Reader to Reader: What's your injury philosophy?

How's a runner to handle injury - and the constant threat of injury? Here's what you thought


Posted: 29 April 2007
by Jane Hoskyn


A very broad question this week, from a RW forum member who wonders how to deal with the constant worry that injury could strike any day. And when injury does strike, what's your attitude to it?

"The risk of injury is the price that the hard training athlete has to live with, but how do you deal with knowing that a niggle may appear out of nowhere one day? I'm just interested to know how other runners manage injury in a way that gets them back to running as soon as possible."
Swan Song

Your best answers

  • Think, branch out – and dream
    1. Think. Analyze what went wrong and start re-shaping plans. It's a lot easier to avoid recurrence if you can identify the weak link and strengthen it or avoid it. Work at recuperation in the same deliberate way you would work at increasing mileage or intensity. 2. Branch out. Learn to swim, ride a bike, join the pilates class, take out/make better use of a gym membership. Avoiding discouragement is part of the job. Practice at this also means that when the race devils are sitting on your shoulder around about mile 20 in the marathon, you have had plenty of practice with their injury cousins in denying them any satisfaction. 3. Dream. The first three years coming back from not walking I spent a lot of time not able to run, sometimes not even able to walk again. Reading RW at that time, dreaming of taking part in Foulees de la Soie were things that kept despair at a respectful distance. It took three years, but I got there. – Stickless
  • Don't let injury happen in the first place
    Injuries don't happen, they are caused. They are most frequently caused by overuse at any age. The answer is not to cause them. Recovery from hard effort takes longer as you get older (as does recovery from injury) so you just have to ease off accordingly. If you don't recover properly you are just adding more and more damage until something actually breaks. If you are getting older, you have to reassess your targets and stop pretending that you can compete with youngsters or train like you did when in your 20s and 30s. Most of us are sharp enough to recognise the problem and do something about it, because we want to carry on competing. Don't forget that the age deterioration curve is exponential not linear, so you have to make ever bigger adjustments as you get older. Comparing notes with some V60s a few weeks back, most of us found that running a flat-out 10 mile or half marathon can take up to two weeks' recovery before any hard speed work. – Johnny J
  • Note every niggle and work on prevention
    I suppose I've been quite lucky. The only injury I've had was in Jan 2000, which stopped my running for four months. I had physio and an extensive weights programme, and the recommended stretching exercises are now a regular part of my routine. Since then I've had a few little niggles, but now I take note of every niggle and try to determine what's caused it, taking appropriate action immediately. Usually this either involves running slowly or taking a few days' rest. Invariably the niggles are caused by too much speedwork. When you get older it's important to recover well from EVERY hard session. – drew
  • Iron out niggles with a sports massage
    The way to stop a niggle becoming an injury in the first place is usually achieved (for me) through weekly or fortnightly sports massage – I aim for once every 100 miles or so. When I am running I try to make a mental note of the location of every little twinge, even if I only notice it very fleetingly, so that I can tell my massage therapist. Almost inevitably he finds the location of the problem, works extra deep and long on that area and that is the last I know of the problem. I must have had 6 or 7 different minor niggles sorted like this in the last few months without them having any impact at all on my training. – Tigger's mate Roo
  • Running on a niggle isn't worth it
    Take up another sport. As others have said, managing injury is largely about preventing it in the first place and taking preventative measures like stretching, massage and conditioning if necessary. People who run through minor injuries are taking a calculated risk, and every now and then they are going to be caught out and turn a niggle into a longer term condition. – popsider
  • Scores of injury-avoidance tips
    I don't think that running slower is the answer, because you'd be changing your natural style rhythm. However it's important to run at different speeds so that you don't develop overuse injures by always running the same style with the same range of movements. Building upper body and core strength is important. Work on flexibility. Run whenever possible on soft surfaces to minimise impact. Try not to run on your heels, and make sure your shoes are correct and change them when necessary. Take a regular massage to increase circulation and aid the recovery process. Very important is the need to build easy days and easy weeks into your running schedule, and recovery is essential. – ceal
  • Don't do what I do
    I was only today thinking about this – I have a grumbling left knee. Grumbling so much that I am limping. Because I feel that I'm always whingeing or claiming injury, I'm trying to ignore it. Am I just a wimp? Because I think I must be a wimp, I push on with mild injury which then develops until I stop and feel frustrated at my lack of progress. On my return I build up slowly, delighted at my progress, have a niggle, think I must be a wimp and push on with niggle etc etc. The trouble is that I find it very hard to distinguish between a niggle and a real problem. Today I've struggled to walk, and I'm weighing up whether to run tomorrow. Probably silly, but I feel that everyone else thinks I must be finding excuses not to run. – Mrs Pig
  • I never learn!
    I suffer from the common 'Runner's Attention Deficit Disorder': I can't keep a good X-training regime going to ward off the next injury (now in mid-term of second shin splints attack in 15 months). As soon as the injury fades, I begin to think I'm indestructible. Aside from a few stretches, I just run. Why don't we learn?! Truth is, I think we do, but only slowly and through repetition. Hopefully, I'm approaching drew's or Stickless's level of maturity and will one day turn chaotic reaction to a calmer, more proactive control. I think what must underpin it is self-disciplne and paying constant attention. – Slow But Far
  • Too much risk-avoidance can be tedious
    I've just got back to running after many fat years off the road. Completly gutted that I've managed an achilles (high up) injury without any prior warning. If I run any slower it will be walking as I only do 12-13 mm! I've been advised to rest, which I will do, but goodness me how long for, the desire to run is driving me nuts! – Halfthewoman


Any questions?
Got a new poser or problem that you want RW members to answer? Spotted a great question on the forum? Email us!

Click here to find out more about Reader to Reader.


Previous article
Reader to Reader: Drinking on the Run
Next article
Reader to Reader: Running Mummy

injury, training misc
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

There’s nothing that a runner hates more than injury, It’s guaranteed to make your horizons collapse. One minute your running and you’re totally in tune with how your training efforts will translate into racing performance, and the next minute you’re in a hand to mouth existence of “do I run”, or ”do I rest”. It’s impossible to focus on anything outside of the daily run and how it will be affected. Every time you set off out the door you’re so plagued with doubts about whether you’ll actually finish the run, that the impact on your longer term training just doesn’t even register.

I think the risk of injury is the price that the hard training athlete has to live with if he really wants to improve -so how do you deal with it. Of course you try to structure your training to ensure that you minimise the likelihood of actually getting injured. Part of this relates to how you deal with niggles. In a way these are a bit like DOMS, in that with any luck they’ll go away within a couple of days, or failing that they cause you a bit of discomfort, then settle down and fade away – providing that you don’t dramatically increase the training stress. At the other extreme, most hard training athletes have injuries that they regard almost as old friends – they are always with them, usually as niggles but occasionally erupting into more troublesome outbreaks if they take their eye of the ball. Fortunately previous experience of the relationship between symptoms and remedial action gives them the knowledge and confidence to deal with them – in short the runner is able to control them, rather than the injury controlling the training they do.

The most problematic type of injury the runner has to deal with is the one that comes from nowhere, or the ignored niggle that erupts into something unexpected. In these circumstances the runner has no experience of cause-effect-response with which he can treat or control the injury. At that point, the disorientation described in the opening paragraph takes over, and the runners training focus starts to unravel.

So how do we deal with this type of injury. My experience is that the common sense and reasoned approach that we apply to structuring our training, controlling niggles and keeping recurring injuries under control seems to go AWOL when faced with emergence of a previously experienced problem. In short, when I’m faced with an injury I haven’t had before, I’ve hardly any idea about what approach I should take or how long it will be before I’m running injury free again. I start out thinking that it isn’t going to be too debilitating – a week or so, no loss of fitness, etc, only to find three months later that it’s only after a couple of months of none or very little running and total loss of fitness that I eventually shake it off.

What I need in these circumstances is the benefit of hindsight. Failing that, is there any one out there who can give me their experiences of managing injury efficiently to get them back to running as soon as possible.

Posted: 19/04/2007 at 07:57

Tom, I sympathise with your predicament and know how frustrated you must be.

The following are just a few thoughts for you to consider.

I suppose I've been quite lucky. The only injury I've had was in Jan 2000, which stopped my running for 4 months.

During this period I did see a sports physiotherapist and determined what had caused the injury and which parts of my body I had to work on. This resulted in me doing quite an extensive weight training programme, which I maintained for nearly 2 years. The stretching exercises she recommended are now a regular part of my routine.

Since 2000 I've had a few little niggles.

Nowadays I take note of EVERY little niggle, try and determine what's caused it, and take the appropriate action immediately.

Usually this either involves running slowly or taking a few days rest. Invariably the niggles are caused by too much speedwork.

You don't post your training as regularly as you used to so I'm not entirely sure what you are doing, apart for the 3 speed sessions one week, however I have thought in the past that you have a tendency to do your slow/recovery runs too fast. Maybe you also do your steady runs too fast.

One of the changes I made towards the end of 2006 was to run slower. Steady runs used to be around 7 mm pace. Now they're between 7:15 and 7:30 pace.

Recovery / easy runs used to be between 7:30 & 7:45 pace. Now they range from 7:45 to 8:30 pace.

At our age it is important that we recover well from EVERY hard session.

Hope you get your injuries sorted out soon because you have the motivation and the desire to be a very fast and successful 60 year old.



Posted: 19/04/2007 at 11:13

Hey Swan Song I think that's a really interesting question - in fact Lyra pointed it out to me because she thought it'd make a good Reader to Reader question. So I'm going to flag it upin this week's article. Hopefully we'll drum up some varied responses.

Good luck, and'bye for now,

Jane
Posted: 21/04/2007 at 21:51

My answer to the question is take up another sport.

I think managing injury is largely about preventing it in the first place - recognising the initial signs and backing off - taking preventative measures like stretching, massage and conditioning if necessary. I don't think you can really get advice on managing injury and running. People that run through minor injuries are taking a calculated risk and every now and then they are going to be caught out and turn a niggle into a longer term condition.
Posted: 21/04/2007 at 22:06

A few things:

Think: analyze what went wrong, if there was something in particular, and start re-shaping plans. It's a lot easier to avoid recurrence if you can identify the weak link an strengthen it, or identify the mischievous session and avoid it. Work at recuperation in the same deliberate way you would work at increasing mileage or intensity. I think you learn really useful stuff in doing so. How to discipline training so it actually gives you the results you want, rather than allowing it to dissipate into an informal race with your former self. (It says easy in the schedule, so easy, really easy, is what it shall be.) In particular, follow Popsider's recommendation -

Branch out. Learn to swim, ride a bike, join the pilates class, take out/make better use of a gym membership. Avoiding discouragement is part of the job. Practice at this also means that when the race devils are sitting on your shoulder around about mile 20 in the marathon, you have had plenty of practice with their injury cousins in denying them any satisfaction.

Dream. The first three years coming back from not walking I spent a lot of time not able to run, sometimes not even able to walk again. Reading RW at that time, dreaming of taking part in Foulees de la Soie were things that kept despair at a respectful distance. (It took three years, but I got there.)
Posted: 22/04/2007 at 06:45

Swan Song - I have just realized I may know you by another name, if so, I beg your pardon for presuming to teach grannie (ok, grandpa) how to suck eggs.


Posted: 22/04/2007 at 06:50

I suffer from the common 'Runners Attention Deficit Disorder': I can't keep a good X-training regime going to ward off the next injury (now in mid-term of 2nd shin splints attack in 15 months). Soon as the injury fades I begin to think I'm indestructible and, aside from a few stretches, just run.

Hindsight drives me nuts, too. Why don't we learn?! Truth is, I think we do, but only slowly, and by repetition. So repeat injuries are educative. Hopefully, I'm approaching drew's/Stickless' level of maturity and will one day turn chaotic reaction to a calmer more proactive control. I think what must underpin it is self-disciplne and paying constant attention. Sounds a bit boring, though . . .
Posted: 23/04/2007 at 21:43

I was only today thinking about this -I have a grumbling left knee. Grumbling so much that I am limping.

Because I feel that I am always whinging or claiming injury I'm trying to ignore it.

Am I just a wimp ?

Because I think I must be a wimp, I push on with mild injury which then develops - I then stop and feel frustrated at lack of progress. On return I build up slowly, delighted at progress, have a niggle, think I must be a wimp and push on with niggle blah blah blah.

I find it very hard to decide between a niggle and a real problem. Today I have struggled to walk. I am weighing up whether to run tomorrow. Probably silly but I feel that everyone else thinks I must be finding excuses not to run -shouldn't give a toss what anyone else thinks but I do.



Posted: 25/04/2007 at 15:43

Injuries don't happen, they are caused. They are most frequently caused by overuse at any age. The answer is not to cause them. Recovery from hard effort takes longer as you get older (so does recovery from injury) so you just have to ease off accordingly. If you don't recover properly you are just adding more and more damage until something actually breaks.

If you are getting older you have to reassess your targets and stop pretending you can compete with youngsters or train like you did when in your 20s and 30s.

Most of us are sharp enough to recognise the problem and do something about it because we want to carry on competing.

Don't forget that the age deterioration curve is exponential not linear so you have to make ever bigger adjustments as you get older. Comparing notes with some V60s a few weeks back most of us found that after running a flat out 10 mile or 1/2m it can take up to two weeks before recovery is enough to undertake any hard speed work.

Adjust your thinking.
JJ
JJ

Posted: 25/04/2007 at 19:17

I must be 80 years old
Posted: 25/04/2007 at 20:12

Its probably a bit late now, for this injury, but I reckon the key is to stop a niggle becoming an injury.

I find this is usually achieved through weekly or fortnightly sports massage - I aim for once every c. 100miles. When I am running I try to make a mental note of the location of every little twinge, even if I only notice it very fleetingly, so that I can tell my massage therapist. Almost inevitably he finds the location of the problem, works extra deep and long on that area and that is the last I know of the problem. I must have had 6 or 7 different minor niggles sorted like this in the last few months without them having any impact at all on my training
Posted: 25/04/2007 at 21:43

I've just got back to running after many fat years off the road. Completly gutted that I've managed an achilles (high up) injury without any prior warning. If I run any slower it will be walking as I only do 12-13 mm! I've been advised to rest, which I will do, but goodness me how long for, the desire to run is driving me nuts!
Posted: 26/04/2007 at 19:05

Hi Swan Song,

I have only just seen this thread and I am sorry to hear you have an injury.

I don't think that running slower is the answer, because that means that one is changing one's natural style rhythm to achieve this. However, I think is is important to run at different speeds so that doesn't develop overuse injures by always running the same style with the same range of movements.

Build upper body and core strength is important.

Work on flexibility.

Run whenever possible on soft surfaces to minimise impact.

Try not to run on one's heels, these don't work as well as shock absorbers as one's feet.

Make sure that one's shoes are correct for one and change them when necessary

Take a regular massage, this increases circulation and aids the recovery process also I find that when I have a massage I discover some areas of my legs or back that need attention from me in the way of stretches and icing, I may not have been aware of all of these areas without the hands on approach.

Very important is the need to build easy days and easy weeks into one's running schedule, do not overload without recovery. Recovery is essential.


Well I think I have just ensured that I get an injury any time now, sounding like I know it all, which of course I don't:-0)
Posted: 27/04/2007 at 21:00

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.