TIPS FOR DEALING WITH RUNNING INJURIES
With marathon season and New Years resolutions in full swing, there are bound to be some of you who will, at some point, suffer some kind of sports related injury whether it be a muscle tear, an overuse injury of some kind or an over turned ankle.
I thought it might be helpful to write a post with a few do's and don'ts and a little advice that I've learned in my years as a runner.
It's very easy in times periods of injury free running to forget the impact it can have and to prepare yourself for when it happens. For a bit of context as to why this is at the forefront of my mind now -
as those who've followed me here or on instagram know, I was given the amazing opportunity to compete in the 'champion of champions' stage race in Namibia this April.
It is not the kind of opportunity that is likely to come my way again so it has been the goal that inspired me to return to long distance running and all the training that involves. Things were going better than I'd hoped; I never in a million dreams thought I'd do as well as I did in a multi day race in Spain in November, so I felt I had a really good fitness base ready for the proper build this year. December was a pre-planned low mileage month to give my body time to recover and replenish in advance of 4 months hard training. Then in December I was pushed by an over eager commuter off a pavement in London; retrospectively this jammed my iliosacral joint (lower back), causing tightness down that leg and ultimately sub optimal patella tracking. This has caused pain and inflammation in the fat pad under the patella. This is no quick thing to heal and is an incredibly frustrating injury because any type of cross training at all seems to irritate it - including walking even short distances. I've tried to collate a few tips which I hope you will find helpful should you become injured.
Tip 1 - it is very easy to get downcast, to think all the training you've done is lost and hope of doing your event or achieving your goal is lost. Try not to let your mind go down this track, it achieves nothing and actually does more damage. I didn't practice what I preach this time - the thought of losing the Namibian opportunity sent me into a downward spiral of gloom and negativity. I felt I'd let the people who have supported me down, my family, the race organisers and those who've Kindly sponsored me.
Instead - try to keep your original goal in mind; for many injuries you can carry on cross training even if you can't run. This will help maintain cardiovascular fitness. If you're not sure what to do instead of running or how to apply your run programme to cross training, consult a coach that can help you. I've written many alternative programmes for my clients who've had injuries; its amazing what you can still achieve towards your running goals even whilst not being able to run.
Even though I write training programmes for others, I still like to have people I trust to consult for my own training. Seek the best advice you can - Bud Baldaro and Gideon Remfry have been my go-to rocks for programme help and conditioning / strength work as well as general moral support. Make sure you have people like this whose professional opinions you can depend on.
Tip 2 - if it becomes apparent that your original goal is not going to happen, take some of your downtime to explore new goals or options slightly further out, that will give you time to recover and then train. This will help you to refocus and will take away some of the hurt of not being able to achieve your original goal.
Tip 3 - make sure you do the rehab exercises you've been given to address your particular injury; but on top of this, and as importantly, do some running specific prehab exercises. That is, exercises particular to running that will increase your strength and decrease your risk of injury once you return to training. Take the extra time you have to ensure you consistently build strength and make yourself more injury bulletproof.
Tip 4 - do not return to training too fast - or give up altogether.
The temptation is often one of two things. The first, to keep testing the injury to see how its improving, exercising too soon and going back to square one. The other is to lose heart and stop doing anything at all until the pain has passed. I'd say I've fallen into both camps at various times and neither is a good option.
Much better is to take a pragmatic look at what you can and cannot do in terms of cross training and rehab / rehab exercises. Then to set some short term goals within those parameters.
So for me at the moment, swimming is the only thing that doesn't irritate the knee (an improvement as even this was not possible last week) - I find it boring and don't feel its getting me anywhere near my goals. But still, its better than nothing and it keeps me in the habit of doing something regularly - i.e. it maintains the level of discipline you'll have developed when in training.
Tip 5 - training less means you have more time in the day. For me, as I'm sure for most people, days are usually a total rush, trying to balance sport, work and family, often feeling I'm doing none of those things well. Less sport does free up the day quite significantly. Take the opportunity to do things you don't usually have time to do; I've started experimenting a bit with recipes, taking more care over the day to day things and researching things I don't usually have time to look into.
Tip 6 - returning to running. Your injury has gone, you're feeling rested - but now you want to get back to your training plan full throttle. No !!!! For starters you'll need to test your injury to make sure it really is better. Any niggles, stop, wait a day or two and then try again. Patience is the key. Again, I did not heed my own advice on this and reminded myself the hard way why its important. In the absence of running I thought I'd try the spin bike last weekend. My knee was niggling after about 20 mins - but in my mind I'd wanted to do 30. The 30 minutes became my goal rather than the importance of stopping at any onset of pain. Needless to say, when I got off the bike my knee was more painful than ever and I had probably set myself back a few days. Patience and discipline and you'll heal faster!
When you're confident you're injury free, build up the miles slowly. You can't expect to rejoin your training programme where you left off; if you need advice on how to build miles safely and to merge with your original programme, seek advice rather than guessing.
Hopefully the above will give some food for thought and will help anyone with an injury learn from my mistakes rather than making them themselves!
Happy running folks .