You should work out while you’re waiting to heal. And that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.
I know that injured runners all realize it’s a problem that they’re not working out when they get an overtraining injury and they’re told to sit still. But it’s not just because you’re going crazy because you feel like you have all this pent-up energy that you need to exercise that is the real problem. What the real problem is, is that you’re getting weaker, constantly weaker, you’re losing your fitness. And although I know that you’re worried about losing your fitness, that’s not the real problem as I see it.
I go to medical conferences and I teach physicians how to help injured runners get back to running as quickly as possible, and there are a couple of things that I try to impress on them every time I speak at a conference.
Number one is that, yes, it’s important to heal the stress fracture or the plantar plate sprain or the Achilles tendon issue or whatever. However, it is also crucial to you as an athlete that you maintain your running fitness so that you don’t get a different over-training injury later.
Let’s say you’re a man who gets a tibial stress fracture, the chances are actually really small that you’ll get another tibial stress fracture. However, if you’re in a boot or a cast or you’re on crutches for a long time, you’re going to get weaker, you’re going to get stiffer, and you’re actually more at risk of getting another overtraining injury later.
The thing is that when you get weaker, you feel like you’ve just lost all your fitness and you feel slow and sluggish and out of shape. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that when you’re still in a fracture walking boot, when you’re not exercising at all, all of the rest of your body, your core, your proximal muscle groups, the stabilizers, everything that actually holds you still and helps you maintain good running form withers away, gets weaker and less efficiently coordinated because you lose your neuromuscular connections that actually give you good running form.
And so even though you think it’s just this problem that you’re sitting still, you’re getting weaker, you’re losing all the veins on your legs, what make you look really fit, that’s not it. It’s that if you don’t work out, you’re more likely to get another injury of a different variety after you actually return to running. So, if your goal is to heal the injury, sure, just sit still. Don’t do anything. Watch a bunch of movies or TV shows.
However, if you really want to get back to running and you want to continue to train for the kind of races that you were training for when you got injured, it’s critical that you maintain your fitness. Keep in mind, you got injured while you were really fit. So, it just stands to reason that if you’re training at that level when you’re weaker, you’re more likely to get injured. So, you’ve got to figure out a way that you can start working out right now without actually injuring your foot.
If you need some help doing that, I created something for you that you might find helpful. It’s the Injured Runners’ Roadmap and basically you can go to docontherun.com/roadmap and you can get it for free. But I’ll basically show you exactly what it is, the approach that I use with injured runners and that I teach to physicians at conferences, that’s a step-by-step process of what you really have to do to start working out now, start maintaining your running fitness so you can get back to running a whole lot faster. So go check it out, and I’ll see you there.