I’m Jess and I write about my life as a yoga instructor, runner and triathlete at racingtozen.com. I came to running later in life, racing for the first time at the age of 27. Like many late in life athletes, I arrived to running with some predisposition to injury. My feet and legs had carried me through two pregnancies, I didn’t have a wealth of knowledge about proper training or form and I didn’t understand the line between pain and a physical challenge. After increasing my distance and training for a half marathon, I found myself suffering from an attack of IT (illiotibial) Band Syndrome. I sought the advice of my family doctor who referred me to a sports medicine doctor. I began six weeks of physical therapy and my first lessons in injury recovery. I wish I could say that this was my only experience with injury, but my IT band has reared its ugly head several more times.
My experiences, research, and study as a yoga instructor have brought me to the following conclusions. If you want to successfully recover from an injury you must:
Accept That Rest Is Critical
Runners are notorious for feeling guilt for resting. Competitive by nature and occasionally addicted to the “runner’s high,” we feel like we can’t afford a day off, let alone a week. Rest is the opportunity for your body to fully recover from the stress you are placing on it. The best injury advice I ever read suggested that if you are hurting, take three days off. If you’re still hurting after three days, add four more. I can hear the cries of protest, but the only test to determine if you are truly injured is to give your body time. Or you could end up in the doctor’s office with the news that 68 weeks of no running is your new future.
Explore Options For Active Rest
If running is out of the question, discuss what activities will be safe with your doctor or medical professional. You may not be able to run on land, but water jogging or swimming may be a reasonable option. A gentle yoga class may help you to find mental and emotional relief from your injury. Just be sure to advise your instructor about the nature of your injury before class. Your downtime will be much more successful if you’re not bound to the couch!
Consider Alternative Treatments
I’m a natural born rule follower, inclined to see only my medical doctor for treatment and to take her word as gospel. But during my most recent running injury, a friend suggested that I see a chiropractor. I protested that it wasn’t my back that was injured, just my knee. What could a chiropractor do to help? And did I trust a chiropractor? The friend convinced me that it was worth a try and so I made an appointment and had the best therapeutic experience of my life. My chiropractor addressed my concerns and suggested a number of exercises to aid in my recovery, as well as traditional adjustments that had me back to running faster than any of my other adventures in physical therapy. If you’ve had a recurring injury, it may be time to seek out different professionals to help you find your way back to wellness.
Unweave The Web
Sometimes injury is an accident a fall on an unseen patch of ice, a twisted ankle over a knobby root on a rail. But, at other times, injury is a result of overuse, poor footwear or lack of cross training. Take your rest and recovery time as an opportunity to play Dr. House and figure out why and how you’ve ended up injured. Ask yourself some of these investigative questions:
- Did you change your footwear a month or two before this injury popped up? Even subtle changes in your footwear can cause a change to your gait and perhaps result in pain over time.
- Did you bail on cross training? Are you ONLY running? If so, it might be time to add swimming, cycling, weight training or yoga to your routine.
- Are you running under constant stress? Always increasing your mileage, always running through illness, always using running as a means of escape? If so, your body and your mind need a break to prevent future injury.
- Have you skimped on the warmup and cooldown before and after your workout? The body needs a chance to transfer from stillness to activity and back again. Commit to a few minutes before and after your workout to let your body adjust.
Let Go of Regret
There may be races missed, mileage lost, but your rest time is not a time to live in the past. Use this time as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and to recover well, not just enough so you can hobble through that 5K that’s been on the race calendar. During the fall of 2013, struggling with my knee pain, I discovered a newfound love of yoga. I continued to practice even as my knee improved, eventually enrolling in teacher training to become an instructor myself. I recently left my career as a special education teacher and am now enjoying life as a yoga instructor. My point? Had I never been injured, never tried something new, I never would have found this life. So, embrace your downtime and use it to try something new, to give yourself an opportunity for growth on a different path.
I hope your recovery time is successful and includes taking care of your whole self. Happy running!