What are the two words that a runner, at any experience level, never wants to hear? “You’re injured”.
Unfortunately, if you run, there’s a very high probability that you will get injured at some point in your running “career”. It could be as minor as a sprained ankle from hitting the trails too hard or as serious as a series of stress fractures that will take months to heal. But don’t be afraid because, with some hard work and the right attitude, you will get through it!
So for this month’s Running 101, I thought it would be valuable to talk about how to cope with the dreaded running injury. And I’m happy to share some resources from some of my favorite running bloggers who have also learned a few things along the way!
I’ve previously shared the following Running 101 topics:
Getting injured is definitely my biggest fear when it comes to running. And it has happened. In my first year of running, I had awful pain in my knees that was later diagnosed as Runner’s Knee. Then not even a year later, I ended up with a stress fracture in my foot. Then a few months after that, I was diagnosed with Plantar Fasciitis in both arches. I essentially lost an entire year of running…ugh.
I wish I knew where to turn in those days because when I was injured, it was very hard on me emotionally. When you fall in love with running and then you suddenly can’t do it anymore, it’s a tough pill to swallow! Thankfully, you can and you will get through it. Based on my experiences with being an injured runner, here are my tips on how to cope.
It can be really hard to accept that you’re injured. What if you were training for the biggest race of your life? How much time and money have you invested? Now all of your plans have to come to a halt. And it sucks! It’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to feel lost. Bottling up your emotions during this time is the worst thing that you can do. Once you blow off some steam and accept your fate, it’s so much easier to move forward.
Here are a couple of articles that help in that first phase of injury:
First off, let me say that at the first sign of trouble, GO SEE A DOCTOR! If you’re feeling a nagging pain or any discomfort that concerns you, it’s better to be safe than sorry and make an appointment than thinking you can “run it off”! If you’ve been injured a few times like I have, you don’t take any chances!
Now with that said, denial is not just a river in Egypt. If you go to a specialist and they tell you that you’re injured…it’s going to be hard to hear. I’ll never forget when my sports medicine doctor instantly knew I had a stress fracture and I said “no way”…but he was right. Work with professionals that you can trust and that understand that running is important to you so you can get a realistic plan to get you back on your feet.
And when it’s time to go to physical therapy, do your exercises! I can admit that I was lazy my first round; I didn’t do the exercises at home and I only went into therapy once a week. That’s not the smartest way to recover! I wrote a post all about how to make the most of your time in PT.
And please, if you are instructed not to run and take it easy, listen! Don’t hobble off on a run when you know that you’re hurting! Don’t try to justify cheating on your recovery plan, because that’s exactly what you’re doing. In the short term it may seem wise, but in the long run, you could have created a more serious problem. Believe me, it isn’t worth it.
Here are a few articles with helpful PT exercises, depending on your injury:
There are so many types of injuries that can occur while you’re a runner. I’ve already mentioned my knees and my feet, but you could hurt your back, have issues with your IT band, you even could be diagnosed with a long-term illness that physically impairs you…so many things can happen. But just because you can’t run, that doesn’t mean you can’t find new ways to stay active!
Can you walk? Swim? Cycle? Aqua-jog? Work on your upper body? Talk to your medical professionals and find out what is safe for you to do while injured, and always err on the side of caution! You will likely have to stick to low-impact exercises at a much lower intensity than you’re used to. Humble yourself and enjoy this new challenge as you try to maintain your fitness as best as you can!
Here are some more helpful tips:
The last thing you want to be around when you’re injured is a bunch of healthy, happy people running all the miles and looking carefree. Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself! When I was injured with my stress fracture back in 2013, I was so depressed. I gained a bunch of weight and I was absolutely miserable because I couldn’t work out like I used to. Running and boot camp were my favorite activities and I had to give them up for 4 months. Knowing me, if I surrounded myself with a bunch of runners who talked about races nonstop while I sat on the sidelines, things would have been even worse.
Maybe it’s Instagram and Facebook with their perfectly curated photos that affect your self-esteem. Maybe reading race recaps on running blogs gives you overwhelming FOMO (fear of missing out). Whatever makes you feel bad about yourself for being injured, especially when it’s completely irrational or irrelevant…let it go! I’ve already talked about fighting that negative inner voice as a new (or experienced) runner. When you’re injured, work even harder to arm yourself from the negativity!
Oh, and if you’re an emotional eater like I am, don’t be tempted to drown your sorrows in extra (empty) calories!!
Here are some accounts of what my fellow runners have gone through:
What types of things did you do before running became a big part of your life? Have there been things that you have neglected in order to focus on your training? Well, now’s the time to finish that book you started 3 months ago. Now’s the time to sleep in because you don’t have to run 18 miles on Saturday morning. Now’s the time to give your friends and family ALL of the attention you’ve wanted to give them but have honestly had to scale back because of running. Hey, I’m just keeping it real!
Even though I’ve only been running for a little over 6.5 years, running has become a huge part of my identity. But it’s not all that I care about, and I’m sure that is the case for you too. Take this time off as an injured to become more connected with everything else in your life. You won’t regret it.
But above all, I think that the perspective you keep plays a huge role in your recovery. It might sound a little cheesy, but a positive attitude really makes a difference. Getting injured isn’t the end of the world. Missing a race isn’t the end of the world. This is just a temporary setback. People get injured all the time and eventually return to running. And even if it takes you a little bit longer to get back to full speed, it’s okay! Patience really is a virtue. I may not be as fast as I was before my injuries, but I’m a much stronger runner now and I’m grateful that I never gave up running!
And when the time comes to start running again, here’s some great advice:
Have you ever had a running injury? What did you do to get through it?