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Hump Day Giveaway: Dealing with Injury

March 31, 2010

I prefer to run in a leotard, don't you?

I read a Facebook status update today that made me cringe: MRI results: hip stress fracture. To run Boston or not??? Will get another MRI next week still to check for the tear.

My friend Sara wrote this–I call her my friend because even though I’ve never met her, we share running buddies and I know our paths will cross sooner than later–and I immediately commented: From one runner who did not take her injuries seriously and kept running through pain, I say recover. But I fully realize it’s easier said than done.

Understatement of the century there: easier said than done. That post I put up about how I’m taking a break from running? Cheated on it fairly quickly after I left the keyboard, albeit with 30-minute, very easy outings during which I was as attentive to my form as I’ve ever been. My hute still is unhappy, and I decided to bite the bullet and get an MRI, only to have my insurance deny coverage. Dealing with that red tape now–“U454…,” I yell my ID number into the phone about eight times a day, to a record-a-voice whose accuracy is less impressive than my son’s aim on the toilet–makes my knotted muscles look silky smooth in comparison.

So, both Sara and I clearly need some advice. Or maybe I’m just projecting onto Sara; maybe she’s fine. I haven’t had the chance to ask, but she did say on her blog she’d been in denial for 2 months, which, if you change “months” to “years,” sounds oddly familiar and unhealthy. Plus, missing Boston isn’t quite the same as missing the Doggie Dash 5k.

So for today’s giveaway, the question is this: if you’ve been injured, how did you deal, either mentally or physically (or both)? Any tips on what you’ve done to avoid being injured again?

A random winner will take home a pair of Sole footbeds, $45 DIY orthotics which, as I mention in RLAM,  I used to train for and survive two half-Ironmans (and, it should be noted, wasn’t injured for either, which wasn’t the case with my $400 custom orthotics). They’re not the key to injury prevention–I doubt such a thing exists–but they’re definitely a go-to tool for anybody whose feet don’t feel supported by insoles supplied in running shoes.

So help us–and, I’m betting, plenty of other runners out there–How you get through the times when your angry, injured body is having no more of that running thing?

32 Comments leave one →
  1. becelisa permalink
    March 31, 2010 7:34 am

    i try to listen to my body and make myself take time off if injured but fully admit i often turn a deaf ear. i trained for the marine corp marathon with pretty severe tendonitis. my doctor treated throughout my training. and then just last month i ran the gasparilla marathon here in tampa untrained — only decided 10 days before to do the full — and having had food poisoning the night before where i had severe vomiting and diarhea until 1 a.m. so i guess in reality i don’t listen very well. on top of that i have a torn miniscus and ankle issues that continue to go undiagnosed almost a year since the pain started. but mentally i need my run so i suppose i’ll push the body until it quits on me once and for all.

  2. March 31, 2010 7:49 am

    I don’t run but that depression snuck in and I cried, a lot.Now I work hard enough at PT to see results but not hard enough to undo the progress. That’s not easy for me but gives me a focus that I need.

  3. Jenny C. permalink
    March 31, 2010 8:03 am

    Ok, I’m laughing at my keyboard because your prize (the Sole insoles) was one of the solutions to my plaguing foot troubles late last summer, early fall while training for the RnR Las Vegas. I took my custom orthotics out of my shoes (after the specialist swore there was nothing wrong with them – they were a couple of years old). I bought the Sole’s and used those successfully, along with physiotherapy, to run through my problems and ran a fantastic marathon. I did take a lot of time off during all this stuff. It was hard to do that but when every other footstep caused pain it became easier. I also had a treatment at the PT called IMS – intramuscular stimulation. It’s a process using little needles. Not quite like acupuncture but similar. As with most frustrating injuries, I used a lot of different approaches and became pain free only after several weeks. Nothing like what you and your friend Sara are going through. Healing vibes to you both!

  4. March 31, 2010 8:11 am

    Sorry… I dealt with it very badly. Achilles. I got grumpy. I got fat. Only the intensity of the pain (and the fear of lifelong crippling) kept me in check. Took about six months of recovery.

    What helped?
    Orthotics – custom for street shoes; off-the-shelf inserts for running shoes.
    Eccentric lifts.
    Fruit enzymes (bromelain, papain, rutin).

    And… dare I say it… BAREFOOT RUNNING!

    No, I am not a barefoot runner; I merely incorporated a couple of days a week of barefoot running into my regimen.

    What got me back into the competitive mindset? A “Biggest Loser” contest.

    Oh. And I am also now a believer in cross training (spread that wear-n-tear around!).

    Good luck. I really, REALLY sympathize!

  5. March 31, 2010 8:22 am

    I’m always trying to hold on until I can give myself a rest. I’m too hard on myself. I’ve had a couple injuries that required rest and I totally rested, at least from running. It is such a hard mental game though, because I am always worried that I will lose ALL of my fitness. The reality is that it comes back quickly and my body responds well to the rest. I need to remind myself of that. I try to remind Sara of that too, but she is too much like me. We both have a ton of drive.

    Being the friend who is watching Sara deal with her injury, I want her to rest and recover quickly. I know exactly what I would do too though. It is a hard balance, because I want to be super supportive and I also want to give her sane advice – like doing Boston on crutches 😉 It is hard being on both sides, and I can’t say I prefer one over the other.

  6. March 31, 2010 8:43 am

    I am no stranger to injuries and I have missed two Twin Cities Marathons because of knee and foot issues. I am bad about listening to my body. I have taught myself to push through the “wall” and push through the pain. It is sometimes hard to tell if it is just normal discomfort or something more serious until it is too late.

    My previous injuries sent me into depression. If I couldn’t run, I wasn’t going to do anything. I got lazy and then when I was ready to try it again, I would lace up the shoes and start quite literally from square one. Most of the time, I would just continue the injury cycle.

    I am at square one again after several months of rest. This time around I am being a bit more proactive about trying to stay injury free. I have started seeing my chiropractor for maintenance adjustments (not only going when I am injured), I stretch (something I never ever did), I am doing more cross-training, and I am doing a lot of core work. I know that not everyone believes in chiropractic care, but it seems to be the only thing that really gets me back on my feet.

    During a conversation with my chiropractor, he said that injuries often occur long before there is pain associated with them. Pain is signal that damage has been done. What he meant was most of the injuries do not happen overnight. I try to remember this now that I feel injury free so I will remember to stretch and do the things that will keep me out of the doctors office and on the road.

    I am not sure if my method will work for me this time around but it is worth a shot. Good luck to you both. It is soooo frustrating to be injured.

  7. Cathy permalink
    March 31, 2010 8:49 am

    I’m a big fan of pool running – not just when injured but also to help to try and stay ahead of injuries. A lot of people knock pool running but it’s great once you get used to it. Ideally I like to go once a week for half an hour to get a little extra mileage in without any of the impact. And pool running is PERFECT when you are pregnant, especially during the hot summer months.

    I also highly recommend regular massage/ART treatments. I go once a month for “maintenance.” And I’ve been seeing the same therapist for about eight years so we have a great relationship. He knows my strengths and weaknesses so I don’t have to explain a lot when an injury appears. It hurts like heck most times but worth it.

  8. Ellen Frazier permalink
    March 31, 2010 9:35 am

    In December of 2007 I was diagnosed with peroneal tendonitis in my foot. I was in acceptance that I might not be able to run for a few weeks but almost fell off the table when the doctor told me nothing but upper body weights and core work for at least 6 weeks and I had to wear a walking cast/boot which my husband affectionately called “peg leg”. I tried to negotiate with the doctor as I’d been on the treadmill that morning (never mind it killed, I was on it) but no luck. I cried in the parking lot. Luckily we were getting ready to start some major home improvements that weekend. I traded my running shoes for a sledgehammer and a dumpster for 4 weeks (pegleg and all) and then illegally rode the recumbent bike for 4 weeks. In the midst of all that I found out I was pregnant so by the time I could run again I was so tired that I didn’t want to. As a nurse practitoner I should know better as I spend hours talking to my patients about letting their body recover from whatever ailment/illness they have but I have a hard time applying it to myself. I’m trying to be kinder to my body these days and push through the pain to a point. Hang in there!

  9. March 31, 2010 9:53 am

    Dealing with injury…well, as a new runner last summer I ended up with some sort of injury above my right ankle bone in the fall that no one was sure about, but the swelling a pinpoint pain obviously said something was wrong. Due to the cost of trying to figure it out, at some point I had to let it go and my running slowly dwindled down as the sensation in my foot remained. 7 months later I can still feel it, I run, but it isn’t a lot…I am depressed about it, but think I may have figured out what was going on. I tend to lean/bear weight on my left leg and had gone to PT for that once before…years of working a register that was to the left of my body and years of holding babies on my left hip…right now I am trying to work on my posture and balance with the exercises the PT had me do 10 years ago! Hopefully that is what it is and I can get back to running a few 5K’s this summer! No marathoner here! 🙂 I think once someone starts running, no matter what their level, an injury can be psychologically devastating. Isn’t that why we run?

  10. Jill permalink
    March 31, 2010 10:04 am

    Where to begin? I was hit by a car as a child and have carried serious lumbar spine issues ever since. I have been through several surgeries and decades of chronic pain. Exercise became necessary to survive life and I am addicted. I ran in my 20s, had four kids via C- section and another surgery in my 30s, and now running half-marathons and maybe a full marathon at 41. I have been told by docs that I would never walk without aids, I will never run again, etc. etc. I have experimented with everything available – PT, herbal remedies, chiropractic, yoga, Pilates, water therapy, weights, NSAIDS – you name it. Sometimes rest is necessary and it is hard for me to take. When I can not run or exercise intensely, I can always take a yoga or Pilates class or ride a recumbent bike. It is not the same as running but at least it takes the edge off until you can get back at it. Pilates on the reformer is incredible and has really helped with my chronic pain.

  11. Carrie Steffes permalink
    March 31, 2010 10:24 am

    Ahhhh I’m in the middle of dealing with hip flexor muscle pain while training for a half marathon on 4/11. I’ve always had some level of soreness in my hip flexors when I run more than 5 miles or so, but now I have some kind of injury on the right side. I’m trying to rest/do other exercise this week so that hopefully I can run next week but it’s so frustrating! All I want to do is run like a mother! 🙂 And I’ve started the book, I love it so far. So inspiring.

  12. March 31, 2010 10:39 am

    I swear by cross-training, and think that no matter how much you “need” to train for an upcoming race by running, incorporating some cross-training into your program will in the long run help prevent injury.
    (knock on wood)Since I have been running (approx. 6 mos) I have not gotten hurt (please knock on wood again, and again, and again!)
    Through out all of my running training, I have continued to do weights, 1-2 days/week, plus do a body combat (cardio) class 1-2 days/week. I think this has helped keep my stamina up, and keep me injury free (knock on wood again!)

  13. sclubmama permalink
    March 31, 2010 10:45 am

    if you’ve been injured, how did you deal, either mentally or physically (or both)? Any tips on what you’ve done to avoid being injured again?

    I have yet to be injured (seriously anyway – I have a knee & shins that hurt), but I would either cross-train OR if it’s going to get THAT much worse (like breaking something or tearing something) I’d rest for awhile and then keep going. Mentally…you just have to deal with it the best way you can.

    Best way to avoid injuries? Stretch stretch stretch!

  14. March 31, 2010 11:03 am

    I have dealt with 2 hip stress fractures, a year a part. The first one I pursued any and all help to “make it go away!” Of course that didn’t work! The second time, I immediately plunged in the pool and swam and swam. It sucked! I hated every minute as I am NOT a swimmer BUT I made it through only gaining 2 lbs and I was able to get running MUCH quicker than the first time.

    How I avoid stress fractures now? Diet, supplements, and I increase my mileage slowly. It’s been 2 years injury free and so far, so good!

  15. March 31, 2010 11:03 am

    I returned to running too fast and too hard after child #2 was born. I ended up getting terrible shin splints and had to bail on a half marathon I was registered for.

    I ended up going to physical therapy and learned how important stretching is … I was too lazy to do this in the past. I also learned a lot of exercises that could be done at anytime during the day, to strengthen my legs and my muscles. This helped a lot. I ended up trading in my shoes that had too many miles on them and got fit for a new pair as well as insoles. I cross-trained on the bike trainer for two months until I was healed and better. I ended up running my first full marathon just five months later.

    Mentally, not running was a struggle for me, but I took the baby walking in the stroller; and the fresh air and bonding time with him really helped me stay positive.

    I have not been injured since.

  16. March 31, 2010 11:50 am

    Great question! I actually majored in Kinesiology and completed the Athletic Therapy certificate program at my University, so you would think that I would know all there is to know about injuries. Unfortunately knowing and doing are two different things…
    In my second year of Athletic Therapy (year 5 of my Kinesiology degree) I decided that I was going to begin running to lose the 25lbs I’d gained since starting University. I figured the athletes that I treated in the clinic would never take a therapist seriously if she was overweight, so I figured losing weight was a career move. I began running in the winter on the University’s indoor track. Being young, I just ran – I was fairly athletic, I played varsity lacrosse during my first 3 yrs of school, and figured that I could skip the whole walk/run thing and just begin to run 5k every day until my excess weight was gone. 3 weeks into my weightloss “program” my right ankle began to hurt. It hurt on my distal fibula (a non-weight bearing bone) just above my lateral malleolous. From my education I was able to quickly determine that it was a bone injury because there isn’t any soft tissue at the specific point where I was feeling pain. I knew it was a stress fracture, but was puzzled because the fibula doesn’t bear weight. I didn’t attribute it to the running, so I kept on running (and losing weight). 6 weeks came and went… by then my ankle was swollen like a balloon and if I banged my ankle on anything (like the table legs of the University desks), the pain would rate a 12 on a scale of 1-10. So I went to the Dr and had a bone scan – the next week I was placed in a walking cast and the downward spiral of depression and overeating began.
    From the lessons I’ve learned, it’s best to back off and modify your routine as soon as you begin to feel pain. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong! It’s also best to analyze and determine the cause of the pain, as eliminating the cause is the best treatment. Are your shoes old? Have you increased your mileage too soon? Are you allowing enough recovery time? What’s your nutrition like? Has your gait changed due to fatigue, footwear etc? In most cases runners can continue to be active in another form while the injury heals. For example, if I had figured out that I was running too much too soon with a heavier frame, I could have alternated swimming days with running days to allow my body (bones, joints & muscles) recovery time between runs while I still worked towards my goal of losing weight. Unfortunately the old saying: “A stitch in time saves nine” is especially true when dealing with pain and injuries.
    My advice for your friend? Rest that hip! The head of the femur has only one blood supply and if the swelling from the fracture causes a blockage in that blood supply she could do major damage in the form of avascular necrosis to the head of her femur. Recovering from that is a major ordeal and that could also involve surgery. She may opt instead for some non-weight bearing (pain-free) activities like our good old pal, swimming.

  17. March 31, 2010 1:37 pm

    My mind goes to dark places when I’m injured and can’t exercise. I’ve had some serious injuries that have sidelined me: torn plantar fascia, almost torn Achilles, subluxated hip, separated both shoulders a few times, fractured my eye socket, and more ankle sprains than I can count.

    I was a martial artist before I turned to relatively milder practices like running.

    Now that I’m a runner preparing for her first marathon, I’m very careful to avoid injury.

    I try to listen to my body. When things hurt, I adjust my gait or my pace to try to relieve. Rest if I need to. Build back slowly. I find that I’m happiest when running regularly and nothing else matters much. I don’t mind if I have to go really slowly, as long as I can keep going. I try to be kind to my body and in return, my body has been kindly allowing me to run. Currently training for a 178M relay, relatively pain free.

    Knocking on wood here.

  18. Kerry permalink
    March 31, 2010 2:30 pm

    Let’s see how did I take care of the rowing-ending stuck sacral bone…lived with it and pain from hip through leg for 4 plus years, stretched like the dickens, found love of my life, got married, couldn’t get pregnant, had an HSG, id’d mass in uterus, got the fibroid removed, finally got pregnant, hormones loosened ligaments in incredibly tight hips, released tipped and stuck sacral bone, and I have been pain-free ever since…

    Worth every day of morning sickness and childbirth….the LOs too. 🙂

    I’m a big advocate of core work (a rowing oriented ball work-out that’s pretty pilates based) and active-type strength stretching…ie yoga. I’m not perfect in either practice, but I know now that when things start developing, I need to start being more faithful to them.

  19. March 31, 2010 2:40 pm

    No offense to Sarah, but seriously, a hip sfx and still considering a marathon? Yikes. I do think injuries are a bit of a grieving process–denial, anger, etc. I partially tore my PF two yrs. ago and had to sit out for 6 months. It stunk. I missed running, I missed my running friends; I hated hearing about neighbors who were much less into running than me talk about an upcoming 1/2 marathon. But–I had to keep moving and not be a nightmare to live with. So I did a lot of swimming and biking, lifting and stretching. It gave me the occasional adrenaline boost and I felt that I at least maintained some fitness. I think you have to make your injury your new project–doing everything to stay fit at the same time promote healing. When I returned to running, I was soooo cautious–nothing was going to make me take one step forward and two back. I’m happy to say I’ve been healthy ever since–keeping my fingers crossed it will continue.

  20. Jenny permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:05 pm

    Listen to your body and consider what could be influencing injuries. when I started getting tightness behind my leg I did something I felt was counter intuitive, stopped using my knees bands, even though my knees were still hurting and moved by short day/weekday training to indoor/outdoor tracks so it was a soft surface. then did my long run on weekend out on the trail. I was able to finish training for and run my first marathon last fall and my knees (and the other tightness problems) are fine now!

  21. March 31, 2010 3:11 pm

    I was injured over Christmas (I twisted my ankle delivering gifts to neighbors) and without being able to be active for about 6 weeks, I was like an animal in a small cage! I coped by doing whatever indoor physical activity I could-I did a lot of ab work and lifted weights, I did the parts of the Wii Active game that didn’t involved jumping around, I did chair yoga. I think it would have been worse if the weather had been better, I would have wanted to go outside so bad! Luckily we had a bad storm so I was stuck indoors anyway.

  22. Pamela permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:53 pm

    Had an injury last summer that took me out for a couple of months. Eventually I was able to get over it and enjoy the rest and know it was good for my body. Kept telling myself that in a few months it would all be in the rear view mirror. Now I get what I call “mean” massages. Theraputic massages that hurt like a muther but work like a charm. That and seeing a chiro (had never done that before) have helped me get back to form. I also spent a lot of time online reading others’ stories of injuries. Misery loves company and you can get a lot of great information! Good luck and all the best…

  23. Lisa permalink
    March 31, 2010 4:30 pm

    I’ve had many injuries from running including two stress fractures. I would highly recommend riding a bike for some cross training. It’s not as hard on things and you still get the endorphins going. In training for my first marathon last Spring, I resorted to ice baths after my long runs. Yes, they’re kind of torturous, but I made it through the training and the marathon injury free.

    I’m living the injury thing now due to a surgery gone bad. No running, no biking, no ab work, nothing – geez, I can barely sit down!! I haven’t run for four months and counting and it’s driving me nuts!! At this point, I walk and lift (upper body only) until I think my arms are going to fall off. As for Sara, take the time off, better than some horrible thing happening that could require surgery and months off. Good luck!!

  24. Debbie H permalink
    March 31, 2010 4:50 pm

    I, too, try for a while to ignore pain. That works well–unless the injury gets really bad! Presently my heel has started huring. I use lots of ibuprofen, massage my own feet (my husband can’t stand touching feet!), and lay off my heels for a while. Some gel inserts for everyday shoes do wonders, too!

  25. jord permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:04 pm

    I’m in the middle of a knee injury right now. Doc can’t decide if I’ve “irritated” some tendons or torn cartilage. This is coming from a sports medicine doctor. *insert heavy eye rolling* So far, I’ve been eating potato chips and chocolate (not at the same time so far), having a glass of wine every night (atypical for me) and crying. Not the best strategy, I’ll be the first to admit. I try to do the RICE steps when I can.

    Doc has encouraged me to hop on my bike to keep my legs conditioned, so naturally I’m daydreaming of triathlons instead of marathons, and maybe doing the STP this year… 😉

  26. Kerrie permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:42 pm

    I listened to my body. Although, every part of me wanted to run I knew that if I didn’t listen to it now I would surely pay for it later. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s ‘when’ your body will succumb to the stress of running.

  27. Jennifer Burke permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:44 pm

    Jennifire’s Guide to Running Injuries:

    What didn’t work:

    ignoring the pain

    running through the pain, as this made it worse.

    beating self up about said pain


    refusing to do alternative cardio work cause I consider myself a purist (please!)

    What Worked:

    Educating myself about running injuries and care of same

    Cutting back on my eating (just a bit) to compensate for not running so much

    Loving my bad a– self and my fierceness.

    Remembering all I have accomplished and will accomplish

    Making friends with the eliptical machine, realizing that I need to stay strong to best heal myself and run again soon.

    Knowing when to call the physical therapist’s office when I can’t lick it myself.

    Uses some of my extra free time (since I am not running) doing stretching and core strengthening moves

    Asking other running moms for advice and support

  28. March 31, 2010 6:25 pm

    Look for the open window…know what I mean? I’ll admt, I neglect some things so I can run. So when I can’t run, I try and focus on anything I may have been neglecting, or even thing I know I will neglect again when I can run….stockpile a little, right?

  29. Lyndsay Smanz permalink
    March 31, 2010 6:28 pm

    I am currently taking a week long break from running as I’ve had some soreness in my IT band the last few weeks. I definitely am not happy about it, but have found in the past that if I continue to run it will mean a longer break in the future. So instead I’ll swim and aqua jog this week and hope I’ll be smart enough to stop running if the pain continues next week. I’ll worry about the speed and endurance I’ll lose but continue top plug away at exercises for my hip flexors and hamstrings.

  30. Carolynn permalink
    March 31, 2010 8:17 pm

    I took a month off of running and when that didn;t even help got to know the PT pretty well. I am good now but must stretch (more than I do!)

  31. GottaRun26.2 permalink
    March 31, 2010 11:21 pm

    I am so fortunate that the only time I have been injured severely enough to stop me from running was when I was training for my first marathon. Being inexperienced and having an overinflated ego, I did alot of endurance training AND speed training. Needlesss to say it only led to injury. A pulled groin led to rest for about 3 weeks and a SLOW marathon. Since then, I have listened to my body and am better tuned to minor aches that tell me to ease off. That is when I run easy but cross train. I have successfully run 7 more marathon injury free and at a much faster pace!

  32. April 1, 2010 10:42 am

    Like most of the comments made about injury, my disposition and approach is anger, denial, grief, more anger, more sugar, more wine, more denial. Then, at some point, I try and deal with it. My entire left leg is, let’s just say it, f*ed up most of the time. I ran the Avenue of the Giants marathon with an IT that screamed and begged me to quit the last 16 miles. My LMT does a great job at re-aligning me and giving me the mechanical changes I need to make to improve and I do. For a while. I also learned, having recently been running more trails, that that helps me use more of my body and stay out of repetitive bad habits. Each step on the trial is different. Trails are harder and I’ve also figured out that I need more recovery time between hard efforts. Listening to that has made a difference. I still drink too much beer when I’m sidelined though. Not sure how to work through that one (or if I want to 🙂

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