Can my foot injury heal while I’m sick? Well, that’s a great question, and that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run podcast.
I was just on a call. It was somebody, a Zoom call in the injured runners aid station. This is where recovering runners come to ask me specific questions to actually navigate the process of maintaining their running fitness and getting back to running when they have an injury. So it doesn’t matter if you have a torn plantar fascia, or a metatarsal stress fracture, or Achilles tendonitis, or whatever, this is where I answer specific questions about little bumps in the road, along your recovery road back to running.
So this was a great question and this was somebody who just got a cold. He’s been sick for a few days. He wasn’t running. He was curious about whether or not his injury was going to actually get worse because he knows that when he’s sick, his immune system is working really hard to try to fight the infection and your immune system can’t do everything all at once. So if you have an injury, there’s the idea that it’s going to slow down your potential ability to rebuild tissue and repair damage tissue, like a metatarsal stress fracture or an Achilles tendon injury.
Now, that makes sense but there’s an interesting thing that I’ve noticed over the years, and this is not research. This is not based on a study. This is just anecdotal evidence from what I’ve seen for many, many years of working with injured runners. What happens, I think, with a lot of runners is that we are very, very driven. Let’s say you sign up for a marathon. Well, you have to work yourself up into a state of mind where you’re prepared to actually do all of the work in front of you for months. This is a long-term effort. It’s the same thing with an Ironman or an ultra marathon. You’ve got to put in a tremendous amount of time, and it takes a lot of buildup in your mind to do that.
What I see is these athletes who are doing endurance events like marathons and Ironman triathlons, well, they’re really determined, and they’re very determined to check those workouts off of the list on their calendar or however they’re keeping track of it, and they don’t generally miss many workouts. I think that many of us wind up in a state of chronic over training that really does make it very difficult to recover from some of these injuries.
What’s really interesting is that many of these athletes I see, who get a cold, they get sick, maybe not really sick, but just mild cold, and they take care of themselves, they know that it’s not going to pay off if they go for a long run when they have a fever. They actually rest quite a bit more thoroughly than you might normally allow yourself to rest because I know lots of runners who will say, well, they had a rest day and they went and played tennis. They had a rest day and they went for a long hike. They did things that they don’t think of as big time running exercise, but they are applying stress and strain to the tissues.
So what I see with many of these runners, who’ve had a cold, or they have some little setback like that, or a family emergency that maybe very, very stressful emotionally, actually decreases the stress physically in a way that allows an actual bump in the recovery process. So sometimes people get sick and then they call me and they’re a little astonished that after they were sick, after they had a cold and after they just had a few days of real serious rest, where they really did take it easy for just a few days in a row, they actually have a bump in the recovery. The stress fracture feels way better. The Achilles tendon feels way better. The plantar fascia feels way better and physiologically, yes, it’s harder for your system to manage both of those things at the same time, but it just points to the value of really dedicating rest time when you need it.
If you think you have an injury and you think that it really needs a little bit more rest, pay close attention to that. You’re not going to get stronger if you’re aggravating the injury.
Now, if you want to think about what it takes to get back to running, when you have one of these injuries, and you’re trying to figure out whether or not you’re doing too much or too little, and it could be either, well, you might want to check out the 12 steps to running injury recovery that I created for you. It’s a masterclass where I go through about half an hour into the 12-step process that I actually use.
If you were to call me and have me come to a house call, or if we got on a one hour Zoom call to do a second opinion consultation, I would actually go through some specific steps, ask you some specific questions to help you figure out what you really need to do to maintain your running fitness throughout this recovery process and return to running as quickly as possible.
I mean, the fact is that most injured runners who call me, well, they get these steps out of order, but you’ve got to apply these steps in order if you really want it to be most effective, but they will help you to recover and maintain your running specific fitness and get back to running, and you can get it for free. You can come join me in the web class at docontherun.com/12steps. So go check it out, and I’ll see you in the training.