Time to Heal…

Being patient with your body and allowing time to heal is difficult, but absolutely necessary if your goal is to run for a long time. I struggle with taking time off just to rest and recover; an injury is just as difficult for me. Usually, I continue running on it-telling myself I can run through it. And many times running through minor injuries is fine. It’s the not so minor ones that you can’t run through. Even some minor ones, get worse if you try to run through them. Knowing the difference, is the difference between an experienced and novice runner.

Injury and time off is unfortunately part of the running experience. Alternatives to running are just not the same. You don’t get that runners high. You don’t get that peace and sense of freedom. The longer it takes to heal the more agitated you become. It’s easy to fall into a pessimistic and defeatist attitude. You become an expert at positive self talk or you fall into a depression. The longer you are in the recovery mode, the farther off running feels.

You definitely go through the seven stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.

Shock and denial are lumped together most of the time, “It’s not that bad,” “I can’t believe this has happened.” “It’s nothing to worry about,” “I can still run, it’s fine.” “It’s the shoes, I’ll just get a new pair.”

Anger is directed at pretty much everyone including other runners and yourself. You beat yourself up about not taking time off right when it happened. You decide you could have prevented it and were just stupid.

Bargaining-” Dear God, I’ll take time off right away next time, if I can just have my running back now.” “I’ll volunteer more and donate money, if I can just get back out there.” “I’ll do anything to get back out there!!” Anything, but take the time to heal that is. You  begin doing research about the fastest way to heal. You spend hours looking at new training programs, super foods, stretches, miracle vitamins, and strength training.

Depression comes in the form of the defeatist. “I’ll never run again.” “this is going to take years to heal.” “It will always hurt to run.” “I can’t be happy without my running.” “I can’t live without my running (you think this is going to far until you’ve been there).”

Testing-“I’ve taken a few days off, I can go back.” “I know it still hurts a little, but a little run won’t hurt it.” “Just an easy three miles.”

Acceptance- “this sucks, but my goal is to run until I die, so I guess I’ll spend six months doing physical therapy and then I’ll take the time to get back to running in the right way because if I don’t, I’ll be back where I was when this started.”

When you’re ready to start your epic return to running make sure it’s slow. Review my return from injury training program found above under the 5k and 10k training program link.

It’s a shame that we can’t start with acceptance. Maybe that should be our goal for our next injury because if we’re honest with ourselves, the next injury will come.

Returning from an Injury

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At some point we all end up injured and have to lay off the miles or stop running altogether. It sucks but it’s true. We push our bodies to their limit and then a little more. We don’t like to take rest days and many of us over train. We want to build our miles too quickly; we convince ourselves more is better even when we know it’s not (in theory).

Coming back from an injury can be an arduous process. Especially if your heart and lungs are still at top fitness making you feel like you’re going slow and could be going much faster or further. These modifications are not only good for coming back from an injury, but also for runners who tend to be more injury prone.

When you come back, make sure you have good shoes without a lot of wear and tear. If they are close to retirement, it’s best just to get a new pair. Start with low miles and a slower than normal long run pace. You may have to begin with a walk/run if you are coming back from a serious tear or a fracture. Try to keep the big picture in mind—you want to run for the rest of your life, not just for the next race. That’s always my line for dropping out of a race or for pushing through an injury.

Implement the up and down strategy by having a week of building miles and then have a week of lower steady miles. This is critical if it is a reoccurring or chronic injury. Slowly take out the down weeks as you progress without increased pain. A little pain when recovering from soft tissue injury is okay just make sure it doesn’t go over a 4 on a scale of 1-10. Only increase your miles by ten percent each week. If you’re coming back from a fracture, there shouldn’t be any pain.

Once you have removed the down weeks and are starting to build as you were before the injury, make sure your 4th week, the rest week, is really a rest week. Reduce your miles by 25% or even better take a week of gym time using a low impact machine or even running in the pool. Pool running is a perfect way to come back from a fracture because you can use all your running muscles and remove the impact.

As you increase your miles pay close attention to your form and your gait. You should be able to maintain good form. Also watch for an uneven distribution of your weight toward one side or the other. Either of those will cause a secondary injury.

Remember the goal is to come back stronger than before. You’ll get there; be patient.