How to survive a running injury
What I found worked during my seven months off from running.
This post was originally published on the Momentum Jewelry Blog here
So you're injured and you can't run your goal race. Your friends are all meeting on Saturday mornings for group long runs and you're not out there with them. I totally get it; I've been there. I had a nasty heel injury last fall that took me seven months to recover from and get back out on the road running this March. I could not run what should have been my first full marathon in November, and I missed months of training runs with my run club. I feel your pain, but during those long months I learned some valuable lessons of how to survive (and thrive) during a running injury and make the best of the situation.
1. Become a cheerleader. No I don't mean buy pom poms and try out for your local cheer squad. I mean go to that race you were supposed to run and be your run club's biggest cheerleader! When the Philadelphia Marathon rolled around in November, I bundled up in 37 layers (because it was 35 degrees with 30mph winds), supplied water and gels to my friends out on the course, and I screamed my head off for them. Or, find a local race and volunteer at the water stops or finish line. Stay involved in your running community and support the runners who are still out there on the road or trails. It will boost your spirits and fuel the fire for when you can lace up your shoes again.
2. Keep moving. Now is the time to focus on cross training and strength training. Hop on a bike, swim, or try a yoga or barre class. During my recovery I thoroughly enjoyed weekly yoga and barre sessions. Let me tell you, barre is tough! Talk about focused strength and coordination. Many running injuries are caused by an imbalance leading to compensation in your gait. Focus on your weaknesses and strive to come back stronger. Unless of course you are immobilized by a fracture or cast, and in those cases it's best to rest and focus on recovery. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist and make sure any activity you're doing is not going to prolong your injury further.
3. Take Advantage. Do the things that you’ve been putting off. Write in your journal. Watch that running documentary (if you need suggestions, ask me!!). Meet up with a friend you haven't seen in ages. Use your time wisely and be selfish! You have the extra time now, so use it.
4. Stop Googling your symptoms. I'll admit, I do this as well and sometimes Google can help. But a majority of the time it's a complete waste of time. Google told me I had heel spurs and nerve entrapment, which I can tell you right now was NOT the cause of my injury. Instead, surround yourself with a team that you trust and use them for your resources. After many doctors’ appointments and imaging studies, I found that my best resources were my physical therapist, my chiropractor, and my massage therapist. It all depends on the injury, but these guys are called doctors and professionals for a reason. Use them.
5. Come back slowly. No seriously, slow down. Really, even slower. After taking a good amount of time off, you can't expect your body to return to the same fitness. Depending on the injury, you may need to get used to the pounding again. Even if it feels good, have the patience and control to hold back and think about the long term, and keep doing your therapy and cross training! Take it one mile at a time. Since starting to run again in March I have eased back up to six miles and I’m taking it nice and slow. The goal is to run for the rest of our lives, right?
6. Stay positive. I know it’s easier said than done, but keep your head up. Spend some time with friends and enjoy a few laughs. You will not feel this way forever and this injury too will pass. Those months may seem like forever, but I promise your time will come to get back out on the road just like I have!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and the recommendations provided are based on my own personal experience with a running injury. Please consult your physician before starting any new exercise regimen.