My personal guide to coping with being injured
Derek Redmond at Barcelona Olympics 1992. He tore a hamstring, but still finished the 400m with the help of his father
I’ve been running fairly seriously for about a year now and my entry into this year’s Robin Hood Half Marathon marks the year since I entered my first competitive, organised run. I was hoping to enter and participate in the full marathon, but due to a calf injury that ruled me out for the best part of a month, I just couldn’t do the training a marathon requires and deserves…and there’s no way I’d only do things half-cocked, so best for me to wait for another time to enter my first marathon.
During those dark days of injury, it seemed to me that there were a number of issues I had to deal with on a daily basis, and this has inspired this blog post – how to cope with being injured.
Before this injury, I was of the mindset that injuries only happen to other people. Not me, I said. I’m invincible aren’t I?! I’m too healthy / active / sensible to let injury happen to me. And then it did. Wham! Straight out of the blue, and it worried me. I stopped running straight away. I knew to do this from what I’d read on other blogs, forums, articles, books etc. I walked back in a huff, gutted because I knew it wasn’t good.
There a number of issues I think you need to deal with when you get injured:
- Recognising and admitting there is a problem. For me, I recognised and admitted there was a problem straight away, because it felt like someone had shot me in the back of my calf muscle! However, it isn’t always going to be so blatant, and it could be an injury that saps your strength and energy, like overtraining for example, or consistently making bad food and sleep choices. I think it is really important to face up to the problem early.
- Decide what you’re going to do about it. Once you’ve identified the issue, the next thing to do is to have a plan of action to get it diagnosed / rested. RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment could be just what you need! In my case this time, I rested it for a few days (should have iced it though, big mistake not doing so!) and it felt ok, but still with a bit of pain there and I came back too soon and the injury came back straight away after just 2km. Bang! Shot in the calf again…Then I rested for a week and tried again, still no good. Rested for another week and it was fine. If it hadn’t have been, I’d have had to try resting for two weeks or more. I was so pleased when it felt ok again, but I have to admit that I should have rested it for longer initially and then I probably would have been back running properly sooner. If you’re not as tight with your money as I am, then you could get yourself checked out by a physio or doctor, get a massage, or if it feels like tense muscles, use a foam roller (I don’t know how to use them, I’ve just heard about people inflicting pain on themselves by using them!)
- Prepare yourself mentally for the long road to rehabilitation. Even if it is a matter of days, it will still feel like a long road back from injury and you need to be strong mentally to work out how you’re going to cope with not being able to run (or do the sport you like to do). I had to keep visualising myself running strong again in the future and reminding myself that resting and recovering well now, would be more beneficial in the future. For me, I had to immerse myself in running books (I’m currently reading ‘The Art of Running Faster’ by Julian Goater and Don Melvin), checking out other races in the future, checking out other people’s activity on Strava, etc. Basically, I had to keep my finger on the pulse and keep doing what I usually do, even if I couldn’t be the one doing the running for a while. Perhaps you couldn’t stand to be anywhere near anything connected with running when you’re injured though. If so, you still need to keep busy so that in those quiet times when you start getting stressed about your injury, or feel upset, then you have a hobby or strategy for keeping your mind busy and averted from the worst thing of all: feeling sorry for yourself. Feeling sorry for yourself ingratiates you to no-one. No-one likes to be around a miserable person, and feeling miserable for yourself means you take up a whole load of energy that could be put to better use, looking out for others, encouraging and helping others, working on other aspects of your interests, your family, or even your job (heaven forbid!).
- Involve others. When you’re injured you can feel isolated. I know that I personally felt like a bit of a leper, like I wasn’t worthy in society because there was something wrong with me. What a plonker! Fortunately, I have a wonderful family to keep me feeling happy and not wallowing in my own pit of stink-ridden pity!
- Have a comeback plan. Fortunately for me, I had a race booked in that was touch and go whether I would run in it or not, but I recovered just in time and had that race as a target to work towards in my recovery. Yes, there were many setbacks along the way, but it was such a buzz to actually be there running the race when I looked back and thought about all the times I didn’t think I’d be able to run it. It made me feel so thankful for being fit again, and being able to run!
- Test it out. I was silly. After a week’s rest (my second attempted comeback out of three!), I decided to go for a slow jog, that then involved some fast 400m sprints…probably a bad idea! It turned out to be a bad idea because I ended up getting the same injury occur again afterwards on my slow jog back home. There’s no doubt in my mind that it was the fast running that aggravated the injury. What I SHOULD have done was just do the slow jog and leave it at that.
- Build your mileage back up slowly. I think this is probably the most obvious point of all. You can’t suddenly go from zero mileage to your mileage you were running straight before the injury without putting yourself at a high risk of injuring yourself again. Take it steady and remember that doing too much too soon is the main reason why people get injured quickly again when coming back from injury.
I hope this little guide to coping with being injured helps you put your injury into perspective and gives you some signposts for how to get back to your best after injury.
I’d love to hear your stories of injuries, comebacks and how you’ve dealt with being injured and getting back to your best.
In future posts, I’ll be sharing my running book list with you so far, telling you about how my half marathon training is going, and hopefully sharing with you an interview with a fellow runner! Keep coming back for more! 🙂