Tips for the Trail – Dealing with Injury – Xterra – 5-20-2011

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 5/20/2011

Humans love creating habits.  Some are good and others are not so beneficial to our wellbeing. Running, in general, is a fabulous habit to get into.  The rewards are many. Feeling better, boosting metabolism, time for yourself … the list continues.

Rachel C But just like with any other sport, injuries are a part of running. When the twinges, aches, and worries emerge, it is easy often to push it aside. Sometimes that works. The run ends, we wake up tomorrow and hit it again. But if it happens that the uncomfortable is acute or becomes chronic, it is time to listen.

Over the years I have paid a heavy price for choosing to not listen to my body. Instead of backing off and caring for it, I at times spent weeks, months, and in some residual ways, years overcoming what could have stayed small.

I’m here to save you from yourself! There are certain aches and pains that you simply can’t ignore, so please don’t try to run through it. Disaster is almost certain. Even though I don’t love rules, here are some good ones to go by.

First, if you have constant acute pain that arises suddenly out of nowhere every time you start to run, and all the anti-inflammatory medication in the world doesn’t help, head to the doctor as you may have a stress fracture. In this case, you get to learn the value of good rest and possibly pool running. Pool running, by the way, is amazing and runners often come back very strong and balanced when recovering this way.

The other injury to be careful with is swelling, especially if it comes after a heavy fall. It is a great idea to take time off when you have swelling, as it gives the tissues time to heal, and you can actually monitor the decreasing of the swollen area. Also, the risk of something small will have less chances of morphing into a debilitating injury. If the swelling doesn’t go away, or your body is really struggling, it is a great idea to see a doctor or physical therapist to make sure something isn’t torn.

Typically, rest is the most appropriate advice for an injury. But of course, some injuries are possible to run through.  Perhaps acupuncture, massage, taping, ice baths, and hot tubs may be helpful in the recovery process while still allowing training and racing. But sometimes you have to back off significantly or do cross training, physical therapy, etc., to get back to race form.

It is tough on the mind but worth it to take it easy as the body is trying to heal. The more you push when the body is not ready, the longer the injury may last. Think of backing off as an opportunity to take some much needed rest. Use the down time to balance muscles, catch up on family time, or sleep. Yes, we do heal faster when we get adequate sleep. Do this and you’ll be back in form in no time. An amazing thing is that you may actually come back faster than you were before the injury.  It can be due to the mind wanting it so much and missing it. It can be that you really just needed to rest so you could overcome a plateau. Or perhaps the opportunity to balance muscles, sleep more, and cross train was the perfect combination to help the body find its faster stronger self.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She won the women’s division of the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Runs last year, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in December at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.