How to Engineer a Comeback from Injury, Illness, or a Failed Race (with Matt Chittim)

We all face obstacles in our running, whether it’s illness, injury, or a race that doesn’t live up to our expectations. Learning how to navigate each of these challenges in a positive way is key to moving forward with our training.

Everyone loves a good comeback story.

Whether it’s illness, injury or a bad race, runners often need to be able to engineer a comeback. Obstacles and failures may be inevitable in this sport, but how we approach them – both mentally and physically – will determine our success in moving forward.

Illness – and COVID in particular – continues to teach us about the importance of patience in returning to running. Too much too soon can set you back when it compromises your health. Injury, on the other hand, requires a different approach. While rest may be warranted in the early stages, the right kind of activity often plays an essential role in healing.

Bad races, especially when they are a goal race where you have invested months of training, require a comeback that is usually more mental than physical. Learning how to look at your races more objectively can help you turn them into a beneficial learning experience beyond the initial disappointment.

Matt Chittim on engineering his own comebacks

This week’s guest is the host of the incredibly popular Rambling Runner podcast, Matt Chittim. Matt is a runner and a coach, and most recently has worked on a collaborative effort with some of the biggest players in the running industry called RELAY.  This project on Patreon is creating high-end, multimedia content that will be valuable for runners of all abilities.

Like so many of us, Matt has faced his own running challenges.  He has dealt with a misdiagnosed injury that kept him away from running, recovery from COVID, and blowing up at a goal race. Each has been a learning experience, and Matt has been able to apply this knowledge to his own running and coaching.

Matt and I discuss his recent obstacles and how you can apply what he has learned to your own comeback story:

  • How and when to apply “radical rest”
  • The importance of working with health professionals who speak your language
  • Why some injuries require more movement than rest to improve
  • The need to go after injury treatment as aggressively as you go after training
  • How to talk to yourself after a bad race
  • The language of racing –  different approaches for different personalities

Subscribe to the podcast in Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadio, or Google Play.

Links & Resources from the Show:

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Ice Barrel makes at-home barrels you can use for ice baths that don’t take up an entire room. And they’re lightweight enough that even I can carry it without help. There’s an easy drain system and it’s made in the United States from 100% recycled material.

Cryotherapy has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and reduce inflammation. It can reduce pain and blood flow to jump start the recovery process. Cold plunges are great for when you need extra recovery, like if you accidentally ran a lot longer or faster than planned. 

But the real reason I love a good cold plunge is because of the profound mental benefits. It’s been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, improve mood and brain function, and even 5 minutes gives you a great shot of dopamine afterward. If you can sit in an ice bath up to your shoulders, you won’t have any mental issues with racing a negative split and finishing strong!

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