Thursday, 6 March 2014

Recovering from injury: I'd rather be running...

Injury and rehabilitation are two words that are, unfortunately, very commonly used in the runner's vocabulary. According to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, nearly 70 percent of runners will become injured in any year. (Source: Women’s Running) Of course, every injury is different and everybody responds differently to treatment. So if you are in recovery like me, you should consider the positive aspects here: time and patience will give you the best chance to recover fully and you’ll be wearing those running shoes very soon again.

After almost four months since my accident and no running, I have come across five stages of what comes equal to the five stages of grief.

Stage one starts almost immediately after the accident: Denial. Straight after the accident, I didn’t want to accept my injury which would mean taking a break from running. However, 18 painful hours later I felt mentally and physically defeated and went to hospital for a check-up, where my injury was confirmed.

Anger is a key description of stage two. Reality is knocking on the door and you are simply not ready to deal with ityet, which results in you  feeling angry. This anger might be directed at yourself, at family members (who told you not to run in the first place) or at the doctor who diagnosed your injury. Take a step back and take a deep breath. 

Once anger has calmed down you will have to deal with the consequences and will inevitably bargain the terms of your recovery, which is stage three on the ladder of grief. My surgeon told me it would be three months before I would be able to run again, my physio told me to take out a full year. From my experience there is no clear time indication as to how long it will take a runner to recover from injury. All you can do is to give your injury the best chance to heal properly with time, patience and a lot of TLC.

Eventually, this will lead you to stage four, depression. On the one hand you’ll try to put a brave face on while your friends go out for that long run in preparation for a marathon while you’re dealing with the frustrations of not even being able to walk properly. On the other hand you bid your changes to ever run long distance again goodbye, even though it mustn’t be so. My advice would be to openly talk to your family and friends about your worries and sorrows, ups and downs. Or, sometimes all you need is a hug.

Finally, the last stage is acceptance as you come to terms with the situation you find yourself in and you’ll be able to start the long and tough way of recovery. Light exercise and stretching will help your body to gently build up strength, power and mobility. Low-impact exercises, such as swimming, indoor cycling, Pilates or yoga will help your body build up endurance and stamina. However, advise with your physio first and, most importantly, listen to your body.
You might encounter that one injury may trigger another, such as in my case Achilles Tendonitis. Again, the answer is a lot of TLC, patience and rest. Your body will tell you immediately if you're expecting too much too soon. 

Once you’re up and running again, you’ll feel stronger, injury-proofed and, hopefully, injury-free. Are you recovering from an injury at the moment? If so, feel free to share your story with me and other runners here.

Obviously, I can't deny...