7 for 7: Injury

I have no idea why I left injury for the conclusion to 7 for 7. Maybe it’s because I have such a sunny disposition. Who knows.

The list of injuries I’ve sustained while running range from the humorous to the frustrating. There was the time I ran into a hidden tree branch in downtown Denver and spent the evening in Denver General waiting for stitches. In retrospect, pretty funny. I’d give anything to have video of me as I ducked through what I thought were some leaves, but were actually camouflage for a ninja sawed-off tree limb. What aren’t typically very funny are your garden-variety “overuse injuries,” to use the catch-phrase bandied about by so many general practitioners whose last experience with athletics was that time they were picked last for kickball in 2nd grade. I love that phrase…”well, you overused it, so it’s hurt. Stop if you want it to not hurt.” Thanks a bunch, doc…

The injuries I battle most are plantar fasciitis and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. The former is a painful swelling in the tissue on the bottom of your foot, usually concentrated around the heel; the latter is an inflammation of the iliotibial band, a long piece of connective tissue which runs pretty much from your ankle through your knee, and up to your hip. My plantar fasciitis is bad enough that it occasionally wakes me up in the middle of the night, but my IT band issues typically flare up and take off again if I spend some time on the foam roller.

I have no idea why I have these recurring issues. I have a feeling my IT bands are tired of being attached to my wickedly bowed legs, but the plantar fasciitis is beyond me. It showed up in 2005 for the first time in my life, and has been an uninvited guest ever since. I just sort of suck it up and do some painful golf ball massage when it gets really bad.

Running injuries in general can be incredibly frustrating for the reasons I allude to above – naturally we want to know the cause so we can fix things. But there is rarely an easy answer, except in the case of trauma. It could be just about anything, from physiological responses to life stress, to the complicated relationship of your core strength to your running stride. Thankfully, injuries that threaten to sideline you rarely show up overnight, which means an attentive mind can correct identify and correct issues early in the process.

 A powerful aid for this is your training log. As soon as something start feelings off, maybe a bit wrong. You need to write down as much info as possible and continue to document it throughout training. Nothing is worse than trying to figure out exactly when the pain started as you try to figure out possible causes. A good rule of thumb – if something painful develops and grows worse over about three days, you’re probably staring down the barrel of something bad and you need to intervene immediately. What that intervention looks like is completely individual. For some, it’s simply anti-inflammatory pain meds and pressing forward. For others, it’s aggressive deep tissue massage and plenty of ice…it all depends on the athlete and the injury.

Something else to remember about injury – it’s your body’s means of communicating with you. The message: “Dude, something is wrong and you need to fix it.” Overly conservative folks will immediately assume time off is the called-for panacea, but I tend to err on the aggressive side in that time off is usually the last thing on my mind. These days, I start with my core and my life. Is my core strong or have I neglected it for three months straight (the answer to that question is “yes,” which is why my lower back has been nagging me)? Am I recovering adequately between sessions with quality food and sleep or am I travelling tons, eating lousy airport meals and working 18 hour days? Find what is lacking, put it back in and see if it helps.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: injuries suck. The disappointment associated with putting in the training, only to be derailed by a stupid injury should not be underestimated. However, I’ve never read a study that indicated self-pity was the Rx that cured the problem. It’s natural to be depressed and disappointed, but you have to turn that emotion into something positive…like ruthless determination to fix the problem and never have it again.

Injuries – they’re a big bummer but they hold important lessons for us if we have the foresight and wherewithal to make it happen.

I hope you enjoyed 7 for 7, because this iteration is officially over and out. Next time, I’ll try to deliver on the whole “7 days” aspect as opposed to 10…but I’m sure you didn’t mind a few days off J It’s been a good habit-builder to me as my day has started to feel incomplete if I don’t post at least a little something each day. I’m already dreaming up my next series, so keep alert for updates…

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