Whether caused by not warming up sufficiently, inadequate rest or just pure bad luck, if you train regularly, injury is at some point inevitable. Hopefully it will not be serious but, even so, being forced out of your regular training cycle can be both frustrating and demoralising.
As you may have read from my Man vs. Mountain or “Injured” post, I fractured the 2nd metatarsal in my left foot whilst competing. The doctor’s advice was to rest completely and absolutely no training. Having to go from training twice a day 6 days a week to absolutely nothing had a profound affect on my emotions and overall mood, as my fiancée will testify.
Injury, unfortunately, will strike at some point, so here are my thoughts on how best to cope when it does. It should be noted that I have absolutely no medical or professional fitness training and that this advice is simply what I have discovered and been told by others. Use the advice with caution and common sense but, if you are currently out with an injury, I hope it helps.
Listen to your body
This is one piece of advice I was given which I’ve found to be incredibly important. Listening to your body can not only help you recover more quickly but could help you avoid an injury in the first place.
If you’re feeling tired one day before you’re meant to train, think about cutting your training short or opting to allow yourself to have a rest day. Training whilst tired affects your technique and your focus, making it easier to make a mistake and pick up an injury.
If you feel that you have a little niggle, listen to it. Ask yourself, is the training you have planned going to make it worse? Could you train differently that day to give your niggle the chance to recover?
So, the worst has happened and you’ve picked up an injury. What should you do now? Well, the first thing to do is assess the injury. Have you had this before? Are the symptoms and a pain level something that you recognise from a previous injury? If so, think about what remedial action you took the last time. If you’re unsure, ALWAYS seek professional advice. Go to the doctor (or hospital if it’s an emergency) and explain the issue. They are best placed to advise you (Google is not!). Ask them about the best course of treatment and how long it should take to recover. Ask them for advice on your current training; should you stop altogether or just cut down? Are there any particular exercises you should avoid?
Take the advice and use it
If the doctor has told you to stop training, stop training. If the doctor has told you not to run, don’t run. If you feel you don’t need to see a doctor and decide you can rest your injury like you did last time, take your own advice and rest again. Again, this comes back to listening to your body; it will soon tell you if you shouldn’t be doing something. Again, if you’re unsure, ALWAYS seek professional advice.
Change your exercises
Think; what can I do that will allow me to train but won’t aggravate my injury? When I had my fracture diagnosed, my doctor advised no impact training during the recovery of my fracture… so I began to swim regularly. Not ideal or what I really wanted to do but it allowed my to keep training and not allow my fitness to slip too far. There are lots of different ways to train; could you cycle instead of run? Could you focus on a specific part of your body, such as using weights to train the upper part of your body whilst resting your injured lower body? An injury doesn’t necessarily mean a compete stop on your training but, again, take the advice of your doctor and listen to what your body’s telling you.
Be aware of how you’re feeling and share this
One of my biggest downfalls whilst injured, and unable to train fully, is that I don’t quickly recognise how it affects my mood. If you train regularly and are suddenly forced to cut down or stop altogether, your body will not get the regular fix of endorphins and adrenalin that comes with pushing yourself hard. This WILL affect your mood. My advice here is; share your feelings of frustration with your loved ones in a calm, rational manner. They might not be able to do anything about it but they will, at least, understand why you’re not being your normal, cheery self.
As frustrating as any injury is, this is the best bit of advice I can give; be patient and allow your body the time to recover properly.
Think about how you would feel if you began training too soon and ended up setting your recover back or, worst still, injured yourself further. Always err on the side of caution. If your doctor has advised a recovery time of 4-6 weeks, would waiting until 7 weeks have passed, before going for a run, hurt that much? (the answer is no!)
You will, at some point, pick up an injury, if only slight. The important thing here is to assess, seek advice and above all, keep it all in perspective. Doing so will help you cope with it, help you recover and, ultimately, make you stronger as a result.