So You’re Injured…Now What?

As most people know, I spent the last few months injured and recovering from a fractured ankle.  While it wasn’t the end of the world, it definitely put a damper on my spring, summer and even fall plans.

I recently talked about “how to come back from an injury” but I haven’t talked much about to do while injured or what not to do…

Injured from running

Thinking out loud, Injuries are tough because they take a toll on you mentally and physically.

Most runners can relate to this mindset: As soon as you get injured, your motivation to workout stops.  If you can’t run, why trying to do anything else?

You spend a few weeks moping around, and no one understands your pain.  I’ve been there emotionally and spent days and weeks, just feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve also been on the opposite end of the spectrum of maybe cross training too much.  What is the balance?  

I’m not recommending to cross train 2 hours a day or even workout every single day.  It’s important, however, to stay motivated and look at the big picture.  I’ve said this multiple times, but fitness is a collection of workouts.  It’s not one day, week or month but what you consistently do.

So while you might not be running this month, you will get back to running again.

Before this particular injury, I had PRed in everything from the 5k to the half marathon.  I spent a year building a base and fitness.  I saw results that I had been dreaming of for years.

When I was diagnosed with a serious injury, I didn’t know where to turn.  I knew I didn’t want to let my fitness go to waste, but I also knew I didn’t want to overdo it with cross training.

During this particular injury, I took the time to look at the big picture and do the smaller things to keep me healthy.

Here are a few tips for maintaining some (not all) fitness when injured:

Rest is Best:
But you shouldn’t sit on your couch for two months.  You should follow your doctor’s orders.  If you’re in a boot, you shouldn’t take it off to sneak in workouts.  If you push yourself with cross training, it’s going to make the injury worse.  Since there is no Elliptical Olympics, it’s not beneficial to spend mindless hours crosstraining.

Make a Plan:
If you don’t have a recovery timeline and plan, then it will take a lot longer to recover.  Work with your doctor, PT and any specialists you see to create a plan.

One of the most important issues to address is the why of the injury:

  • Be honest to yourself of why did you get the running injury.
  • Are you overtraining? Malnourished?
  • Is your gait or form creating injuries?
  • There are thousands of different answers to your injury and it’s important, to be honest with yourself and your doctor.  Otherwise, it will reoccur!

So what did I learn during my two months of recovery?

I’m injury prone because of my gait and form.  Since I run so far on my toes, I put a lot of pressure on my metatarsals.  This means I’m more susceptible to fractures in my feet and bone issues versus muscle issues.  Working with professionals is one way to fix this, but it will take time.

Questions for you:
How do you “deal” with injuries?
What was your last running or workout injury? 

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  1. i dealt with IT band issues last year- It was two things, a tight hip and not doing enough of the foam rolling/pt exercises etc. When i’m injured I try to find the root of the problem, work on weaknesses and focus on nutrition (since the excess running calories aren’t there!)

  2. I’m going to deal with calf injuries for the rest of my life so I have to find ways to balance my running and accept that I’ll be injured occasionally. Now that I know that, while injuries are frustrating, they don’t make or break me anymore. I find classes I enjoy rather than forcing myself to exercise just because I need to stay in shape. I don’t need to. I could probably do a better job finding ways to strengthen the weaker points, but sometimes I’d just rather do what I feel like doing that day rather than thinking about if it’s going to translate back to running again.

  3. I totally agree with your recommendations:
    I just returned to trainig from my fourth (!) stress fracture. After 7 weeks of cross training (just enough, a lot of aqua jogging and elliptical) I started running slowly with a “return from injury” plan and listened to everything my PT recommended. It went well and yesterday I ran a 5k in 19:55 🙂 Sure, in spring I would have been at least 90s faster, but lacking 7+4 weeks of structureded training I am very satisfied with this result as I did not loose all of my shape after crosstraining in moderation instead of doing nothing / overdoing it.
    I also think it is very helpful to use the time that one has due to a shorter workout schedule for overthinking the mistakes one made (maybe concerning orthotics or having a blood test indicating possible malnutrition) and thoughtfully planning ahead the next steps.
    One could argument that after my fourth stress fracture I am not the one to give advice 😉 however, all of them had different causes, and after recovery I eliminated the know factors. I guess, now there’s not much left for a fifth one (hopefully)…

    1. I can relate to this Sarah. I’ve definitely broken several bones but they have all been for different reasons. The only overuse injury was my actual tibial stress fracture.

  4. I have definitely dealt with my fair share of injuries! I have definitely been one to avoid the reality that i need to STOP running when I feel one coming on, and i have absolutely learned the hard way, and it always make the injury worse!!! and for my most recent – I have been dealing with hamstring issue that I hurt while doing deadlift exercises for my hamstring, then ran the next day on a sore hamstring – BAD idea. it has / is taking forever to get better.

    when you mention above you were diagnosed with a serious injury, what one was that? I didn’t know if you were referring to your recent fracture or a diff one!

  5. I loved your Elliptical Olympics comment, that made me laugh! Yeah it’s really a machine that’s for keeping up fitness when you can’t do other things. My number one tip is to talk to other runners- because they will understand your pain like nothing else! I started volunteering at Parkrun when I was injured, just so I could still be social with runners whilst I was injured, and give something back!

  6. Great post. Rest is totally best! Nothing sucks more than being injured and then making it worse. I consider my illness as a full body injury so I haven’t been able to do anything since June. But as you said, these are good learning experiences as much as they suck!

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