So You Have a Running Injury…Now What?

So you have a running injury. Now what?

Throughout my decade of running, I’ve had several running injuries. Due to form, I am more injury-prone. It’s taken me years to figure that out but now that I have…I’m a lot more cautious and smarter with running. Rest days save seasons, and it’s a mentality I use often to stay away from a running injury. You won’t lose fitness in a day or week, but you will lose fitness if you are forced to take an extended break due to injury.

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

So you have a running injury...now what

As we know, running injuries are challenging because they take a toll on you mentally and physically.

Many runners can relate to this mindset: As soon as you get injured, your motivation to workout stops.  If you can’t run, why try 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 with a running injury?  

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.  The big picture includes fully recovering. Fitness is a collection of hard work and workouts. It’s not one day, week, or month but what you consistently do to get better. Sometimes that means what you do to get better when you are hurt.

How do You Stay Motivated with a Running Injury?

Think of it this way, you might not be running this month, you will get back to running again. It will happen.

I set all of my PRs after a long break or a running injury. My 5k and my half marathon were both set post-injury. I spent a year building a base and fitness.  Later, I saw results 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 running 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:
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 will make the injury worse.

Since there is no Elliptical Olympics, it’s not beneficial to spend mindless hours crosstraining and risk another running injury.

When the pandemic first began, I broke my calcaneus. With gyms closed and needing to be non weight-bearing, I was forced to take all my time off (I would have swam). Walking long miles on a broken foot would have made the situation worse.

Make a Plan:
If you don’t have a recovery timeline and plan, it will take a lot longer to recover from your running injury.  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 running injury:

  • Be honest to yourself about why did you get the running injury.
  • Are you overtraining? Malnourished? Are you sleeping enough?
  • 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, the running injury might reoccur!

Remember, your running injury will pass:

It stinks at the time, and no one likes to have a running injury, but it’s important to remember, it will pass. You will get healthy again; you need to give it the appropriate amount of healing time. Recovery and healing should be your most important goal, not trying to cross-train yourself into the ground only to be injured again.

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