Running Injuries – Go Slow Grasshopper

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When is the most difficult time to be a runner?

Answer: When coming back from an injury.

In my opinion it is most difficult when you are

Injured and Almost Back.

Whether it has been days, weeks or months, when a runner finally (I know it seem like freaking forever no matter how short a time it has actually been) comes back from an injury, we are eager to run as fast or as far as we did before the injury and we want to do it NOW!

DON’T DO IT!!!!

We don’t want to accept that we have to change our mindset, for at least a little while, to what we can do now, versus what we did before we got injured. This to me is one of the hardest things in running – to accept the fact that an injury changes how we will or should run during our return to regular running.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t want to admit that there will be a transition period back to running normally again – whatever your normal running is and we make choices good and bad.

Danger Zone

This is the point where, you have been patient, rehabbed the injury correctly (well mostly) and have started to run somewhat pain-free. About this time you know damn well that your being able to run “normally” is right around the corner, but you also know (if you are in touch with reality at all) that you are not quite there yet. There is still that last little bit of healing that needs to take place, before you can get back to regular running.

This is the part of your recovery or return to running that can often make or break all the hard work you have done:

  • You are starting to run very short distances and it feels good great to run again, maybe just a little tightness, but no pain!
  • You know if you can wait just a little while longer, that you will be able to start training and will get back to your regular running fairly soon.
  • About this time you get to thinking, I know that I can run further or faster and have to decide – do I go ahead and just do it (run farther/faster than called for) or do I stay conservative and stick to the recovery plan?

Some things that motivate us to running to soon are:

  • You are not going to get your weekly or monthly mileage in, this is one that really can get you in trouble and make a small aggravation into something much more.
  • not being ready for that race in a couple of weeks
  • The “I just want to run again”
  • I’m gaining weight without my running
  • “Suzy or “Johnny” are doing it
  • I got these new shoes and I really want to run in them
  • and probably about a bazillion other reasons to just run again

However, if you go ahead and just run, you run the risk of re-injuring whatever was the original injury and possibly making it worse than it was originally or then again you might get lucky (not likely, but maybe). Even worse because you are compensating for your original injury, you injure something else.

Runners Make Their Own Choices

How do you know if it is too early? If you have seen a doctor for the injury, either they or the physical therapist will give you some great feedback (not always what you want to hear i.e. no running still) or if it is still painful (runners need to know the difference between pain and hurting when it comes to their body).

However, I believe that most runners return to running when the discomfort is at an acceptable level for them and there is no further risk of making an injury worse.

Each runner has to make their own choices about when they begin to come back from an injury based on their own personality and what the injury was, you just have to be smart about it :-). (Disclaimer – in consultations with their medical professional if applicable)

The reality is that 

I have returned from some injuries too soon and gotten away with it (especially when I was younger), but I am not likely to be that lucky any more.

To be honest what happens when I run too fast, too far, too soon is that I usually re-aggravate or re-injure whatever it was that I had worked so hard to rehab. This misplaced exuberance, eagerness, lack of wisdom, stupidity or whatever you want to call it, only causes me to miss more time running, than I would have if I had come back conservatively.

Now I try to be smarter – it doesn’t always work, but I try. 🙂

The choice is yours

The choice is really up to you about when and how you come back from an injury. Medical professionals and others can only give you their advice and recommendations about your return to running. What it finally comes down to, is what you decide to do with those recommendations or advice. You must know your options and the potential consequences (good and bad) of your choices.

You know a little personal responsibility for our own actions.

As I have gotten older and am just starting to realize that I am no longer bullet-proof or indestructible, I am learning that taking a little more time to come back from an injury is a better.  That way you don’t re-injure yourself in your eagerness to get back out running again and yes it is pretty damn hard to do, especially when all you really want to do is just run.

In the words that might have been said by David Carradine‘s character in Kung Fu: “Go Slow Grasshopper”.

Questions for you

  • Have you ever been injured and then re-injured yourself because you came back too soon?
  • What made you decide to try running instead of waiting?
  • How much time did you miss?

or

  • Did you come back sooner than you were told you could, why were you able to come back sooner?
  • Was it any more uncomfortable than it would have been if you waited?

Originally written by Harold Shaw published at “A Veteran Runnah” © 2011 – All Rights Reserved. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Harold Shaw and A Veteran Runnah” with appropriate and specific directions or links to the original content.

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6 comments on “Running Injuries – Go Slow Grasshopper

  1. Going through this right now. Actually, not really b/c I can’t run at all b/c I did try to go out too far, too soon. I’m coming up on 3 weeks of no running and physical therapy. I ran b/c I just couldn’t hold myself back. It was gorgeous outside, I felt good. I just went way too far. Something you can’t take back.

    • I’ve been in your shoes – figuratively, not fun. But you will be back soon and then you will enjoy it all the more 🙂 Once you do it, you tend to beat yourself up over it for a while, which serves no purpose. Go slow grasshopper 😉

  2. Pingback: AVR – Week in Review 2-12-12 « A Veteran Runnah

  3. I am going thought this right now and it is SO hard!! Two weeks without running and it feels like an eternity and coming to grips with the fact that it will likely be longer and I will likely have to have surgery. Of course, in the back of myind I still think I am going to run a half marathon in April :-). Thanks for the perspective.

    • I was off running almost 18 months, because I delayed having surgery when the doctor first wanted to do it. It takes a while to accept that we are not invincible and that somethings just don’t heal by themselves. Not being able run, really sucks – bad. We always hope that the doctor is wrong and that we will have a spontaneous healing, but it using doesn’t work that way and Mac the Knife makes his appearance. For me it was the best thing that I could have done (not always for everyone), but I am now back to running 6-8 miles when I want and hit 30 miles for a week a couple of weeks ago. There is future after surgery, it just takes time to come back from it, we are not professionals and don’t have their support networks – so unless you have this support network your return will be slower, but return you will. Keep smiling and good things can happen 🙂

  4. I know that I am going to have to force myself to take it slow. After that first decent run I am going to want to run and run and run, but I am going to remind myself that it is not worth getting injured again and going through this. Hopefully I will listen to myself and all the great advice from those of you who have been through it before.

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