I had just finished running my first 5K after completing the Couch to 5K plan. I was feeling good. Feeling motivated. Ready to train for a 1/2 marathon. Then December 13th, 2013 came. Yes, I still remember the day. I was running with my friend on the treadmill at the gym…I hate running on a treadmill, so I should have seen this as a sign. I had been working on speeding up my pace, so I decided to give it all I had and run faster. And as I ran, I noticed a pain in my hip. It was only a slight pain so I pushed through…no pain, no gain right?
Two days later, I was still a little sore in my hip when my friend asked me to run with her on the treadmill again. Despite my lingering pain, I joined her on the treadmill, and the pain in my hip was still there, but much, much worse. I didn’t want to seem like a wussy, so I pushed through the pain. After my run was over, I got into my car, and it hurt. I got out of my car, and it hurt. I walked to my house and it hurt. And this wasn’t tired muscle hurt…it was injury hurt.
I did what many people these days do and attempted to self diagnose via the internet, and my self diagnosis was an injury to my piriformis muscle. I started doing stretches and exercises to help treat the injury, but weeks later I had made no improvement and couldn’t even walk without limping, let alone run. I actually tried to run at one point and came back to my house in tears because I couldn’t run for more than about five seconds without being in tremendous pain. I had finally found a workout that I actually enjoyed doing, but feared I might not be able to do it again because of my injury. Setbacks Suck.
Finally, I decided that my self diagnosis was obviously incorrect, so I sought the help of a physical therapist. Turns out my self diagnosis was indeed, completely wrong. I had a combination of issues contributing the the problem that had me limping around for a month, but the good news was that none of the issues would sideline me indefinitely. The bad news was that it wasn’t a quick fix. Almost two months to the day after my initial injury, I am finally able to run without pain. And because I’ve been unable to run for the last few months, it’s almost like the first few times I ran all over again. It’s definitely going to take some time to get back to where I was, but at least I know I can get there.
Injuries can be a real setback, and like I said, Setback Suck. But setbacks are short term, as long as you don’t give up. Here are some tips to help when an injury sets you back:
I. Don’t over-do it! It’s important to push ourselves to achieve more when we’re trying to reach a goal, but just like I said in my last installment of Couch to 5k Chronicles on Reaching Milestones, doing too much too soon can lead to injuries from over use. Listen to your body; there’s a difference between the no pain, no gain type of pain and real,true injury related pain. If it hurts, don’t do it. If you’re unsure, get a professional opinion.
II. Don’t Self Diagnose-this leads to my next tip; if you have real, true injury pain, get a professional diagnosis and get it early. While there are lots of great tools online to assist with figuring out what ails you, there’s nothing like talking to a doctor in person to be sure you’re treating the right injury. I wasted a lot of time trying to heal myself; had I gone to the doctor sooner, I could have gotten back to running sooner.
III. Slow and Steady Come Back-once you are ready to start running again, don’t expect to pick up right where you left off. Coming back from an injury takes time, and trying to get back on track too quickly can only re-aggravate the injury or make it worse. Take it a little at a time and don’t be discouraged if you can’t run as fast or as long as you used to right away. Be proud of the milestones you’re making now; don’t compare them to where you were before the injury.
IV. Strengthen to the Core: injuries associated with running are often due to over use or lack of strength in your core. Pain in your legs and knees can be a result of weakness in your core. This is especially important for women. Women have larger hips than men, and because of the disproportionate size of our hips to the rest of our bodies, we are more susceptible to hip injuries (which was the type of injury I had). Many running related injuries can be avoided by strengthening up your trunk and core, which includes your stomach, back, and hips. Not to mention, a stronger core will make you a stronger runner. Here’s a link for lots of exercises for strengthening your trunk from Sports Medicine.
V. Stay Positive and Don’t Give Up! This can be especially hard if you have an injury that keeps you sidelined for a longer period of time. You start to think that you’ll never be able to do it again, and question whether or not you should just give it up all together. But if you’re getting treatment for your injury and strengthening up while you’re doing it, many running related injuries can be overcome. Stay focused on your goals and stay as active as possible until you can get back to doing what you love.
Injuries can cause setbacks, and believe me, setbacks suck. But it feels great to be able to get back to running, and coming back from an injury setback is like an accomplishment in itself. And when you get back to where you were before, you’ll be stronger than you ever were.