Playing hurt: don’t let an injury derail your training program

Bad things happen to good runners.

There’s not much as frustrating as when you’re doing everything right — sticking to your training plan, taking care of your body, eating the right stuff — but still find yourself facing an injury that threatens your ability to stick with your training program.

Just remember that even if you don’t have control over your situation, you do have control over how you respond to it.

The worst thing you can do is run hurt, aggravate your injury, and put yourself on the sidelines for even longer.  The second worst thing you can do is to let the injury get the best of you — causing you to fall off the fitness wagon and lose the strength and speed you’ve worked for all along.

Here are a few tips for staying active and not getting derailed by an injury.

Listen to your primary care provider or physical therapist.  That’s what they’re there for.  If you’ve been given physical therapy to do, do it.  Don’t blow it off.  Even if it seems trivial compared to the serious training you were doing pre-injury, treat it just as seriously.  Channel the intensity that you were putting into running into getting well.  If you’re supposed to stretch or do some exercises every day, treat that with the same priority that you would your other workouts.

Keep your routine alive.  Injuries don’t usually derail training programs by making you unable to run for months at a time.  Much more often is the case where what should be a brief interruption turns into a serious hiatus not because the injury is devastating, but because it throws the runner off his or her routine.

We are creatures of habit. Even if you are unable to run, keep your good habits alive by staying active while you heal up.  Find some physical activity that you can do without risk of further damage and use that activity to fill out your workout schedule.  Walking, doing some light yoga, even throwing a frisbee around or splashing around in a pool — there’s usually something you can do to keep moving when running isn’t an option.

Don’t stop using your app.  Let’s say you’ve got a minor injury and can walk, but can’t run.  Get out there and walk.  Choose a workout and go through the motions, power-walking the run intervals if your condition allows.  You won’t break any records, but again, you will be out there keeping your routine alive and staying in the groove.

Cross-train.  Depending on what your primary care provider or physical therapist says, there might be activities every bit as intense as running that can allow you to train seriously while your injury heals.  Swimming, biking, using the elliptical machine — there are a number of great cross-training opportunities that can sometimes keep you training on an injury that would be aggravated by running.  Who knows?  You might even find yourself hooked on one of them.

Again, I can’t emphasize enough that when you’re dealing with an injury, you have to play it safe to avoid making things worse.  But that said, there is almost always room to be active and keep moving in a responsible way that will be good for your body and good for your mental health.

For a runner, there are few things as unhealthy as spending weeks moping on the couch.  Even if you’re just getting out for a lap around the block a few times a week, you’ll be glad you did.

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