The Upsides to Injury
You have to stay positive when injured – if you don’t, you’d just get depressed and this sport malarky is supposed to be fun. Of course, an injury is never much fun and the rehabilitation period is frustrating. Most of us just want to get back out there running again and all we can think about whilst injured is the session we should be doing and the form and fitness we are loosing. We all know that we aren’t really loosing much, but even if we aren’t loosing any fitness, we aren’t training so we aren’t gaining like we should be. You know what it’s like and the fact that we can’t do anything about it drives us nuts.
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – yeah yeah yeah, we know, but we just want to go running.
So, what can you do to stay positive when injured and maybe even gain long term from the injury?
I try diversion tactics.
I’ve recently been suffering from a poorly timed knee injury. I have two big races coming up, a qualifier for the European Age-Group Triathlon Championships in the middle of September and then the Age-Group Triathlon World Championships themselves in October. Unfortunately I managed to inflict a small tear on my Medial Colateral Ligament at the beginning of August, just as I was supposed to be really ramping up my training ready for these races. I think I did it whilst working, moving gravel with a wheel-barrow all day, so it wasn’t even a training injury. I couldn’t run and the looming races and lack of run fitness for them was playing heavy on my mind.
It’s these situations that generally result in people starting back to training far too soon, way before the injury has healed properly, and this just causes more setbacks. So, to try to take my mind off of the lack of running and to try something that would feel positive I started to concentrate on a few other aspects of my fitness.
I was still able to swim and bike so I kept that up as usual. I didn’t however do more of this, instead I worked on other aspects.
Stretching and Foam Rolling.
I spent more time stretching in an attempt to improve my flexibility and hopeful reduce the risk of repeated injury. This is something that Ioften neglect, despite the fact that research shows how much it can help. I usually stretch after a workout but whilst injured did one or two stand-alone stretching sessions a week as well. I concentrated on tight areas and those that are associated with knee injuries such as the quads and IT band.
This stretching made me feel as though I was doing something that would help my knee injury and hopefully help prevent a reoccurrence once it was healed. I’m also going to try to keep it up even once I’m back to running again. If I do then in the long term I will have gained from the injury.
I also bought a foam roller and have incorporated some foam rolling into my weekly schedule. Again, if this is something I can keep up then it should benefit me long term and who knows, the extra attention could result in overall performance gains.
Strength and Conditioning.
Before my knee injury the only strength and conditioning training I did was one circuits session a week. I stopped doing this whilst injured as it involves a fair bit of running and lots of explosive plyometric type exercises such as squat jumps, burpees and step-ups. All very good most of the time but they would have played havoc with my knee. Instead I did some home made strength and conditioning workouts.
Most of these involved a warm up and cool down on the turbo trainer followed by a series of core exercises and resistance band exercises. I’ve been doing this at least once a week and hopefully will continue to do them in conjunction with the circuit training once I’m back in action. Again, not only have these workouts provided a distraction from the lack of running but they will have mixed things up a little and therefore hopefully resulted in a performance response. If I can keep doing them then I will have gained something long term.
The core work is especially useful. Recent research has shown that a weak core and weak hips are two of the main contributors to most running injuries. Weak hip flexors and hip adductors have been observed in almost all runners who suffer from IT band syndrome and patellofemoral joint pain. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that core work (such as sit ups, leg raises, planks, back extensions, and oblique exercises) help prevent injuries, improve balance and improve running performance. I shall now try to incorporate at least two 20 minute core sessions into each weeks schedule.
This started off as a purely diversionary tactic – I started keeping a food diary. It really came about during a moment of boredom while I was unable to run and I was browsing through iPad apps. I started using a few iPad apps to track my food intake and eventually settled on one called MyFitnessPal. It may have started out as a way of wasting some time, but it does seem to have been beneficial.
Just keeping track of what you consume makes you more aware of it and helps give you the will power to resist temptation in the form of extra cakes and biscuits. I haven’t cut out such treats altogether of course – there would be no fun in that -but I have been eating less and eating more healthily. The result is some weight loss, some body fat loss and hopefully a leaner, fitter, faster me!!
Yes, the knee injury has been annoying and yes I’m sure I will have lost some run fitness, but hopefully overall, if I can keep up the new things I have started during the injury then in the long term I will be better for it.