Injury setbacks and how to deal with them
The things every runner should do when injured
Unfortunately injury is an occupational hazard when you're a runner. No runner is immune to injury and when you are regularly pushing your body hard, it's inevitable that at some point it will rebel. Our sport can be very cruel at times and there is no doubt that one of the most testing times for a runner of any standard is being injured. However frustrating injury setbacks are though, they can serve to make you a better athlete in the long term. The most important thing is how you deal with them, what you learn from them, and how you can put preventative measures in place for the future.
Focus on what you can do
It's all too easy to fall into a negative mind-set when you’re injured, however, it's important to focus on what you can do rather than what you can't. Depending on the nature of your injury, you may be able to maintain excellent cardiovascular fitness through low impact activities such as cycling, swimming and aqua jogging. Remember, your cardiovascular system doesn't know the difference between running and other forms of aerobic activity. As long as you can elevate your heart rate, you will maintain or even improve your aerobic fitness.
Work on your weaknesses
Periods of injury often present a fantastic opportunity to work on the areas of your training that you tend to neglect. Just because you’re injured doesn't mean that you can't train. Your training simply needs to take other forms. So why not make a virtue of necessity and use the time that you are unable to run to instead work on your core stability or your flexibility? If you focus on exercises to strengthen those areas or something similar, when you return to running you will be a stronger and better athlete.
Set yourself a new challenge
If you are unable to run as a result of injury it’s not uncommon to miss the physical and mental challenge of training. During periods of injury it’s a good idea to set yourself a new challenge to help maintain your sanity and have a sense of purpose. If you are able to cross train then you could set yourself a specialist challenge to help focus your effort. This could be to swim or cycle a certain distance for example. Of course, your challenge doesn't have to be sports related – it could be anything, so get creative on this one.
Put things into perspective
We all run because we want it to enhance our life, not to make us miserable. Although it can seem like the end of the world when you're injured, in the grand scheme of things, it is rarely the case. There are always people in life who are worse off than you. Life is too short and there is certainly more to life than running.
Set realistic goals for your comeback
Use your time out constructively and focus on what you want to achieve when you return. Pick realistic and achievable goals. Your target should really excite you and should be something that makes you want to come back stronger and fitter. Some need to be major long-term targets, but others might be short-term goals like the progress you want to see each week. Record it all in a diary to help keep you motivated.
Be proactive about discovering what contributed to your injury and how you can prevent it in the future. Perhaps you need to change your running shoes more regularly, or perhaps not over race or push yourself to the limit in every training session. If you examine all aspects of your training, you will eventually identify the reason for your enforced absence and find a way to fix it.
Although it may not feel like it at the time, injury setbacks can often be a blessing in disguise. An enforced rest can help you to physically and mentally recharge, which can leave you ready for bigger challenges ahead.