Ask Dr. Dumb: How Can I Avoid Running Injuries?

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Readers, today we are thrilled to introduce a new column called Ask Dr. Dumb.

Dr. Dumb will appear on this website from time to time to field questions on various topics, from training and injury prevention to nutrition and excessive flatulence. In addition, he will weigh in on the latest health and fitness research, helping you understand the findings and apply them to your daily lives.

He may also occasionally ask you for money—"just a few bucks" till he "gets back on his feet." We recommend that you ignore such requests. Trust us on this one.

Although Dr. Dumb is not an actual doctor, he often Googles things written by actual doctors. Also he is quite tall and has a firm handshake. So we figure he knows what he's doing.

For this inaugural Dr. Dumb Q&A, the topic is Injuries and How to Prevent Them, inspired by this recent column in The New York Times. Let's dive right in.

Dumb Runner: Just curious—are you any relation to a Dr. Daily?
Dr. Dumb: Never heard of him. 

How do you define "running injury"?
There is no single, universally accepted definition. Most often when someone refers to running injuries they mean problems caused by overuse—runner's knee, plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), and so on. Me, I take a more expansive view. If you hurt yourself while running, that is a running injury.

So if I trip and fall, scraping my elbow?
Running injury.

Run smack into a parked UPS truck?
Running injury. 

Get sucker-punched by the guy whose wife I've been fooling around with?
Sucker-punched while you're running?

Yes.
Running injury.

According to that New York Times column, "as many as 90 percent of runners miss training time every year due to injury." Is that accurate?
It's impossible to say with any certainty. But no.

You think that number, 90 percent, is too high?
Too low! Just from my own experience, I know that when I ask around for someone to join me for a run, at least 90% of the time I hear, "Sorry, can't, injured." It's remarkable how often I hear that. Then again, many of these injuries must be very short-lived, because I often see these very people out running, alone or with others, shortly thereafter. Sometimes the same day.

Other sources have their own numbers—"nearly 80% of runners are injured each year," or "up to half," or 19.4% or 66%, or 37% to 56%. How do you explain these discrepancies?
I explain them by asserting that no one has any idea what he's doing, that the world is run by impostors who skate by on dumb luck and delusions, and that most of what you read is nonsense.

That is a bleak assessment.
It's best not to think about it.

The New York Times column describes a new study that examined veteran runners who have never been injured. It found that these runners landed much more "lightly" when they ran, resulting in less impact—even if they were heel strikers.
Is there a question in there somewhere?

What do you make of these findings?
Not surprising, I guess. Seems intuitive that pounding hard with each stride, as if you're trying to stomp to death an endless series of scorpions, is not a smart way to run.

The column also uses the phrase "running-injury virgins." 
I hope their first time is special.

To run more lightly, the column suggests that you imagine you're running on eggshells. Does it matter if they're white eggs or brown?
No. The idea that brown eggshells are any healthier to run on than white eggshells is a myth. 

Does stretching help to prevent injuries?
No.

Foam rolling?
No.

Massage?
No.

Ice baths?
Yes!

Really?
No.

Listen. You can do that stuff if you want to. You can also purchase a magic wand and wave it over your legs before every run if it makes you feel better. Same effect.

Then what is the best way to prevent running injuries?
Don't overthink it. Run relaxed, the way your body wants to. Increase your mileage very slowly. Take days off. If something hurts, stop. Rest until it doesn't hurt anymore. Even if that means not running for a few days. And for God's sake, don't fool around with other people's spouses.

Any parting words?
Yes. If your readers are interested in purchasing a magic wand, have them contact me via DumbRunner.com. I have several models available, including High Density, Textured, Gluten Free, and Travel Size.

Thank you, Dr. Dumb.
You're welcome. Be well.