Our team of experts are here for you. What do you do when exercise isn’t fun?
Q: I have ITB (Iliotibiol Band) syndrome and am not allowed to run. Cycling is ok but I really hate not running as it helps me lose weight and de-stress. I have exercises I am supposed to do and do them as often as I can but I am not sure they are helping as it still hurts when I walk a lot.
I am driving my husband mad as he doesn’t understand how much I love running. I know you cannot say when I can run again but any advice would be appreciated.
A: I sympathise with you. Being forced to take time out of running can be extremely frustrating. Nonrunners can find it hard to appreciate how much running becomes part of one’s identity, and that having it taken away can leave a big void.
As you say, I have not assessed you and cannot therefore comment on either the appropriacy of the exercises you have been given or how long you will need to be off running, but I can give you the same advice that I give runners I treat who have for one reason or another been forced to take a break from running.
Firstly, try to take a keen interest in your rehab. Too many runners see pain & rehab as the enemy, wasted time when you should be out running. Pain is your ally – it’s your body trying to protect you; it’s a fantastic defence system without which we could not survive.
When injured, the ‘sensitivity dial’ of your defence system is turned up. Your rehab exercises are the opportunity for you to slowly turn down your sensitivity dial, to slowly but surely demonstrate to your defence system that it doesn’t need to be so protective. It may take time, but it’s you in the driving seat.
Secondly, you may not be able to run yet but you can still probably do other forms of cardio exercise (if in doubt check with a health professional). Try to make your cross training session as close as possible to what you would do in a running session.
Do some intervals, use gears and resistance to mimic hill sprints, play around with pace, set some challenging but achievable goals. This can make your cross training far more enjoyable, and research shows that a happy you will be able to recover from injury far quicker than a stressed you.
Thirdly, bear in mind that rehab is a ladder that starts with what you can do now and ends with what you could do before the injury. Climbing this ladder will mean that eventually running itself will become part of the rehab. This does not mean you will be able to go straight back to the speed/distance/frequency you normally do, but it does mean you will soon once again be able to enjoy short, controlled running.
Your therapist should include running on your rehab plan so you can see how close you are to getting back out there. Too many runners either wait for the pain to completely go (and don’t do the appropriate rehab) or once the pain has gone go straight back into a fast 10k. This invariably results in falling off the ladder and having to start that slow climb again.
I hope this advice helps you get through this tricky time Anne-Marie and sees you come out even stronger than before.
Injury: Matt Phillips is a Running Performance Coach & Injury Specialist at StrideUK & Studio57clinic.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @sportinjurymatt