Jan 23, 2016

Coping with Injuries

I have been so busy training lately, that I haven’t had time to blog. Due to the fact that I’ve found time to blog because of an injury, I figured it was only fitting that this be the subject of this blog. Earlier this week I injured my back while doing some strength training, so I figured it would be a good time to offer my thoughts regarding coping with injuries.

Physical Effects – since I began running in 2005, I have had countless injuries that varied in severity. With the exception of a few, most were minor and only hung around for a week or two – hopefully my current injury will fall into this category. Studies have shown that for endurance athletes that have a good base, a week or two off of training will have little or no effects on their overall physically fitness. You likely won’t gain fitness while injuries, but you likely won’t loose the fitness you’ve built up prior to the injury.  The trick is trying to convince someone who is injured that this is indeed the case – which is a perfect segway to my next point.

Mental Effects  - regardless of the severity of the injury, coping with the mental effects can be tough. As I’ve increased my training volume and intensity over the past few years, keeping healthy mentally has become tougher and tougher. Since I decided I wanted to some day qualify for the World Ironman Championships training has become an even more significant part of my life – with most days involving more than one training session. As a result, when I have to take even one day off that wasn’t initially planned, I am not the same person.  I have to keep telling myself that there will be little/no effects on my physical fitness. In addition, I try to “be smart” and focus on “rest and nutrition” even more so then when I’m training.

Be Smart – unless you are a health professional, I recommend seeing a physician or physiotherapist about your injury. This will help determine the severity of the injury and the rehab needed. Sometimes all that is required is a day or two off. It may be the body’s way of telling you that you did too much too soon.  However, it might be a lot more serious and continuing to train will just prolong your injury (and mental anguish). If I had always practiced what I’m preaching right now, I would likely be outside running right instead of laying in bed writing this blog. About 2 months ago I decided to reintegrate strength training back into my program. Once a week I’ve been lifting weights in an effort to increase power and ironically enough, decease my susceptibility to injury. Every other session (including the most recent session) I noticed I was getting stronger, so I increased the weight. Anyway, here I am with what I hope is minor low back injury. Next time I’ll be smarter and ideally avoid injury

Rest & Nutrition – Athletes often neglect the amount of sleep they need when they are injured. Being that they are not training, somehow they feel they don’t need as much rest as when they are. Even though you may not seem tired, getting more rest will more than likely speed up recovery time. In addition, while injured there is often less of a focus on nutrition. My most common mistake is to continue eating the same as I was before the injury – which usually means I return from injury a few pounds heavier. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, exercising burns calories, and if you eat the same amount and don’t exercise, you body will retain most of the extra calories. One way to prevent this from happening is to place more of an emphasis on protein, and less of an emphasis on carbohydrates. Protein helps with healing process and if you’re not exercising you don’t need as many carbs.

Blessing in Disguise – if you know me you can attest that I find it very difficult to take time off training (for any reason). Even with my hamstring injury last spring, I only took a grand total of 6 days off in 2015. And my last day off was over 6 weeks ago, so a day off or two will likely be a blessing in disguise. Ideally, I’ll return to a full training schedule stronger than I was prior the injury – fingers crossed!


  1. I think you know whats going on but your failing to recognize what to do. You clearly state you've had injuries since the beginning and then you finish saying you only had 6 days off... duh? I became an endurance athlete in 2008. I ran 13 marathons in 17 marathons and had Plantar Fasciitis for 4 years. Of course I know why: too much physical stress. I did have a weird injury last year with only a week to go till IMWA in my ankle. No idea what I did there. Otherwise, I have had no real injuries. For me, I train extensively but after my BDO workouts it's a full day off 2x/season. Besides that I train everyday but Monday is typically a lift/core/recovery swim. I think you can train everyday as long as you have a real recovery day. I also take 2-6 weeks off after each season. I just had 4 weeks off IMWA. I think you know what to do and if you do it, you'll probably find injuries reduce to non-existent.

  2. Thanks for your feedback. In terms of what to do: I've detailed some of the strategies I use to cope with (and ideally avoid) injuries. And the fact that I've only taken 6 days off in 2015 I think speaks to my ability to train consistently for long periods of the time and still maintain good health. What has worked for me, won't necessarily work for everyone. I've tried taking long periods of time off in the past and it just didn't work for me (mentally or physically). As for days off, there are 2 days in each month that I do not swim, bike, or run, but will include either a strength session or a yoga class.