A lot of runners have training programmes linked to specific dates, such as races or those who are trying to lose weight for an important event. Keeping on track when you have a target to train for is vital – not just physically, but also in psychological terms too. Feeling like you are falling behind on your all-too-important progress can seriously hamper that most crucial ingredient of any training programme: motivation.
With the ability to put an instant halt to training, injury has to be one of the most frustrating things that can happen to anyone who is working towards a goal. Key to coping with injury is a basic philosophical acceptance that it is likely to happen at some point. If we accept that we will probably get injured at some point, the next thing is having a strategy for getting through it – and ideally, avoid it happening again.
Chances are – you did too much too soon. We all do. So what? You thought you were better than you were. Never mind – many runners do! It probably felt good at the start anyway, but then maybe there was a niggle you ignored…maybe there wasn’t: either way, you pushed your body that little bit more than it wanted to be pushed.
Warming up is vital. Try and resist the temptation to go straight out for the run. Sure – time is of the essence and you just want to hit the road, but a few minutes of stretching might just save many days of nursing a sore muscle.
If you really, really don’t have the time to stretch properly just make sure you build up the pace on your run gradually. Don’t go hell for leather as soon as you’re out of the door. Wind up gradually – sure your head knows what’s coming, but why not give your muscles a little heads-up too?
By the same token, if you’re not going to give your muscles the “luxury” of a cool down, then build this in to your route. Make the last mile, or half-mile a much slower and gentler pace – certainly not the same as in the “heart” of your run.
Like it or not (and trust me – I do not like it), but you get what you pay for. If you’re running in old worn out shoes, perhaps you shouldn’t be too surprised if they cause you problems.
If you’re serious about running – and particularly serious about running long-distances – you should really have your gait analysed. Watch the slow-motion video of your foot strike and you’ll gain a better understanding of just what’s been going on. Get shoes that support you where they need to support you. Seek advice from people who know what they’re talking about – but watch out for the hard sell. You don’t have to break the bank to avoid breaking your legs.
If supportive shoes alone aren’t enough, consider supportive insoles. In more extreme cases you may even require orthotics. Professionally-fitted orthotics will cost you, possibly more than you’re willing to pay. But then – what price are you willing to pay to not have an injury?
Whatever it is, you’ll probably want to double it.
Building up the miles too fast is probably the most common cause of all injuries. The mind gets carried away and carries the body with it – up to a point. Regardless of the advice you may hear about how much to increase your distance by, one thing is certain: the more miles you do, the more you will learn about your body. Listen to what your body is telling you. A small pain when you’re doing five miles a week is obviously going to feel much, much more when you increase that to over twenty. Don’t expect it to go away. Deal with it.
So – rest up as necessary; review and then restart. Just maybe go a little gentler this time.
Your body may well be a temple, but don’t try and aim for something on the scale of the Great Pyramid of Giza on your first outing. Start small, and build up gradually. Rome wasn’t built in a day you know.
Slightly different to the causes listed above are accidents: those momentary lapses of reason or acts of unforeseen calamity which see us completely side-swiped and out of action. In these instances, everything was going right: you’d done everything you should – prepared correctly, trained correctly and then – BANG! It happened.
First thing to consider is that sentence – “you had done everything you should”. Take heart from that: you knew what you were doing. It was all going well and then this unforeseen event came along and forced you to put everything on hold. This means it can all go right again when you heal. And heal you will.
Also while very tempting, there’s little point in looking to turn back time. It happened. Accidents do. That’s their whole M.O. Don’t go wishing it hadn’t – because that really is pointless. Ask yourself if you could have avoided it in any way. If you could have, then learn from that. Make Darwin happy and evolve. Do things differently next time in an effort to avoid a repeat.
However, if you feel that the answer is “no” – then to hell with it! There was nothing you could do anyway so why beat yourself up? In fact, be well aware that it could easily happen again. Wait for your body to heal and then get back out there…
Whatever the cause of injury, it’s important to try and use the “down-time” productively. If you’re able to train, then why not look at other areas – those exercises you never took seriously like planks for example. Maybe focus on the upper body for a while, or try a different form of exercise as rehabilitation. Swimming? Cycling? They may not replace your love for the run, but if you can continue to be active – you should certainly try. It might help you discover a new-found love, or perhaps steer you towards triathlons. There’s nothing better than turning a negative into a positive.
If you’re completely unable to exercise, you can still put the time to good use. Read up on your sport, take some time out to study aspects you may have previously overlooked – like nutrition perhaps?
However you use the time – try not to let the injury become an excuse for not achieving something. Instead, use it as a motivator. Come back from your recovery stronger. Smarter. More focused. More determined.
You never know: you could even wind up being grateful it happened.