Buckling under the strain

Injury seems to be the topic of the month. My partner has injured his achilles tendon and hasn’t been running for weeks. My bootcamp friend got knocked off her bicycle and hurt her legs, and another friend has hamstring trouble.

Having to stop your regular exercise because of injury can be really frustrating. You miss the endorphins and the stress relief, and start to ask yourself whether you have shrunk your trousers in the wash (you probably haven’t. Sorry). With some injuries it can take months before you’re back to full strength again.

Assuming you’re not horribly injured and need medical treatment, what can you do instead?

If you can afford it, find a qualified sports massage therapist. Try to get recommendations from people in your local area or your local gym might be able to point you in the right direction. Sports massage therapists will have a good grasp of the type of injuries usually encountered from sports and exercise, and will be able to help you to recover more quickly and give you advice on preventing injury.

A modern torture device?

Foam rollers. Those weird spiky things that look like torture devices. But they can help. In this Runner’s World article, the top tips for using foam rollers are:

  • Get the knots out first (see above)
  • Do it before and after exercise
  • Don’t overuse it
  • Start with a softer roller first, then when your muscles are used to it, try a firmer one
  • Improper use can cause more harm than good. Get advice on how to use it properly on particular areas of your body.
  • Use the roller regularly, even on days when you don’t exercise. This will prevent tightness caused by other activities like sitting at a desk.
  • Don’t rely on it to cure you. You may also need a stretching routine and massage.

See if you can find other activities that will match the effects you get from your regular exercise whilst you’re recovering. If you enjoy running because you love being outside, try a long walk or cycle instead. If you enjoy an exercise because of the social elements, see if you can continue to be involved in some way. Parkrun, for example, always needs volunteers, and you can often find volunteering opportunities at other organised sports events.

Trying lower impact exercise, such as yoga or Pilates, may give your body the rest it needs whilst still giving you some physical and mental benefits. Pilates has a reputation for being beneficial for athletes recovering from injury and can help to prevent further problems too.

Embrace the change. If you can’t do your usual exercise, why not take this as an opportunity to try something new to fill those extra hours? It doesn’t even have to be exercise related (although do try to keep active somehow); perhaps take that painting class you’ve always wanted to try, or volunteer at the local nursing home. Hobbies can give you that feeling of improvement and achievement and doing good in the community has the added bonus of making you feel good too.