pic: Can you guess the cause of my running injury?
Can you guess the cause of my running injury?

I made a stupid exercise mistake last week.  One that could impact my fitness routine for months because of the resulting injury.  I want to share it with you, because hopefully you won’t repeat it.

Even though injury is no laughing matter, what I’d like to do is make this into a game of sorts.  What I’ll do is first, describe the resulting injury.  Then I’ll give you various facts about my exercise, eating, and lifestyle leading up to the injury.

Then you guess what the biggest cause of the injury was.

For some of you it will be obvious but for others not so much.  In this case, the injury was from running.  But lifters could make the same kind of mistake.

Everyone who leaves a reply will get a prize!  And the best answer (based solely on my opinion) will get an even bigger prize.

The Prizes

Everyone who posts an answer in the comments section at the end (by Wednesday), with their guess as to the most direct cause, will get a copy of my ebook called Train Better.  This 200 page ebook has some of the best WFN articles consolidated for you.

The best answer, in my opinion, will get Train Better AND will get a copy of my lifting routine Fat Burn Furnace.

Duplicate answers are fine, but if the “best” answer is given by more than one person, then the first person gets the routine.


Here’s What Happened

During a recent run, one of my knees starting aching a bit.  By the time I was done, it hurt a lot.  30 minutes after getting home, I couldn’t walk down the stairs without screaming in pain.  Yes, I mean screaming.  My knee was shot and the pain was unreal.  No visible swelling though.  Pain subsided a few hours later but an attempt to slowly jog 2 days later had to be aborted.

Here Are Various Facts Leading Up To The Injury

[Note - while all these facts are true, some of these have nothing to do with the injury - they are included to make you think hard about causes...]

  1. The run in question was 8 miles.
  2. I had a little pain in that same knee during the previous run, which was 5 miles.
  3. I have been eating slightly less for the past few weeks.
  4. I’ve been doing a new lifting routine and was 5 weeks into it.  I’m calling this routine the PPL Program (details to come later, after I’ve thoroughly tested it) and a key factor is that each muscle group alternates from heavy, to light, to medium in terms of weight load.  So, for legs, over 8 days I’d do 1 heavy day, one light day, and one medium day.
  5. During the winter I didn’t run too much, once or twice a week.  But normally I run 3 times a week.  I started running a3x/wk again about 2 months ago.
  6. Over the past 4 weeks, here are the runs I’ve done.   The ” — ” indicates the start of a new week.
    — 4, 4, 3 — 4, 5, 4 — 6, 4, 6 — 9, 5, 8 — 5, 8  [that last one was the "fail" run]
  7. To get lean for summer, I’ve been doing some early morning fasted walks.  About twice a week, two miles each, in addition to the above.
  8. A week before the fail run, I spent most of the day in a car driving.
  9. My PPL workout is the first time I’ve done pistol squats regularly (very challenging, deep, single-leg squat movements).

So What Was The Major Cause?

Now is when you hit the “Leave A Reply” button and state what you think the cause was.  Remember, there’s a lesson in here for all of us, even if you aren’t a runner.  The lesson applies to lifting too.  I’ll follow up after a few days with an article on what the cause was and what the lesson is for all of us.

Let’s hear from you!

UPDATE:  Read this:  http://worldfitnessnetwork.com/the-cause-of-the-problem/

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49 Responses to “Can You Spot the Mistake?”

  1. The knee pain was, in part at least, aggrevated by the pistol squats. Perhaps the form was off, or you did not warm up sufficiently. Also may have been aggrevated by the increased miles you were running

  2. you overstrained your calf muscle. as it is taped to the knee joints, the pain can usually be felt at the knees and can be a real killer.

  3. You did not warm up before the run on the day..

  4. You increase your running mileage too fast, and your knee joint and thigh and leg muscle are not properly warmed up and strenghthened.

  5. I think you overdid it with the heavy training, especially doing pistol squats, as those can be very challenging on the knees, combined with the long duration of your runs. In the long run (no pun intended) your knee simply just gave out and maybe tore the meniscus. That is exactly what had happened to me 5 yrs ago, except I never did pistol squats. I was just lifting super heavy coupled with my runs, and my left knee was in excruciating pain. Long story short, doctor said meniscus was torn and had surgery to repair it. Now I don’t lift as heavy or run as fast as I once did.

  6. From a ground 0 running platform, that’s a pretty aggressive mileage increase. That, coupled with the walks on the off days and the three in eight lifting (pistols or not), that appears to be a lot of load on the “aging” joint in a very short period of time. So I’m going with overuse–too much too fast. Also, how much were you hydrating?

  7. The mistake is that you did not listen carefully enough to your body. In previous run, you felt some pain (fact #2). At that point you should have stopped running for a few days and then start again with only low mileage (and no weight liftings in between). Its like when you are driving a car and punctuate a wheel. The wheel will not fill with air, (just like the knee will not heal)although you keep on driving. The result is a hurt tendons.

  8. Hi Darrin,

    According to my experience the best training results come following a good program but the Most important is to know how to listen to our body. Our body’s speak to us continuously but we don’t pay attention. To learn to listen to our own body we need experience and to intend it.

    In your case we have: the Pistol squats of the New PPL program in combination with the winter less intense running and maybe not much fatty acids and you run within one month from 11, 22 miles per week. Too Much Too Quick! and we can add the morning walks also… Maybe the position of the knee while you driving influence also (I had at the past a similar problem from too much driving after a marathon).

    The main reason is that we don’t respect our body’s and we ‘want’ what we have in mind immediately without paying attention to our body’s processes and signals.

    Our body can do ‘everything’ we wand but need the necessary time to go from step A to step B. One friend of mine a Spartathlon (250 km) winner said ‘if you wand to finish start slow…’

    So the most secure way to go for our training goals is to go step by step, slowly… With babe steps we will be faster…

    The next question could be why we start fast and this prevent us from achieving our training goals or makes us delay more?

  9. Your knee became aggravated by the combination of the pistol squats and from the increased running. The injury came from not listening to your body on the previous run and doing the 8 mile run.
    After the aggravation started showing you should have stopped your workouts for a few days and slowly worked back up, making sure that the knee wasn’t hurting like before.

  10. It sounds to me like a case of 3 mistakes….
    1. Not listening to your body.
    2. Ramping up too quickly
    3. Overtraining

  11. Looks like most of my theories have been suggested by others. But as someone who does a lot of running and who is close in age, I’ll take a guess…

    I don’t think the mileage increase was the factor. You did put in weeks of 11, 13, 16, and 22 miles. But since you had been running some over the winter, I don’t think that is what hurt your knee. Now if if was your Achilles tendon, or shin splints, I’d think that was the cause.

    I suspect the long day in the car got your leg muscles really tight. Then the next day was a leg day, but your legs were still tight from sitting in a car for so long. You didn’t want to adjust your schedule (we can all be pretty stubborn at times), and the workout affected your knee. You didn’t feel any unusual pain, and you did your other workouts and another run. But your knee had been compromised over the week. And it gave out after a long run.

    I’ll also guess that the 8-miler was on a beautiful day and that you ran it at a quicker-than-usual pace. Maybe even sprinted pretty hard at the end.

    And I’m also going to guess that you ran the same day as a leg workout (maybe even a hard one) because “it was a great day for a run”. This violates one of the rules I’ve seen on one of your other posts about running & lifting weights. But we’re all guilty of thinking that “it won’t happen to me”.

  12. You’ve ran 8 miles, but I don’t know if it’s 8 miles straight without a short pause.. if that so, probably you didn’t hydrate that much to lubricate your knees..

  13. Hi
    new exersize regime puts stress on muscles and the hundreds of ligaments in your knee, and they r not used to the pistols.
    We have the same problem u and me we both . We wear earplugs to our bodies voice. Get beta soon

    Pain is just weakness leaving the body

  14. No kinesiology / orthopedic expert here, but I’m guessing you have Iliotibial band syndrome. Having recently restarted your running program, you probably were weak in this area and were already a candidate for injury. When you added pistol squats, you created additional rotational stress on your knee requiring too much assistance from the Iliotibial band and compromised it. Your subsequent run proved too much and now you get to recover.

  15. I agree with Satvros. You increased your weekly mileage too fast. Only increase mileage 10% per week.

    I did the same thing to my knee on Saturday. I actually could do stairs without pain this morning. (Good thing since I live in a 3 story house.)

  16. Read all the comments above and think pretty much the same thing as all other readers (new workout and not listening to your body) but have one thing to add which may be complete nonsense.
    You mentioned how there was no visible swelling and i couldn’t help but wonder if their was an issue with your footwear.

    Maybe your injury is caused by worn footwear or new unaccustomed footwear which hasnoot been broken into because i read somewhere how small changes to your footwear changes your balance hugely.

  17. I’m going to say that the key lesson here was listening to your body when you started to have a little pain on the 5 mile run.
    After that, while you had been putting increased use on the knee I think you did not keep is warmed-up, stretched and lubricated.

  18. You overtrained! Maybe a combination of improper stretching and improper warmup but my guess is overtraining.

  19. Simple overtraining – too much running, maybe also bad running shoes though I doubt that. Combine that buildup of running, which is high impact, with pistol squats, which is an open joint exercise and the scene was set for injury. Especially if you were carrying a little too much weight at the time. Yes I’d say doing too much, i.e. overtraining.

  20. I believe that there is a full combination of simple errors which we all do:
    You have been eating less. (Lacking Carbs (glycogen)and Protein (amino Acids) Thus lacking in the rebuild/repair process for your muscles.
    Overuse of muscles – Focussing on legs for workout and increase in cardio -running thus joint/mucsle overuse including the walking.
    Then still more use by driving thus the muscle and the surrounding support structure is getting pounded daily- nil rest and lacking necessary food intake.

    Exercise – means it causes your muscles to break down and become smaller.
    Rest and proper balanced nutrition means it supports muscle growth.

  21. The sign was already there after you ran the 5miles that you had experienced some pain in your knee. By running the additional 8miles you basically aggravated the problem which was already there. Now you are paying the ultimate price for not listening to your body. I’m sure that your new squating routine also contributed to your knee problem. A lesson for all of us.

  22. there wasnt an adequate amount of rest between lower body lifting, a previous run and the failed run. along with the very high stress level of the pistol squats and in conjunction with the increased running routine it was just overload and you didnt listen to your body. i also am sensing you didnt warmup or stretch. along with a prolonged ride in a car the state of your leg muscles was in a sleep mode for lack of a better word. you went from one intensity-type training to the next, you needed rest and recuperation, a warmup and stretch, a better understanding of your body, and maybe lessen one component of the workout to compensate for the “newly” added one(s).

  23. To me it sounds like you reduced your calories while also increasing the load on your legs with a new routine and increasing your running. I say it is a combination of a caloric deficit and over training of the muscles. Your reduced calories are unable to support the nutritional needs of your increased training.

  24. a couple of reasons could be:

    i) improper form

    ii) old running shoes, or shoes that don’t offer enough support for your feet.

    iii) overtraining – it is recommended to only increase your run by 10% each week from the previous week.

  25. in addition to above posting;

    another factor could be your nutrition regimen as you were not eating well in order to rebuild muscle.

  26. Your exercise, eating, and lifestyle directly led to the injury.

    You over exercised and didn’t rest adequately. You ignored the warning signs (pain). And you neglected to take this into account with your diet.

    so the cause was not the run – that was the final straw.

    (I’m suffering from exactly the same injury with the exact same conditions – except I walked 100km non-stop in 24 hrs for a charity, didn’t listen to my body, didn’t rest, stopped eating/drinking and continued when I should have stopped. 4 weeks on, I’m still on crutches!)

  27. Exceeding the average distance of the run you are accustomed to without gradually doing it.

  28. Pain is an important symptom, but dreadfully hard to measure. My wife thought having babies was painful, though I felt nothing. On the other hand, I scraped my knuckles changing a tire the other day and thought I was going to have to take a week off.

    For all that, even the dullest reader (if I may immodestly claim that distinction) can see that whatever level it was at, the pain you felt in your knee was a clear warning sign. Knees are notoriously fragile things, worse even than knuckles. You should have been doing some therapy exercises to repair that knee, not subjecting it to an 8 mile run.

  29. I feel one should listen to his/her body and act accordinly to avoid any potential injuries. A stitch in time saves nine! Obviously if you take care of small problems before hand you can save a lot of time and energy in future.

  30. Hello all,

    When training for a marathon a while back I had a knee problem like this on an 8 mile run. I chalked it up to being too ambitious with my training schedule. Also, I assume you know your feet and are experienced with running, but shoes also play a serious role in stress on the knee and running posture.

    I also would say that what was said above about aggravating the knee with pistol squats could have a hand in it.

  31. As mentioned earlier, it could have been ITB sydrome due to a high training load (high running mileage especially if your not accustomed to it and 3x per week lifting for legs is way to much), lack of a proper diet and maybe aggravated by poor running mechanics or footwear (cannot be sure about last one since I havn’t seen you run).

  32. You did not thoroughly stretch before your run…I just went through the EXACT same thing…..wicked knee pain shortly after a 10k…still have not pushed it….it has been three weeks and have not run. Spending my time on a Cross Trainer until the tendons tighten back up. I am almost there…I do not want to aggravate it with high impact exercise. Nurse that knee and Good Luck!

  33. 1. Not listening to pain messages from the previous run (Hard to learn the difference between muscular pain from excersise and joint/tendon etc. pain due to injury), and I would guess from not stretching/warming up.

    (I had the exact same injury, and it was due to my quads/glutes/lower back being too tight, nothing to do with the knees directly)

  34. the injury CANNOT to put down to ONE reason. There are three here, that combined have caused the injury.
    -increasing running lenth too fast
    -Eating less food when increasing workload
    -Putting pistol squats into routine when work load is higher and nutrition is lower.

  35. His body was trying to tell him he had an injury but he ran on anyway instead of giving it an extra day or two to recover.

  36. As others have already stated, the jump in mileage from week 3 to week 4 was just too much.

  37. There are any combination of factors that could have caused the injury. some of the more obvious ones are: Your nutrition was out of sync with your increased cardio / resistance training which would have impeded recovery. I also suspect overuse injuries from your running, (fasted) walking and pistol squats etc. it also appears you were too intense with your new program. it’s always better to start any new exercise program cautiously and watch how your body adapts. For instance it might have been safer to drop the walks altogether for a while. Finally you refused to listen to your body’s warning signal.

  38. Your injury was caused by unfocused/conflicting training goals.

    Eating slightly less for the past few weeks, fasted walks, and an increasing moderate paced cardio demand are designed for fat loss.

    The new PPL lifting routine uses heavy and medium weight loads, which will stimulate muscle growth, further stimulated by the new pistol squats your body has not accustomized to.

    You were – inadvertently – trying to grow muscle on fewer available calories and your body became, to some degree, catabolic. The diminshed muscle could not accommodate the stresses created by the overly aggressive cardio routines, placing more strain of ligaments and tendons, which consequently failed you for lack sufficient muscle support.

  39. i say it was in the changing of your eating habits and some of with the pistol sqauts you may have lost some of the important vitamines that your body was used to when you changed your eating habit

  40. Mustafa Mohamed
    May 11th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    The main CAUSE could simply be overtraining leg muscles. Possibly due to the pistol squats (which seem tough) along with an increase in the distance covered in running the week earlier.

    The actual MISTAKE however, is not listening to your body. To continue running when it was “aching a little” to the point where it got excruciatingly painful wasn’t the right thing to do. The lesson I’ve learnt is not to neglect or ignore any unusual pain while exercising.

    I’m very sorry to hear that your fitness routine could shudder to a halt for some time. An indirect lesson I’ve witnessed is how you’ve responded (positively) to the issue. Something like this could leave many frustrated and despaired. Best wishes and keep it up :)

  41. the main cause is probably over training and i guess you made a damage to one of your ligaments.If you have damaged your knee cartilage,your knee would be swollen and you wouldn’t be able to return to run without suergical interfirence.

  42. Hi there,

    My take at it:
    It’s the shoes and/or over-training (too much stress on the knee from the previous run when it all started)


  43. You stepped in a pot hole and because your knee was strained from pistol squats, you hyper-extended it or else tweaked your patella tendon.

  44. How is your knee Darrin?

    I love running and I usually run once or the most twice per week… as we becoming older in age and heavier from weight training our knees becoming more sensitive…

    I like to alternate running with swimming and bicycling, or hiking at mountains this kind of cross training have the best results for me.

  45. Wow! What an amazing list of responses. You all are very smart and insightful. It’s going to be hard to choose the “best” answer here. Please don’t be offended if you aren’t chosen – I have to pick someone and of course it will be biased by my own belief in what caused this. Stay tuned. I’ll get the free ebook out to you all via email shortly.

  46. I think you overdid the pistol squats – too much too soon.

  47. over training,man…

  48. you increase your workout… decrease nutrition. bad idea


  1. Cause of Running Injury | Running Injury Explanation | Running Injury Cause

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