It hit me exactly 20 minutes after the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I couldn’t even stand on my left leg, let alone walk. I painfully hobbled the 10 feet to my Uber to get back home, and panicked a little about how I was going to be able to drive back to NYC and chase a four-year-old around. How did this happen? I didn’t feel a thing during the race, so why was it so painful after?

Even a few days later it wasn’t getting better. I walk a lot of miles each day in NYC and the pressure was causing my left foot to throb. I looked it up online and freaked out temporarily as I thought maybe I had fractured my pinky toe bone. Would I have to stop training altogether? GAH! I rushed to the walk-in clinic for an X-Ray.

Luckily nothing was broken, but I had banged myself up quite a bit. I had a sprained ligament, meaning, I just wasn’t taking care of myself. I was so focused on running that I forgot that rest is actually just as important. I know;—you’re like me and think: “rest?” But you just picture all those athletes sitting in ice baths. And I bet you forgot that they have personal trainers, massages and therapy and nutritionists working with them everyday. We do not. Well, not me at least!

So what did I do? I booked myself a sports therapist. Luckily in NYC we have some incredible ones. Mine just happens to be a prior MMA fighter, has a beard, tattoos, and drives a Harley. Did I mention he also heads out the Green Bay every weekend to work with the team? If he’s fixing NFL player’s I think he can work my leg. But don’t think this therapy is your average Swedish Massage. It hurts. And bad. But your legs and feet will thank you.

Now that I’m out of it, I wanted to share 5 critical training points I learned the hard way (and that you don’t have to):

 1. Get fitted for the right shoes

If you’re going to be logging lots of miles, you need to do so in the right shoe. When I first started running, I didn’t know you do this either. (Read my full experience here ). But there really is a difference in running shoes and how you run. Me? ASICS all the way. I could run to the moon and back. If you don’t feel that way in your shoes, you’re doing it wrong.

2. Listen to your body

We learn to tune out our body because we are machines and need to function at full throttle everyday. But guess what, we can’t. If you’re not feeling well, take the day off. Training won’t make you better. If your leg doesn’t feel right, go have it checked before you really injure yourself. When I first went to see my therapist, my leg muscle was so tight it was ready to tear! I could have been laid up for weeks, but thankfully listened to myself instead of just pushing through.

5 Key Training Points I Learned the Hard Way

3. Compression Socks are your bestie

Ok, so you might look like a hipster running with just one bright blue sock on, but your legs will thank you. After I injured myself in the Pittsburgh Marathon, these compression socks saved me. They help “compress” (obvs!) the muscles to keep them in place. It also keeps the pain from creeping up. Run without them, then run with them. Guarantee you’ll notice a difference.

5 Key Training Points I Learned the Hard Way

4. Stretch. And Stretch again.

You may think yoga is for those crunchy granola type hippies, but they definitely know something you do not. Stretching keeps you young. As with any sport, running is hard on you, and you can’t just track miles and miles without thinking your body needs some TLC. I try to incorporate yoga at least once into my week. All that bending, stretching and breathing makes you limber and longer. Trust me, try it for a couple of weeks and tell me your stride isn’t more polished.

5 Key Training Points I Learned the Hard Way

5. Try a running class

Running is a loner sport. Yes, you can run with others in a race, but just like snowboarding, you’re out there on your own and pushing against yourself. But, I’ve found that training in a run class or group has really stepped up my game. My favorite: Mile High Run Club. You run on treadmills so you can track your pace, and really learn to push yourself in speed and incline intervals. You have a professional coach teaching the class, and you’re surrounded by other runners so you have the accountability to push yourself. Going once a week to this class instead of just heading out to run has really helped me to shave time off my average pace, without even realizing it!

Remember, a big part of running well is knowing how to take care of yourself in between. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way about training?