A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO RECOVERING FROM COMMON RUNNING INJURIES & YOUR GUIDE TO OPTIMUM RECOVERY
Running injuries happen. They’re not fun and they’re usually never expected. They set us back from getting to our running goals and they drive us mad when we can’t carry on with our usual running routine. Not only that, going a few weeks or months — or even a few days — without a run can drive just about any runner crazy.
We’re not alone. Many runners struggle when it comes to injury. They struggle with running or not-running, and they also struggle with recovering quickly and well.
At House of Running, we look at the whole runner and their training — and not just the injury — to get our runners back on path as quickly as possible. And we’d like to help you too!
To help our community minimize time off and maximize their progress, we’ve come up with a quick guide listing our top tips from our preferred holistic approach to injury recovery. We’ve summed it up here to share with you. Have a read and enjoy!
KNOW WHY & HOW YOU GOT INJURED
Knowing why and how you got injured can greatly reduce the recurrence of injuries. Unless you injured yourself in a fall or accident, you likely are dealing with an overuse injury.
Overuse injuries happen over time. You may feel pain all of a sudden but most of the time you were on the path to injury months ago.
In running, we get injured because our TOTAL stress load has increased faster than our body can adapt and carry that load. It looks like this:
TOTAL Stress Load Over Time > Total Recovery Time = Overuse Injury or illness
Total is in all caps because it’s important to remember that our TOTAL stress load can impact our running, not just our run training load. Work & life stress are included and must also be given adequate time to recover. I like to say: it all goes into one bucket. At the end of the day, you either recover from it all or you don’t.
Simply put, our body gets overloaded when we increase our TOTAL stress load (the demand we put on it) and don’t allow enough time to recover. This can happen sometimes but when it happens often, our bodies weaken and eventually breakdown with injury or illness.
In order to get stronger in fitness and running, the formula looks like this:
TOTAL stress load increases gradually over time + total recovery time remains adequate to adapt to new demand = Improved strength & performance
If you’re injured, you can speed up your recovery by taking some well deserved rest from all of the demand you’ve put on your body over the past few months.
It’s also helpful to reflect back on your training and life load to see what choices might have led you to injury.
- Did you progress in speed or distance too quickly? Did you go from running once a week to three or four times a week all of a sudden, or was it gradual? Or did you go from running five kilometers a week to running 15? A gradual increase in training load give our bodies time to adapt and then take on more load.
- Did you change your job or get more responsibility? Move to a new home? Or start a new relationship? It takes time for your body and mind to adapt to life changes.
- Were there other stressful events that weren’t considered when following your training plan? Did you follow a training plan?
- Did you get new shoes and not break them in gradually? Did you change your running stride? Or has another ache or pain caused you to change your stride or posture?
REMEMBER: YOU’RE AN ATHLETE. RECOVER LIKE ONE
Most elite athlete’s full time job is to train and recover. Along with training, elite athletes prioritize self care.
They also have a team of experts who support their recovery, including nutritionists, physical therapists, massage therapists, sports psychologists, strength coaches and running coaches.
We may not be elite athletes nor aspire to be one but we can learn from them and take better care of ourselves.
If you want to better perform and minimize setbacks, treat your body like an athlete.
A RECIPE FOR RECOVERY
If you’re injured, opt for a holistic approach to recovery. Consider the following tweaks to help speed up your recovery and reduce the chance of recurrence.
Overuse injuries are often from over-impact, repetitive motion and the repeated pounding of pavement. Give your bones, muscles and connective tissues a chance to rest and heal before returning to your high impact sport of running. Rest is essential to repair injuries and get stronger.
Get more sleep
During sleep and times of rest is when your body repairs and gets stronger. Aim to get 30 minutes to a few hours more sleep than usual during recovery periods.
Higher mileage training and recovery periods require more daily sleep for adequate recovery. Shoot for at least 8 hours of sleep.
Nourish your body
Increase protein intake. Eat it throughout the day, get it from a variety of sources, and aim to get 40% of your calories from protein everyday during recovery.
Increase nutrient dense foods (vegetables) — especially greens — and aim to eat mostly anti-inflammatory foods. Reduce or eliminate sugar as this can be inflammatory and stressful on your body.
Drink lots of water and eliminate caffeine and alcohol. Aim to get at least 8 tall glasses of water a day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as it dehydrates, can cause inflammation, and adds to the total body stressors of your day.
Avoid prolonged sitting and standing as this slows circulation and is not optimum for recovery. Opt for frequent opportunities to elevate your legs by using on a chair to rest feet while sitting, with the legs up the wall yoga pose, or propped up under pillows in bed.
Treat your body
Physio and self care exercises can speed up recovery time. A total body sports massage can help realign your body, workout any muscle spasms, and reduce compensation or overuse of muscles due to “lazy,” “tight” or “stuck” muscles, helping you to recover sooner.
Take a break form any stressful events and any cortisol raising activities. Eliminate, postpone or delegate what you can.
Up any stress reducing (cortisol lowering) activities. Get massages (relaxing ones), meditate, practice daily breathing exercises morning and night, take a bath, read a book, or take a solo spa day for total self care and relaxation.
Get more magnesium
Stress depletes our magnesium stores and our needs increase as our training load (or stress) increases. Getting adequate magnesium is especially important during times of stress and our recovery from stress or heavy training loads. Increase magnesium-rich foods and try magnesium baths or foot baths with magnesium chloride flakes (not magnesium sulfate). Seek a nutritionist to determine your supplementation needs.
If you are someone who will normally go, go, go and do, do, do. Do less and delegate. Take non-critical work, chores and running around off your plate. Replace the doing and going with much needed me-time and extra self care.
Opt for low impact (and low intensity) exercise
Reduce the impact and intensity of your weekly workouts during this recovery phase. Easy swimming, cycling and restorative yoga are good choices.
This is also not a good time for starting a new activity to replace running.
Adopt adaptogenic herbs
Adaptogenic herbs help our bodies better adapt to stress while reducing total stress levels and therefore speeding up recovery. Teas with holy basil, aswaganda, licorice root and rhodiola are a few that taste good and can be taken daily.
Thank your body for how far you’ve come, for how strong you are, and for giving you this opportunity to learn more about yourself. Exchange negative emotions of frustration, anger, sadness with gratefulness to reduce total stress and lower cortisol levels.
Embrace the learning
Observe, question, take note and write it down. I also recommend sharing your learning! There is so much to learn about ourselves, running, and lifelong endurance when we take the opportunity to embrace these challenges and learn as much as we can from them.
Gather your team
Reach out to your expert support team of knowledgeable professionals who can help advise or offer therapy to speed things along. Seek professionals with running experience.
It may sound corny but people (and science!) are proving that “what the mind believes, the body can achieve,” even in terms of pain and injury. Pain and limitations can even just be in our head. A daily practice of visualizing, positive self talk and believing in your abilities to quickly overcome this setback will set you on path to a quicker recovery.
This information is for educational purposes and is not meant as personal advice. It is best to check with a medical expert to correctly diagnose any possible injuries and before starting with nutritional herbs or supplements. We recommend consulting with experts for advice and suggestions for your specific situation.