder, Colorado with a certification in Applied Functional Science. She’s a certified triathlon coach, running coach, and has experience working with elite-level athletes.

She’s also an incredible athlete herself! Caitlin has qualified for the Kona World Ironman Championships and is a category 3 cyclist.

In our conversation today, we’re talking about what happens when you have an injury for a very long time. You see, our movement patterns live in our brain. Your brain is what controls how you run and if your brain learns over time to compensate for an injury, you’ll develop all new movement patterns – and they won’t be ideal. 

Finally, Caitlin and I discuss:

  • the origins of disrupted motor patterns
  • how these movement patterns become ingrained in our brain
  • the process required to relearn optimal movement patterns
  • fun Q&A!

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunesSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadio, or Google Play.

Resources & Links:

Be sure to thank Caitlin on Instagram for coming on the Strength Running Podcast!

Thank you Elemental Labs

A big thanks to Elemental Labs for their support of this episode! They make electrolyte drinks for athletes and low-carb folks with no sugar, artificial ingredients, or colors.

They’re also offering free product: just pay for shipping and you can get their sample pack including 8 packets of citrus, raspberry, unflavored, and orange salt varieties.

Elemental Labs’ products have some of the highest sodium concentrations that you can find. Anybody who runs a lot knows that sodium, as well as other electrolytes like magnesium and potassium, are essential to our performance and how we feel throughout the day.

The citrus flavor has quickly become my favorite and I’m drinking one a day now to help me get enough fluids in our dry Colorado air. It’s tasty and delicious and I find that I’m not peeing every 45 minutes throughout the day, which might be an indication I wasn’t eating enough sodium.

There’s now mounting evidence that higher sodium intake levels are not unhealthy – and athletes need substantially more than your typical sedentary person. Of course, ask your doctor if you’re worried. But for those athletes running outside in the heat, an electrolyte replacement makes a lot of sense.

I’m encouraged by the fact that Navy SEAL teams, Olympic teams, and pro athletes have started using Elemental electrolyte supplements to improve their performance. Learn more about what they do at their website (and don’t forget to get your free sample pack!).

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