If you’re a runner, no doubt at some time during your running journey you will unfortunately find yourself side-lined through injury. Whether it’s a long term injury or just a niggle that won’t go away, time off from your running routine will happen eventually.
There’s no doubt that running is healthy, it’s probably one of the best activity you can do to burn calories and get fit. Running is not only good for our bodies but also our minds. It can help with a whole load of health issues from weight related illnesses to depression and anxiety. Running releases, the happy endorphins that produce the runners high that we all experience after training and races. Unfortunately though running doesn’t come without it’s risks. The constant pounding of the hard roads can be quite taxing on our bodies. The pros of running completely outweigh the cons so don't worry too much! But a fact of running is we do get injured from time to time.
Some common injuries include shin splints, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures. If you have any type of pain from running the best advice I can give is to seek professional advice! I’m no doctor! Injury advice is best left to the professionals. What advice I can offer though is what to do during your time off.
During my running journey so far I’ve had 3 injuries that have put me out for quite some time. Shin splints, a bad knee and a tibia bone injury.
I didn't do too much during the first two injuries apart from rest but early this year I had reached a new level of fitness and I wanted to remain as fit as possible during my time off. I was advised by the doctors and physio's that I could do some training as long as it was non weight bearing.
I headed to the local pool and signed up to the gym. With swimming being completely non-impact it was ideal for me. I tried a few swims. I didn't do too much though - I'm not the biggest fan of swimming. I’m not the biggest fan of the gym either! But I tried to go as much as possible to use the static bike. I only managed about twice a week as it didn't offer me the same buzz my running did, but I knew some type of exercise was better than none. It helped me keep a level of fitness and after all, some exercise is better than none! It also kept me focused and motivated during my layoff.
If you keep a running log look back for clues as to why you got injured. An increase in mileage, running too hard too frequently, racing too often, overtraining, worn shoes - all these things can all lead to injury. During your time off it’s also good to stay in the running loop. Go and help out at your local club sessions, volunteer at your local parkrun, go to races to support. I did lots of watching during my injury. It’s always good to watch a race even though you really want to be taking part, it keeps you motivated to come back stronger! Just don't come back too quickly as you might become injured again and be forced to start the whole process from scratch. Don't be frustrated on your return. Be happy at being able to run at all! The fitness will come back in time.
Maybe the best injury advice is to not get injured in the first place! This might sound impossible, but there are things you can actually do to help protect yourself from injury. Here are a few tips from me....
1. Warm up, cool down.
Use the start and end of your runs to warm up. Get the body primed for running. Finish your session with a cool down and stretch. Use your foam roller.
2. Get the right shoe for you.
Get fitted by a specialist store for the correct shoe for your foot.
Replace shoes approx. after 400 miles or whenever the support is gone.
3. Don't just run!
Cross train a few times a week. It reduces impact on the body while maintaining fitness. Swim, cycle, gym, even a dance class will do the trick!
4. The 10% rule. (Train smart)
Never increase your training load by more than 10% a week. Include a cut back week every few weeks to allow the body to recover and absorb your training. Include a good variety of easy and harder running days each week.
5. Vary your terrain.
Mix up your workouts by running on road, track, off-road, trail, grass and sand. Mixing things up will help prevent the stresses of the hard surface impacts and off road builds strong legs and ankles.
6. Don't run through the pain!
If something hurts.... STOP! Running through a niggle can eventually turn that niggle into a bigger injury. (I've been guilty of this one) A few days’ rest to sort a niggle is far better than long spells on the side line!
When you do get back running again build up slowly. During my return I found myself stranded mid run due to my legs giving up on me! The conditioning in my legs had completely gone. I had a few miserable walks home after things went wrong but the strength came back eventually.
I noticed it took me the same time ‘resting’ through my injury as it did for me for my body to harden up to the running action again. 8 weeks away will mean around 8 weeks of building back the strength in your legs on your return. It takes time! Be patient. You won't be running your best during your return, but you will have a very big smile back on your face and you will appreciate being able to run again.
I have always learnt things the hard way and tried to do my own thing with my running (usually finding out it’s the wrong way of doing things lol) but the biggest lesson regarding running injuries for me is to listen to your body. Your body gives you the warning signs when you push too hard too often, its whether you listen to the warning signs or not that can make you or break you! A few days’ rest to sort a niggle, or a few months off when things go really bad? You decide.
Train smart to race hard!
Happy & healthy running!