Or maybe I should say what runners do when they get hurt… Marathon training has ground to a screeching halt, and 17 mile runs have been replaced with kneeling warrior stretches and monster walks.
I’ve been having some pain in my psoas muscle for a while. It finally got bad enough that I went to see a chiropractor who specializes in sports injuries, and after a few treatments and basically no improvement, I got benched. I am NOT happy!
Last year, I had to quit running for most of the summer because of a severe case of iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). Then, just 2 weeks after returning to running, I stepped on a rock, rolled my ankle, and wound up with this:
I don’t know how other runners handle injuries, but this is what I do.
- Pout. Ok, I’ll admit that when I get the news that I can’t run, the first thing I do is feel sorry for myself and spend some time pouting. I fuss and fume and try to control my urge to kick something. Basically, I act like a big baby.
- Accept the situation. After I spend a day pouting, I recognize the wisdom in the doctor’s advice and agree that rest is what I need. Resting is hard. I fall into this trap sometimes of thinking that more is better. In reality, though, rest is just as important as exercise. Resting allows muscles to recover so that when you do exercise, you’re even stronger. And resting when you’re injured is even more important. Keeping on running through the pain just increases the likelihood of the injury getting worse and the recovery time longer.
- Use the down time to strengthen other areas of my body. During my 3 month hiatus last summer, waiting for my IT band to heal, I realized that while my legs were out of commission (kind of), my arms were not. So I focused a lot on upper body strengthening during that time. Now that I’m back in the position of not being able to do a lot of activity that I’m used to, I’ll be focusing a lot on arms, back, and core again. CrossFit has been nixed too, but I’ll still be working on getting that pull-up! No squats required for that.
- Cross-train. Cross-training is just doing any other activity besides running, or whatever your exercise of choice is. A lot of runners cycle to cross train. Or walk. Mixing up activity works different muscle groups to help with overall strengthening and flexibility. Going back to last summer again and dealing with ITBS, I couldn’t even ride my bike. So I faced my fear of deep water and took swimming lessons! I’m still not a great swimmer, but I can swim enough to give myself a pretty good workout. It looks like I’ll be spending more time in the pool again now.
- Learn from the injury. Looking back to my first injury, I learned a lot. ITBS is mostly an overtraining injury. When I reflect on what I was doing, I just want to bang my head against a wall and say, “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” I was running too fast, too far too quickly. And not stretching. And not resting. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But I learned from that, and I’m super careful now about only increasing my mileage by 10% per week, stretching after I run or workout, and while I’m still struggling to take rest days, I do try to take at least one rest day a week. And what I’m learning from my current injury is to not ignore pain. Maybe if I would’ve started treatment, or at least taken some time off, when I first felt that annoying groin pain, I wouldn’t be benched 45 days before my first marathon. Another lesson learned the hard way…