Reader to Reader: What’s your injury philosophy?


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.