Running in the 'Meda: Recovering from injuries

Running in the 'Meda: Recovering from injuries

Marty Beene

I hate to be a "Debbie Downer," but sometimes things don't go the way you want them to go. I'm talking about getting injured. No, I'm not writing about this topic because I'm injured, but it's useful to think about this when you're healthy so that you know what to do when it happens.

"When?" Not "if?" That sounds kind of pessimistic - shouldn't we always think positively?

Yes and no. The problem with exercise enthusiasts, and especially runners, is that we are sometimes a little too positive. We have a tendency to overlook the signs of an impending injury, believing that that persistent pain is just a sore muscle or something else innocuous.

At the risk of over-thinking this, here are some suggestions for when you get injured.

Accept the situation

This doesn't mean you are happy with it, but acknowledging that you are indeed injured will enable you to heal and get going again with your exercise program as quickly as possible. If you remain in denial, you will just drag out the time until you are healthy again, and potentially even end up with a worse injury.

See a medical professional, if appropriate

After more than 35 years of competitive running, there are certain injuries that I know how to handle. But recovery from others may be a mystery. Try not to have an overly snobby attitude about what you know or don't know - when in doubt, go to the doc.

Plan your recovery

Once you have accepted that you are injured and have seen a medical professional (if appropriate), sit down for 20 minutes and plan out a recovery program. Yes, write it down. This could take many forms, and doesn't necessarily need to have time periods or dates associated with the various steps initially. When plotting out your recovery, be realistic. If you have a serious injury like a stress fracture, it may take longer to recover from than something like an inflamed tendon.

Do something else

Chances are, you won't be able to do your preferred exercise during your recovery, at least not the early part. Use this time to explore other forms of exercise. If you're a runner, but cycling doesn't hurt whatever body part is injured, try that. Or swimming. Maybe swimming is your thing, and you have a shoulder injury - now may be a good time to try some running or cycling. If your leg is injured, how about getting into that upper body strength program you keep promising yourself you'll start?

Be flexible

It's very common for injuries to recur, especially if you're like most fitness fanatics and try to do too much, too soon. Remember that recovery plan you came up with? Be sure you've written it down in pencil because it's likely that you'll have to change some part of it at some time. That's okay. If you accept that it's normal to have to shift gears during any injury recovery program, you'll be less likely to get frustrated, and more likely to make smart adjustments to get you back to normal sooner.

Reflect

This may be the most important step. Be sure to go back and try to figure out what caused the injury in the first place. For some injuries, like a sprained ankle, it's obvious. But many injuries come on gradually. When did you first notice that funny little knee pain (that you mostly ignored)? You did write that down in your exercise journal, right? You do keep an exercise journal, right?

Any other tips on recovering from injuries?

Marty Beene, a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and specialist in senior fitness and fitness nutrition, is owner of Be The Runner; he trains adults of all abilities individually and in groups. He can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.