This post/episode was originally published in February of 2018 and revisited for the first time as a Best Of-ish in March of 2020. The post/show notes are more or less copy/pasted from the original post, but the podcast audio is a new take on the topic.
Whether we want to admit it or not, running injuries are all too common in our ranks.
Yeah, no joke!
But facts are facts. And the odds are that all of us will have to deal with at least one running-related injury at some point in our running careers. (And the odds say at least half of us will have to deal with an injury this year!)
As such, perhaps we should talk a little bit about the process of coming back from an injury then, eh?
A Very Common Mistake
One of, if not the, most common mistakes that I see runners make when they return to running after an injury is “testing” their injury way too much.
Basically, we runners tend to suffer from a lack of patience.
So instead of taking a certain amount of time off (depending on the severity and location of the injury) to allow our bodies to actually heal themselves completely, we take a day or few and then go for a short run to test things.
So much for giving our bodies enough time to properly rest and recover, eh?
By testing your injury every few days, you are breaking up the healing process and slowing your return to running.
As a best-case scenario, you’re probably taking two steps forward, one step back.
But in some cases, the ratio is probably reversed (or worse!).
Testing the Injury
At some point while coming back from an injury, you are going to have to go for a little run to see how things are progressing.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, a lot of runners get this part wrong too.
When testing an injury, too often runners will push their luck.
If half a mile feels good, let’s see how a mile feels. Or two. Or three.
I’m pretty sure you get my point.
And what ends up happening is that by overdoing the test, we go farther than our body is ready/able to go and the injury is (very often) reaggravated.
Try This Instead
Like I said above, your return to running after an injury really is often a delicate process.
There is no way that I can give any specific advice when it comes to recovering from whatever injury you are dealing with.
But I can give you some suggestions to try and help you get back in a timely manner while hopefully avoiding any setbacks along the way.
If you are injured, odds are you will need to take some time off.
No running. Period.
How much time off is needed? It could be a few weeks. It could be a few months. Obviously, it depends on the severity of the injury but you absolutely have to be patient and allow your body to do its thing.
Just because you can’t run, doesn’t mean that you can’t do something to help build and/or maintain your level of fitness.
Can you cycle? Swim? Use the rowing machine? Go for a hike? Do yoga? Strength train? Foam roll?
While you’re avoiding running like the plague, find out what you can do to keep working toward your goals and do it!
Test it Intelligently
When it comes to finally test your injury, the goal isn’t to see how much you can do before you start to feel your injury again.
The goal should be to finish your run completely pain-free!
Ergo, you need to be willing to ease back into the running waters quite slowly. And when you actually test your run, stop BEFORE you start to have a problem with your injury.
Maybe that’s only one lap around the block. Maybe it’s a mile.
Again, every issue is unique but when coming back from injury it’s almost always prudent to err on the side of caution.
Come Back Cautiously
After ample time off and several positive test runs, you’ll be about ready to get back to your training without any restrictions.
That said, do so cautiously.
You can’t just jump back into doing whatever you were doing in training from a few weeks (or months) ago and think that everything will be fine.
Remember, you haven’t been running much since the injury, so you need to give your body a little time to reacclimate to the pounding that is inherent in our sport.
Build your mileage back up slowly, or you’ll be running the risk of developing a new injury to have to deal with!
Remember: There Will (Likely) Be Set Backs
Coming back from an injury is a delicate process, and even if you do everything right there are likely to be some minor setbacks along the way.
When a test doesn’t go quite the way you’d hoped, or when you have taken a few weeks off and realize you need to take a few more weeks off as well, remember that it is all part of the process.
It sucks, obvi, but it’s the nature of the beast.
The key to successfully coming back from an injury is to not do anything foolish to create more setbacks for yourself along the way.
Stay patient. Try to incorporate some cross-training. Test it intelligently and return to the sport cautiously.
If you can do all of that, you’ll be back to running pain-free as quickly as possible.
If I can help you with your recovery from an injury, let’s talk.
Running injuries, and injuries in general, are definitely my area of expertise. If you’re struggling with an injury, schedule a consult call and I’ll try to give you some clarity on your situation and some tips on how to proceed with your comeback.
How Do You Cope with Being Injured? How Patient are You When It’s Time to Return to Running?
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