Jenni Falconer on the pain of not being able to do what you love
When fitness is at the heart of your self-care, being injured can be doubly tough.
“At the time, it feels like you’re never going to get better,” says Scottish TV and radio presenter Jenni Falconer, a lifelong keen runner. “You’re suddenly aware of everyone else doing that thing you love, and you’re not.
“The only other thing I can compare it to is pregnancy – when you’re pregnant, you feel like it’s the longest period of time in your life! But now I’ve got an 11-year-old and can’t believe how quickly it went,” adds the Smooth Radio Breakfast show host, who has a daughter, Ella, with husband James Midgley.
“But that’s what it’s like. You get to that stage with an injury as well. And it’s painful.”
Falconer – who also hosts the running podcast RunPod and launched liquid collagen supplement brand Kollo in 2020 – has been running since her teens. Right now, she’s gearing up for the London Marathon, which this year returns to its usual April spot for the first time since 2019, following the pandemic.
But it’s been a rocky road. She developed an injury last summer that ultimately led her to pull out of 2022’s October event – and hang up her running shoes for four months.
“Obviously, when you train for an October marathon, you’re training in the summer. We were on holiday in Spain and I was getting up at six in the morning to beat the heat and do my 17-mile training runs. I increased the load and was running five times a week, and I think I was just overdoing it, from having not run as intensively for a while,” she recalls.
She noticed “something wasn’t right in my hip” and hoped a bit of rest would sort it. But eventually the pain forced Falconer to stop entirely. “It was really sore, even walking at pace was hard,” she notes.
An MRI revealed that as well as a torn IT band (which affects the side of the knee), Falconer had gluteal tendinopathy – resulting in intense hip pain and swelling. “It was on my left side. So I had a bit of a Kim Kardashian bottom, but only on my left side!”
The enforced break was hard – especially as for Falconer, those running endorphins are like vital nutrition.
“I didn’t realise until recent years that part of the reason I go out running is because of my mental health,” she says. “For years, my mum used to go, ‘Oh you’re in a bad mood – go for a run’. We don’t talk about it much, but she’s got a really good point.
“When I go for a run, it’s like meditation. My mood is lifted, I’ve put everything in perspective, I come back not stressed but totally chilled out, and really happy and positive.”
Like lots of fitness fans, however, she’s learned from experience that trying to ignore injuries or rush recovery can backfire – something Falconer was determined to avoid at this point in life.
“If you’ve got an injury of any sort, if you keep aggravating it, all you’re doing is extending your period of time when you can’t do anything, and that’s even more frustrating. I had to take quite a sensible approach.”
This meant, alongside the running break, working with a physio and later, a personal trainer, to focus on strength and conditioning.
“It’s one of those things – if you want to do the thing you love, you’ve got to really invest in your rehab, otherwise you’ll never be able to do it again,” says Falconer. “And you’ve got to really commit to time off, in order to get back on track.”
Some positive self-talk helped her get through those no-running months.
“I was like: OK, it’s a few months – I’ll use this time wisely, keep busy doing other things, and I will run again. I’ll run when it’s right and then I can have that enjoyment of building up again.”
Thankfully, she was able to get out on the golf course (“I’m obsessed with golf”), and the strength work turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“It’s something that might have contributed to me sustaining an injury in the first place, the fact I had neglected strength work. And you know, I’m in my 40s, it’s definitely time I should practice what I preach – I’m always reminding everyone of the importance of strength training,” she reflects.
“Now I know first-hand how key that is, just to make sure you’re supporting all the muscles and joints, and working on your bone density by doing weights. It means you can make sure you’re able to run a lot longer. I absolutely love doing weights. It’s been part of my recovery, but is now just part of my weekly fitness schedule.”
She recently recorded a RunPod episode with coach Karen Weir on fitness and the menopause, which emphasised the importance of strength training for women in middle-age.
“I learned a lot,” Falconer recalls. “One of the things she was saying is you really have to do weights, and so many people don’t. But if you don’t do that, you’re not going to have the strength to carry on doing everything else you love.”
The same principles inspired Falconer to co-found Kollo (each liquid sachet contains 10g of collagen, along with vitamins B and C, designed to support the skin, hair, joints and more). “I wanted to make sure I was getting all the nutrients I needed to support my running,” she says.
And while she’s “delighted” to be running again, Falconer is sticking to a “sensible” approach with training for April, and trying not to overdo it.
“Anyone who’s had an injury – you just don’t want to go there again. So, even if you feel something weird, it can be in your head and psychosomatic – you’re just so paranoid.
“That’s why you have to go cautiously and not overdo it. Even though I’m desperate to go out and run every day – it’s a great time of year to get out there – I’m being sensible and hoping that will help me through.”
April will be her ninth London Marathon – and Falconer is just thrilled to be back doing what she loves.
“It’s not about getting a PB, certainly not. It’s about taking part in what is an incredible event, and proving to myself that I can get around 26.2 miles – 14 years after I first did it,” she says. “I can’t wait to be able to still run it.”
For more information about Kollo, visit kollohealth.com. Jenni Falconer hosts Smooth Breakfast on weekdays and Saturdays (smoothradio.com)