“What?!” I hear you cry, “Are you insane?”
Well, no. Don’t misunderstand, I know the misery of being injured and unable to train. And the more you trained and the fitter you were prior to being injured, the more doom and gloom hits when you suddenly become incapacitated. But, unless you were injured in a freak accident (which is a very low percentage of injuries) then injuries are usually nature’s way of telling you that you need a rest and/or to change how you’re training. I touch wood as I write this, apart from a recent calf strain (more on that shortly) my last injury was back in 2008 and it completely floored me, affected my mental health and I still have to manage it now. I was training on the indoor rower, or rather I was over-training and did one sprint too many resulting in a disc injury. It was months before I could row or run again and I was miserable. Even now, I get backaches rather than headaches and I know that it’s just my body giving me a warning: stop over doing it. I listen now 🙂
You don’t have to stop training completely, but you do need to rest the injured body part. It’s an emotional journey but one that so much can be learned from, providing you listen. It is not uncommon for runners to be injured and more often than not it’s caused by either building up the distance too quickly (especially for beginners: shinsplints!) or simply overtraining. It’s all about smart training, not junk miles. It’s interesting to watch athletes (and I include all levels of fitness here) and how they deal with injuries. They tend to fall into two camps.
Firstly, there’s the ‘head in sand’ camp. These are the people who see themselves as just unlucky and keep getting injured. They continue to book marathons even when they are out injured – a clear sign that there is no change in their training volume going to happen any time soon. These people spend more time injured than they do exercising. A rower I know, who’s a runner too, falls into this category. He’s mid fifties and is injured about 50% of the time. He gets super fit, over trains and then TWANG! Something snaps. So he sits out for a few weeks and then starts training again. And guess what? The cycle starts again. I know, when we are uninjured the temptation is to ‘make up for lost time’ and train twice as hard, but that’s a one way road to further injury.
And then there’s the ‘look back and learn’ camp. Exactly as it says on the tin. Establish what exactly caused the injury and while rehabbing it, plan how to train differently to avoid a repeat injury.
So, what should you do if you’re injured? Firstly, rest that body part. You’ve got plenty of options for other types of exercise to keep those endorphins going. If you’ve got a running injury then do some upper body work; strength work, boxing, swimming (depending on your injury), corework. If you’ve injured an upper body part then get those legs moving! Secondly, work out WHY you got injured and change your training habits. This is the important bit because if you don’t accept what caused the injury, you’ll only repeat it a few weeks or months down the line.
I had a calf strain recently. I couldn’t walk on it for 3 days and I was an emotional mess. BUT having been out of the game for so long when I injured my back, I DID follow the physio’s orders of rest, then certain rehab exercises and no running for a month. I rowed as soon as I could row pain free and within a month I was 100% healed. And the injury cause? After not enough running training, I did some short blasts with quick changes of direction and my calves simply didn’t like it. I will build up to doing them again, but first I need to get a bit more running in (after doing more rowing than running recently.).
So, what’s my point?
Devastating as it may seem at the time, your injury WILL heal. How fast will depend on how you treat it. Rush the recovery and you’ll be out for longer. Stop all exercise and you’ll also be out for longer. Keep moving (whichever body parts you can!) but most importantly, work out what caused the injury and change your habits!
I hope you’re not injured and don’t get injured any time soon, but if you do, remember, it’s not all bad.