Why and How to Plan for a Running Injury

If I consider what I would do if I got a running injury my instinct would be to “push through the pain”. Perhaps reduce my volume or intensity, or both. But stopping my running altogether would be my last option. I’m a runner, after all. Therefore, I must keep running.

In the past I believed I was fortunate to not be affected by injury. I always ran. Only now I know I simply “pushed through the pain”. Luckily, I was able to keep adjusting my training and my races were largely unaffected. Then in the summer of 2017 I had my first serious injury. A hip bursitis on one side left me unable to walk without significant pain. I healed relatively quickly and was able to still run my seventh marathon that autumn. Within 6 months another injury beset my ambitions – MTSS. Although I achieved my goal of running my first ever sub-5-minute-mile, the remainder of the year was adversely affected.

The main cause for both injuries was over-training. My ambitions (and motivations) were higher than the training load my body could cope with. I didn’t quite get the balance of stress and recovery right, and I paid the price with physical discomfort and psychological disappointment.

Although I dealt with the hip bursitis well enough, I tried my best to run through my shin pain. This was a mistake. The major problem was simple – I had no plan for such an eventuality.

Kate Avery, the 27-year-old British cross-country specialist, told Athletics Weekly that patience is “the most frustrating thing” for any athlete. But her reward for developing this skill was finishing as the fastest Brit in the senior women’s race at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships. A strong winter season means that she has finished in the top 10 in six races already, including at the Simplyhealth Great Stirling XCountry. This is after experiencing multiple injuries that took her away from the sport for 17 months. It appears that a plan to cope with injury is essential for long-term success.

Indeed, as Hannah Winter explains in Athletics Weekly¹, fear of fitness loss is not a healthy reason to run whilst injured. Instead athletes should focus on returning to pain-free movement and setting realistic medium-term goals. The road to recovery may seem long, but it’s worth taking time to reflect on your journey to date and future potential. There are many ways to cope with not being able to run. I have spent time writing about my running, cycling indoors and committing to core exercises and stretching to stay active, as well as coaching other runners to achieve success. Whatever method(s) you use, try to stay positive. I now know that if injury does strike again I have a plan to cope as best I can with the setback.

So next time you consider whether to “push through the pain” of injury remember that long-term success requires smart decisions in the short-term. For example, a pre-planned break from running may prevent you needing to take an unplanned break.


1 The Athletics Weekly article is entitled Mental Rehab. Published on 11 April 2019.

Peddling to Find my Maximum

To offer myself a variation from solely endurance work I felt I needed to include interval training.
So I prepared myself for short sprints on my turbo trainer early this evening.
I used no music or audiobook to keep me motivated or distracted.

Instead I focused on peddling fast.
I set myself a straightforward workout of 10 x 30 seconds with 1 minute recoveries.
All I knew was I would sweat.

I got my head down and powered the pedals down and back.
After the first interval my breathing was heavy and my core temperature had risen.
The minute of easy cycling afterwards felt fine, although it passed quickly.
I tried to stay to a rhythm for each interval.
My long hair flapped in my face, but I ignored it and blew out hard.

My quad and calf muscles were heavy but I knew I could finish strong.
I checked my speed several times to ensure my effort matched the output.
None of my 30 second bursts fell below 32 mph.
The maximum speed recorded was 35.5 mph.

I sweated as much as I do when I cycle for over an hour.
I finished my 15-minute workout with a short walk, exhausted but satisfied.




Extending Time on the Saddle

I know I need to accumulate more time on my bike to maintain my endurance fitness ready for my upcoming marathon.

So I aimed to peddle for longer than an hour a day.
My concerns were the numbness and minor pain as a result of sitting in the same position on the saddle and the mental fatigue from not giving up after boredom set in.

First, I enjoyed a rest day after the first four days of my cross-training.
Then I fully committed to sweating.

2 hours on Sunday.
45 minutes twice on Monday.
30 minutes yesterday, after cycling 7.2 miles on my mountain bike outdoors.
1 hour and 10 minutes tonight.

I used a combination of distractions to get me through the workouts as best I could.
I listened to a running audiobook.
I sang to some of my favourite albums, from music artists including Angels and Airwaves, The Kooks and The Script.
I daydreamed.

I got off the saddle a few times to take very short breaks.
I rose up on my saddle to relieve the pressure on my buttocks.
By far the most effective method of passing the time simply refraining from checking my Garmin sports watch every minute




Easy Workout with New Tyre

My new turbo trainer tyre arrived in the post today.
But I forgot the tools needed to change my current tyre.
So I bought a bicycle pump, valve adaptor and a repair kit.

The new tyre will wear less and save my original tyre in case I ever cycle on the roads.

I wanted to cycle easy today, so I popped my earphones in and forgot about my pace.
Instead I stayed consistent and enjoyed the constant motion of my legs.
The seat felt more comfortable too.

My heart rate was low and my mind focused on Kathrine Switzer’s marathon journey.
With a rest day tomorrow I was satisfied that my fourth workout was easier than my first workout, at the same effort level.


Day 4
1 hour cycle at steady-pace
(average 21.9 mph and 99 rpm)



First Test Cycling Hard

I wanted to test my capacity on my new bike.
So I shortened the workout to 20 minutes, which fitted ideally into my morning routine.

I had to be prepared to work hard.
I started faster than yesterday and found I could maintain over 24 mph.

I didn’t listen to any music or my current audiobook in order to keep concentrating on improving my speed and cadence progressively.
By halfway I was cycling at over 25 mph.

My quads started to ache.
Then my calves.
But I dug deep.

I kept glancing at my watch to make sure my performance wasn’t dropping.
I stayed strong throughout.
I ended the workout dripping with sweat, satisfied that my heart rate had elevated higher than I expected.

I proved to myself that I have more to give; my aerobic and muscular capacity for cycling is still to be discovered.


Day 3
20 minute cycle at increasingly faster pace
(average 25.1 mph and 111 rpm)

The Measures of Cycling Success

Now that I’ve started cycling indoors my mind is preoccupied with the measures of success.
I bought pieces of technology to give me stats, but what should I make of them?

I instinctively compare cycling to running, but it’s difficult.

I examine the time on the saddle, but the mileage and speed don’t easily equate to distance in my barefoot shoes.
My heart rate is lower on the bike than when running, but I can’t seem to get it higher.
I know that over 20 mph for one hour is not as impressive as it first sounds.
My revolutions per minute is another puzzle to solve.

Instead my perception of effort and sweat on my forehead are more reliable indicators of my workout.
I feel as if I am maintaining a 8 or 9 out of 10 throughout and I have to keep wiping my brow to avoid sweat stinging my eyes.

As I continue to research the comparison between my beloved sport and my cross-training sport I have to simply trust that I am not losing my endurance fitness (even if I’m not improving it).

My marathon is now only a month away…


Day 2
1 hour cycle at increasingly faster pace
(average 21.9 mph and 97 rpm)



Start of a New (Cycling) Journey

I haven’t been able to run for almost two weeks.

Although a recurring injury that I hope will heal before my next race, I became depressed.

I had to find an alternative to keep fit.
I didn’t want to spend money on temporary gym membership again.
As much as I enjoy walking it’s simply not intense enough to work my cardiovascular system.

So I purchased a bicycle.
But rather than cycling outdoors I specifically wanted a turbo trainer.

So after plenty of research I set up my indoor exercise equipment.
I had to wait a week for all the parts to be delivered.

I realised during that time how much I rely on running.
Running is an important part of my life.

More generally, exercise makes me who I am. It influences my appearance, my diet, my daily routine.
My motivation is to discover how fit I can can be.

I want to complete a sub 3-hour marathon and run the London Marathon as a good-for-age entry.
I believe I can achieve this one day.

My next attempt at running the qualifying time is Sunday 21 October.
It will be my eighth marathon.
I’m hoping my cross-training will at least maintain the performance level I demonstrated on my birthday...


Day 1
1 hour cycle at steady-pace
(average 20.7 mph and 92 rpm)