Friday, 4 March 2011

So you're injured, what now?

Hehe sounds like an 'injury-lawyers-for-you' claim advert! However as this is pretty much self induced and I can't sue myself it's a genuine question facing many runners in training out there right now.

The last few days have been a bit of an eye opener for me, so if you're reading this and are also injured I hope it gives you some useful advice and then I won’t have gone through it all for no reason. For the rest of you regulars I apologise for the lack of an update but I've been trying to figure out exactly what's going on myself. Essentially only two things matter:

1. I am injured
2. Life carries on when you can't run (*a well kept secret by all those non-runners out there! Very sneaky!)

No.1 was pretty obvious to me. A lot of articles talk about 'denial' when you're injured - it was quite hard for me to ignore the lack of being able to walk properly so I pretty much skipped the denial part. It took me a couple of days to figure out No. 2 - I'm still shocked by it now!

The Injury

I wasn't pushing it, I have been careful with my mileage increase and at the time I wasn't on a hill, uneven surface or sprinting with everything I had. I was in fact calmly jogging along at a moderate pace when my right foot started hurting. By the time I had got home it was aching quite a bit and the next day I woke up to find I couldn't put any weight on it and had begun walking like an extra in a 'night of the living dead' movie.

Staying Positive

It's no secret that I panicked. What I should have done is follow RICE: Rest Ice Compression and Elevation. What I did was hit the internet with every ounce of typing skills and try to self diagnose myself. Mistake number 1: The internet can only tell you about other people, other people can only tell you about other people and web dictionaries can only tell you about other people and how to spell complicated Latin ailments that mean your legs going to spontaneously fall off.
It's hard, trust me I know and you just want answers but DON'T DO IT. When you find yourself on Google about to describe your injury in minute detail stop and go and watch YouTube videos of cats instead - seriously it's great : Plus you'll get more work done. So try to keep positive - you're still alive, and refer to point 2: There is life after running.

Diagnosis (aka - what the hell's going on?)

So after a day the pain didn't go. If yours has and you can walk briskly, lightly jog and only then run with no pain or even slight twinges then congratulations - you're not injured anymore (although you could still be in denial). Finally paying attention to all my caring friends I started to follow RICE. This helped reduce the pain and swelling. Plus I was able to walk around normally and tackle stairs in under 20 mins - imagine the benefit if I had done that straight away instead of studying 'webDoc' for hours. However with the pain still there I decided to go and see two people - firstly Carl 'Magic Hands' Bradshaw (sports therapist) and then my GP. These two together are my best weapons against injury.
Your GP is one of the few people that can genuinely tell you what's wrong - or can send you to the person that can. In my case he sent me for an X-ray - which didn't show anything. I've been told not to run for 2 weeks and then have a return appointment to try and figure things out from there. Until then, and this is shocking - follow RICE.
Carl has been a lot more helpful from a runner's point of view. I have poor biomechanics and my muscles on my right side relating to my foot are tighter than the new government budget (haha a political joke! check me out). So I had an intense sports massage that has reduced the pain by at least 75%. Oh and surprisingly no running. But instead of just icing (as part of RICE) Carl suggested alternating between hot and cold therapies for a more effective way of reducing the swelling and getting the circulation going.

So no definite diagnosis - but does it really matter? Let's refer to point 1 - I'm injured. I can't run even if I wanted to and any attempt to will just hamper my recovery. Why would I want to do that? Regardless of the diagnosis the treatment is essentially the same -REST and NO RUNNING. So giving it a name won’t make the mildest bit of difference to the outcome. So let's skip the diagnosis and just accept the fact that I don't NEED a definite diagnosis to start recovering...which leads me on nicely to...


Firstly if you haven't got the gist yet the idea is RICE with lots and lots of rest and zero running. There's no point in rushing things - you have to wait for your body to catch up and rushing a recovery just risks longer time ‘on the bench' or pulling a more serious injury. So how long will it take? Well that depends on so many factors, some of which I can't control such as how quickly my body heals or what I've actually damaged in the first place. There are things I can do to 'speed it up'. Mainly rest properly and I'm also seeing Carl once a week for sports massages to try to correct my biomechanics. Keeping a healthy diet is important too to make sure my body gets the building blocks it needs for repair.
Whilst it would be nice to be told how long it will take this is another 'how long is a piece of string' question. It will take as long as it takes and in the meantime there is life outside of running.

The Future

Carl believes I will still be able to run the marathon - the question on everyone's lips. But there's no guarantee and it all depends on my recovery. There is a good chance that if I can run it I won’t be as fast as planned and I also have a backup plan should it turn out I've injured myself more seriously than first thought and am not able to take part (but we'll keep that under wraps until the time comes).

But what about after that? It's important to address how this happened in the first place. If you're reading this and have got to the same emotional stage as me with your injury it's very important you figure out why it happened so that it doesn't happen again. I am not an expert in the slightest, but from what I can gather most injuries relate to either doing too much too fast or your biomechanics.
I have just started this process and working with Carl have realised how bad my running style is - the increased marathon training has allowed small inaccuracies to become big problems. And I don't want this to happen again - so it's important to try and straighten out what I can now.

It's not been an easy journey and I've only been off running for a few days (less than a week) but I'm pleased to finally be here. My aim is to be fit. Whether that's for the marathon, or for the summer, or winter or next year or even the year after. In the meantime please keep the donations coming - knowing you're all supporting me and Brain Tumour UK is keeping me motivated and with the positive attitude needed to tackle this.

So jump on the recover rollercoaster, keep your arms inside the carriage at all times and scream if you want to go faster because these next few weeks leading up to London are going to be one hell of a ride!

Keep resting!

Biscuit Nikki x

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  1. I'm sitting in the same boat. Unlike you, however, I haven't been smart about it. I've kept running, though not nearly as much as before. It's not getting worse, but it's not getting better, either.

    One thing I've been trying out is Vibram Five Fingers. I find they help me run more lightly and land in a better way. My foot seems to like them more than my "normal" running shoes. It's too early to tell, really, but so far I'm loving them.

    I hope that your injury is not as serious as mine, and that you do get to run your marathon. Good luck!

  2. I'm sorry to hear that and completely understand how fustrated you feel. Thanks for the tip on the five figures - I need all the help I can get with my running mechanics so will definitely try to check them out. I hope you have a speedy recovery and are able to return to form with extra strength soon. Take care and try to rest when you can! Biscuit nikki x