Returning to Running After Injury: When Injuries Just Keep On Coming

When we get injured, we tend to go through phases, phases that I would typically go through every time. But this time, I am trying to make it different.

First is denial, we pretend there is nothing there.

We are afraid to even admit to ourselves that something doesn’t feel quite right, that the pain…or as I often say, “feel it” where we shouldn’t. We wont even note it on our strava or training log (even if we keep it private) as we dont want to admit there is something there, give this negativity any room to grow. I always used to feel frustrated with myself when I would deny things were going on at the early stages, so when I would finally break down and see someone, they would ask me, “how long has this been going on?” and I would sheepishly reply…I don’t know…a couple weeks…It could have been more or less, but we block it out of memory.

We know something is wrong, we know we are a ticking time bomb, but the lure of running, the fear of being labeled “injury prone” or having people judge you for your mistakes makes ignoring it the more tempting option.

Next we go to the over-the-top fix it phase. We know it has progressed a little, and we finally accept that we do have a niggle, our training is not going to make it much longer unless we actually start doing something about it.

So you do everything and anything you can do to get it to calm down.

Still a little in denial, not wanting anyone else to see what you are doing, not wanting to use the word “injured”, but knowing deep down that you are walking that line. You continue to train as normal, hoping it will go away or ease up now you are icing/heating, rolling, stretching, working on weaknesses, and maybe even getting help from a professional.

The research begins, you look for symptoms of whatever niggle you are experiencing online, and feel a sense of panic when a serious injury matches your description…maybe its not too late?

Maybe I am the exception to this rule, after all, I am doing the recovery stuff to fix it.

You hope and pray that all this treatment and rehab will work, that you wont reach that next step, but unfortunately in the majority of cases, that is where we find ourselves.

At the breaking point.

You finally say it out loud, you book in treatments to get it worked on, you say to yourself that this is just a minor setback (even when it isn’t), you were smart, you did the right thing, you are taking the time off, and will put your energy into cross training to stay in shape.

Maybe it will heal faster than they said. They said 6-8 weeks, so I can be ready to go in 6. I will do everything I can to be ready.

You spend your time researching how much fitness you will lose in a few days/weeks/months depending on how long you took off.

You kick yourself for not saying something sooner, for not backing off when you knew in your heart that was the thing to do, if you had, you would not be in this position. You would have taken 2-7 days off at a time that didn’t reaaaally matter, lost virtually no fitness, and got back into training relatively quickly.

But no, you ignored those warnings, and here you are, further down the road, closer to a race or event that actually matters to you, and now you face standing on the start line out of shape…If even at all.

Next time, I will be better.

I will work on my weaknesses. I will pay attention and LISTEN this time. I will swallow my pride and take a few days off sooner rather than a lot of days off later.

Until we are cleared to start to run again, and we fall for the trap of too much too soon, thinking we are in the clear when we are not.

During our time off, we overanalyze, desperately trying to find the “one thing” that caused the injury, we don’t accept that we did this to ourselves, it was not (or rarely is) a fluke accident, but actually, it was overworking your body in some way, not allowing the recovery it deserves.

Once we get the all clear to start again, it can be all too easy to want to make up for missed time. If you only took a few days, well, I had better do that workout I missed, I don’t want to have that hanging over my head.

Or maybe you just try to ramp your mileage back up, catch back up to where you were.

Resume training as normal, right?

No, wrong.

This is where so many of us get ourselves into trouble. We think about those missed days, we blow them way out of proportion, thinking that we are never going to be fit enough to reach our goal unless we have that in there, so we do what we can to get it back?

But that, my friends, is where you shoot yourself in the foot.

Why did you end up with this injury in the first place?

I am going to be real with you here, and if you are injured right now, you might not want to hear this, but you need to:

YOU OVERDID IT.

What do you think going from rest to workout pace does to your body? Or going from zero miles a day to five, even ten times that?

It puts you right back in that danger zone of injury again. Do you really want to go back there?

You know how hard it is to be watching others out there running when you are injured. You know how depressed you feel when you have a running injury. You know you would do anything to fix it.

So fix it, not your body, but your mind. Fix that NEED to push yourself, to get back, to make up for missed runs.

Just let it go, and save that drive, that push for race day, when you are fully back healthy and at your goal race, unleash it in those final few miles, and watch yourself fly, watch those mental freakouts disappear.

At the start of this post, I told you I took three days in a row off running last week. This is me trying to break my usual mould when injury strikes. I stopped, I rested, and I listened to the warning signs.

Can you say you are doing the same?

Three days off for a niggle now is a whole lot better than three weeks off for an injury later.

Now, if you are injured, I strongly recommend you check out my coming back from injury podcast series, my favorite series of them all, and packed with so much good information about how to handle your mental and physical self during and injury and on the way back to running.

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6 Comments.

  • Sascha Fennel
    April 30, 2018 7:25 am

    Dear Tina, you have this uncanny ability to express yourself in a way I can 100% relate to. Thank you so much for this comment that has me thinking, where am I now two weeks after the doctors cleared me to run again.
    Thank you so much.
    All the best to you, run healthy!
    Sascha

  • Robin La Tourette
    April 30, 2018 10:27 am

    Very timely article… I’ve just made the decision to stop running for 2 to 3 months to see if my 2+ years of hamstring and 3+ years of Achilles injuries can finally heal. Decided to back out of a marathon in which my original thought when I booked it was to try for BQ… I realize there’s no way I could do that time now, so why put myself through all the pounding and training. Already dreading the upcoming months…?

  • This is so me. Not only with my training, which I took two days consecutively off, but also in my work in that if I don’t accomplish my to do list within the next two to three days, I feel inadequate and unproductive. And unworthy. Thank you so much for being so real Tina, I hope that you’re recovering from your injury very soon! Meanwhile, on those two non-running days, what did you do instead?

  • I suspect 90% + runners would recognise themselves in this article. After prolonged injuries in the achilles and lower calf, I am back and really trying to stick to a sensible recovery plan. rest between runs seems to be the secret so far.

  • I feel like this article was written for me! Im currently 2 weeks into pulled hamstring recovery & I think I’ve googled ever possible hamstring pull topic possible. I’m literally counting down the days until I can run again.

  • Ugh, that’s why I’ve an entire blog related to healing them! Awesome post! Thanks. 🙂

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