I’m INJURED! Now what?!

We’ve all been there. You thought you were finally getting into shape, that slow jog was finally becoming comfortable…well, manageable, and then, “BOOM!” out of nowhere you wake up and can hardly walk to the bathroom. Your foot, or calf, or quad is throbbing. You pray, “anything but this!” Something is definitely not right. What happened, and more importantly, what do you do now? Here’s a quick checklist of things to go through when yourun into an injury.

1. Stop Catastrophizing!

Take a deep breathe. As long as a bone is not protruding from your skin, you should be OK and worrying about this injury is not going to help heal you. Yeah, you might miss that 5k or marathon you’ve been working up to but there will be another opportunity. Who knows, maybe this injury is just a ‘niggle’ and will go away in a few days. If you have put in two months of training, two days of rest will not hurt your fitness.

2. Can I Run On It?

You probably know pretty quickly if you will be able to run. For the most part, it is best to just take a few days off to see if the pain goes away on its own. Many running injuries are basic overuse injuries that can be treated with rest, icing, compression, elevation and some over-the-counter anti- inflammatory medication.

If you know it’s bad, or are really concerned, it’s time to go see you doctor. The same rule goes for an injury that does not respond to a few days of rest or seems to get worse with time off. The best advice I’ve ever received about injuries or an illness what that it is better to take ONE day off today than to need to take a few weeks off later. When you’re unsure, error toward caution.

3. Am I Altering My Stride?

A quick test to see if you should run through any amount of pain (assuming your race is tomorrow) is whether you can run without changing your stride or running form. If you have to limp or are dragging you leg you are better off taking some down time and rebuilding for the next race.

4. How Many Days Should I Take Off?

The first thing to consider when assessing how much time an injury will need to heal is timing. When is that goal race? If it’s six months away, you have a lot of time to rest and get back to 100%, if it’s in 3 weeks, you don’t have that kind of luxury.

Next, what kind of injury is it? Reach out to someone who knows about running injuries, preferably a doctor. Then choose an appropriate time frame for return to running based on the injury type. A stress fracture will take about two months to heal and then a month of rebuilding to make sure the bone is ready for action, while a minor inflammation may take a few days of easy activity before being ready to go again.

5. OK, I’m Out For A LONG Time!

It’s time to consider cross training. A low-impact or non-weight – bearing activity like the elliptical, aqua-jogging, or stationary biking could be a good option to maintain or even gain fitness while you are recovering. Something to keep in mind while cross training is that you need to get your heart rate up to simulate the pressure placed on your body during a run. This means working hard enough that you can’t read a magazine or talk to your friend on the phone during a workout. Similar to a run, you should feel comfortably fatigued after a cross training session.

6. Rehab and Prehab: Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Again.

Find out what your problem is or was and seek guidance from someone who knows. Look to training partners, a physical therapist, and/or doctor to get ideas to strengthen things that contributed to your injury. This may seem obvious, but many people ignore this simple advice, ‘if you find ways to strengthen your imbalances, you will have far fewer injuries!’

A few other things to keep in mind while you are injured: Once you have reached a level of fitness, it is easier to get back to that fitness level that it was the first time. That means that if you finally ran that 27-minute 5k before your injury, you can probably get back to that level of running within a month or two of training. Some runners actually improve during their time spent nursing an injury. An injury is your body’s way of telling you that there is an imbalance or that it was not ready to handle the workload you were dishing out. Taking a few days, weeks, or months off often allows you body the time to recover and fix some of those imbalances, making you stronger and more efficient because of the injury.

Injuries happen to everyone at one point or another and you mental state going through an injury is nearly as important as your physical state. Keep your head up and stay positive. You’ll be back up and running soon enough.

David Jankowski
Current John’s Run/Walk Shop employee and Lexington Catholic Track & Field Coach, David was the USATF Club XC Champion in 2009, was a 2 time Olympic Trials Qualifier and has a PB of 2:16 in the marathon and 28:14 in the 10K

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