A few weeks ago, my IT band flared up. Even though I successfully beat IT band syndrome last summer, I was scared. I couldn’t image taking another two months off of running and going through the daily grind of physical therapy exercises again. Even though I knew that I should take time off — because last time I ran a hilly 10k and just made my injury worse — I still wanted to keep running. I had to keep reminding myself to listen to my body and take it easy, knowing that this would only be temporary if I did. Yet again, it was a really difficult time for me. Though, I will say that I handled it better than last time.
Luckily, a sports massage, time off, stretching and strength exercises fixed me in about 10 days, but it got me thinking about all the self-doubt and negativity that occurs in a runner’s mind when he or she is injured. So listed below, you’ll find 10 things you need to hear if you’re an injured runner.
1. This is temporary.
It may seem like your life is over, but I promise you’ll heal. You have years and years to run ahead of you, and, when you look back, this will just be a minor moment in the grand scheme of things. You’ll be running soon enough; when you are running again, you’ll forget that you were ever even injured after a few days.
2. This injury will not define you, but how you handle it will.
Don’t give up on your sport forever because of a new or recurring injury. Instead, see this as another test of your athleticism. If you let it, your injury will make you a smarter, strong runner.
3. Take time off now before you have regrets.
Before you continue on with a major race, ask yourself if it’s worth further damage. Competing in a race when injured could set you back for weeks or months, whereas swallowing your pride and choosing not to compete could have you running again in a matter of days. Listen to your body. It’s better to miss out on one day than on weeks or even months of running.
4. Taking time off won’t make you less of a runner.
In fact, it will make you more of a runner. Contrary to your beliefs, all runners get injured — even Olympic runners. And what keeps the pros competing is that they know when to take time off. Running is about more than just the time spent on the road. It’s about the preventative maintenance put in through strength training and stretching, so if you can’t run right now, focus on those aspects instead.
5. There is more to life than running.
This is a shocker; I know. But it’s true. What other things do you enjoy? Maybe you love reading new books or watching old movies. Rediscover some of your other passions that get put aside when you’re busy running.
6. You can still exercise.
Consider what other exercises you can do besides running. There are other ways! If it won’t aggravate your injury, try a fitness class, an elliptical machine, a bike or weight lifting.
If those things will exacerbate your injury, take to the pool. Swimming is a great recovery tool, and did you know that you can run in the water?
7. Warmups and cool downs aren’t for amateurs.
When did the injury start? Did it occur on a run when you ditched your warmup or cool down? If so, now’s the time to read up on the benefits of not skipping them! Google various warmup routines and have them ready to go when you get back to running. Always walk for a few minutes after a run to let your body return to a more relaxed state.
8. Stretching isn’t for amateurs either.
A cool down might just be a five- or 10-minute walk following a run, but don’t forget to stretch, too. Again, Google various stretches to try, and try them now because they can help you recover. If you’ve never used a foam roller, you might also want to give it a try. It’s a way to self-massage, but read up on how to use one before you start.
9. You are brave.
It’s scary being injured, and you’re brave for not giving up on running altogether; you’re brave for working through your injury. Running takes guts, and you’re a runner.
10. You are strong.
In both body and mind, you are strong. Running is both a mental and physical sport. When injured, you’re dealing with one of the most mentally challenging aspects of running. You’re not weak for being injured; you’re strong for allowing yourself to recover.
Click to read about the major running injuries, what causes them, and how to treat and then prevent them!
Have you been injured before? How did you recover?