ankle pain

Coping With An Injury

It’s funny…I was going through my draft posts to see what I had (there are so many posts I’ve started and never finished!) and came across this one. I started writing it months ago…months ago when I was feeling SO GOOD about my body and the idea of injuries weren’t something I was even thinking about. I was in a good place to write the post because I wasn’t dealing with an injury, I had clarity and no emotional response to what I was writing. It’s ironic that I stumbled onto this with my current situation. I wanted to share it anyway, because I think it addresses a lot of things.

Injuries are a part of life and they really suck when you’re an athlete. As athletes we put more pressure on ourselves and are less inclined to give our bodies a chance to rest when we hurt. We’re stubborn creatures and we’re positive that we can “work through it.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

This post is about how to cope with injuries that set us back. Any injury can set you back but for this post I’ll be specifically referring to the running injuries I’ve had and how I learned to cope. You can also read this excellent guest post: 8 Mistakes I Made While Injured.

I’ve had to start over several times, and I wrote a post specifically about the times I’ve started over in my journey toward health. In terms of injuries, I’ve had the not-so-serious like pulled muscles that had me hobbling for a week and I’ve also had more serious ones that set me back a long time.

I’m working hard to rehab from the IT Band issues I’ve had and I’m slowly getting my running legs back. For two years now I’ve been working on strengthening my body’s weak areas to prevent further injuries as I start to run again.

 

How to Cope With An Injury

1. Go To Your Doctor.

I see this mistake made all the time. I see it on Twitter, Facebook, blogs…runners especially are horrible at taking it easy and going to the doctor at the first signs of injury. I read these runners talking themselves out of being injured, or running through it (and hurting more).  I also see people using Google and Twitter to self-diagnose and self-treat. Really? Just go to the doctor!!! Then you’ll know for sure and have a good chance at healing.

Trust me, as an injured runner I made the mistake too, but that doesn’t mean you have to make the same mistakes. Delaying the inevitable and living in denial will just prolong the injury and the break from the activity.

If you’re really in tune with your body, you can tell immediately between a “normal” running pain and an “I’m injured” running pain.

2. R.I.C.E.

RICE isn’t just for sprains and strains. It’s just plain common sense. An injury is the body’s way of saying we pushed it too far, too soon, too hard. It wants to rest.

Rest: This means avoiding activities that cause your body pain.

Ice: Ice is your friend. You should be icing the injured area  20 minutes every few hours for those first few days to help with any inflammation or swelling.

Compression: ACE bandages are good for relieving some pain and discomfort from a swelling injury, and it also adds some stability if the injury is in your lower body. Another good one is compression socks. I LOVE these things. I have a pair of medical compression socks from when I had surgery on my ankle (it was used to prevent blood clots after my surgery) and the socks are amazing, They feel so good.

Elevation: The general rule in elevating is to raise the body part higher than your heart. If it’s your leg, sleep with a pillow under your leg to elevate it.

3. Cross Train.

If you can do another activity while you’re healing, do it. Not only will it make you feel better to still be getting some physical activity in, but you’ll keep your body strong. If your running injury is in your legs, try swimming or cycling. But only if it doesn’t hurt!

When I had to take 6 weeks off after my IT Band injury I started weight lifting. That was nearly two years ago now and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I wish I had done it sooner!

4. Take Care of Your Brain.

Depression is common with injuries. When our bodies are hurting, our spirits sink and despair is a normal feeling. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel hopeless–like we’ll never be “normal” again. Depending on the length of the rehab, the sadness can wear us down. The trick is to not let that happen. It’s okay to wallow for a little bit, but give it a time frame. Give it a week to wallow and feel sorrow for yourself, and then move on.

When I had to take a break from running I was a bit bitter. I stopped reading most of the running blogs I followed and loved because every time I read their race recaps I wanted to cry. I went from bitter to sad to angry that “everyone else” could run without injury and I was hobbling around with a bum knee. It sucked.  I skipped posts about half marathon trainings, I avoided the conversations about running with everyone. I knew friends and family were concerned but I just couldn’t talk about it so I changed the subject away from running.

Stay positive the best that you can.

 

5. Try Alternative Therapies.

There are a lot of alternative therapies out there that you can try in lieu of, or in addition to, traditional physical therapy. Acupuncture works for a lot of people. I’ve had mixed results from it. I had a few negative experiences with acupuncture, and then some really great experiences that worked. Give it a try.

TENS devices can also help. It’s weird at first, but feels fantastic!

Massage therapy is amazing and if you can afford frequent massages and sports massages, do it! If you can’t afford it, try Groupon deals for massage places.

6. Strengthen Your Weak Spots.

If you’re injured, there’s a weakness in the body. If it’s shin splits, strengthen the shins and calf muscles. If it’s the IT Band, try strengthen the hips. If it’s Plantar Fascitiis, the calf muscles are too tight. Talk to your doctor, see a sports medicine doctor, or go to physical therapy to target and strengthen the weak areas to prevent more injury.

Your Turn

Have you had to work on this? Are you trying to avoid injuries, or working through them?

Preventing Cycling Injuries

If you are prone to sports injuries, there are two activities I’d suggest for you. The first would be swimming. It’s always my suggestion for people who want to lose weight but have issues (joints, knee injuries, back pain, etc) but I’m biased because I love swimming. The other alternative is cycling. Cycling is a very body-friendly activity and a good way to get fit without getting hurt.

Like most young people, I thought I was invincible. I started running with no training plans other than listening to my body and doing what I thought I could do. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, but luckily had no injuries. I had a bout of bursitis in my ankle, sacrum strain and some very sore muscles, but nothing awful. But I realize now that I made the common rookie mistake: doing too many miles, too soon.  (Read 8 Mistakes I Made While Injured)

With cycling, though, the injuries are fairly limited as long as we do a few things right.  (Read Bike Buying Mistakes) Obviously follow the rules of the road, pay attention to cars around you, wear a HELMET at all times on the bike, and wear reflective clothing. Continue reading for more tips.

The first thing is crucial: get a proper bike fitting. Don’t ride a bike that isn’t right for your body. You’ll regret it (and so will your lower back) if you don’t get fitted!

Strengthen your core. Strength training is so crucial and I noticed that when I spent a good amount of time weight training that all my other sports improved tremendously. Balance in the body is key! A strong core will make those long bike rides much easier, more comfortable and you won’t be sore afterward.

Another common injury is saddle sores. I never really had this issue, even as a newbie rider, but I did have soreness. The tip to overcome this: good cycling shorts. They also make creams to put on your nether-regions before biking long miles to prevent chafing. It’s uncomfortable but they work.

The other body issues that can come up are really about tension. Is your neck and shoulders sore the day after a ride? Check your posture on the bike. Are your toes going numb? Maybe your shoes are too tight, or you need to wiggle your toes periodically while riding. Are your hands and wrists hurting? Maybe you’re gripping the handle bars too tightly. Just being aware of your body while riding can help a lot of issues.

Just like with running, you don’t want to do too many miles too soon. A friend of mine who has started biking recently asked me about the “cycling marathons” I do. 🙂 I had to laugh at that terminology. It reminded me that maybe not everyone knows that a Century means 100 miles on the bike! My friend wanted to do a Century with her friend and when I told her that meant 100 miles she was like…um, no thanks! You don’t go from biking once in awhile to completing 100 miles!

When I first started commuting to work, I did part of the route. It ended up being about 11 miles roundtrip to and from work. That was a good starting point. As I got better, as I got more comfortable and more confident on the bike, I tried biking the full route–22 miles roundtrip. It took some time. I’m glad I took it slowly and built my endurance up. This year I didn’t need to do that because I spent all winter in spin class!

Just to give you an example of a few week’s worth of mileage, here is a weekly example:

Week 1 – 10.89 miles

Week 2 -22.18 miles

Week 3 – 36.03 miles

Week 4 – 20.2 miles (spin class)

Week 5 – 44 miles

If you follow some of these tips, I think you’ll be much happier on the bike and your body will thank you!

QUESTION: What are some of your “body aches” after cycling?