Dealing with injury during training

by - Friday, February 12, 2010

Today is our last stop at an island. We are in Cozumel, Mexico, for the day before setting sail for Florida. If I'm lucky, I haven't burnt to a crisp yet.

Please welcome the last, but certainly not least, guest blogger of the week and my fellow Terp runner Susan from Nurse on the Run!

As many of you might know, I'm suffering from a bit of a hip injury now, and Susan dealt with an injury in the fall while training for the Philadelphia Marathon. I'm hoping to steal some of her tips for healing up while still training and racing strong.

Greetings, Run Girl Run, readers! This is Susan from Nurse on the Run, and I am honored that Jess asked me to do a guest post for her while she’s on vacation. Jess asked me to write about the injury that occurred during my most recent round of marathon training for the Philadelphia Marathon this past year and how I recovered strong from it to still run a great race! So, without further ado…

A Little Background

For those of you unfamiliar with my entire running history, I’ve been running since I was 12 (yikes!), and given that I’m now 25…that’s a long time! Throughout the years I’ve managed to escape injury…whether I have stretching (which I don’t do that often) or just pure luck to thank is beyond me, but I consider myself blessed for not sustaining any form of serious, long-term injury over the years. With three marathons under my belt (including my first BQ!), I was ready to go for broke at the Philadelphia Marathon and push the limits. Since I had already qualified for Boston for 2010, the pressure was off and if I bonked…well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. So that’s where the story begins, I suppose.

The Injury

It started off just like any other fine September morning…I had completed an awesome 20 miler the week before in preparation for the Philadelphia Marathon and was heading out for a short six mile run. My right knee hadn’t felt perfect all week, but after a mile it usually loosened up and I’d be on my way. Well, this day was different…the pain outside my knee was much greater than before and I shuffled my way through 2.5 miles before walking all the way home because the pain was too great to bear. I figured a couple days off and some stretching would do me some good, so rest I did. After multiple attempts to run ended up in me shuffling a block and then walking home, I realized that something was actually wrong with my leg. I needed to take some time off to let whatever was going on calm down.

Well, after taking an entire week off of running and still having pain…I realized something might be up with my leg. More rest was needed, and although I would love to say that I remained calm, I did go through a period of “No! I have a marathon to run! It was going to be awesome! Now what do I do??” After a minor freak out, I took a look at my options and decided to take some time off of running and ride the bike instead. I couldn’t lose too much fitness, I thought! When the pain still didn’t go away, I ended up making an appointment with a sports medicine doctor and was diagnosed with iliotibial band syndrome, which is a classic running injury. The treatment? Stretching, icing, and…no running! Excellent.

The last thing the doctor asked me at my appointment was, “So, are you still going to run the marathon?” My answer? “I sure hope so.”

If you want the long story short…I got injured in September, took an entire MONTH off of running, and ran the Philadelphia Marathon at the end of November only 1:30 off of my PR…qualified for Boston again!

So how did I do it? Well, the key to surviving an injury mid-training is two-fold…it includes keeping up your training both physically AND mentally! Let’s break it down:


Just because you can’t run doesn’t mean you can’t do other forms of exercise! Although I took a month off of running, I turned to riding a bike instead. It was good workout for my legs and I rode fast enough to get my heart pumping. I think the general rule is that three miles on a bike equals one mile running, but don’t quote me on that! My longest bike ride was 30 miles, which was enough to feel like a long effort. The key was that I was still working my legs and getting my heart rate up on a regular basis. Although I could have easily thrown in the towel, I knew that I would be able to resume running at some point and it was important to me to still run the marathon. Plenty of people train for marathons with less running than others. Ever heard of the FIRST program, where you run only three days per week? Not saying that the best way to tackle a marathon is by solely biking, but I knew that my legs would remember how to run as long as I got my IT band back into shape in time. This was important when I was finally able to run again. Although all I wanted to do was run run run, I knew it was important to take it slow, so I worked a few shorter runs in with my biking. Don’t overdo it! Continue to stretch, ice, apply heat, or whatever has helped you recover or what your doctor recommended. My training plan had to be modified upon my return to running, as it would have been silly to jump back in full force. Building up to a long run that I knew I would still allow me to be confident in finishing the distance (13 miles!) was wise and safe.

Key Points

* Stay active and keep your cardiovascular fitness in tip top shape.
* You WILL recover and your legs will remember how to cover the distance!
* Stopping running for any period of time is NOT the end of the world.
* Start slow when you come back, making sure to listen to your body.


Anyone who has ever run a marathon knows that the mental race is at least half the battle, and fighting through an injury is much the same. Running is key to my sanity, and NOT being able to run was very difficult, especially since I wanted to take my marathon to the next level. The key to working through my injury was to keep my cool and remind myself that healing myself now will allow me to run for years to come. One month is nothing in the grand scheme of things! Although it is very easy to fixate by saying, “I can’t run TODAY,” it is important to think, “If I allow my body to rest, I will be able to complete my race in a few months.” Or even if you get sidelined from your planned event, you can always schedule another one. To help ease your mind, channel your thoughts and energy into your cross training. Learn the ins and outs of biking, try a new yoga class, or work it on the elliptical! Instead of dwelling on the fact that you can’t run, think about everything else you can do instead! Who knows, those cross training activities may even make you a better runner.

Key Points

* Keep your head up! You’ll get back in those running shoes soon enough.
* Focus on your new activity instead of dwelling on not running.
* Taking time off now will benefit you in the long run.

Putting It All Together

Keeping yourself strong mentally and physically is so important to bringing yourself back from injury. If you don’t stay mentally strong, you may think, “Well, I can’t run, so what’s the point?” If you don’t stay physically strong, you may not bounce back from your injury as quickly as you would like once you can run again. Take care of yourself, and listen to your body. “No pain, no gain” doesn’t always apply! Give your body the rest it needs while focusing your efforts on other types of activities, and you will get back to running. Maybe not as soon as you would like, but you don’t want to injure yourself in a way that you’re sidelined for even longer.

I was able to fight through my injury and come back to run an amazing marathon! I hope those of you who are currently battling injury get some hope from this post that you will get back out on the roads, and I hope that most of you never have to use my advice!

Thanks to Jess for letting me do a guest post on her wonderful blog! Go Terps!

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