Today, on the Doc on the Run podcast, we’re talking about the two most important questions for recovering runners.
If you’re listening to this, you’re probably a runner, and you’ve probably had some kind of overtraining injury. It could be a metatarsal stress fracture. It could be Achilles tendonitis. It could be peroneal tendonitis, or it could be plantar fasciitis. The exact injury really doesn’t matter all that much. The issue for you as an injured runner is that you have two things that you have to take care of.
Number one, you have to rest the injured tissue enough to actually let it recover and heal so that you can continue running without making it worse. The second thing is that you need to figure out what you can do to maintain your running fitness while you’re resting that piece of injured tissue so that you can actually get back to running and run the way you want to when all of this is over with.
Now, the good news is that, if you rest any tissue that’s been injured from an overtraining injury, any kind of stress-related injury, well, it will eventually calm down and heal. But the problem, of course, is that, if you just rest for too long, you will lose all your running fitness. The difference between the elite athletes who seem to get better fast and get back to running quickly and the average runners who seem to take forever to recover, the difference between those two people are the daily activities they focus on while they’re recovering from the overtraining injury.
Really and truly, if you’re injured right now, and you’re trying to think about what is some little thing you could do that would make a difference, there are two questions that you really should be asking yourself every single day, and they will make a tremendous difference if you just really honestly ask yourself these questions and act on them.
The first one is every morning, first thing, when you wake up, when you’re making coffee, at the very first start of your day, whatever you’re doing, you should ask yourself, “What can I do today that will make me stronger tomorrow?” You really need to think about the things that you can do that will exercise your body, rebuild your running fitness, maintain your running fitness without making that one injured piece of tissue worse, so that’s it. Every morning, focus and think about, what are the activities, the exercises, the strength-building routines that you can put into your routine today that will make you stronger tomorrow?
Then, at the end of the day, you really need to honestly ask yourself, you need to take an inventory, and you need to say, “What did I do today that will make me stronger tomorrow?” You need to think about, “What did I actually do today? Did I do something or not?”
The reason for this is twofold. Number one, you really do want to take an inventory at the end of the day that assesses your progress and the steps that you took for that day to see, look, are you really doing this, or are you just wasting your time? If you ask yourself the question, you will be way more motivated and way more likely to actually get up and do something that’s going to make you stronger the next day. Maybe you had a busy day. Maybe you had a bunch of stuff with the kids that you had to take care of. There are lots of reasons that you’re going to skip those routines and have excuses to not do what’s going to actually make you stronger, but you have to stay focused on it. It’s really important.
On the flip side of that, not just to beat yourself up and make you feel bad about the fact that you didn’t do something one day, but on those days that you actually did do something that makes you stronger, when you go to sleep at night, and you have taken an inventory, and you have given yourself a pat on the back for doing those things that you know are going to actually make you stronger and rebuild your fitness and maintain your fitness as you’re recovering from this injury, it really does help you to stay focused and feel like you’re in control. That’s part of what you really need to do when you get an injury and you’re runner.
Every injured runner I talk to has really their biggest problem is not the specific injury. The biggest problem when people call me for a consultation is that they feel out of control. They’re not being able to do their runs. They’re missing all these workouts. They don’t have anything they can focus on. You have to focus on what you can control. Do work daily to rebuild your running body. Rest that one injured part, but keep building strength into every other part of the system that will support that one injured part when you run. That’s really the key to getting back to running as quickly as possible.