Beware the Ninja Injury

Ninjas are stealthy. They barely giving any warning that they’re there, although you might see the faint flit of a shadow out of the corner of your eye, or hear the scuff of a shoe above you. And all of a sudden, they strike. And the last thing on your mind before it all goes dark is, “I should have known…”

Well, not that I’ve had any encounters with real ninjas, but I’m currently out of commission with an injury and if my body’s not moving, my mind goes into overdrive, so bear with me. ;)

All wrapped up.

That’s a photo of my right foot a few hours before I was supposed to do the Immuvit Fearless Challenge Trail Run. However, the injury didn’t happen overnight. It’s why I call it a ninja injury; all of a sudden, it’s there and you can’t do a thing about it except say, “I should have known…”

I’ve mentioned before that my right ankle collapses inwards, which is why I need to wear stability shoes. I’ll credit that to youthful clumsiness because I sprained it at least five times in the years before I started running. So I’ve been very careful with this ankle on my runs and with the footwear I use.

While doing my other fitness activities like dancing, though, I haven’t taken as much care. The dance workout I teach involves turns, hops, and lateral movement. While I use high-cut skate shoes which give enough traction, I didn’t feel the need to use additional support inside the shoe. So when I rolled my ankle twice this past month while teaching dance class, my poor foot really took the brunt of it. It didn’t hurt afterward, though, so I didn’t feel the need to wrap it up and give it a rest. BIG MISTAKE.

I started feeling it when I went on a long run with the Gotta Tri speed monsters the other Sunday. From a longest run distance of 10K, I jumped immediately to 15K. My ankle ached the rest of the day! But again, I ignored it and continued to run and dance. The pain was mild and I didn’t feel it during the physical activity. I got just one warning sign on Tuesday as I dismounted after a bike ride at MOA: my ankle was so stiff I had difficulty uncleating!

On Saturday morning, as I taught my last dance class of the week, the pain that had just faded into the background previously began calling attention to itself, and I started favoring my foot with a slight limp. The soft tissue under the ankle joint was also swollen. Uh-oh.

My parents (both doctors) took one look at my foot and declared me unfit for the trail challenge the next day. I’ve also been told to rest from strenuous activities for the next few days and wear an ankle support for the next two weeks. Booooooo!

Anyway, I’ve rested my ankle for three days and it’s already starting to feel better. But the injury shouldn’t have been able to sneak up on me like that if I’d just treated my ankle properly in the first place, with proper support during my non-running activities and enough rest (I’ve been taking on teaching more classes than I used to).

Don’t let injury creep up on you like a ninja. Runner’s World offers this advice on avoiding overuse injury:

  1. Run every other day. By allowing 48 hours between your workouts, you enable your body to recover from the previous run and minimize your injury risk.
  2. Schedule long runs every other week. Weekly long runs may not give your body the time it needs before going long again.
  3. Increase total mileage by no more than 10 percent a week. Also, take a “half-mileage” week every three or four weeks.
  4. Build intensity gradually. Add only one quality training element (hills, tempo runs, speedwork) at a time to your schedule. So if you begin doing hill workouts, wait at least three weeks before adding a track workout or other speedwork to your routine. And keep in mind that quality workouts should make up no more than 20 percent of your total training.

Runners mostly suffer from overuse injuries. In medical terms, an overuse injury is cumulative trauma to tissues resulting from repetitive demands over time. When we run, we break down our bodies, which then grow stronger during recovery periods. Not taking enough time to recover and not recognizing the signs of an injury that needs to be dealt with can result in bigger injury.

I really hope to be out and running again in a few weeks, especially since I’m registered in the Active Health Duathlon on September 9. See you on the road then!

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8 thoughts on “Beware the Ninja Injury

  1. Wow… that is such a pain. I’m in the Immuvit trail run. But last year injured myself training for Mens Health Urbanathlon. I’m running with a back pain. Little that I know I’m Overdoing it already. So I ended up with a slip disc. Radiating pain from my spine towards my feet. I can’t hardly walk :( undergone series of therapy. You just need to rest and heal. :) I hope you are feeling good now.

  2. Hi, would like to ask if you experienced plantar fascitis?

    What brand of running shoe do you think based on your experience would be best suited?


    1. Hi Bingo, I experienced plantar fasciitis while training for my first marathon in 2010. It’s not really about the brand of running shoe. Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury that usually occurs when you increase mileage too quickly.

      Management of plantar fasciitis involves resting the feet from running or too much walking for two to four weeks so the inflammation of the plantar fascia (the ligaments on the soles of your feet) decreases. Stretching and massage of the soles is also good. Then you ease back into running slowly over short distances.

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