From chronically injured runner to 100 miler ultra runner

I use to suffer from many chronic running injuries and had several doctors and physical therapists tell me:

“Give up running.”       “Running is bad for you.”      “You aren’t designed to run.”

I sure am glad I didn’t listen to them. Since then, I have run over 40 ultra marathons (mostly 50 or 100 mile races) winning 8 of them.

A greater accomplishment is the fact that I ran injury-free for over 11 years after suffering from those chronic injuries. I do specific things that prevent serious injury because I do not want to go back to the days when I was injured and couldn’t run. My passion is sharing how I overcame those injuries and how to stay injury-free with as many people as possible.10500512_10154308742355584_8044031842047266675_n

Shin splints, runner’s knee, IT band pain, muscle strains and foot pain were just some of the injuries I use to suffer from. Worst of all, I had tendonitis in both knees for two years when I was in college. I was in pain all the time and some days I could barely walk. I went to some of the best doctors and physical therapists and nothing seemed to help. So I gave up running completely.

Two years of not running led to depression and a decline in health. I decided there had to be a solution, a better way. I started researching, read lots of books and found out that if I modified and practiced my running technique, I could maybe run again. It sounded unbelievable and I was very skeptical. But I went out and modified my running technique, running for the first time in over 2 years. To my surprise I was able to run with minimal pain. As the days went past, I was able to run more and more with less and less pain. I was hooked.

Since then I have learned extensively about how to run injury-free as well as increase performance. I have experimented with many concepts and lots of trial and error. Now being a competitive ultra runner and injury-free for over 11 years, I have found what works really well for me and my passion is sharing it with others.

Here are my top tips for injury-free running and greater performance:

1. Listen to your body

Yes, I sometimes have minor tweaks and pains when I train and after 50 or 100 mile races. The important thing is to not let these become injuries that stop you from running. The key is listening to your body. Do NOT ignore these pains. They are a signal from your body that you need to back off, rest AND correct whatever is wrong such as your running technique.

2. Improve your running technique

The major factor that allowed me to overcome chronic injuries was modifying my running technique. In the past I was inefficient and ran with a high impact technique that beat up my body, though I had no idea at the time. For you to correctly modify your technique, do lots of your own research and try different concepts. I highly recommend seeking out a technique specialist to help you with your technique. At a minimum, video yourself running so you can see exactly how you run. Too many runners tell me they don’t heel strike, don’t have imbalances or misalignment issues but most often they do.DSC_0630

3. Improve your nutrition

What I eat greatly enhances my overall health, keeps my energy levels very high and helps me to recover incredibly fast. Again, the key is listening to your body and finding out what works best for you. I have tried just about everything out there and the ‘diet’ that works best for ME for performance, recovery and increased energy is a whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPB).

4. Train smarter, not harder

I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. Training with this philosophy can prevent burn out, decrease injuries and running will be more enjoyable. You will also be more likely to reach your long term goals. Every run you do should have a purpose. Get rid of the junk miles that do not serve a purpose. Cyclic and periodization training are very valuable for reaching long term goals.

There are many good training programs out there. However, most do not focus on injury prevention. I highly recommend looking for a running coach like myself that specifically focuses on injury prevention as well as performance.

5. Other important factors

Cross training and runner specific strength training are beneficial but in my opinion NOT as important as the factors I discuss above. Your foundation should be overall health, an efficient technique and proper training. Strength and cross training will build upon your foundation but too many runners rely on them exclusively for injury prevention.

Damian Stoy is a professional runner, coach, nutritional consultant and founder of Wholistic Running. He offers online coaching and nutritional consultations for runners all around the world.

Why improving your running technique is a must!

I am a professional runner who has raced in over thirty-five 50 & 100 mile races. I haven’t had a significant running injury in over 11 years. Yet I was told years ago that I had to give up running by several doctors because of chronic injuries. So what allowed me to go from injured runner to professional runner?

I learned how to run, train and eat smarter. This is what Wholistic Running is all about and how I’ve helped thousands of runners run pain-free, faster and longer while having more fun.

What improving your running technique will do for you:

  1. Fewer injuries, less pain and decreased fatigue: Improving your technique will reduce impact and improve alignment.
  2. Run faster: You will run more efficiently and you’ll save energy.
  3. Enjoy running more: Running will be easier in less than 3 weeks.
  4. Run farther: You’ll be able to train more frequently with less fatigue, fewer injuries and quicker recovery time.
  5. Get results quicker: Train smarter and reach your goals quicker.
  6. Hills: Run uphills easier and downhills without any pain.

There are many resources for learning how to improve your running technique nowadays. However, much of the info out there is complicated and even harmful. As a biomechanics and technique specialist, I teach runners how to improve their technique with immediate results. No matter where you live, you can learn with my Online Technique Guidance Plans.

Efficient running technique is the foundation of healthy running. When you combine that with proper training and optimal nutrition, you can run injury-free while greatly improving your performance.

There is always a solution

I’m known for saying, “there is always a solution”. Because from my own personal experience as well as coaching hundreds of athletes, no matter the issue there is always a solution. The trick is finding the right solution for each individual and my job as a running coach is exactly that. Sometimes I have to find the solution to a chronic injury or figure out how an athlete can perform their best and reach their full potential. Sure it’s my job but more accurately it’s my passion… with a fair amount of obsession.

A tool that can help many runners is Correct Toes. They are incredibly effective and easy to use. I am very skeptical of most products and hesitant to recommend any. In fact, I rarely if ever recommend a specific product. But seeing what Correct Toes have done for some of my athletes, it’s hard not to recommend them. Check out the video below to learn more about Correct Toes and get free shipping when you use the code: WR2014 on their website.

I currently have only 2 online coaching openings. I’m giving away a free pair of Correct Toes ($65 value) to two runners who sign up for either 3 or 6 months of coaching. Sign up HERE

Downhill Running Tips

I use to hate downhills. They would hurt my knees, bang up my quads and I would get passed by so many runners on them. But after learning how to run them correctly, I now love downhills. They don’t beat up my body at all anymore and downhills are now one of my specialties.

Here are some of my tips for running gradual downhills:

  1. Increase your cadence: Basically, this means taking small steps. Doing so will help reduce impact (especially on your knees) and will save you energy. You will notice how much lighter and quieter you run when you do this. Shoot for around 180 steps per minute.
  2. Engage your ‘core’: Doing so will transfer some of the ground reactive forces from your joints to your strong core muscles. Engage your ‘core’ by gently pulling in your belly button about 20-30% and hold this when you run downhill. Don’t engage too hard or too high which will restrict your breathing. Focus on engaging your lower abdominal muscles especially your transverse abdominus.
  3. Lean slightly down the hill: Many runners put on the brakes when they run downhill. This results in greater impact AND slows you down. As long as you are doing the above focuses, allow yourself to flow down the hill. Don’t lean backwards, instead you should feel a gentle pull down the hill almost like you are falling. When you lean, make sure it is coming from the ankles and you are NOT bending at the waist. It is essential that you first make sure you are running with a high cadence and are engaging your core.

Damian Stoy is the founder of Wholistic Running, biomechanics specialist and professional ultra marathon runner.

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Think running is bad for your knees? You are correct!

That’s right. I said it, running IS bad for your knees. Well…if you’re doing it the way many runners are doing it.

I use to suffer from chronic running injuries. In fact, my knees were so ‘messed’ up that several doctors told me I had to give up running. I tried everything out there to overcome my injuries and nothing helped. I didn’t run for over two years because I was in so much pain everyday. Finally, I was so frustrated and depressed that I wondered if there was a real solution out there. I did extensive research, had a lot of my own trial and error… and finally found the solution.Damian in Tetons

Since those painful days, I have now been injury-free for over 10 years. I’m also a successful ultra runner who has run over 35 ultra marathons including six 100 mile races. That’s right, injury-free!

“But Damian, you said running is bad for your knees?” 

It is for a lot of runners because of the way they are running. Most runners I see (probably you too) run with a high impact running technique and poor biomechanics. Combine that with improper training and inadequate nutrition and it’s no surprise that over 50% of runners get injured every year.

So what did I do to become ‘injury proof’ as a runner? I worked really hard on my running technique, I eat a whole foods diet and I train ‘smarter not harder’. I’m very passionate about injury-free running and sharing it with others. This is why I am now a biomechanics specialist and I coach runners from all around the world teaching them injury-free running technique and how to train smarter.

Please share and pass this blog along to friends and family. My passion is sharing injury-free running with runners of all levels.

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Shoes and running technique

Some shoes are better at promoting an efficient running technique thus reducing impact and injuries. When it comes to running easier and injury-free, we here at Wholistic Running believe learning proper running form is essential and the correct shoes can help promote efficient technique.

posture-diagram JPG

To help you get started, here are some tips for choosing shoes that promote a healthier way of moving.  Most shoes have an elevated heel which promotes a heel strike (think high impact).  We recommend shoes with ‘zero-drop’.  A zero-drop shoe encourages a full foot landing.  A full foot landing has been proven to reduce impact in several studies (2010, 2011). Zero-drop shoes also promote correct posture and alignment as well as engagement of the core when we stand, walk and run.

Altra shoes are zero-drop and have another benefit, a wide toe box:

foot-shaped

Remember, to most effectively reduce and recover from injuries as well as run easier, learning efficient running technique is essential and the right shoes can help. I teach efficient technique because it is the easiest and the most effective way to run efficiently (farther, faster, injury-free).

-Damian Stoy is a professional ultra marathon runner, founder of Wholistic Running, biomechanics specialist, running coach and has been injury-free for over 10 years.

To receive more tips from Damian, sign up for our free emails HERE.

How to Run Injury-Free

I use to suffer from many chronic running injuries and had several doctors and physical therapists tell me:

“Give up running.”       “Running is bad for you.”      “You aren’t designed to run.”

I sure am glad I didn’t listen to them. Since then, I have run over 30 ultra marathons and even won 8 of them.

But a much greater accomplishment is the fact that I have been injury-free for the past 10 years. Yep, not a single major running injury in over 10 years even as a competitive ultra runner. Sure, I have minor tweaks and pain after running 100 miles in the mountains. But I do specific things that prevent serious injury which would cause me to go back to the days when I was injured and couldn’t run. I never want to go back to those dark days.10500512_10154308742355584_8044031842047266675_n

Shin splints, runner’s knee, IT band pain, muscle strains and foot pain were just some of the injuries I use to suffer from. Worst of all, I had patellar tendonitis in both knees for two years when I was in college. I was in pain all the time and some days I could barely walk. I went to some of the best doctors and physical therapists in New England and nothing seemed to help so I gave up running completely.

Two years of not running led to depression and a decline in health. I decided there had to be a solution, a better way. I did some research, read lots of books and found out that if I modified and practiced my running technique, I could maybe run again. It sounded unbelievable and I was very skeptical. But I went out and modified my running technique, running for the first time in over 2 years. To my surprise I was able to run with minimal pain. As the days went past, I was able to run more and more with less and less pain. I was hooked.

That was over 10 years ago and since then I have learned extensively about how to run injury-free as well as increase performance. I have experimented with many concepts and lots of trial and error. Now being a competitive ultra runner and injury-free for over 10 years, I have found what works really well for me and my passion is sharing it with others.

My top tips for injury-free running and greater performance:

1. Listen to your body

Yes, I have minor tweaks and pains when I train and after 50 or 100 mile races. The important thing is to not let these become injuries that stop you from running. The key is listening to your body. Do NOT ignore these pains. They are a signal from your body that you need to back off, rest or correct something such as your running technique. Do not be afraid to take a couple days or more completely off.

2. Improve your running technique

The major factor that allowed me to overcome chronic injuries was modifying my running technique. In the past I was inefficient and ran with a high impact technique that beat up my body, though at the time I did not know. For you to correctly modify your technique, do lots of your own research and try different concepts. I highly recommend seeking out a technique specialist to help you with your technique. At a minimum, video yourself running so you can see exactly how you run. Too many runners tell me they don’t heel strike, don’t have imbalances or misalignment issues but most often they do.DSC_0630

3. Improve your nutrition

What I eat greatly enhances my overall health, keeps my energy levels very high and helps me to recover incredibly fast. Again, the key is listening to your body and finding out what works best for you. I have tried just about everything out there and the ‘diet’ that works best for ME for performance, recovery and increased energy is a whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPB).

I highly recommend a nutritional coach like Lindsey at Wholicious Living who can get you great results (she’s also my girlfriend and elite runner, in the picture above).

4. Train smarter, not harder

I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. Training with this philosophy can prevent burn out, decrease injuries and running will be more enjoyable. You will also be more likely to reach your long term goals. Every run you do should have a purpose. Get rid of the junk miles that do not serve a purpose. Cyclic and periodization training are very valuable for reaching long term goals.

There are many good training programs out there. However, most do not focus on injury prevention. I highly recommend looking for a running coach that specifically focuses on injury prevention as well as performance.

5. Other important factors

Cross training and runner specific strength training are beneficial but in my opinion NOT as important as the factors I discuss above. Your foundation should be overall health, an efficient technique and proper training. Strength and cross training will build upon your foundation but too many runners rely on them exclusively for injury prevention.

I am also an advocate of sports massage, yoga, physical therapy and other techniques to help enhance recovery and overall health. But again, do NOT rely exclusively on these for injury-prevention.

Damian Stoy is a running coach, biomechanics specialist, nutritional consultant and founder of Wholistic Running. He offers online coaching and nutritional consultations for runners all around the world.

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Fixing foot injuries and issues

Foot pain can often linger and become a chronic injury. Prevention is a must for all runners before you get injured. These tips will help you prevent AND fix foot injuries.

4 effective and natural steps to fixing your feet and keeping them healthy:

  1. Wear Correct Toes to renew, align and strengthen your feet.
  2. Wear Altra shoes which allow your feet to spread and move naturally.
  3. Follow a Wholicious Living nutritional lifestyle to reduce inflammation and pain and speed up the healing process.
  4. Learn low impact, efficient and pain-free running and walking technique. It’s amazing how many people I’ve helped with a couple simple exercises.

feet

-Damian Stoy is a professional ultra marathon runner, founder of Wholistic Running, biomechanics specialist, running coach and has been injury-free for over 10 years.

To receive more tips from Damian, sign up for our free emails HERE.

Why I’m so passionate about Wholistic Running

Wholistic Running has greatly enhanced my running and has helped countless other runners around the world.  Being free of injuries, running with more joy, using less effort and performing better are just some of the many benefits of what I teach here at Wholistic Running.

Let me share my story how Wholistic Running has helped me overcome chronic running injuries and stay injury-free for the past 9 years even as an accomplished ultra marathon runner (see my race results).  I absolutely love running and I have Wholistic Running to thank for this!

In the past I have suffered from many chronic running injuries including runners knee, shin splints and IT band issues.  The worst of it began 10 years ago when I developed severe patellar tendonitis in both of my knees from running.  I was in pain 24 hours a day and many days I could barely walk, laying in bed much of the time.  This lasted for over two years!  I saw some of the best physical therapists, doctors and alternative therapists in New England.  Nothing helped.

I was even told by several doctors and physical therapists that I would never be able to run again.

Since finding Wholistic Running, I’ve run over twenty mountainous 50 mile races, a few 100 milers and all of this staying injury-free for the past 8 years.  How?  Wholistic Running!

I found out about efficient running technique and quickly set out to try this technique which sounded too good to be true.  Skeptical, I went for my fourth run in 2.5 years because of being injured.  Those few previous runs were only 15 minutes and left me in excruciating pain and hobbling for days.  But this run was different.  I was focusing on my technique so intensely that when I got home, I realized I ran for over 45 minutes.  And I wasn’t in excruciating pain.  In fact, I had very little pain.

I started ‘Wholistic Running’ 3-4 days a week focusing on my running technique and I slowly healed.  Yoga helped speed up the healing process and Wholistic Running allowed me to run with less impact.  Now 8 years later, I teach the technique which helped me rediscover my passion for running and has allowed me to stay injury free since my days of chronic injuries and being told that running causes injuries and to “never run again”.

I’m also passionate about Wholistic Running because of how it greatly benefits performance.  I’m an accomplished ultrarunner because of the Wholistic Running technique and mental focuses.  Some runners tell me that the only way to run faster is to train harder.  They also say you have to train faster, go to the track and do complex workouts and that is the only way to get better.  What if this wasn’t true?  For me, it’s all about running smarter not harder.  I run 3-4 days a week (about 40 miles) with no ‘speed work’ but can still run far and fast because I have a very efficient technique.  To run faster, I relax more.  Every other sport focuses on technique, why would running be any different?

Some say I’m just naturally gifted.  Well, if being a runner with chronic injuries is naturally gifted, then there are many naturally gifted runners.  Also, in my opinion, most humans are in fact naturally gifted runners, for we are born to run.   We ‘forget’ how to run correctly.  Fortunately we can relearn how to run the way we were designed with Wholistic Running.  I’m also told “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Well, all I can say to that is over 70% of all runners are injured every year.

I’ve been injury free for over 9 years, overcoming many chronic injuries with the help of Wholistic Running.

Finally, I owe much of my joy, love and passion for running to Wholistic Running.  Because of Wholistic Running, I get a ‘runners high’ just about every run I go on.  Running is a moving meditation that benefits my whole life and I am a deeply happy and successful person because of this.  I hope you get to experience the benefits of Wholistic Running as well.  Please practice with no expectations, a curious mind and an open heart.  It takes lots of practice, patience and determination but the benefits are well worth it!

Previous posts:

An easier and lower impact running and walking technique

Damian Stoy is a professional runner, coach & founder of Wholistic Running. He offers Online Coaching and Injury Prevention Plans. Find out more HERE.

When you run, do you feel like water flowing down a mountainside?  Is it effortless, easy and peaceful?  Are you rarely or never injured?  I ask because running can be all the above and pain-free.

Think of the last time you rode a non-motorized scooter. To propel yourself forward, you would place your foot flatly underneath you and kick back.  Of course you wouldn’t reach your foot out in front of you with a straight leg, heel strike and then kick back to propel yourself.  It doesn’t work because an extended leg acts more like a brake. But this is exactly what I see most runners do. And when I say most, this MOST likely means you.

 
This is what I see most runners doing with their feet and legs and the same is exactly true when I see people walk!  The jamming impacts your knees and back and you are running as if you are constantly applying a brake instead of letting gravity do the work for you.  The only way to create movement is to push off with the back leg which wastes energy and causes fatigue.

So what exactly are most runners and walkers doing (think you)?  With their legs, they are reaching out in front of them.  They may or may not heel strike and usually land with a pretty straight leg and sometimes with a locked out knee.  This results in a lot of excessive impact (think of the jamming of the scooter) and needless running related injuries.  What is important is where the foot lands in relation to your hips or center of mass.

This is how many people run.  Notice the foot landing in front of the hips and heel strike creating excessive impact especially on the knees and back.

A more efficient, less impactful and more natural way to run is to have the feet land mid-foot and underneath the hips.  The faster you go, the more they will actually land behind your hips, same as when riding a scooter.

Proper running technique.  Notice how the feet land underneath or behind the hips just like how children run.

Please don’t think you accomplish this by thrusting the hips forward when you run.  You accomplish this by leaning slightly from the ankles with proper posture allowing the legs to open behind you.

I teach a very effective way for runners to easily learn how to run in a way that is more natural, reduces impact and therefore, reduces injuries.  Because you are using gravity instead of your own energy, you’ll also run more efficiently, easier and have more fun!

So much attention is being made about heel striking and how it is ‘bad’.  It is, but what is more important is where the foot lands in relation to the hips.  It is almost impossible to heel strike if your feet are landing underneath your hips.

For a more efficient, low impact way of running, try these quick tips: 

Have your feet land more underneath the hips.  You can accomplish this by having a shorter stride. Think smaller, shorter steps.  You will not lose speed because you can open up your stride behind you and relax to increase your stride length therefore your speed.  Also, with good posture and long spine, think of leaning from the ankles and letting gravity pull you forward.  The key is not leaning from the hips or head.  You may not get it right away and feel the difference at first, but ideally you will progress gradually.

Poor technique resulting in fatigue and injuries.  Don’t lean from the hips or neck.  Proper alignment, an engaged core and good posture is key.

Barefoot running can accomplish some of these goals.  But still, many people run poorly and have poor posture resulting in fatigue and injuries while barefoot running.  Also, I have some runners who come to me saying they have practiced running technique and it has made running more difficult.  The problem is that they are doing the technique incorrectly without knowing it.  This is why it is important to learn from an experienced teacher and runner.

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