Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Don't Poke the Injured Runner: 10 Dos and Don't That Can Make or Break Their Recovery

Runners, can I get an amen? If you've ever had an injury, you know what I'm talking about here.

Technically, I'm not injured. Technically, I'm dealing with a chronic illness. Technically, it's the same page from a different book. You get me, right?

I've been injured many times throughout my many years of running. But oh my word--the things well-meaning people say to us runners when we are hurt. It usually has something to do with knees, doesn't it? The funny thing is, now that I have RA, I'm getting that same advice! Along with all kinds of assorted well-meaning voodoo I need to try.

I've gotten to the point where I have to bite my tongue, count to 10 and then respond. My increasing crankiness reminds me of that expression: Don't poke the bear. 

I think we all know that wouldn't end well.

So, as a public service to your family and friends, I wanted to offer a few suggestions of do's and dont's when approaching or speaking with an injured runner. If you're the one who is injured, you may want to hand them a copy of this blog post. You can thank me later. Your loved ones might want to thank me as well.




DO ask how the injured runner is feeling. Allow them time to talk. Try not to glaze over as the runner repeatedly agonizes over not being able to run. Nod and smile from time to time. Just listen.

DON'T speculate on what the injury might be, even if you are a medical provider. The injured runner has already extensively Googled their symptoms and has probably formulated a diagnosis and a treatment plan.

DO empathize with the injured runner. Say things like: "I'm sorry." "I wish I could make it better." "That must suck." "F--k RA."

DON'T say anything that starts with "at least" or "it could be worse". As in: "at least you don't have cancer" or "it could be worse, you could have cancer." It could always be worse. That doesn't make it better.

DO ask about what treatments the runner is trying. Listen non-judgementally. Even if what they are telling you isn't something you'd ever do. It's their body, not yours.

DON'T give advice about treatments. Statements that start with "have you tried..." are not helpful to someone who is considering everything possible. As in: "have you tried changing your diet?" or "have you considered medical marijuana?"

DO offer to meet for coffee, wine, or margaritas. What is it about breaking bread or clinking glasses that makes life feel so much better?

DON'T compare the injured runner's injuries to something you've or someone you know has experienced. As in: "oh, my aunt died from Humira" or "when I had PF, I tried rolling on a golf ball, frozen water bottle, night splint, shockwave treatments, orthotics, massage, Graston, cutting off my foot..."

DO provide positive feedback about what the runner is doing to recover from their injuries. I get so much strength from my friends and readers who tell me how much they admire my determination to keep moving, to keep up with my workouts.

DON'T make suggestions about alternative activities. As in: "you should try swimming." No. I'm not a swimmer. I am a runner.


What helps you when you're injured? How do you respond to "helpful" advice that really isn't helpful? And yes, people have actually said all of the above to me....

I'm linking up with Tuesdays on the Run: Marcia, Patti, and Erika, as well as Debbie, Susie, Lora, and Rachel for Coaches Corner!



70 comments :

  1. This reminds me of my post "What CAN you say to an injured runner" from when I had first injured my back (but we didn't know what was going on). Freaking injuries. You'd be amazed at how many other runners still say the wrong thing. I'm sure that I still do! No doubt about it, injury sucks.

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    1. Ha! I actually re-read your post as I prepared this one! Still good info there, Susie!

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  2. I really dont like to even tell non-runners that I am injured because of what I know is to follow. I like talking to runners about it because they get it (usually). I feel like dealing with an ongoing injury is different, probably in a similar way to a chronic illness, because the typical rules don't apply.

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    1. That's exactly my thought and why I wrote this. It's amazing how I'm hearing the same advice I've heard over the years with my injuries!

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  3. DON'T compare what is happening to something you've gone through. It's not about you. Oh right, item 8 covered that one. :) I think coffee and lunch and wth I've even got a medical marijuana hookup if you need it. :D xoxo

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    1. Oh, now that could make us even more entertaining! LOl!

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  4. Um, I think I'm guilty of the "try swimming" comment but I did say RUNNING in the pool :-) LOL! These are all so right on!!! I especially hate the "oh I had that and had to cut off my foot!" I'm getting all kinds of ridiculousness like that about the puppy right now. *insert eye roll*
    Hang in there my tough friend. You are kicking RA's ass every day!

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    1. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard the swimming comment, I could build my own pool!

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  5. Oh man, the amount of people who suggested swimming to me when I had my ankle injury! I wish I would have had the guts to say I'm not a swimmer, I'm a runner...because alternatives to doing what you really want to be doing? Pretty much suck. Great post, Wendy.

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    1. Right? See I knew my runner friends would get it!

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  6. I always say at least or it could be worse, because usually it can be and that puts into perspective. Well for me at least if I am dealing with something. Thankfully I haven't been injured in awhile. Knock on wood!

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    1. You are right, it could always be worse. But it still sucks.

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  7. Oh, those eyes glazing over! I get that a lot. Hey, I've got to listen to all his traffic venting.

    Sometimes you just have to smile, realize they mean well, and nod your head in return. :) Unless they don't mean well . . .

    My mom was at first all about how I'm going to ruin my knees -- especially when I struggled with knee pain, of course. Then she was like, keep it up! You look great! Because unfortunately that matters to her (guess where I got some of my food issues from). And most recently she was like I don't know (with the foot pain).

    The best revenge is success, am I right?

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  8. When I'm injured I try to focus on what I can do, not what I can't do. For me that usually means I try to ficus more on strength training and my nutrition.

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    1. That's a great way to focus. I need to get out of my head and remember that!

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  9. Ohhhh that panda video is funny!
    Anyways... I agree on all points! I have to admit though that as a runner, I probably offer more unsolicited advice than I should from my experiences. As I've gotten older, I've realized that is not always wanted and to listen to the cues more for when people just need to vent. In my defense I just want to help :-)!

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    1. I'm like you--I just want to make everyone feel better too. It's my nature.

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  10. I hear. I've had my share of injuries but I still may be guilty of many of the things you've mentioned.

    I have to admit that my friends and family have not said negative things about my running (at least not to my face.)

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  11. I don't swim either. I'm definitely not a swimmer. I know how to float, but I avoid water with everything I have. Now, I don't mind the hot tub after a race, but that's about it.

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    1. Maybe I need a hot tub! It could be therapeutic, right?

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  12. Wendy!!!! This is THE BEST POST EVER!!! Totally bookmarking it and when anyone I know is injured I'll send them here. I know it's meant for people who aren't injured, but the injured will have a good laugh at how true everything is.

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    1. Haha! Thank you! Just don't poke the bear...

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  13. I only really share my running with my online friends (FB groups, blogs I read) and since we get each other usually this stuff doesn't come up for me. In fact, there are certain people in my life that don't even know I run because of judgments they tend to make. My non-running husband is really great and super supportive of all my ups and downs with running. He just listens when I am down about being injured (or seeing my third doctor which just happened last week) and he enables me to fit working out into my life because he knows how happy it makes me. The relationship we each have with running is very special, very unique and very sacred so often times those that don't have that, really don't understand. It's nice that you can have a community of support via your blog and other social media!

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    1. My husband and I have a similar relationship when it comes to running! It's pretty nice.

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  14. This is awesome. I get so tired of people asking me about running when I'm injured especially people that don't know much about running. Sometimes I just lie and say yes it's great, or I'm fine, getting there and change the subject. GRR

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  15. Hahaha! This whole thing made me laugh...especially since I'm currently in physical therapy with a back injury and just starting to dip my toe into jogging (not running) again.

    I've also done so many of your Don'ts to others...bad, bad Sarah!!

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    1. Pretty sure I have done the don'ts too...

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  16. This is beautiful, and so true ;-) Are we gonna have a few adult beverages Friday night (it is St. Patty's Day FYI), maybe Marcia needs to join us (?) Group hug?

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  17. After word got out at work that I had a stress fx from running, at least 6 people commented to my face that "THAT is why I will never be a runner". I tried to just smile and bite my tongue. The truth is they just don't "get it". My running friends are very supportive and listen to my whining about how long this recovery is taking. Injuries and chronic illness suck balls. No other way to put it. I find your blog and IG so inspiring and it really pushes me to keep on fighting for my health...whatever version of health my body is currently capable of. FU**the haters Wendy. Lean on your running family. We get you. Keep fighting RA. Keep running and lifting and posing. Live your life the way u want to live it. Strong. Determined. Faithful.

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    1. That's right! Some days are better than others. Just keep smiling...

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  18. I think for the most part people mean well when they ask about injuries or health but they don't always know what to say.When I have an injury or can't run it just seems like I am more sensitive to any comments anyone makes

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    1. I know, I know....it just gets hard to come up with a polite response...

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  19. Just having someone to listen is really helpful. Other activities are great: bring me a pie. Listen. Take me out for coffee. Rub my shoulders. Listen. Help me forget about this awful thing that is happening to me that I cannot control.

    I've now had a couple of minor running injuries but the stupidest things I heard from others were when I went through eleven months of chemo. Yes, I had to give up running. I physically could not stand up long enough to take a shower let alone go for a run, even a really slow or short one you suggest. I give zero fucks that your friend's brother's hairdresser's wife DID run/work/go to school (basically do anything other than doze 23.5 hours a day while watching Degrassi reruns on TV) during her cancer treatments.

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    1. Right? My "favorite" comment--well, there are 2--is "at least you don't have cancer". Yep, but I"m taking chemo for my RA...

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  20. It's important to remember that, whatever they say, most people feel bad and want to help. Yes, their "help" can be annoying, especially when you've already tried that and know that it doesn't work. Especially non-runners, of course. To them substituting another form of exercise just makes sense!

    I think the most annoying thing that I ever hear, and fortunately it's not too often, is when, as soon as you've mentioned your injury/condition, someone compares it to their own. And of course, their own is always worse.

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    1. I know people who do that all the time, say, "oh you think you have it bad...". One woman does it so much I nicknamed her "Topper"!

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  21. I am all about clinking glasses! People do say the damnedest things! They can't help it! or then there are those people that just need to one up everything! Shoot them! Can't wait to see you Monday and hear all about it plus a drink or three!! LOL XXOO!

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  22. Oh man it's so true. When I'm injured, those "don'ts" are all so annoying. But when I'm talking to an injured person, I somehow find myself saying them! Great reminder!

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    1. A lot of people have commented that people are just trying to help. I get that. But wouldn't it be nice if they stopped talking and just listened?

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  23. I'm injured right now, and to be honest, the best thing you can do for an injured runner is give them a hug and take them out for a beer (or ice cream, if they don't drink or are under aged). As far as treatments go that is between them and their doctor... same with cross training and other activities. The worst thing about being injured for me, is seeing race pictures and knowing you were supposed to be in them and you're not. You figure out who is truly your friend because they check on you or text you, and they care about you even if you can't run with them.

    "It could always be worst" is the worst one, or anytime anyone downplays your injury. Even if you had the same injury you don't know how a person feels physically or emotionally. Pain is pain.

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    1. I hope you are on the mend soon. It's so hard to be on the sidelines!

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  24. I have had a LOT of knee injuries so while I was injured, I tried to do some strength training and weight lifting. I don't like the gym but it gave me something to do. I always try to empathize with injured runners and not offer advice. I just try to offer encouragement.

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    1. That's the best thing to do--don't offer advice, just empathize!

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  25. I'm with you, I hate it when people say "it could be worse...". I also hate when people act like it shouldn't bother you that you're injured - like 'oh, at least it's ONLY running'. Um, that's not helpful at all, lol.

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    1. When people do those things, it always puts me in the position of needing to defend myself.

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  26. One time, when I had PF, I tried cutting off my foot...

    Haha, jk. :) I feel you on this list, girl. Speaking of changing your diet, I did see an article that might of interest to you and I keep forgetting to email it to you. But don't shoot the messenger, mmkay? Lol!

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    1. Please send me the article...(gentle reminder)...

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  27. Great list. I've heard the one about trying an alternative activity like bike riding or swimming. I'll do either of those but only for as long it takes me to get back to running!

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  28. This is a great list! Even as I runner, I know I've been guilty of some of these Don'ts, but I think they might be more of a Maybe (instead of a Don't) from other runners...?? At least, I'm going to tell myself that. ;-)

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    1. I'm sure I've done the don'ts as well. Sometimes we just want to help!

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  29. :hug:

    I think for the most part, people mean well. They are trying to empathize and relate, and sometimes, it's not what the injured party needs or wants, but when it's coming from a good place, I'm able to absorb it and accept it as such.

    That being said, your bear in running sneakers graphic is the best thing I've seen all day.

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    1. I agree--most people mean well. But sometimes the best thing to do is..nothing!

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  30. I have been injured FOREVER and I've heard everything! People truly suck when it comes to making people feel better when they're injured. I actually got really upset at a coworker last year when my injury started because she acted like it was a good thing I couldn't run because "running is so bad for you", even though she knew how much running meant to me. When she said "I wish someone would tell me not to run" and laughed, I knew that I couldn't talk to non-runners about my injury anymore. I really hope you feel better soon and that no one says anything stupid to you in the mean time!

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    1. Haha! I love that you totally get me! I swear, if one more person tells me that I'm going to ruin my knees...or that I shouldn't be running...

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  31. Great advice! I have to be honest and admit that I have "offered advice" on injuries that I have experienced...but more than anything I just try to be supportive. I'm sure you've heard it all! People are trying to be helpful/kind and sometimes it can really backfire!

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    1. I know people just want to help. But sometimes the best help you can give is just to be supportive.

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  32. LOL about the knees. It's always the knees, isn't it? How about, "You ran how far? I don't even like to drive that far." It might be funny the first time, but after a while...

    You do impress me with you positive attitude through all of this! Keep it up, Wendy, you inspire so many!

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    1. I have my moments--and they aren't all positive. The blog really helps keep me looking forward, tho.

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  33. Everybody thinks that they know the "perfect" answer to everybody else's ailments. But the reality is that nobody else has walked in anybody else's shoes and doesn't know exactly what they're going through.

    Keep your chin up, Wendy! You have a lot of people rooting for you.

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  34. As someone who has been injured since September, (and going through a second round of depression as a result,) I loved everything about this post!! I went to a writing conference last weekend and heard, "Well, at least now you have more time to write," four times. They came with good intentions, but still! Four times!

    Hope you feel better soon and if I lived near you, I'd totally buy us some beers. 😃

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    1. I'd drink those beers! I hope you are on the mend as well. Depression? Oh, that's been knocking at my door as well....

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