Running Injuries – Go Slow Grasshopper

Radiograph of a close-range shotgun blast inju...

When is the most difficult time to be a runner?

Answer: When coming back from an injury.

In my opinion it is most difficult when you are

Injured and Almost Back.

Whether it has been days, weeks or months, when a runner finally (I know it seem like freaking forever no matter how short a time it has actually been) comes back from an injury, we are eager to run as fast or as far as we did before the injury and we want to do it NOW!


We don’t want to accept that we have to change our mindset, for at least a little while, to what we can do now, versus what we did before we got injured. This to me is one of the hardest things in running – to accept the fact that an injury changes how we will or should run during our return to regular running.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t want to admit that there will be a transition period back to running normally again – whatever your normal running is and we make choices good and bad.

Danger Zone

This is the point where, you have been patient, rehabbed the injury correctly (well mostly) and have started to run somewhat pain-free. About this time you know damn well that your being able to run “normally” is right around the corner, but you also know (if you are in touch with reality at all) that you are not quite there yet. There is still that last little bit of healing that needs to take place, before you can get back to regular running.

This is the part of your recovery or return to running that can often make or break all the hard work you have done:

  • You are starting to run very short distances and it feels good great to run again, maybe just a little tightness, but no pain!
  • You know if you can wait just a little while longer, that you will be able to start training and will get back to your regular running fairly soon.
  • About this time you get to thinking, I know that I can run further or faster and have to decide – do I go ahead and just do it (run farther/faster than called for) or do I stay conservative and stick to the recovery plan?

Some things that motivate us to running to soon are:

  • You are not going to get your weekly or monthly mileage in, this is one that really can get you in trouble and make a small aggravation into something much more.
  • not being ready for that race in a couple of weeks
  • The “I just want to run again”
  • I’m gaining weight without my running
  • “Suzy or “Johnny” are doing it
  • I got these new shoes and I really want to run in them
  • and probably about a bazillion other reasons to just run again

However, if you go ahead and just run, you run the risk of re-injuring whatever was the original injury and possibly making it worse than it was originally or then again you might get lucky (not likely, but maybe). Even worse because you are compensating for your original injury, you injure something else.

Runners Make Their Own Choices

How do you know if it is too early? If you have seen a doctor for the injury, either they or the physical therapist will give you some great feedback (not always what you want to hear i.e. no running still) or if it is still painful (runners need to know the difference between pain and hurting when it comes to their body).

However, I believe that most runners return to running when the discomfort is at an acceptable level for them and there is no further risk of making an injury worse.

Each runner has to make their own choices about when they begin to come back from an injury based on their own personality and what the injury was, you just have to be smart about it :-). (Disclaimer – in consultations with their medical professional if applicable)

The reality is that

I have returned from some injuries too soon and gotten away with it (especially when I was younger), but I am not likely to be that lucky any more.

To be honest what happens when I run too fast, too far, too soon is that I usually re-aggravate or re-injure whatever it was that I had worked so hard to rehab. This misplaced exuberance, eagerness, lack of wisdom, stupidity or whatever you want to call it, only causes me to miss more time running, than I would have if I had come back conservatively.

Now I try to be smarter – it doesn’t always work, but I try. 🙂

The choice is yours

The choice is really up to you about when and how you come back from an injury. Medical professionals and others can only give you their advice and recommendations about your return to running. What it finally comes down to, is what you decide to do with those recommendations or advice. You must know your options and the potential consequences (good and bad) of your choices.

You know a little personal responsibility for our own actions.

As I have gotten older and am just starting to realize that I am no longer bullet-proof or indestructible, I am learning that taking a little more time to come back from an injury is a better.  That way you don’t re-injure yourself in your eagerness to get back out running again and yes it is pretty damn hard to do, especially when all you really want to do is just run.

In the words that might have been said by David Carradine’s character in Kung Fu: “Go Slow Grasshopper”.

Questions for you

  • Have you ever been injured and then re-injured yourself because you came back too soon?
  • What made you decide to try running instead of waiting?
  • How much time did you miss?


  • Did you come back sooner than you were told you could, why were you able to come back sooner?
  • Was it any more uncomfortable than it would have been if you waited?

Happy Days Are Here Again – 1.0 Mile Done 2-14-12

Happy days are here again – I ran a total of a mile! Not all at once, but I did run a mile today and was not in pain after.

The first was .4 to just see how the calf would feel. It felt tight, but not sore. Then I did an upper body workout for about 1/2 hour – which I don’t like doing, just hate lifting weights, but gotta do something :-).  I still felt pretty damn good so I went to see how far I could run before experiencing discomfort.

I was able to get down to the 35 MPH hour sign, when the calf started to feel a little tighter, so I turned around and slowly came back, no pain, just a little bit of tightness. At that point I thought it would be smart to just shut it down and wait another day to try again.

But I Ran! It was slow and short, but it was running pain-free.

I am optimistic about today, but I really have to temper that with – go slow grasshopper, don’t be STUPID!


MT20 transition program:

  • 10 ankle circles each direction
  • 30:00 minute walk

TheWife and Valentine’s Day

TheWife and I have been together since November 29, 2000. Her real name is Mary, but it is more fun just calling her TheWife on the blog – it makes her sound so mean, rotten and nasty, which she definitely is not.

You see she is the love of my life and my partner, not just the person I live with or am married to. Mary makes me a better person and is the woman I cherish being with.

She has been a runner most of her adult life and mostly understands and generally supports this strange malady I have. That need of mine to go run, even when others have said I shouldn’t, when the weather is bad or it is late.

If I haven’t run, she will often ask if I am going out for my run or not. Many days that simple question, has made the difference for me to run or not. I don’t know if it is because I get cranky if I don’t run or if she is just supporting my good habit.

The one thing about running and me that Mary doesn’t understand, is my need for so many running shoes. However, she is tolerant of my forays into new and different styles and brands, while she generally just plugs along in her Nikes and is happy.

I used to tell my students that TheWife was 6’6″ and 460 pounds and that I had to do what she said or else. For most of every year the kids didn’t know what to think, the way that I would talk about her (in fun). I just would tell them that she told me what I would be doing and didn’t take any guff from me, otherwise she would throw me over her shoulder and show me who was boss.

The funny thing was usually sometime during the third quarter I would take out this picture of us, put it on my desk and eventually one of them would notice. Then the questions would start – they would say, who is that you are with and I would tell them it was my wife. She is actually around 5’2″, a very petite and pretty little blond. Needless to say that got more than a few comments from the students and we had fun with it.

Mary has stood behind me during a couple of career changes and career course corrections over these years. Most recently, supported my going into an early retirement, even though waiting an extra year or two would have been more prudent financially, but she could see what teaching was doing to my health.

She has been there for me after I have wacked my chest with a crowbar (damn near killed me) – while pulling stumps, falling off the roof – while shoveling snow and surgery on my knee. She definitely has seen the grumpy side of me and has been there in my moments of triumph also. Mary has been there through thick and thin and has been a guiding light to the direction that I needed to go.

However, here on the blog she will be forever know as “TheWife” and no I don’t need a special day to remember how much I love her. Hopefully, I remember to show it in my actions and my words every day.

Mary thank you for putting up with me and I do love you.