What do I do in Case of Injury?

By Karen Hancock

A number of you have contacted me about injury worries, so I thought it worth laying out some general advice:

A few days rest for a niggle is often worthwhile

If whatever pain you have is made worse by running, then take a few days off. This can often be enough to nip a more serious injury in the bud. I know you will be anxious about missing training, but your top priority has to be to get to the start line of your goal race! Niggles and injuries are an inevitable part of a runner's life, I'm afraid – we all have to learn to listen to our bodies, and understand what
they are telling us.

To minimise loss of fitness

By all means swim, cycle or participate in other activities, so long as they do not make your running injury more painful. Also, don't forget to adjust your food intake to that required to a lower level of activity to avoid putting on unnecessary weight whilst taking days off.

To help the healing process

Ice-packs to reduce inflammation on the sore area, anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen) and any stretching exercises which you know are suitable for your injury are what to do. If walking makes your injury more painful, take the bus!

Get proper diagnosis and treatment

If 2-4 days rest doesn't make the pain go away, or it returns on resuming running, make an appointment with a physio or with a sports injury doctor. Check your health insurance, as it may (or may not ) cover you for the costs. I can recommend my own physio (Paul Martin at Physioworks on 020 7409 1539), but he's not cheap. Please note that a Sports massage practitioner is not a qualified physiotherapist, so make sure you understand the qualifications of the person you are seeing. Recommended physios here.

Resume training cautiously

Don't try to make up for lost training time on resuming running. Think of it as a sunk cost – write off the days missed, and reflect on the experience and learn from it – but a few days off won't impair your marathon performance. Instead, when resuming training, focus on the highest-priority, endurance-building sessions.

Formulate a Plan B

Just in case your injury does turn out to be serious enough to seriously jeopardise your training for your spring marathon, you will cope better psychologically, if you begin to think about what you would like to do as an alternative.

I hope this advice is helpful to getting you back onto your running feet sooner rather than later.

Karen Hancock

UK Athletics Level 2 Coach ("Endurance" and "Children in Athletics")


January 2005