We all love running – but we all hate rehab. Here are seven ways to make those slow, repetitive exercises from your physio easier to do as often as you need to.
The hardest thing about doing rehab exercises is making yourself do them. No-one thinks, “Ooh, what a beautiful morning – perfect for some single-leg quarter squats!” You need to be firm with yourself and create a training plan so that you can tick off each session as you do it. Alternate days when you do your physio stuff with days of cross-training so you still feel you’re staying fit: anything from swimming, walking or cycling to yoga or Pilates classes, depending on your injury. As you would with any training plan, print it out, pin it up and give yourself a big tick for every session completed.
Part of the joy of running is being outside and soaking up nature. You don’t have to lose this just because you can’t run – why not do your physio exercises outside? Make sure you’re wrapped up warm and spend a tenner on a yoga mat so you don’t get uncomfortable – you may not get the buzz of a good run, but at least you’ll feel refreshed after being under open skies.
Run training is satisfying because you see your fitness improve, week after week, as long as you put in the effort. Progress can feel slow when you’re treating an injury – there’s no rush of endorphins or feeling of pride as you see your watch clocking a new distance or time. So make sure that your workouts have a sense of purpose and progress; keep notes to show when you’re finding exercises easier and schedule repeat visits to your physio so they can check up on how you’re doing. They might also want to keep tweaking your routine as you get stronger, eventually giving you some functional strength exercises to keep doing even when you’re ready to run again.
Instead of viewing your rehab as a chore you have to get through, try to re-frame it as time for yourself, looking after the body that does so much for you. Set up a calm environment at home (if that’s where you’re doing your exercises) with chilled out music and all the equipment you need, so you don’t face the added frustration of a stop-start routine. If you’re in it for the long haul, why not treat yourself to some fresh new workout or lounging kit to do your exercises in? That way you’re more likely to look forward to your sessions.
Some new runners use incentives to get themselves through the first few weeks of training, whether it’s tea and cake with a friend or a new pair of trainers when they reach a certain goal. You could set yourself small incentives, too: if you do all your rehab for two weeks, you get a relaxing massage (instead of the painful physio ones!), or when you complete a six-week block, you get some new kit.
Even if your running friends aren’t injured, they will benefit from doing some strength and conditioning work. Enlist someone to do your sessions with you and you can keep an eye on each other’s technique, as well as having a chat to help you pass the time. You’re also more likely to actually do the sessions if you have a date to keep.
As painful and dull as rehab can be, remember that the end result is to get you back to doing something you love: running! Why not give yourself a visual reminder of this – pin up a picture of yourself having fun at a race or keep your race medals in view. Continuing to think of yourself as a running during your period of injury will help to stop you from becoming demoralised.