Injured Runners Anonymous

If ever there were to be support groups for runners, they would spend most of their time discussing woeful tales of injuries and the sanity challenges they bring. 

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Research says up to 80 per cent of runners get injured every year. That’s a scary probability and chances are many of you reading this will be injured, sitting there with your dreams of racing on November 3 hanging in the balance.

If this is you, read on, everything here is written to help you stay on track mentally and physically and not let all the hard work from the past few months of running go to nought.

Seek Advice

There are many great physios and medical professionals out there who will be able to get to the root cause of your problem much quicker than good old Dr Google can. Be sure to find a physio with both a professional and personal involvement in running. And when you do, it’s  worthwhile getting a second opinion on any injury diagnosis, just to make sure. Also take the time to educate yourself so you can understand the importance of each step in your rehabilitation.

On top of this, seek out an experienced runner or coach who will be able to offer wisdom from their injury experiences and can give important guidance about training.

Take Relative Rest

Practically every running injury requires you to notch back your speed work, hills, and overall running volume to some degree. The most serious injuries require complete rest for weeks or even months, but often, in more moderate injuries, keeping some level of activity can be helpful. This might mean that you only run every second day, run on soft surfaces, and only as long as the pain remains mild or absent. Additionally, to help fitness levels, you can supplement your reduced running with things like speed walking and drills, so long as the pain levels stay very low.

Strengthen & Stretch

When you’re injured you suddenly have a lot more time on your hands. Use this time to strengthen and lengthen the muscles, so that you can bounce back from the injury as a stronger, more balanced runner. Do pilates or yoga, use a foam roller, work on that six-pack through functional core training, and spend time building up gluteus strength.

Cross Train

Before getting my first running injury, I was a very average swimmer. To me, 100 metres in the pool was the equivalent of running a half marathon. But the gravity-free environment of water is ideal for staying fit while injured. Your injury also provides a great opportunity to tackle a new sport: after several injuries I can now comfortably swim over 2000m, have semi-mastered the tumble turn, and, best yet, I no longer look like I’m drowning.

Aqua jogging is the other great weapon in the injured runner’s arsenal. Try doing interval sessions to stave off the boredom of splashing about in the deep end.

Don’t Lose Hope

A whopping 69 per cent of running injuries resolve within 10 days. So you may only have one or two weeks of less-than-ideal training before you’re back on the roads. In the big scheme of things, this is nothing and will probably be the case for most of your competitors.

If your injury is more long term, allow yourself the opportunity to set new, intermediate fitness goals while you wait for the running injury to heal. This might be in swimming, cycling, surfing, bodybuilding, a new diet, hiking, stand up paddling, or simply spending more time with friends and family. There are endless fitness opportunities out there, so if you have to reassess your goals away from running, get out there and make the most of your options before you once more booking away your weekends to two- or three-hour runs.

A Final Note on Injuries

The most common running injuries are simple overuse problems (as opposed to the traumatic injuries you might get in a rugby tackle). They include shin splints (pain in the muscles surrounding the shin bone), Achilles tendinopathy (pain between the lower calf and heel), patella femoral syndrome (a.k.a. “runner’s knee”-felt around the knee cap), iliotibial band syndrome (“ITB”-felt on the outside of the knee), and plantar fasciitis (pain on the sole of the foot usually near the heel).

If you come back from a run and have any of these niggles, first stretch mildly, then slap a bag of peas on the injured area (to reduce swelling), rinse your legs down with cold water, and then rest. If there’s no improvement over the following two days, seek help. Book your physio appointment early because good clinics get booked out weeks in advance and you can always cancel the appointment if things come right.

This is an entry from a blog Hayden Shearman writes over at Stuff.co.nz.

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