If you’re a runner, the following timeline and scenario may sound all too familiar to you.
May: Excited to be a part of the26Strong program; plan on running the Chicago Marathon as a goal race to crush my 3:56 PR, hopefully getting under 3:50.
June: Begin training. Everything is fabulous!
July: Injury hits. Specifically, my SI joint, with excruciating pain in my back and my glutes. (Yup, literally a pain in the butt.)
When you have big goals, an injury can be downright terrifying. I don’t have time for this–I have a race to train for!
But here’s how to deal with an injury while training without totally losing it both mentally and physically.
Get medical attention as soon as you can.
I waited about a week before going to a PT — until I realized the pain was so bad that even walking hurt. I listened to everything my PT had to say.
Everyone and their mothers (and Google!) will have opinions on what you should do for your recovery. It’s fine to listen to them, but consult with your doctor or PT before trying something new. For instance, many people suggested I go for a massage. I was really nervous that I’d get a massage therapist that would make it worse instead of better, so I stuck with the soft tissue massage my PT did in our sessions.
Focus on what you can do.
I’ll admit I didn’t get here right away. I spent a few days being terrible to be around. I was cranky and sad and any talk of workouts — running or otherwise — had me back in tears again. I took a day or two to sulk, and then I started working with my PT to see what I could do. When she told me I could swim and do yoga, I decided I was going to become the best damn yogi/swimmer I could. And once I was able to start exercising again, the endorphins came back. While I was still disappointed I couldn’t run, it didn’t feel as nearly as devastating as it did when I thought I couldn’t work out at all.
Be as cautious as you can.
While I was disappointed I couldn’t run, I knew that this was not the time to be a hero. Any time I felt sharp pain or struggled with my range of motion in a yoga class, I immediately backed off. As annoying as it was not to be able to do my favorite activities, I knew that the more I listened to my PT, the faster I’d be back in the game. (And sure enough, she said that I listened better than any of her other clients!)
Know when you need to change your goals.
Marathon training schedules are typically built to allow some wiggle room for life — illness, injury or just being busy at work. But if you miss more than two or three long runs, you’ll probably want to re-evaluate your goals. Maybe this means you “run for fun” instead of going for a BQ, drop down to a half, or maybe you even decide this isn’t the year for you.
Rest, rest, rest!
I run social media for a fitness company and write a fitness blog. Working out is a huge part of my life. But, I know that 98 percent of the time I go hard and probably don’t give myself the rest and the recovery I need. Although running didn’t cause my injury, it was still a much-needed reminder that I’m not invincible. As much as I love running and working out, as a busy New Yorker, it was nice to have a little more time to take leisurely walk with my dogs and stop and smell the roses. (just kidding, he probably peed on them.)