How to deal with injury setbacks
Ways you can prevent running injuries
Hopefully no one reading this article right now is injured, but it seems to be inevitable that at one stage or another, you are going to have a little niggle or a full blown injury. There is never a good time to have an injury but if there was a better time to get one it would be as far away from your chosen race as possible.
Scott is a British long distance athlete who represented Team GB at the 2012 Olympics. His marathon PB is currently 2:10:55.
The best thing to do when you feel something isn't right when you're running is to stop and make sure you get treatment. Runners can be notoriously stubborn when it comes to injuries and will often just try to "run it off" and hope it gets better. However the failure to stop running as soon as something flags up, is often the difference between a couple of days off and a couple of weeks enforced break from running.
How to prevent common causes of running injuries
Most injuries tend to develop from overuse of the muscles, due to a weakness in a particular area or just ignoring a little niggle that develops into something worse. The best piece of advice I can offer if you want to avoid injuries is to make sure you see a physio or massage therapist once every couple of weeks. This will often catch any issues you might have before they get worse and cause even more problems. For example, you might be weak on one side of your body and as a result subconsciously you are working harder the other side to compensate. This is fine for a little while, but that overcompensation is eventually going to tire the muscle out and cause a problem. This is why it’s important to nip these issues in the bud before they develop.
For example, I often have tight hip flexors and this causes tightness in my hamstring. It’s aggravated by travelling long distances where you have to sit down in the same position for an extended period of time. I might not notice it at the time, in fact it could even be a couple of weeks before I realise it’s there, but I will eventually feel it. The number of miles I am running each week really highlights the issue and that is why I have a correction made to my back every couple of weeks.
Pain will be felt in the weakest part of your body
I like to encourage people to imagine your body like a working chain reaction. If you have something wrong at the start of the chain (for example the back) the pain might actually crop up in the calf or foot (the bottom of the chain). This means that although you have calf pain that might not actually be where the problem really lies. Your body might be overcompensating and therefore the pain is often in the place where the weakest part of the body is. Having a check up at the physio to make sure you are all good is something well worth doing. Think of it this way. Spending a little bit of money on a physio once every couple of weeks is always much better than having to fork out loads of money for scans and even more physio once the damage is really done.
Avoid nasty injuries by varying your training
Another piece of advice I always give people is please don’t just train by running. It’s really important to also use the gym as well to help correct any weaknesses that a physio will alert you to. Remember that doing simple exercises can make a world of difference when it comes to injury prevention. At the end of the day that is why most distance runners use the gym. They are not necessarily looking to gain muscle or get massive, but simply to make sure they are strong enough to withstand the mileage on the legs.
Like I said at the start, hopefully no one is injured right now, but remember, don't ignore the signs if something crops up!