Why your next running injury is a blessing not a curse
Looked at from the right perspective, a positive one, your next running or training injury could be a blessing! You may be wondering how on earth being sidelined by an injury for weeks and possibly months is a blessing, however, if you think long term and you’re patient, an injury shouldn’t be a source of frustration. Instead of taking a turn to negative town and whinging about not being able to run, exercise or play for your team, consider your injury an opportunity to learn. Why did you get injured in the first place? How can you recover and then strengthen your body to prevent injury again? Are your biomechanics sound and if not, what are the areas of your body that you need to make more flexible over time to increase your freedom of movement and range of motion?
If you focus on what you can learn from your injury and how to prevent it in future and if you wisely use the time that your injury has given you to research an area of running or exercising that you could improve in, such as nutrition, specific training programs for your next goal, flexibility etc, then, somewhat paradoxically, you’ll become a better athlete through awareness and education.
In 2016 I had two fairly major injuries that prevented me from training regularly for the City2Surf and Sydney Half Marathon and also sidelined me from representing Onsport FC in our mixed Monday night futsal tournament. The first injury was achilles tendinopathy in April and the second injury was a fifth metatarsal (foot) fracture, both of which two physiotherapists have concluded were due to three main factors:
- Overuse injury (ramping up the kms too quickly and exceeding the 10% per week distance increase limit);
- Biomechanical problems with glutes not firing when I run, tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors, particularly on the right hand side of my body, the side that both injuries presented themselves; and
- Lack of race preparation and determination to continue, even whilst experiencing moderate to severe pain towards the end of the Sydney Half Marathon.
7 things I learned from being injured & what you can learn too:
- See a physio rather than trying to self diagnose and resolve things at home yourself. Like most males I don’t like seeing Doctors or medical professionals, however, you’re far more likely to be able to properly and more quickly recover from your injury if you are first assessed properly by a physio and then given a treatment action plan (which may include massage by the physio which can be difficult to do properly yourself, so it’s worth seeing someone!);
- Reduce the impact travelling through your joints and muscles by reducing your stride length and increasing your cadence to close to 180bpm which facilitates the landing of your leg underneath (or close to underneath) your hips rather than ‘reaching’ with your leg out in front of you;
- Strengthening exercises matter, a lot - if your core is strong and the muscles that are weak that may be causing your gait problems are stronger then you’ll be able to run more effortlessly with the right running form – it will be so much easier to keep yourself in the position you are aiming to run in (hopefully fairly tall with a slight lean);
- Flexibility matters too - being flexible allows you to run more comfortably, with less soreness and tightness. I was prescribed a series of flexibility exercises including hamstring exercises that use a book, to exercises that require a TheraBand for resistance. If you get injured, make sure you diligently do the flexibility exercises the physio may give you!
- Warming up and warming down – sounded silly to me, especially when I could go from zero to 4min/kms in the space of 10 metres, however, warming up and warming down is really important as it allows blood flow to even out in the body, allows you to slowly get into your run and slowly end your run. There is also nothing more rewarding than a quick 5 minute walk to end a hard training session or race such as Parkrun – if you don’t know what Parkrun is, check out our post Parkrun: 7 Reasons Why You Should Run It Regularly when the endorphins are flowing and you can review your training statistics from your running watch and give yourself a high five for your efforts.
- Recovery – proper recovery post-workout for me involves light stretching whilst replacing electrolytes/carbohydrates via SiS hydration tablets as well as drinking around 15-30g of protein from a protein shake. Protein assists the recovery of muscles and is best taken within 15-20 minutes of your workout ending. I find the consumption of protein to be one of the biggest aids to fighting soreness the next and subsequent days after a run. Finally, if I’m feel like it has been a hard run/workout and I’m going to be at home for the few hours following my run, I’ll throw on my 2XU Recovery Compression Socks as they assist with blood circulation, thereby reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery times.
- Listen to your body – just the other day I really wanted to go for a long run and it was in my training plan, however, I decided against it because the last two sessions had been particularly hard on the body, most of my key muscles including calves, quads and hamstrings were getting more and more sore as I ramped up the km’s. I’d also felt a slight niggle in my right achilles, so for one of the first times in my life I listened to my body and gave it an extra rest day to recovery. The Recovery Advisor on my Garmin Forerunner 630 was also suggesting around 3 days recovery time, so I took Garmin’s advice and rested.
If you're a beginner runner looking for easy ways to improve your running, you might like: 9 Super Easy Running Tips For Beginner Runners.
Whilst sitting on the sidelines recovering from an injury and not being able to run or train may initially feel incredibly frustrating, with the right attitude you can turn an injury on its head and use it as an opportunity to learn and educate yourself to become a better athlete, preventing injury going forward and strengthening your ‘running rig’ and resolve. If your injury jeopardises your upcoming race, that’s less than ideal, but it’s probably not the end of the world, there will be plenty more races to look forward to and you’ll be a more complete, stronger athlete having been through your injury. Plus, if you're anything like me, with time off sitting around jealously looking through your Strava feed, you'll be itching to get out and run and train with a renewed vigour!
We hope the above insights into my injuries last year help you if you’re currently injured or looking for ways to prevent your next injury. If you have some injury prevention or injury recovery techniques, please comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!