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How to Deal With a Running Injury

I’m lucky - it’s been a good 4 and a half years since I wrote this blog after a foot operation that took me out of action for a good 3-4 months.

Injured runners are rarely a happy bunch. However my current setback caused by a calf strain – only 6 weeks so far – got me thinking about the numerous positives of having a running injury.  

1. You’ll have a lot more free time

“I’m so busy” – how often have you felt torn in multiple directions between the demands of family, work and sport. Well guess what? When you’re injured you’re going to have a lot more time. So much so you might wonder what to do with yourself. For those of us who always try to fit too much into the day, it’s actually a really nice feeling to get up a bit later during the week, have our Sunday mornings back and not always be rushing. Maybe you’ve always wanted to read War & Peace or take up bird-watching or gardening. Well now’s your chance.  

2. It’s the perfect time to cross train

If you’re more minded to use your extra time to cross-train, all the better. In my case I’ve dug out and dusted the bike I last rode for Ironman Copenhagen 2013, that is now set up on an ancient turbo trainer in the kitchen. All my swimming caps have rotted but my running floats are still good and back in the water again. And the weights and yoga mat are out in the garden, while our dog patiently sits by looking quizzical. All’s good provided I don’t mind him licking my face while I do a side plank! 

Many runners spend so much time running that there’s no time to do anything else. But there are hundreds of other muscles waiting to be exercised. A strong core makes for great run times.

Diary of an Injured RunnerA strong core makes for great run times.

3. Or even take up a new sport

If you’re going to be out of action for a while you might even want to consider taking up a new sport, especially one which isn’t weight bearing. Ever wondered what Pilates, Yoga or Meditation are all about? There are classes all over the country and a ClassPass membership will give you the opportunity to try lots of different activities in a cost-efficient way. 

Personally I am too impatient for the likes of Yoga and Meditation, but I’m eager to try Digme, a spinning and HIIT studio.

Diary of an Injured RunnerYou might even want to consider taking up a new sport, especially one which isn’t weight bearing.

4. You can reassess your running goals

Having time out is a good way of stepping back and reassessing. Why do you run so much and what are you trying to achieve? Paula Radcliffe is a great believer in always having a running goal – however small. Yet I know so many runners who turn up a club sessions week-in-week-out without a particular goal. I myself am guilty of this. 

Every goal requires a plan. It shouldn’t just be a dream but a well-formulated plan of attack with a timeline to achieve whatever goal you have.

Goals don’t always need to be about time. Your goal might be to “always be in the moment” when you run – to listen to the birds and your footfall and return home refreshed and ready for whatever your day throws at you.

5. Put something back in

Race organisers are always looking for volunteers to help with registration or marshalling on race day.  Being injured is a great way to put something back into the running community. You’re bound to enjoy it and meet new people. You may even meet some kind folk who are prepared to hear you out as you bore them about the intricacies of your particular running injury. There’s nought as boring as an injured runner! 

6. It will make you listen to your body more….

“Listen to your body” – is something we all know but how many of us actually really listen and act upon what we feel? I remember the day before I pulled by calf actually saying that my calves felt “shot to pieces.” Did this stop me doing a hard hill session with my running club? Hell no. 

Only after I’d pulled the calf did I actually think – why on earth did I do that session? If only…. 

If you find you have a recurring sort of injury, it might be a good time to reassess why you always have tight calves, tight hamstrings or whatever the issue is. Do you need to do more stretching or foam-rolling.

7. You’ll come back with renewed enthusiasm

Time off running is a great antidote to becoming stale. While it might take a while to get your running fitness back – depending on how long you’ve had off – you’ll more than make up for it with your renewed enthusiasm!