Today on the Doc On the Run Podcast, we’re talking about how wishful thinking can kill your recovery from a running injury.
Just today I was talking to a runner who has an injury and although this injury has gone on for a long time, I thought that she would know exactly whether it’s improving or not. She said she thought it was improving, but we don’t really know if it’s improving, because there is no data.
When you think you have a running injury and you’re trying to get better, but you’re really looking for is you’re looking for your symptoms to go down, your pain to decrease, the swelling to decrease, less discomfort when you wake up after the days that you do activity, while you’re continuing to build your strength and your running fitness, that’s really the goal. As long as you’re doing that, you know that you’re going to continue to heal and you’re going to continue to increase your fitness, but you have to make sure that you’re aware that both things are happening at the same time.
It’s easy for us as runners to tell when our fitness is getting better, we feel stronger, we feel better, we feel better walking up the stairs. They’re really simple things that are in the back of our minds that give us clear indications that we are actually improving in terms of our running fitness. But unfortunately we don’t really want to think about pain. We don’t want to think about injury. We don’t want to think about setbacks and sometimes through that process of recovery we deceive ourselves. If you were going to go talk to your accountant and you say, okay, I have some new goals for this year and I really want to make sure that I make more money and save more money this year, and I think I did pretty well last year, the first thing your accountant is going to do is say, let’s see the numbers.
The accountant is not going to go on perceived monetary exertion. The accountant is not going to go on how you think it went in a general sense based on how it feels from last year, the accountant is going to want to look at your bank statements and figure that out. And you have to have that same equivalent of something to track in your recovery and that is your pain journal. Winging it is not a good plan when you’re injured. You oftentimes through the best possible intentions, you really can tend to deceive ourselves. We do that, we just don’t want to think about how bad it feels.
We want to think that we’re actually getting better, but if you’re not tracking it, you can’t really tell over time because what I see runners do sometimes is they have a little bit of a setback. Something gets worse, the pain goes up, but then they really start to improve after that and they take that down slope from the most recent setback as a sign of recovery.
But overall you have to look at the trend from the ups and the downs and see the direction of that line. Is it really going down? Is your pain decreasing or over time is your pain really staying the same? Because if your pain is staying the same, your symptoms are saying the same. That means you are not recovering and that is not worth continuing to increase your activity if your injury is not actually recovering.
So you have to have certain things you monitor, your coach, you, if you’re coaching yourself, you monitor your heart rate when you’re exercising, your pace, your resting heart rate when you’re not exercising, things that give you an indication of your actual fitness. A lot of times when doctors talk to injured runners, we’re trying to work off of this very vague report, foggy information about, I think I’m getting better. I think over the last few months the pain has decreased, but there is no data, so you have to create that data.
You do that with a pain journal, so go to docontherun.com, go to the podcast tab, go to this episode of the Doc On the Run Podcast, and at the bottom of this episode in the show notes, you will see the pain journal, it’s a PDF. I made it for you. You don’t have to create it yourself. You just print it out, it’s free. Go get it and it’ll help you really make some decisions based on data rather than just a guess. So you can get back to running as quickly as possible.
Pain is the best tool to help an injured runner decide when run. You don’t have to figure out what to write down. We made a simple Pain Journal PDF for you.
If you have a question that you would like answered as a future addition of the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me PodcastQuestion@docontherun.com. And then make sure you join me for the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast!