This week in my final days before Ironman Zurich I’ve been having trouble with my left knee. It’s not an acute injury like a tear or a break; it’s just generically “sore” and I can’t seem to shake it. In the meantime I’m trying to find a way to at least get to the starting line of the race (The Race!) in one piece so I can give myself a fighting chance to finish.
Most experienced runners know that injury is going to be something that they’ll have to deal with occasionally. Running is a repetitive movement and one of the most traumatic at that.
To be fair, in the twenty-four years I’ve been running I can think of three other times I’ve been injured. That’s a pretty positive statistic for someone who’s run thousands of miles!
As a coach I occasionally need to guide my athletes through injuries (though I leave the actual treatment to medical experts) and help them get back to running as soon as they’re healed. But in trying to help there’s certain patterns that I’ve noticed over the years, especially if it’s someone encountering their very first injury. So rather than telling you what to do, I want to emphasise what not to do…
Don’t freak out.
I see a lot of total freak outs. Tears and hair pulling because they’ve invested time into training and this cannot be happening now! There are so many solutions and workarounds for injury that freaking out can absolutely be avoided. That same energy might even be used to help heal your body, because yes, I believe that being calm will help you heal ommmmmmm.
Don’t run through the pain.
The esteemed athletic coach Renato Canova once told me that running on an injury is like knowing that your finger is broken and then insisting on bending it back and forth, “just to make sure it really isn’t broken”. Nobody does that! There is no such thing as running through the pain if you’re injured. It’s often confused with running through discomfort, when you’re tired during a long distance race. These are two completely different scenarios. If you feel enough pain that it hurts to run, stop. Right now.
Don’t just sit around.
Taking a break from running doesn’t mean you can now sit on the couch and eat chocolate bonbons to make yourself feel better. Once you have a diagnosis ask your osteopath, doctor or physical therapist what alternative activities you can do while you’re healing. Swimming is usually on the list, as well as cycling. If your substitute sport is an aerobic activity it will keep your heart conditioned, so you’ll take even less time to get back into running once you’re ready.
Don’t ask too many medical opinions.
I see a lot of impatient athletes wanting instant healing with pills, shots and laser guns. They expect to be up and running within days and get frustrated when that doesn’t happen. If you’re not confident of the prognosis, please do get a second opinion. But once you’ve chosen your medical expert and chosen a path, follow it through to the end. With a dose of patience and persistence you’ll be back running in no time!