3 Things Not to Say to Injured Runners

I’ve said it before on this channel, I’ll say it again, if you run for any length of time, you’re gonna get injured. But, if you’ve been injured there are definitely things you don’t want to hear.

I’ve said it before on this channel, I’ll say it again, if you run for any length of time, you’re gonna get injured. But, if you’ve been injured there are definitely things you don’t want to hear.

If you haven’t been with me here on the channel before, you may not know, but I’m Jesse Funk. This is a show I call Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running. And if you’ve not been on the channel before, you may not know, I’ve been at this for about 20 years now and had been injured an uncountable number of times. Largely in college because that is the breeding ground for injuries because you’re under so much stress to perform all of the time.

Now, that being said, I’ve been through a number of injuries, I’ve had people give me well wishes and they mean well. And if this is you and you have an injured friend, I know you mean well. But there are things you probably don’t want to say and if you’re injured, you don’t want to hear like, at least it wasn’t this other thing. Like, if you have a sprain -- at least you didn’t have a stress fracture. If you have a stress fracture, at least you didn’t break the bone.

There’s a thing, I guess, I think about this, is it a little bit of a tangent, but I think about Dave Chappelle, he has a bit about comparative suffering. I suffer, you suffer. I suffer, you suffer. Like, you’re suffering and somebody else is suffering. Don’t diminish each other. Like, they’re their own things. So, when you say, at least it wasn’t, your kind of diminishing the suffering that you as the injured person is going through or your friend, if they’re the one that’s injured by saying, well, you’re not hurt that bad. So, like, suck it up, Buttercup, basically.

And the thing is that because we, as runners, wrap our identities around being a runner, an injury can be a threat to that identity. If you’ve been running long enough, you kind of learn to deal with this and disassociate yourself from being only a runner. Now, I can talk about that in another video where we talk about the sense of identity and sense of self. I talk about that a lot on the Smart Athlete Podcast, which comes out every Friday. I talk to different guests.

Hit subscribe, stick with me to check that out here in the future. But the whole idea that you’re suffering isn’t that bad is a bad approach, even if it’s well-meaning because you’re trying to cheer your friend up, or they’re trying to cheer you up. Because again, as Chappelle mentions, I suffer, you suffer. It doesn’t really affect that we’re both suffering, one doesn’t make the other feel better, because the other suffers.

The next thing you probably don’t hear is, you can always do this instead. Now, I’m going to give you that advice. If you’re injured, I’m going to say you can always bike, you can always swim, you can do these cross-training things in the meantime. But again, going back to that sense of identity, you’re a runner. You don’t want to hear you can always because that’s a change, something else, something different, it’s not the thing you want to do.

It is great for cross-training, which is why I’ll mention it on this channel. That’s what I’m doing currently because I’m injured. I mentioned that in a previous video I did. And I’ll talk about it in a different video. I actually have a stress fracture so I’m off of running. I’m swimming and biking for right now because it keeps my fitness up, I can do it without hurting myself further. And it gets me back to running sooner. But the idea that you have to give it up just because you got injured, is not something you want to necessarily deal with immediately.

The other thing you don’t want to hear or you shouldn’t say to an injured runner is you’ll be running in no time, or you’ll be running in a few weeks or any kind of timeline where you say, this is it. This is the timeline you’ll be running blah, blah, blah. Unless you’re a doctor, don’t give this advice. Just don’t. Putting a timeline on things is unhelpful. It really is.

And again, most of these things come with the best intentions. Because if your friend is suffering or if you’re suffering, that person is coming to you genuinely, most likely out of a place of love, where they’re trying to cheer you up. They just don’t quite understand the issue. So, when you put a timeline on things, there’s pressure, right? Where it says I have to be better by X date because that’s the timeline. That’s my expectation.

I talked about this -- I wish I could remember now -- my guest. Anyway -- on one of my podcast episodes. Thinking about an episode of a different podcast called London Real with an entrepreneur named Peter Sage, he talks about the source of stress, why we feel stressed is the difference between our expectations of reality and the actuality of what reality is. And that is the problem with a timeline. Because it’s more a matter of, you have to continue to wait until it’s better.

In my case with a stress fracture, there’s no rehab to be done. Bones have to be mended, take extra calcium, I guess, but it’s not a soft tissue injury in my case, this time. This is a very rare occurrence for me. Most of the time, if I have any kind of tweak, it is a soft tissue injury. There’s something you can do, but you still have to wait even if you’re doing that rehab to get your muscle better. And your body has its own timeline, which is the rub, right?

A doctor can say, Hey we think it’s going to be this amount of time. Like when I went -- I went to a podiatrist, got X-rays, he confirmed. He said, I basically say five weeks before runners can get back to running from a stress fracture. Well, that is a good timeline. But if I was still having pain, maybe it’s not time to start running, maybe I need to wait another week. So, putting a timeline on things puts that expectation, where really you need to be looking for signs and signals that your body is ready to go. Lack of pain, comfort in using whatever that is; foot, leg, arm, whatever reason you’ve been injured, those things have gone away, and then you can return.

Now that we know what not to do, a big thing really is, what should you do? What is the thing to say? And I think the biggest thing is, don’t say much of anything. Just listen. You know, listen, what’s going on, listen to the person. And if somebody is saying these things to you, you can say to them, “Hey, is it okay if I just talked to you about this? I just need somebody to listen.”

And just be clear about that. I mean, that’s the thing, right? If we communicate our desires, our needs, it’s much easier to get them fulfilled because we’ve communicated. So, if you’re somebody that’s talking to an injured runner, just listen. Hey, how are you feeling today? How are things going? And listen.

You can use this kind of basic therapist technique and reflect back what they’ve said. You say, “Hey, how are you feeling?” And they say, “Oh, I feel like crap. You know, this hurts so much. And I tried to walk down the stairs earlier, and I just couldn’t do it.” And then you can say, “You went up the stairs earlier.” You’re not really asking your question, you’re just reflecting back that you listened to them, you heard what they said, and you’re essentially inquiring for more information.

It’s a way to not put pressure on a person to say, again, like before, “Oh, you’ll be back at it in no time, you can do this instead.” And just let them be where they are. Focus on the now instead of trying to project into the future, because as mentioned, putting those timelines, those expectations on things can be a source of stress on top of the pain and stress of already being injured.

So, those are my three things to never say to an injured running friend. Hopefully, that’s not you being the one injured. But if you are, again, communicate to the person speaking to you. They are probably coming from a place of love because they want you to get better and they want to see you happy and content and doing the thing you do.

But if you’re speaking to an injured friend, remember, listen, and you’re good to go. Do you have any questions for me about running, about how to communicate with runners? Do you want to speak the lingo? Whatever it is, leave it in the comments below. Let me know. I’d love to do a video for you in the future. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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