No runner likes being injured and, unfortunately for us, Mr Rara and I have both been cursed recently. I thought I would share some of our tips for dealing with injury.
- Call it a niggle. Call an injury a niggle and it negates it’s impact. A niggle does not stop you running, it simply causes minor discomfort. Ron Hill broke his sternum in a car accident in 1993 yet it didn’t stop his 59 year running streak. He probably called it a niggle. Think of the Monty Python Black Knight sketch, “tis but a scratch!” Most niggles are runnable and most runners have niggles. Ask an ultra runner how a niggle is and they will probably start listing their minor aches from top to bottom.
- Balance. Something hurts. The question is, does it hurt more than not running will? Lots of muscles, that ouch a lot on the sofa, don’t feel that bad with the wind in your hair and the sun on your back. Ibuprofen is my Smartie of choice and, I often find, copious self-medication is much less painful than the interminable screaming inside my head when I cannot run.
- R.I.C.E. Most running injuries respond well to immediate self-treatment. As the common acronym falls flat on the first letter, (who the heck wants to rest?) adjust accordingly.
RANT It is a given fact that an injured runner is a grumpy runner. Permission is therefore granted to moan, whine and grumble about everything. Do not limit this to the disruption to your training or the discomfort you are feeling. The whole world is definitely against you. Perspective is irrelevant.
INTERNET The magical thing about the 21st century is that medical degrees are obsolete as we can all diagnose our injuries and illnesses on the world wide web. Google your symptoms and you will either find you are dying of an incurable condition, (ignore,) or, that some other bloke cured himself by running barefoot. You’ve definitely got (insert muscle name)itis. You can combat this with extensive use of runner’s gaffer tape and a YouTube video. Hang on a minute…Sheryl from Cincinnati, who claims to be a leading physiotherapist, yet seems to upload her videos from her kitchen/ Dan the motivational PT and fitness guru says you can sort this out with a simple stretching exercise! This is just what Tim Berners Lee had in mind!
CHANCE IT Is it worth jeopardizing your long-term health and short-term race goal for the sake of “taking it easy around the Parkrun but I’ll just jog and try and keep to the grass where I can?” Probably worth a shot.
EXSASPERATE I use this word as for f#*ks sake! doesn’t fit neatly into my RICE analogy. Injuries always take longer than you want to sort themselves out. Therefore, much exasperation is required. It is hugely helpful to exasperate freely on any subject. The dog walking across our lounge carpet recently caused a major ffs moment as his tail momentarily entered the same air space as my husband’s ankle. I have had several ffs incidents at work because no one should reasonably be expected to function professionally when there’s no prospect of a jog at the end of the day.
- Re-mortgage. Eventually, despite all your best efforts, you will have to acknowledge that your injury needs some pro-active intervention in order for you to be back on form. This is where the credit card needs to come out. Because you can’t put a price on your health it is time to invest in kinesio tape, sport’s massages, balance boards, pilates bands, foam rollers and spiky balls. It is most likely that it is your shoes that have caused the problem so buy some new ones, (the ones with grapheme soles that you’ve read all the great reviews on are probably the best bet.) Hey, you could even see a physio! (Though you will probably disregard everything they tell you.)
- Black dog. An injured runner is a depressed runner. It is the end of the world that you may miss a few runs 8 weeks out from your marathon. You must scrutinise the small print in the race details to see if you can cancel or defer. Perhaps send the organisers a tweet/email? Research alternative races. Sleepless nights are inevitable as you sob silently into your pillow whilst your potential pb ebbs and you grow instantly bloated and idle. Binge eating will make you feel better and worse in equal measure.
- Binge Eating. My husband is a man who carries an apple slicer in his laptop case so he’s always ready to snack on a Pink Lady. This weekend he filled a Tesco trolley with pizzas too big for our oven, garlic breads, dustbin bag sized packets of crisps and a pic n mix selection of quirky IPAs. Did it make him feel better about his running injury? Well, he looked happier.
- Cross training. Maintaining your fitness by doing something else doesn’t work. You don’t enjoy other forms of exercise that’s why you don’t already attend spin classes/own a bike/swim. You won’t invest from your soul and will either end up pointlessly walking on a treadmill or hurting yourself more trying to replicate a 15 mile run on an elliptical contraption in the gym. Don’t bother.
- Volunteer. People will recommend that you help out at races whilst you are injured. You will be “giving back” and staying within the social circle. You will hate everyone in that social circle because they are running and you are not. You will smile whilst scanning barcodes/hand out water/ring your cowbell but that smile will be empty and you will feel hollow inside.
Being injured sucks. Living with someone that’s injured is difficult too. I find a supportive, “well no wonder it’s still hurting if you keep running on it!” to be a comment largely unappreciated, as is, “I think I told you what Hal Higdon says about overtraining several 20 milers ago, didn’t I darling?”
Of course, there are sensible approaches to dealing with injury Runners World has lots of helpful articles but perhaps the only real solution is to lock yourself away in a room, away from other people, sob and throw things until you can go running again. Or whatever works for you.