January 18, 2018
Let me just start with one important fact…
ALL TYPES OF RUNNERS GET INJURED
It doesn’t matter how heavy or light you are. If you are an absolute beginner or a seasoned pro…injury is part and parcel of being an athlete, and illness, unfortunately, is just a part of everyday life as a human being…so stop beating yourself up about it and start thinking about practical solutions for getting over it as speedily and sustainably as possible.
I have been running for well over 15 years now…and yes I have had my fair share of injuries, but in all fairness, very few of these have been running or fitness related.
There was the time I pulled a muscle in my back 2 weeks before the Brighton Marathon by lifting my daughter off a slide. and the time I fell backward down a flight of stairs on a bus 2 weeks before the London Marathon…anyone would think I was a bit clumsy.
But shit happens.
I have had other injuries over the years through overtraining or twisting ankles on dodgy pavements, but touch wood I haven’t been out of the running game for long, and that is because (most of the time) I follow the tips I am going to share with you in this post.
So here, they are…if you find yourself already having to limit or stop your training because of illness or injury, here are my top 10 tips for coping.
1.Prevention is better than cure
The reason I am sharing this with you today is that I am currently out of the game on two counts…strained arches (I left it too long to get new shoes) and a chest infection caused by standing around in the cold after parkrun for hours on Saturday.
Being mindful that you are an athlete and need to take care of yourself is paramount.
If you are serious about reaching your running goals then you need to be proactive before injury and illness presents itself wherever possible.
The moment you get injured or come down ill it is easy to panic and throw yourself a pity party for one, making big “I quit” announcements on social media and deciding this was a sign and you were never supposed to run that half marathon after all.
Remember at this point you don’t even know how serious it is.
Try and stay positive and have faith that everything happens for a reason, perhaps there is a valuable lesson in here somewhere. Perhaps you needed to slow down and train smarter and not harder…or maybe it is a sign that you are not prioritising yourself enough.
3.Get professional help ASAP
This is paramount. Get a professional opinion as soon as you possibly can. If you have a sympathetic GP then book an appointment but remember the NHS might not be the speediest route…equally, a pharmacist might be able to help if it is an ailment that can be treated at home.
However, you may need to go and see a different type of professional…a Physio, a Chiropractor, an osteopath, a podiatrist. And yes they will cost money…but if getting back injury free as soon as possible is the goal then it might be the best option.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have had one £40 session and been back training in a few days after some kind of problem that initially I thought would have me missing months of training.
Perhaps booking in some preventative massages might get you into the habit of seeking professional help, it can be daunting the first few times you go then it becomes like going to get your hair or nails done.
4.Getting clear on the implications
Once you have a diagnosis and an idea of how long you need to rest or rebuild strength, you will be able to take a look at your training plan and sensibly plan your next steps. Don’t be too over ambitious though, you may need to review your goal, like drop down a distance or go for a slower time.
When I hurt my back prior to the London Marathon in 2015 I had to revise my goals for the race, meaning it was simply about getting myself round rather than going for a time. This worked out fine in the end because I got to run the whole way with one of the ladies I coached.
Be flexible. Reassess. Get clear.
5.Focussing on what you can still do
Ok so you can’t run but I am sure there are other things you could do instead that will aid your recovery. Are you drinking enough water, are you doing the exercises the physio exercises you were set, are you resting if the doctor said a week or complete rest?
I have been doing yoga every day this week in a bid to improve my flexibility and strength.
A big part of this could be around nutrition. Can you blast your cold away with lots of fruit and veg and fluids? Can you eat anti-inflammatory foods to help with your joint pain?
And while we are talking about food why not use this time to reflect on your nutrition choices. Could a couple of weeks of real controlled eating help with recovery and make your running easier when you start up again. I know this to be true for me, even though it’s not always the easiest thing to admit to.
Even if you are not running there is always some kind of activity which is going to be beneficial to your training programme. Can you walk? Swim? Bike? Do weights?
Perhaps two weeks of a different type of training might even bring with it its own fitness benefits.
What about booking 10 classes of pilates to work on your core strength, or get into a daily yoga practice. Anything which is going to keep you motivated and improve or maintain your fitness levels or strength and conditioning.
If you are unable to do any exercise at all, there is always the muscle of the brain which could be worked on.
7.Try Alternative Methods
Right, now this is where it gets weird. I always think that when you want something bad enough then you are willing to try anything to get it. Literally like throw anything at it, even if it is a bit weird? Ice baths anyone?
Well a couple of years ago I had a bit of a dodgy knee, and I happened to be at a business event where a lady opposite me had a stall where she was talking about her Reiki business. I went over to her and asked about how it worked and the benefits and she offered to give me a 15 minute session for free. I sat on a chair with my eyes closed as she hovered her hands around me and at one point she focussed on my left knee where the pain was and I could feel some strange heat. The following day the knee pain was gone…and I didn’t even mention the pain to her.
This week I shoved a Rose Quartz Chrystal down my bra, as apparently they have healing qualities for matters to do with the heart region, and my chest infection is almost gone…might just have been me healing naturally, or might have been the Chrystal…might even have been a placebo effect…I don’t care as long as I am getting better.
We take up and keep up with running for a range of reasons, but when we stop running we lose the benefits that come with it, and then it’s hard to stay connected to the sport and to the community. When you are off injured or ill this is the perfect time to catch up on some running related reading, especially if you read stories of other runners overcoming hardship or health problems.
You might also want to use this time to think ahead and plan some races or challenges for the future. Perhaps create a vision board to help get you excited about getting back to it in the future, think about where in the world you would like to run, or what it would feel like to reach a specific goal as soon as you are back to 100%
Just because you can’t run it doesn’t mean you can’t help others. In The Clubhouse our online running club we have 400 or so members, and it goes without saying that at any given moment there will be women injured, ill and even out of the game through pregnancy (yup this happens boys) but they don’t leave, they hang around and support everyone else, just so they can stay connected and get advice and support for when they are back up again.
Perhaps you could volunteer at your local parkrun or for a local race coming up? In fact, you could volunteer at a big city race, that can be fun too. I was a gamesmaker at the London 2012 Games when I was pregnant and unable to do the sport I loved…it really helped keep me inspired by sport.
10.Know when to call it a day
And I am dead serious about this one. You have to know when it is time to call it a day. This is not quitting this is being a responsible athlete. Knowing the boundaries and limitations of your body and saving yourself to fight another day.
I had to do this last year, I had been training for the Beachy Head Marathon and a week before the event I knew I had to pull out. I was fatigued and I hadn’t managed to do my longest run as planned, despite having run 40 miles a few months prior. I hadn’t managed to prepare properly and I knew I would do more harm than good.
This takes real strength, especially if this was a race of a lifetime, you have been fundraising or you feel like you are letting others down…but it has to be done sometimes.
So there you have it.
Remember ladies, injury and illness is part and parcel of being an athlete, and thinking of yourself as an athlete is probably the single best thing you can do to keep on top of all this stuff and get the best from your training.
Look after yourself. Invest in the best equipment, kit, coaching and treatments that you can afford. Be sensible. Ask for help. Find your tribe.
And I wish you an injury and illness free year of running.
My name is Julie Creffield I am a plus size marathon runner, award winning blogger, life coach and author training for her 3rd Virgin London Marathon. You can watch a recording on YouTube of me discussing these top tips.
I also have a range of books on Amazon which may help you on your journey.
The Clubhouse is my online running club which supports women wherever they are on their running journey. Memberships start at just £5 per month and include coaching, accountability, advice, meetups, guest experts and friendships.
Please share this blog with your running peeps, it might cheer them up as they recover