Dealing with Injury – The Mental and Physical

It has been a tough couple of weeks. We’ve all been there, we have a target to complete and we are firmly fixed on the goal. We are running well and enjoying the training plan we are following. But then, injury strikes and we have to make decisions about to what we do next.

Keep on going – We’ve all done it. We ignore the niggle that gradually gets worse until it becomes painful. Then we are forced to either run through even more pain or we have to stop. This can, and usually does, make the initial injury worse.

Rest – One of the most common things that runners do. We think that resting for a few days will cure whatever issue we have. Whilst it may feel better when you start to run again, you do not know the reason for the initial injury, have not tried to deal with the cause and so it usually resurfaces. This could be within a few days or weeks, but it usually comes back.

Get Advice – This can be done the right way and the wrong way. The wrong way is to ask a search engine. This can diagnose a hundred different injuries, but how do you know which one you have and how to sort it. The correct way is to seek professional advice, whether that is a physiotherapist or injury specialist. They will try to diagnose injury and then will be able to give you information on how to get over the injury and then work on stopping it happening again. I’ve also found over the years that GP’s aren’t usually the best port of call as they are usually likely to tell you to rest until it is better. Being honest, they do have more important priorities with the amount of ‘ill’ people they have to see.

 

Personally, I would always recommend the physio/injury specialist route. I like to know what is causing any niggles I have and I want to know how to sort them and how to stop them coming back in the future. I want to make myself as ‘bullet-proof’ as possible to protect myself in future as I really enjoy running.

Next, how do you deal with the psychological side of injuries?

Get depressed – Sometimes when you can’t run you feel as though you are losing fitness by the day. This may be very slightly true (it takes more than a few days to lose a chunk of fitness) but instead of missing what you can’t do, look at what you can do. Can you cycle, swim or strength train? Do what you can to keep your heart rate up and your head will thank you for it as you know you are doing something productive. You will get back running again.

Give up – This is more common with people newer to running and is often caused by doing too much too soon before their bodies are ready for the strain they are put under. At the first sign of injury people decide that running is no good for them or they are ‘not built to run’. Persevere! Get over your injury and come back slower and more sensibly. Look for a plan to help you build up your mileage, whether you have a target or not. Think of running as a long-term activity and you have plenty of time to get fitter and faster.

Fight back – Get professional advice and do what they say.  This will reduce the amount of time you have to stop training for, if at all as some injuries will not stop you training.  We all know the stretching, strength training and other exercises we are given are not the same as running.  However, by doing these extra things you can minimise your time on the sidelines and help to prevent further injuries.

Re-evaluate your goals – This may sound obvious, but some people have a period of time out with injury and then think they can either go back to where they were or play catch-up. Don’t! While you are not running look at your original goals, whether they are short or long term. Are they still realistic given your current injury? Once you work out a new goal you can then look at how many steps back you have to take in your training. Be honest with yourself as taking an extra month to hit a distance target, or running a race without getting a PB is better than trying to hit an unachievable goal and ending up out injured for a long period of time.

 

I write this from personal experience as I am currently struggling with an issue in my left leg that the injury specialists I am seeing, Function Jigsaw in Wigston, think is a nerve impingement. I have been told I can run through it if I can deal with the discomfort it is causing and this is what I have been doing for two-three weeks now. However, as it is affecting my biomechanics and the way my left foot lands I cannot run to my full capabilities. Therefore, I have had to take a few days off to help recovery. I have also had to re-evaluate my London Marathon target. I know I am no longer capable of a sub-2:45 finish and I am going to use the Ashby 20 at the weekend to see how my leg feels over the course of 20 miles. I can then look at what will be a more realistic marathon target. It may be sub-3:00 (which I really hope it is), it may be trying to drag myself around to achieve a Good For Age finish. Or, it may be worse and I have to think about DNSing or ‘just get round’.

When you are injured it is all about keeping an open mind and being honest with yourself. I’d rather scrape a Good For Age time but be able to run healthily for the rest of the year than push for a sub-3:00 time and miss out on a summer of running.

Be sensible, be honest and BE POSITIVE!

 

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Martin Hulbert – Personal Trainer Leicester & Online Personal Trainer

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