How to cope with a running injury

Injury can be a black cloud for runners. If you've succumbed to bad luck, follow our 6-step guide to recovery and you'll get your running fitness back in no time.

How to cope with a running injury

Running injuries often start off as a simple niggle or a dull sensation in your knee or foot. But it could be something really serious such as a long term injury that until now, has been hiding in the wings.

This is the scenario faced by almost all runners at some point in their training - and when it occurs, it can knock your running mojo for six. Here are a few pointers to help figure out what to do when those niggles and sniffles start to raise their ugly head.

1. Stop running!

Runners are probably the most stubborn creatures on this earth. We hate being told that we can’t run - especially if we’ve sacrificed hours of our free time, pounding the pavements in a vain effort to reach our goals. ‘I’ve got to run 26.2 miles in 7 weeks. I’m raising money for charity. I don’t have time to be injured,’ you say to yourself.

Rather than get depressed or angry, accept what’s happened, stop running immediately and seek a professional diagnosis. As soon as you know what's wrong with you, you can start taking the correct steps towards a healthy, happy recovery.

2. Rest, ice, compression, elevation

It’s the most overprescribed medication, but depending upon the severity of the injury and how quickly it occurs, the best thing you can do, is indeed apply the RICE principal.

Missing a couple of days training while you get yourself sorted is better than missing two months and perhaps the race itself because you didn’t listen to what your body, or your physio/doctor tells you.

3. Look for solutions

Admitting you’re injured or ill is a first important step, but even more important is deciding what you’re going to do about it. To that end, you need to figure out what caused the injury or illness. Was there a particular moment when it occurred? For instance, slipping over on a pavement curb? Or did it come on gradually? Our Running injury index is a good place to start.

It could be something relatively easy to fix, like a poor choice of footwear. If this is the case, go and have your running gait analysed. There are some specialist footwear stores, such as Profeet in London, that can make you custom orthotics that can help to realign your body. Go visit one - it could be the best investment you make.

4. Rest is best

Marathon training puts your body under huge strain, giving your immune system a proper battering - which is why we become more susceptible to common colds.

Insufficient sleep from burning the candle at either end, not getting your five-a-day or allowing yourself recovery time post your long run - any of these can have you reaching for your box of tissues.

A simple way to know if you’re safe to keep running is to ask yourself if the cold is above or below the neck. Above the neck is probably OK to run, as long as you take it easy. But if you have a sore chest, throat or a cough - DON’T RUN until it’s cleared.

5. Don't do too much, too soon

Whether it’s at the beginning of our training or following an injury or illness, one of the classic mistakes we all make is to return to our training at the same level and intensity as we left off - not giving ourselves enough time to ease back into our routine.

It's important to listen to your body and give it time to recover, because unless you have a team of sports masseurs, physios and chiropractors at your beck and call to give you advice, you could end up making things worse. 

6. Opt for active recovery

If you are advised not to run but worried about how you can maintain your marathon fitness, ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to do other activities. If you're worried about losing fitness, read this!

Swimming, cycling, rowing, yoga and strength and conditioning will all help you to keep fit while you’re waiting for the all clear. The main thing is that you remain positive! Get well soon and remember, if you're a runner in need you can always head over to our forums for a chat with likeminded friends. A problem shared is a problem halved.

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