Today on the Doc on the Run podcast, we’re talking about the top three running injury recovery secrets.
Now listen, it’s no secret that I like to talk about running injuries, but the thing is, is that after so many years of working with injured runners and helping them not just race after they get an injury, but how to actually get back to training and make sure they maintain their running fitness, there are really three things that I have come up with that I think are really the top three secrets about running injuries. And so, if you have a running injury and you’re trying to figure out what to do, and you’re confused why the doctors are just telling you to sit around and wait, this may help you understand it.
I go to medical conferences and I lecture to physicians, and this is exactly the kind of stuff I try to teach to them to explain to them that you’re healthy, you’re young, you’re active, you’re physiologically prime to heal, and you shouldn’t be treated the same way as all those other people sitting in their waiting room because you’re not the same. You are different. You’re a runner and you do have the capacity to heal.
So the first running injury secret is what I call injury hacking. Now this is really trying to figure out how you can really find a shortcut or some way to change what you’re doing, and most runners and most doctors seem to get this backwards when they call me and they’re asking questions about what they should do with a runner or what the runner should do themselves.
This is the thing. You need to really think about how to gather the information you need in order to do the right amount of activity right now, regardless of which running injury is wrecking your running. And so the injury hacking is basically not trying to figure out the diagnosis, but trying to figure out the severity of the problem right now.
If you’re about to go bankrupt, you’re out of money. It doesn’t really matter what you do for a living. You’re out of money and you need to figure out a way to fix that problem. And the same is true, you’re physiologically bankrupt if you basically run into a running injury and you’re told to stop running.
So what you have to do is realize more than anything else that your pain level and the amount of discomfort you feel and the way that you track those things and the way that you can actually identify what to do about those things is way more important than the name that your doctor ascribes to it. So your pain is more important than your diagnosis. So the thing you can do about that, of course, is that if you have not been tracking your pain, you’ve not been figuring out how much it really hurts when you do certain things that you know you do all the time, you need to start doing that right now.
Now running injury secret number two is what I call injury training. Look, everything you already know about training is all you really need to know right now. You just have to take that knowledge about training and about recovery from the workouts that you do during your training, and you need to apply that knowledge that you already have to your running injury recovery right now.
This is really the key. You’ve got to figure out what it is that helps you move so quickly after your hard workouts. Because what I see is that all these athletes who’ve been tracking everything, their heart rate, their perceived exertion, all this stuff, they kind of throw it out the window.
They do the same with nutrition, all the things they were doing before, stretching, strengthening, nutrition, really diligent diet, the frequency in terms of the number of times they eat per day, it all goes out the window when they get injured.
When you have an over-training injury, it’s just an exaggerated example of the kind of tissue damage you expect to get when you’re training. It just went a little too far, but the same solutions for your recovery when you’re actually training are the things that can help you move fastest through this recovery process when you’re injured. So you’ve got to think of it as injury training, not just injury recovery.
The kind of false premise that I think doctors sell to patients is that when you have an injury, so you just have to sit still. That’s not true. That’s absolutely not true. If you do an Ironman race and you just sit still and wait till you’re not sore, you’re not going to run for a month. So you have to do some active recovery to really get things moving faster. So you really need to think of it as training and not just sitting.
Also, I will tell you, the doctors tell you, this is no big deal. You just got to sit around, just don’t do anything, chill out, take it easy, just relax a little bit, read a book, whatever. That’s not what you really need. You need to figure out what it is that you can do to maintain your running fitness is to actually get moving and get back to running as quickly as possible, and that’s not sitting around doing nothing. Think of it as injury training.
Running injury secret number three is one that often seems to get me in hot water with some of my colleagues. A lot of doctors really hate it when I say this, but I really believe this. Secret number three is that discipline beats medicine, and I think it beats medicine pretty much every time. I mean well, some exception to that. Now if you have an infection, discipline is not going to really help that much. You need antibiotics, but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about running injury recovery.
When you have tissue damage, you have one piece of tissue, a metatarsal that has a stress fracture, an Achilles tendon that has tendonitis, but you have one structure that’s actually interfering with your running. The thing is, is that the runners who actually take the discipline and the diligence from their training and the way that they track their training and they apply those principles to the injury recovery process always seem to return to running easier, stronger, and faster than those who had ascribed to the, okay, I’ll just wait for the healing approach.
But I’m not going to lie to you, it takes work. So if anybody is trying to tell you that all you have to do is sit around and wait or use some miracle essential oil or take some special pill and everything’s going to miraculously get back on track, you’re wrong. It’s no more true than thinking that if you sign up for a marathon, you’re going to be ready to show up at the starting line. You sign up for the race, you do a whole lot of work, you track your progress, you pay attention, you get feedback as you go through that process, you adjust course, and then you make it to the starting line and you get to the finish line in your goal time.
The same is true here. So I’m not going to sugar coat it. You have to do work, but that’s why discipline actually beats medicine. If you’re willing to do the work, if you’re willing to actually pay close attention, if you’re willing to diligently track your pain, your activities and see what’s happening, you can move a whole lot faster from injury back to running.
Those are the three top secrets. So think about it and think about how it applies to your exact situation so you can get back to running a whole lot faster.