Our NoviceRunnerNik seems to think that running is something to do between injuries, so we’ve asked her to write about what she does to keep up her fitness and morale whilst she’s on the bench:
The ‘new religion’ enthusiasm that engulfed me when I took up running and other non-obligatory exercise in my late thirties, having been a self confessed couch potato since my school days, has led me to experience a series of overtraining and poor biomechanics-related injuries.
It seems that as soon as I cough up the entry fee for a race (usually a fun one involving mud and fancy dress), something else falls off this middleaged body and I have to withdraw my entry, consult my physio and hang up my running shoes for a while. I set myself the target to run a half marathon a few years ago and still haven’t ever made it past a 12 mile training run, let alone to the start line of one. I’m also afflicted with a husband who loves to run ultra marathons – the hillier the better – and his own enthusiasms for his training runs and races just make the ‘not able to run’ portions of my life harder to bear.
So, what to do if you injure yourself?
1. Rest up a bit and then consult a Physio
If, after a few days’ rest, your injury doesn’t seem to be getting better, consult your Physio. Don’t keep plugging away at your training if it hurts more and more every time. You could be doing more damage. Get professional advice sooner rather than later on whether you should be resting your injury, what exercises you can do to help, what other exercise you can do to keep your fitness up if you have to stop your favourite sports and how to start back again.
If you don’t have a Physio on speed dial like I do, ask your friends for recommendations or find a local Chartered Physiotherapist on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists’ (CSP) website. Health insurers usually cover physiotherapy and should refer you to one of their approved physiotherapy providers.
2. Keep exercising
When injured it’s all too tempting just to give up on the exercise front but it’s best to find other forms of exercise to keep up your cardio fitness whilst you can’t do the thing you really want to do. You’ll find it much easier to get back to it if you haven’t lost your fitness whilst out injured. Cycling, swimming, walking and weight training could all be good cross training to replace your favoured exercise but do check with your Physio that you’re not going to exacerbate your injury.
3. Don’t sulk, join in in a different way
It’s also really temping to just withdraw from your events, group runs or rides and sulk a bit because you can’t do what everyone else is doing. Don’t sulk for too long. Consider volunteering to marshal at that race that you’ve had to withdraw from. Event/race directors always need marshals, particularly those who are experienced at the very sport they are organising.
They will love you for standing in a field on a Sunday morning, pointing out the route and cheering on participants. You might not be in the race but you’re still taking part, still contributing and you get to revel in the glory of helping out. Just remember to take off your high vis vest at the end of the event when you’re enjoying your free marshal’s lunch and a pint or people will continually ask you where the lost property is or where the car park is!
Local parkruns are also always in need of volunteer marshals – every Saturday morning from around 8.30am for maybe an hour and a half. If you don’t know anything about parkrun, read up on it on the website now. Contact your local parkrun through the website to talk to them about volunteering. There are many different roles to do and every run wouldn’t happen without volunteers.
I’ve recently done both of the above. The one off event was a lot of fun to marshal, possibly more fun than actually running the race judging by some of the faces I saw (!) and I currently volunteer at my local parkrun twice a month and I then cycle home from it, to get some exercise in.
4. Do your exercises!
It’s obvious but keep doing the exercises and following the advice your Physio gave you. Put reminders in your diary or alarms on your phone to prod you to do them. You can probably do them infront of the TV or whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. No excuses.
5. Come back slow and steady
Heed the advice from your Physio. Start back only when they say you should. Start back slowly and steadily. Build your mileage / intensity up slowly and gradually to avoid reinjury or other injuries. Don’t be tempted to start back where you left off.
If you’re a runner returning from a lengthy break from running I highly recommend a structured walk / run programme such as the NHS’s Couch 2 5k. I followed this plan, from Week 3, to get back to running following six weeks off whilst I recovered from surgery (non-running related!) last year. It worked a treat – I wasn’t disheartened by my lack of fitness as I started gently and worked up to 5k slowly.
Words and image by NoviceRunnerNik.