Welcome to Day 10 of our Devoted New Year series! Today we are talking about dealing with injuries! These posts are brought to you by Meridith creator of Devoted Training; a 52 week faith-based training journal, and myself. We hope you enjoy!
Injuries are part of being an athlete. The objective of training is to break down the body so that it can adapt. And sometimes that boundary can be hard to see until you start feeling a niggle or a full-on injury. David Roche wrote an article on injuries saying, “Sometimes, being a runner means not running for a while. Injury is the inevitable side-effect of being a lifelong runner, much like death is the inevitable side-effect of being a lifelong human being.” As much as we all hate to sit on the sidelines for recovery, it helps to know that there is no shame in being part of the club.
How you deal with injury is another opportunity for growth. In A Life Without Limits, Chrissy Wellington says, “Remaining positive really is one of the most precious faculties for any athlete. That, and an ability to stay focused and disciplined.” You can’t undo the injury but you can choose how you want to respond to it. Take a minute to grieve over your injury, and then start to focus on what you CAN do, whether it’s cross training or adopting a positive attitude.
Below are some basic tips if you find yourself injured:
- Take time off: as unpopular as this suggestion may be, it can sometimes be the difference between taking 3 days off or 6 weeks off.
- Schedule an appointment: a PT, chiro, or massage therapist can often do treatments like ART, graston technique, or dry needling. Doctors may be able to give you a more definitive diagnosis. If you get a diagnosis or recommendation that you are uncomfortable with, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.
- Tape: try something like Rock Tape or KT tape, depending on the location of the injury.
- Increase blood flow to the area: suggestions include massage, contrast baths (add Epsom salts for added benefit), and compression socks. Check out more recovery tools here.
- Replace old shoes: shoes lose support as they break down. Evaluate shoes after 350 miles to make sure they are still giving you the support that you need.
- Rotate shoes: This is especially true if you have a lower leg injury. Ease into new shoes slowly so that you do not create a new injury. If you have a calf or Achilles injury, consider trying a higher drop shoe. (Notice how important feet are. Learn more about strengthening your feet here.)
- Cross train: if you haven’t been cross training regularly, ease into your new routine so that you do not create a new injury. Even though cross training isn’t the same as running, it can help maintain your aerobic fitness. Check out more cross training tips here.
- Adopt a strength routine: work on imbalances through strength work. Be careful not to create a new injury by rushing into things, but time off of running allows for more time to develop a strength routine. Read more about strength training here.
- Nutrition: it may be tempting to skimp on food when your workouts are limited, but now is the time to fill your body with a lot of good foods. Read more about nutrition here.
The placebo effect is real, so even if these tips don’t magically heal your injury, actionable steps can help assuage the frustration of not running.
Since both of us (Sara and Meridith) have experienced running through pregnancy, we have to insert a note to acknowledge that pregnancy can sometimes feel like an injury when it comes to running. Running during pregnancy can be a challenge, and the recovery and return to running is definitely a process. Staying positive, working on strength, and finding your community are all things to help make pregnancy more enjoyable and the return to running more promising.
In Daniel’s Running Formula, Jack Daniels says that there is no loss in VDOT (velocity at VO2max) after 5 days without training. After about 10 weeks, the athlete will have lost as much VDOT as will occur without any training, which is about 20%. With cross training, these decreases in fitness are minimized, and seasoned athletes are able to return to pre-injury shape easier than novice athletes.
We all know the story of Shalane Flanagan pulling out of Boston 2017 due to injury, only to come back and win the New York City Marathon later in the year. Similarly, Des Linden showed the world that time off can be a benefit when she won the Boston Marathon in 2018 after taking the summer off due to burnout.
Healing from an injury is a process with a lot of growth, and so is the return to training after time off. Hopefully you return with a new appreciation for the gift to run and a renewed motivation to train and race.
What are your strategies for dealing with injuries?