I count myself as being enormously fortunate not to have had to deal with a major injury since I began competing 8 years ago. Probably the most serious was a medial ligament strain after doing burpees with poor technique in a circuit session.
However, like most of us who train day in day out, I’ve had my fair share of niggles. I estimate that I probably have to cope with an injury for two to three weeks every year. In the grand scheme of things that isn’t massive. However, as I think most sporty people will tell you, even those short periods of time can be very tough. Lounging on the sofa for long periods doing nothing isn’t my idea of fun.
I’ve just this week recovered from a calf injury that had stopped me running for a couple of weeks. Not being able to run helps remind me how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. However, at the same time, it’s hard to not get frustrated with the injury and the way it impacts your daily routine. I like nothing better than going out for a 70-80-minute morning run and then heading to work knowing that I’ve got my morning endorphin hit. It’s a great feeling and sets me up perfectly for the day.
When you not able to get this because of injury, its vital to view it as an opportunity to work on complimentary things that can help you maximize your progress. Not always an easy thing to do but certainly a more positive outlook than simply getting frustrated and downhearted.
Here are a couple of things you might want to consider next time you are sidelined with a sore calf or aggravated hamstring.
Ok, perhaps this is a little bit crazy. But here are some other practical suggestions
Running for long periods of time has the effect of shortening muscles. That’s why we stretch so much after finishing sessions. However, despite this, over time runner’s muscles do tend to shorten because of the constant stress we put them through. Watching 95% of Vet 50 runners in races shows exactly this. Very short stride length and stiff technique. Yoga is a great way to lengthen muscles. It can also be done in a relatively relaxed fashion so can be excellent exercise while you’re injured. It also doesn’t mean you have to go and join a class and pay lots of money for sessions. There are some great yoga routines for runners on Youtube. Here’s a link to one of my favorites.
Specific strength and conditioning
Time being injured can be a great opportunity to work on some weaknesses/potential gain areas. Possible options here might be core work or hip stability. There are plenty of great routines to zero in on particular areas. I highly recommend investigating kinetic revolution and all the brilliant content they have produced.
Depending on the nature of your injury, there may be great opportunities to do some alternative sorts of exercise. I’ve done everything in the past from aqua jogging to getting on the cross trainer in the gym. There are ways to fill the void (at least partially until you are back to full fitness). Something as simple as getting on the bike or doing some lengths in the pool is a great idea.
We are very lucky to have a wealth of great online resources about running. Whether its technique, drills or nutrition, the internet is a gold mine of information. Perhaps set yourself a goal of watching or reading about a new technique drill every day. It might give you some new things to work into your routine when you get back to full fitness.
I hope these suggestions help. Being back to running this week has been wonderful. Not being able to run for a few weeks reminded me just how much I love getting out on to the trails around where I live. We are enormously lucky to do this wonderful sport of ours. Hopefully the things I’ve worked on in the period I’ve been injured will help me to gain a few extra vital % of performance as I build towards this year’s races.