Misery Loves Company: Surviving a running injury

Nothing unites complete strangers more than discovering they are both, in fact, injured runners. Because let’s be honest, no one REALLY understands the agony us runners go through when we’re deprived of our ‘fix’. Miles give us endorphins, take those out of the equation and you do the math. It sucks.

Run long enough and you’ll get injured. It’s a fact. Darn these humanoid bodies not quite engineered to put up with everything we want them to do in training and racing. This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of ways we can limit our injuries, and yes, us runners can be quite stupid sometimes in getting ourselves injured, but at a certain point you will get injured despite doing everything you can do right.
injured runner cartoon
But don’t think of that last line as a free pass to just go willy nilly, throw all caution to the wind then, when you do wind up hurt, pretend you have no clue why. Let’s start with the stupid:

• Denial:
Oh we’re the queens and kings of denial, us runners. “It’s not really that bad, it doesn’t hurt that much” thought as we hobble around the house in search of more ice.
• Grimace Face: We know running hurts, but when every stride sends a shooting pain (which you’re of course denying exists) your face gets twisted into a grimace that would make Frankenstein look beautiful.
• Random Prayers: You go to bed praying you’ll wake up and magically everything will just go away. No other logic there but a runner clinging to any shred of hope.
• Eff It, I Can Finish: Said during any run or workout, you’ve denied the shooting pains for as long as possible, somehow still believing that if you just muster on through this run, get done, things will still be peachy keen.

Clearly we all have to learn from our stupid mistakes. We’ve all been there, hopefully the older we get the wiser we get. Because let’s be honest, denial doesn’t change the situation.

Over the stupid, here are the proactive:
• Self-massage: Runners if you’re not in a love/hate relationship with your foam roller, I urge you to get cozy with it. Give him or her a name even.
• Stretch: Static and dynamic stretching post run.
• Core and Strength: Strengthening your core and WHOLE body to limit the compensation issues resulting from weak muscle groups.
• Ice, Smart, Recovery, Etc: You know the drill there.
• Form Work: Ties right into strength, run more efficiently and you’ll be doing less wear and tear on your body.

I’d like to take a minute to emphasize that if you’re not doing some kind of core or strengthening routine you’re not addressing issues that WILL eventually get you injured. Not a single runner in the world pops out perfectly balanced and with perfect biomechanics. Most runners have tight hips and weak glutes, just two major issues that cause many a runner heartache come injury time. What’s more is there tends to be a little too much emphasis on stretching alone. YES you need to stretch, but save some of that time for core work because you can’t stretch away a weak muscle group if you get my gist. I’m not talking about hitting the weight room like a Jersey Shore’r (a little dated reference but I was watching a comedy earlier that did a bit on that so it’s on my mind), and in fact many of the most effective exercises for runners can be done with bodyweight or with a swiss ball. I did some posts HERE with some of those.

Crash Course: Mentally Surviving an Injury

Back on topic. So you do your preventative but like I said injuries will occur. When you’re laid up you’ll most likely experience a few emotions.
• Rage: Like wanting to literally rip off your leg just so you can smash it against a wall, infuriated that ‘it’ let you down.
• Remorse: I abstain from the word depression, but it’s like a hair away.
• Anxiety: Is this going to EVER end? Will I EVER be able to run without pain, ever? Getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and you sorta ‘test’ jog down the hall, “Crap! Still hurts!”
• Envy: Oh that lovely runner envy. Daydreaming about hopping out of your car and slapping in the face the person you see running down the street. It’s not something to be proud of, but every injured runner thinks it. ;)
• Rage: Yea, you circle on back to rage.

I blame it on the lack of ‘proper’ endorphins for our crazy train ride of emotions and THESE are the things that our family and friends tend to have a hard time grappling with. To every runner who’s gotten, “But it’s just running” and you have to literally hold your arm down from punching that person in the face…yea, that’s a normal runner reaction.

The thing is, while I like to joke and jest and be comedic about Runner Rage (it’s totally legit and an excuse that I think should hold up in court, “Sorry, I’m not fully in control of my actions, I’m a runner who’s not able to run at the moment”) I’m also the first person to say this:

“Force that positivity down. Choke it down and keep it there. Fake it.”

Yup! That’s the only way to get through an injury. You keep yourself OUT of that depressive and overly-anxious mindset because if you don’t you’ll stay right there…stuck.

How I deal with Runner Rage is making fun of myself and being sarcastic. Rather be laughing than wallowing in sadness. What also helps is to feel proactive during your recovery meaning: cross train, core, massage, find out where your weaknesses are and target them. Come up with a recovery plan and start the execution. The other really important thing is:

Take it ONE day at a time.

Think only through the day. Because thinking of weeks and weeks of the elliptical or bike is, well, depressing, right? So just get through the day.

And there is always this: you’re not alone. There are other injured runners out there. And there are non-injured runners who know EXACTLY how you feel and what you’re going through and they sympathize and are sending you heal up fast vibes!

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12 thoughts on “Misery Loves Company: Surviving a running injury

  1. Oh Cait! I hope you aren’t injured at the moment?
    I have been putting some consistent miles on my running shoes at the moment, but I’ve been taking care to put some walking and strength training days in there too so that I can avoid injury. And I NEED to buy new running shoes because that is my number one injury trigger (other than randomly falling down on the pavement for no reason at all…).

  2. Injuries for sure suck. I DNF’d my first ever (40 years of running) race at Vermont 100 last month. It’s just not fair, right? It sucks, right? All true, but you nailed it in your blog. Weak glutes, weak core and oN and on. Time to rehab and get over it. I get it as do you. Happy trails. /jim

    • ugh, sorry you too have to deal with the ‘yup, that’s just what it is…stupid injuries!’ too. get those glutes and core strong and you’ll kick that next 100 miler’s @$$! happy healing, my friend!

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