With life comes risks and that is never so true as when it comes to running. Because being a runner means that you have to accept the risk that one day, you may injure yourself. But all runners know that the benefits of running far outweigh any risk of injury. Otherwise they’d never lace up. However, that does not mean that being injured is any easier. In fact, as someone who has been forced to take a break from running due to a badly injured knee I feel like a grizzly with a sore paw. Impossible to reason with while equally despondent and impatient by not recovering soon enough. Who wants to RICE all the time when they feel in every bone in their body (apart from their sore paw) that they really should be running? Not this grizzly!
Of course, what all injured runners (and grizzlies) need is the time to fully recuperate. Even if when spending it watching others carrying on working out painlessly is hard to bear. Return to running any sooner and you risk a further injury with a longer term timeout or a permanent break. But how do you keep your spirits high and stay motivated while you wait to heal? And is there anything you can also do nutritionally to help you recover in the process? Luckily, this grizzly has been persuaded to share some recovery tips.
Focus on the do’s
All injuries will require a necessary element of resting to recover and depending on the type of injury and its severity, you will likely have been advised on your do’s and don’ts to get back to running. Rather than dwell over the missed out don’ts try to embrace the do’s. If you are able to walk, cycle or swim then focus on getting the most out of it. It may not be your favourite activity and more a matter of picking the least-worst but at least it’s something. Remind yourself that the more you are able to maintain your strength and cardio, the less muscle and fitness you will lose and the better prepared you will be on returning to running. Because you will be back.
However, if the extent of your injury means that you can’t even do some lower impact exercise then focus on the body parts that are mobile. If your injury allows, concentrate on increasing your upper body strength and core while you continue the rehab. Now you’ve got the time and no excuse not to work on that six-pack and your ‘guns’. But do not underestimate the value of stretching and strengthening your muscles through yoga or Pilates moves even if it seems slower going. It may be frustrating to not be doing a more strenuous workout but you will reap the rewards physically not to mention, mentally, just by doing something to occupy your mind and keep your spirits high.
Look to the future
Although your injury may mean that some sought after races and long planned events will now have to be spent as a reluctant spectator the truth is that most of them will come around again. You might as well use your time off time wisely. Whether you are a parkrunner, a marathoner, a member of a training club or simply someone who runs to eat cake, a timeout gives you the chance to reflect on your running and any training goals. Are there any races or events that you’ve always wondered about signing up for but never had the time to find out more? Or is there a friendly running group that you’ve seen everywhere and are curious about but haven’t quite yet managed to look into? Maybe there’s a running route or trail that you’ve heard about and had always meant to check out but never got around to Googling? Use the time to look ahead and consider a wide range of different running opportunities for once you are fully fit. Pencilling in some possible dates, options and plans in the diary will help to keep you feeling motivated and stay positive about your recovery. Although, the caveat here is that you must also be completely realistic.
If it’s clear that your return to running is not going to fit in with the timeline of your training plan set for a particular race or event, don’t go against your medical advice. It may be incredibly difficult to accept but ask yourself, what is more important to you? Participating in a particular event for the kudos or being able to run comfortably for the rest of your life? Besides, most events will let you swap to a shorter distance, postpone your entry or transfer it to someone else. There will be a time when you can put down a running race, an event or a favourite workout firmly in your diary with a Sharpie pen but that time is not now. Get the rehab right and look forward to some future runs that may be slightly lower-key to start with but will also injury-free.
Support your recovery with good nutrition
Food may not be medicine but that doesn’t mean that what you eat when you are recovering from a running injury doesn’t matter. In fact, many people make the mistake of drastically cutting down their calories when they are injured in the fear that they will suddenly gain an excessive amount of weight. Although you may be burning less calories by suddenly stopping your routine workouts, losing weight while recovering also risks losing an excessive amount of muscle and risking illness. Of course, losing muscle or becoming ill is the last thing you need if you want a swift return to running.
In a nutshell, when you are recovering from an injury it’s important to give your body what it needs to recover. Assuming that your diet pre-injury was healthy and balanced then the best strategy is to maintain your overall diet without cutting calories. However, it’s important to also ensure that you are getting a decent serving of good quality protein at each meal to prevent muscle loss and to support your recovery. If your diet wasn’t all that great pre-injury, could do with an MOT or you really do run to eat cake then use this recovery time to get it right. Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits; good sources of wholegrain complex carbohydrates; lean protein, oily fish, nuts, seeds and tofu; sources of dairy or alternatives rich in calcium; and choose healthy fats. It really is that simple.
Lastly, I know first-hand that being an injured runner can feel absolutely frustrating and be soul-destroying at times and there can be many ups and downs on the road to recovery. So when you also feel like a grizzly, try to focus on one day at a time at what you can do. Remember that being injured is extremely annoying but it is also only a temporary state to be in. And as a runner, you know you don’t have any other choice other than putting one foot in front of the other. It will pass one day and before long you will be out there again, lacing up your trainers and complaining about the weather. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now all grizzlies get hungry and especially for salmon. Here’s an easy recipe for a great meal to help you recover from a running injury (or sore paw) but is equally just a tasty dish. Try this simple Smoked salmon tagliatelle which is guaranteed to transform any grizzly into a teddy bear in one mouthful.