Running Injuries


Those two words are heard all too often in the same conversation.  Recently, even yoga has come under fire for the risk of injury it may inflict on those who practice it.  I am not about to fight the facts about how many runners, yogis or any other active people get injured on a regular basis, but I will try to offer some insight about why this might be happening.

I firmly believe that it is not the activity itself that is the cause of these injuries, but more the way we approach them.  We are becoming less connected with the body, as the ties to the ego strengthens.  When we approach any type of activity with a mind over matter attitude, we begin to believe that it is our duty to take ourselves from where we are in our abilities, to where we want to be, by force. There are just a few problems with this outlook.

When we decide in our minds that we want to accomplish a goal, we need to respect where it is that we are starting from.  I am a huge believer in setting big goals, and knowing it is possible to achieve anything we set out to do, but there is a process we must follow in order to be successful. 

We live in a world where results are expected to be instant.  We can buy anything from anywhere in the world and have it on our doorstep the very next day.  We are trying to fit our bodies into this “just-in-time” paradigm.  In reality, our bodies, and minds require a lot of time and patience to train and adapt, in order to perform great things.  Whether it is running a marathon, or doing a yoga posture, it takes dedication and practice to meet those goals.

We need to slow down before we can get faster.

Being a well-fed teenager, I started off as a back of the pack runner.  Those first few weeks of training took tremendous amounts of discipline and energy.  It was about 14 months, and several injuries before I ran my first marathon.  At the time, each injury was seen as a setback, and I hoped it would heal fast, so that I could continue with my running, if I even slowed down in the first place. 

Looking back, I can see why I was injured so often.  I was spending so much time listening to my ego, wanting to run further, faster, and keep up with the others, that I forgot to listen to my body.  I didn’t realize that my body was trying to tell me something with each injury.  Over many thousands of miles that I have logged since those early days, I am beginning to see my injuries as some of the greatest teachers I have ever had. 

On a physical level, injuries occur because of imbalances, of either strength, flexibility in the body, caused by forces in the environment.  It is often a combination of many things.  On a figurative level, we create these imbalances, by not being in tune with our bodies, instead listening to our egos while we train. 

You will notice that elite athletes who get injured will have trained professionals analyzing everything about their movement and be helping them work really hard to pinpoint these areas of imbalance, working on them with strength training, stretching and a variety of other methods.  They get injured because they have a will to win and know that they need to push themselves harder than their competition in order to do that. 

For recreational runners, it is much more common to be plagued with the same nagging injury, over and over again.  Without that high level of competition, we end up competing mostly with ourselves more, and with our friends.  Because injuries have become so common among runners, we have started to become desensitized to the message that they are trying to tell us. 

SLOW DOWN!!!!! 

Running has become an addiction for many people, and so has yoga.  An addiction is something that we want more of, even when it is not good for us.  I am not suggesting that people around the world should stop doing these activities; I am a strong supporter of both of them.  Rather, I am saying that when we take on these activities with our eyes locked on the destination, we are blind to the journey, often end up taking a wrong turn somewhere, and just continue moving forward without knowing we are causing harm.

We need to open our eyes to what these injuries are telling us.  Stop, and address those imbalances, before moving on.  Sometimes it requires taking a step back, in order to get back on to the right path. 

About a year ago, I thought about running, and dreaded the thought of not being able to do it anymore if my injuries persisted.  I finally was able to let go, knowing that running more was only going to make things worse before addressing those underlying imbalances.  I accepted myself as someone who used to run, but not anymore. 

Just over a week ago, I was out for a run, feeling better than I have in over two years.  I have just been so happy to be running regularly again.  I have been training again for about eight weeks, preparing myself for the Rotorua Marathon in New Zealand at the end of April.  It will be my 51st marathon since I started running. 

I had been increasing my mileage about 10% per week, as is the norm for marathon training. 

A friend asked me if I could run with him in an 85km trail race on March 17th, and I thought, since my training was going well, and I have stuff like that before, why not?  I can do anything I set my mind to, right?  I started increasing my mileage about 25% for the last couple weeks, preparing for the ultra.  

The day after my amazing run, I logged 16km in the rain.  I felt tightness in my Achilles tendon, but run through it, thinking that I would tough it out and get stronger from it.

WRONG!!!!

Later that day, I was still in pain, and it was a challenge to walk up and down stairs.  I did my best to rest it for over a week before even attempting to run again.  It is still a bit tight when I run, but not swelling up afterwards.  I’ve got just over a week before Tarawere and the 85km.  It is going to be a tough fight throughout the week between my ego, who really wants to do the race, and my body which is trying to heal, but needs time. 

I am trying to swallow my own medicine, but it is hard to do.  This is why so many of us get into these situations.  We know that it’s not good for us, but we do it anyway.  I will be paying close attention to my body and how I feel, and will make the tough call not to run if I have to.  It is a perfect example of how an injury can teach you not just something about your body, but about the psyche and how deeply attached we are to our activities. 

I wouldn’t be running at all today, if I didn’t decide a year ago that I could live without running.  I might have to remind myself of that many more times throughout my life. 

As long as I can slow down, and pay attention to what’s going on along the journey, I will be able to navigate (sometimes taking detours and getting lost) my way to my destination, which is to be able to be active, enjoying running and yoga for the rest of my life. 

© Brian Groot 2016