Injury Virgins

When it comes to being injured I find a big difference between people who have done sport for a number of years, and those who are new to sport. The former generally understand that injury requires a period of adapted activity, and that targeted exercise plus soft tissue work can speed up the recovery. Newcomers, on the other hand, really seem to struggle!

“I’ll just have to accept that running is bad for me”

“I’m thinking of packing it in.”

I’ve put together some advice for people experiencing their first injury in the hope that it helps you to deal with it better!

Why only me?
Everyone gets injured, regardless of activity, level, age or experience. Accepting this harsh reality might give you some comfort! Usain Bolt gets injured. Roger Federer gets injured. The slowest guy at Parkrun gets injured. It happens to everyone. More important than the injury itself is how you deal with it.

Nobody gets anywhere by giving up
Injury is the number one reason that newcomers to sport give up. All those good intentions of weight loss and a healthier lifestyle gone, and all for the sake of a sore ankle. It might be good, not to mention healthy to have a good old moan at first, but put your drama queen back in its box sooner rather than later – you have far more important work to do.

I should probably just rest
No you probably shouldn’t. This is how your tissues react to load:
If we don’t load them enough, they don’t change (or get weaker)
If we load them optimally, they get “stronger” (able to tolerate more load)
If we load them too much, they get injured
Always aim for the sweet spot of optimal loading.

Respect your injury
Things hurt for a reason. Respect this fact, and respect your body – it will heal itself if you allow it to. Always look to adapt the activity you want to do – run shorter distances at a steadier pace, paying attention to form. If you feel you have to stop, then find something to replace running that you CAN do – cycling and swimming for example.

Process over outcome
Can you do that half marathon next month? Maybe, maybe not. The answer to that question depends on today, tomorrow, this week and next week. One thing for certain is that without a plan, and without working as hard with your rehab as you do with your training, you probably won’t be able to do that half marathon next month. Have a rehab plan, which should build gradually, and work hard. That is all you need to focus on for now – leave the half marathon question for another time in the future when you can answer it more realistically.

To sum up, spend less time feeling sorry for yourself, less time resting, and more time building yourself back up. I wrote this article because a friend of mine who got injured running a marathon at New Year did practically everything wrong – self-destructive thoughts, complete lack of progressive build up, and totally unrealistic expectations. He was resting for a week then testing his knee with a “short” 5K, talking about quitting running, and generally wasting a lot of time and negative energy. The good news is that now, two months on from the injury, he’s up to a 10 mile long run and building up to a marathon in April! The frustrating thing is that he could have been at this stage at least 3 weeks ago!