3 things NOT to do the next time you have a running injury

You get teased by relatives at Christmas parties and called ‘crazy’ by friends who don’t understand.

You’ve chosen to chase your goals, test the limits of your comfort zone and have the courage to question what you’re made of. (Many people go through life never asking that important question!)

But life as an endurance athlete, of not settling for “normal”, comes with a price.

And I’m not talking about the early mornings or the late nights or the teasing or the black toe nails or the never-ending pile of washing.

I’m talking about the niggles and injuries. Whether they are minor and you’re able to adjust your program and train around them or they are major and force you onto the couch for weeks (and sometimes months), injuries are a fact of life.

There’s no doubt; injuries suck.

But there's a right way and a wrong way to approach them.

One is to take a constructive and proactive approach; to immediately seek treatment from an (appropriate) health professional, to follow their advice, do the exercises and stretches prescribed, let your coach know right away so they can work around it etc. Adopt this approach and you’ll be lacing up your shoes and getting back into your training quickly.

And there is the other way. This one often delays your recovery and your return to training, increasing your anxiety, stress and frustration. Unfortunately over the years I’ve seen many people adopt this approach which often includes one of the following mistakes ~

See a GP

You wouldn’t see a GP for a tooth ache would you?

All due respect to GPs but injuries - especially the so-called ‘overuse’ ones caused by sport - are outside their expertise.

I’ve seen several clients over the last 12 months grow increasingly frustrated with their lack of recovery after seeing a GP who inevitably sent them off for an MRI -- without a treatment plan in the meantime. Factor in the waiting time to actually get the MRI, the follow up appointment with the GP and valuable rehab time is wasted and your return to training is delayed.

So the next time an injury - or even a niggle - pops up, please go and see a physio or physical therapist. Sure, they might send you to a GP to get a referral for scans but in the meantime you’ll have a treatment and rehab plan you can start immediately -- and the quicker you do that, the sooner you'll return to a pain-free existence and the training you love.

Sit on the couch

So it turns out that ostrichs don’t actually stick their head in the sand (thanks Google!). Unfortunately that fact ruins a perfectly good metaphor.

But the old ‘stick in your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening’ approach is one I see many people use.

It often unfolds like this - you don’t seek treatment. You take a few days off training and tell yourself “it’ll be right in a few days”. Eventually you decide to head out for a short run to “test it out”. And then, more often than not, you end up walking home.

Very few injuries heal with this approach because the underlying cause of the problem is still there.

"Tight" hamstrings don't feel better after a day of stretching. Tight calf muscles don’t suddenly ‘relax’ after a few days. Knee pain caused by tight ITBs won’t magically vanish because the underlying cause - which could be anything from tight adductors (inner thighs), weak glutes (your butt muscles) or excessive pronation in your feet - hasn’t been rectified.

There’s nothing more frustrating that resting for a few days only to discover the break hasn’t fixed anything and the pain is still there - so please don’t torture yourself that way!

Ignore the warning lights

Unless you have a fall or a crash, your body is probably sending you warning signs that an injury is creeping up on you. But are you paying attention?

You wouldn’t ignore the engine or fuel light in your car for too long would you?

And you certainly wouldn’t ignore the incessant and annoying chirp-chirp-chirping of the smoke detector at 3am for very long.

Denial might seem like a nice place to spend your time but it’s not going to get you back to doing what you love anytime soon. The same goes for running through your injuries. An injury - or a niggle - is a sign that something isn’t quite right…. so pay attention to the signs.

You don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines watching all your friends race your goal event for the year. Don’t live in denial; take action so you can get back to pounding the pavement (or the trail!) again asap.

Listen to your body and pay attention to the signs; your body will thank you for it.