Let’s not deny the obvious: running injuries suck. They are frustrating, depressing, and induce feelings of fear and anxiety that you might never return to the activity and sport you love.
Listen to your body’s signals and give yourself a day or two off when something doesn’t feel right.
I’ve been injured several times over the span of the last decade and while they have been all of the above (believe you me), they have also taught me a lot about training and about myself. In that sense, I wouldn’t take the injuries back – although I certainly wouldn’t mind if they didn’t last so long.
Chances are that if you reflect on your own injuries, you’ll find some valuable take-away lessons as well.
1. IF IT DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT – STOP!
This is one of the lessons we learn the hard way. You get a niggle, a twinge, pain or an ache while out for a run one day…but you keep going anyways. The next day, you wake up feeling off – maybe that ache or pain has heightened; maybe you feel more sore than usual; maybe you’re not walking correctly or with a slight limp. But, again you ignore it, do some stretching and continue on with your training plan.
This continues leading to increasing pain and gait issues until you can no longer run at all. If we could turn back time, we would all go back to that first day that something didn’t feel right and stop running or stop the aggravating activity. A couple of days or even a week’s rest can do wonders for nipping an injury in the bud and get you back to your regular routine in a matter of a couple of weeks. Surely, it beats being sidelined for a few months! Unfortunately most of us don’t heed our body’s signals.
LESSON: Listen to your body’s signals and give yourself a day or two off when something doesn’t feel right. If the pain or irritation lingers, get in to see a physiotherapist who can guide you on your injury, treatment plan and return to running.
2. INCORPORATE MORE CROSS-TRAINING INTO YOUR PLAN
Most runners just like to run; they might spend a bit of time in the gym doing strength training but as far as substituting a run with another cardio activity, which can be rare. Cross-training goes a long way to preventing injuries – you can select low-impact or no impact exercises such as biking and swimming to decrease the stress on your joints as well as challenge different muscle groups to make you a fitter athlete.
LESSON: Add 1 to 2 cross-training days in your weekly training plan. Cross training may be particularly beneficial after long-run days or interval training which taxes the body more than easy, steady-state running.
3. RECOVERY PRACTICES ARE IMPORTANT
While there is more and more information out there on proper recovery practices post-running, a lot of runners still don’t make time for the little things . These ‘little things’ are actually pretty significant such as stretching baths, foam rolling, post-workout nutrition, hydration, strength-training exercises, etc.
All of these practices will help you recover faster by decreasing muscle soreness, aid in muscle repair so you can be ready for your next planned workout and, a-ha, help prevent injuries.
LESSON: Spend 5-10 minutes after your run foam rolling when you get in from the door; add a yoga class into your weekly training schedule, perform hip strengthening exercises 3 times a week to keep your glutes strong and pelvis stable.
4. GRATITUDE AND PATIENCE
Perhaps the greatest lesson learned from being injured is that of Gratitude and Patience. How often do we take for granted what we do day in and day out? We may complain about having to get up early to run or getting caught in a rain-storm or how hard tomorrow’s workout is going to be, but when it’s taken away from us, we’d probably give anything just to run without pain and without fear.
Personally, I’ve learned that it’s not about the paces you run or how fast you can go in a race, rather running just for the sake of running is so special. More importantly, I’ve learned that running is just as important for my mental health as it is for physical health. But no matter how bad it may seem, for most of us we will get to run again – whether it takes weeks or several months.
LESSON: Patience is of dire importance when you start getting into months and months of no running, but practicing gratitude can help ease the pain along with cross training and spending more time working on relationships and other hobbies.