Whether you're running for fun, fitness, training for a race, or all of the above, an untimely injury can definitely derail your progress. Running puts a lot of stress on your body - it not only requires strength, endurance, and proper form, but as you run your body suffers from the high impact this activity entails.
As a result, you may end up with all kinds of aches and pains, not to mention a variety of injuries to your muscles, tendons, bones, joints, and so on. There are certainly precautions you can take to prevent injuries, but they may still occur.
What can you do following an injury to get back into shape for running? There are several steps you should consider. Here are just a few tips that should help you get back to your regular running routine after you suffer an injury.
Follow Doctor's Orders
Depending on the type and severity of your injury, you may have to visit any number of doctors, from your primary physician, to an emergency room doctor, to specialists in the area of your body that was injured. You could be put into casts or slings or even scheduled for surgery or other procedures.
The long and short of it is that you're going to have some downtime, whether it's just a few days or several weeks (or more). It is imperative that you give your body time to rest and heal following an injury and that you follow your doctor's orders to the letter.
Your healthcare providers have your best interest at heart. They're not trying to ruin your running progress - they want to make sure you're able to run again. Their valuable advice will help to stave off further injury and get you back on track as quickly as possible.
Work with a Physical Therapist
Not every injury will require you to work with a physical therapist. However, if your injury is serious or you're unable to return to running for several weeks while you heal, a few things are likely to happen.
First, you're going to lose some amount of body conditioning, which is to say the strength and endurance you built up prior to injury. In addition, muscles may become weak or unstable, especially around the site of the injury. You might also experience stiffness, soreness, and decreased flexibility.
If you jump right back into running in this physical state, you stand a greater risk of re-injury. A physical therapist, especially one that specializes in your type of injury or in working with athletes, can slowly take you through the process of building strength in weak areas and re-conditioning your body to prepare for running once again.
If your doctor prescribes physical therapy as part of your course of treatment following injury, you should definitely take advantage of the referral. Even if your doctor doesn't mandate this treatment, you might want to think about seeing a physical therapist if you're worried about possible re-injury.
Make sure to follow all directions your physical therapist gives you. The more work you do on your own time where PT exercises are concerned, the faster you'll re-condition your body for running.
Listen to Your Body
As a seasoned runner you know when your body is being pushed past its limits. Most runners can tell the difference between regular aches and pains associated with running and something more serious.
During the recovery process, it's important to listen to your body and follow its cues so that you reduce the risk of further injury and even more time away from the activities you love.
Don't Start Where You Left Off
When you've been away from running for a while it's only natural that you'd want to start where you left off. Unfortunately, your body isn't in the same condition it was once you've suffered an injury, and pushing too hard too fast could lead to re-injuring yourself or even cause new injuries.
It's not easy to go back to the beginning, but you need to rebuild your strength and endurance before you can get back to your regular routine. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. The long road to recovery will pay off if you take it easy and let your body re-acclimate to running following an injury and downtime.