What to do if you are injured?
Over the years I’ve noticed a few things about myself and other injured runners that I felt would be interesting to write about.
Most importantly if your injury site is hot, swollen or sore to the touch then you need to go into First Aid mode to help it recover; rest, ice, compression and elevation. This is even more important if it happened suddenly, like going over on your ankle. Stay of your feet, don't do "test runs" and let your body do the repair work it needs to. My next golden rule is "don't run before you can walk"; if it hurts or aches to walk don't try running. If it hurts to run, stop.
In many cases an injury starts as a niggle, and that niggle gets worse as it's ignored and becomes and injury. The key here is to listen to that niggle - your body is trying to tell you something. The most common reason for running niggles is ramping up your training too quickly, so rest and build back up slowly again once it's better. It can be useful to look over your training log to spot sessions, patterns of mileage totals that trigger niggles.
Sometimes our lives of the way we run can be a factor. For example if you spend all day sat stationary at a desk or in a driving seat certain muscles will tighten, others will weaken. We then go out and push ourselves hard in a training session, which sometimes mean we ask too much of those weaker muscles. A Physiotherapist or a full running technique analysis can really help with this, giving you a plan of things to work on to prevent future injuries. If you can find and fix the root cause of an injury of niggle it will greatly improve the changes of it not happening again!
Running can feel like a key part of your identity. Many of your friends will be runners, planning events, racing, training and talking about successes and failures. You may even be part of a running community, online or in a club. All of this means that plenty of running stuff goes on in your world that you can’t be as much of a part of for some time. This can be both really hard and a great opportunity. It’s an opportunity to help that community, or the people you know in it. But sometimes you do need to step away for your own sanity, and that’s OK too.
Have a think about the benefits to taking time away from running training. You may have more time at the weekends to spend visiting family and friends, being more sociable, or trying other activities. Many of your friends and family are non-runners so it’s likely that they’ve never quite understood the amount of time you dedicate to it, or why they end up standing at windswept finish lines waiting for you at weekends when they’d rather be in the pub. So you could use your injured time to make it up to them, spend some time supporting them achieve their goals, or just doing things together.
Are there sports you’ve always wanted to try but have worried that they might impact your running? Now is the time to give them a go! Or perhaps getting back into something that you've not done for a while, getting back to that yoga class. Chatting to your doctor/physio/medical practitioner about what you can do, as opposed about what you can’t do can be mentally very positive too.
Take the opportunity to work on your running specific strength training, it’s often neglected by runners and can really help injury prevention. As well as giving you running specific goals to hit and perhaps also help with your rehab and recovery. Really nail those physio exercises you have for recovery and ask what more you can do to get stronger for the future.
If you want to stay involved in the running community, volunteer! Helping out at park run as a volunteer is wonderfully rewarding, help at a club, or marshal at a race. It keeps you motivated and inspired.
Another positive of injury is a break from running training. It’s something elite athletes do, taking one month off after their peak competition, but recreational/amateur runners tend to disregard it. Your body needs time to fully recover from and adapt to training; eat well, sleep well and set goals to help set you up to be in a better place health wise for when you are able to start training again.
We are complicated creatures; mentally and physically. Sometimes an injury is your bodies way of asking you to be more gentle with it; so hopefully we all get better at listening to it!