Being injured blows.
Regardless of whether you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior, or a couch potato, nobody likes being hurt. But those of us that thrive off physical activity, look forward to a good sweat every day, or are spending countless hours training for an event are probably slightly more disheartened by a sprained ankle or fractured wrist than a person who doesn’t do a whole lot of movin’.
If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you may have read about my IT band problems that started at the end of July. While training for my second half marathon my IT band suddenly became aggravated, seemingly out of nowhere. That was the end of strong, pain-free runs for me….my first real running break in over 2 years! I was devastated.
While I did manage to finish that half marathon, the pain was excruciating for 8 of the 13 miles and left me unable to walk down stairs for almost a week. Between then and January I did a few treadmill runs and a 5km, none of them ending well. I visited a massage therapist weekly and took months at a time off from running, but that didn’t stop the pain from coming back within 20 minutes once I braved the evil treadmill again.
Visiting a physiotherapist had crossed my mind, however I thought if I just kept taking longer breaks the problem would get better. I planned on giving myself one more month off before hiring an endurance coach to teach me the mechanics of running properly. But one day while Christmas shopping in Running Room I pulled out my Care Card instead of my debit card to pay. The man working joked and said he could help with running injuries but not other medical injuries, so I thought why not and asked for his opinion about my IT band.
He had experienced the same problem and after seeing a physiotherapist had the problem rectified within two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Here I was, 5 months after the initial injury, still not running and hating every person out for a run that I crossed paths with. That night I booked myself an appointment with a physiotherapist and have been seeing her ever since.
While my recovery hasn’t been as speedy as my Running Room doctor’s, I’m proud to say I ran 6.5km outside this past Saturday and 8km outdoors yesterday PAIN-FREE. 😀 I was so ecstatic about Saturday`s run that I didn’t even cry when I dropped my iPhone and smashed the screen as I turned off MapMyRun.
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to kicking an injury in the ass is to SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. I read numerous running blogs and websites and magazines about injuries and I’ve noticed that self-diagnosis and recovery is a common theme with runners. To all the runners, cyclists, swimmers, lifters, and yogis out there, if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, let the professionals help you get back to where you once were. That’s what they spent thousands of dollars going to school for! As my physiotherapist (who I absolutely LOVE) put it,
“physiotherapists aren’t there to scold you and tell you to never do the things you love again. They’re there to heal you and make you more mechanically efficient so you can get back to doing what you love.”
If you’re unsure whether a physiotherapist is right for you, visit a doctor first, preferably one who knows you and who you trust. And remember that doctors are trained in medicine, not human kinetics, athletics, or recovery. Ice and rest is great, but we want to not only heal the current injury, but also work to reduce the risk of sustaining future ones!
My next piece of advice is to LISTEN to that professional advice you received. Paying for a physiotherapist’s opinion is great, but if you don’t do the exercises they give you, you’re not going to get very far. Turns out a large contributor to my problem was weak hips, so I’ve been doing lots of outer-hip strengthening exercises as well as abdominal work to build a nice strong core.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that this is boring shit. I like sprinting and playing with barbells and sweating. Not doing clamshells and balancing on Bosu balls. But if dedicating 15-30 mintues a day, twice a day, to these boring things is going to get me back to being the runner I was once, then so be it. I’ve sacrificed lifting time for foam rolling and have had to change my afternoon pre-work routine to fit in time for icing, but I’m willing to do what it takes.
Next on the list is to TAKE IT SLOWWW. You can’t expect to pick things up right from where they left off. If you do so you risk injuring yourself in other ways. Holding back when you’re feeling great can sometimes be more tough than pushing through when you feel like giving up. But you have to do what it takes. For me that meant turning down the music and just focusing on my breath and how happy I was to be running without pain again. There will be plenty of time to sprint later!
It’s also easy to fall into the mindset that more is better. The more I run the quicker I’ll get back to where I was, right? Not necessarily. Think back to when you first started your sport. How long did it take you to run your first 10k? How many times did you practice squatting before throwing a bar on your back? Did you just hop into a pool and swim 1000m all of a sudden? Doubtful. Depending on how serious your injury was, you may have to work yourself up just as gradually as you did when you first started out. Except this time you’ll be waaaay more efficient at it!
Here’s what my training log has looked like since I started running again (and notice how I started physio back in December, but didn’t start running until January 15? That’s what I mean by take your time!)
Jan 15, 17, & 18: 4.5MPH, 3 mins run x 1 min walk 5 times
Jan 20: 4.6MPH, 4 mins run, 10 squats with leg lift (a physio exercise meant to activate my hip stabilizers) x 4
Jan 22: 4 mins run, 10 squats with leg lift, 3 rounds @ 4.7MPH, 1 round @ 4.9MPH, 1 round @ 5MPH
Continuing with 15-20 minute runs with fewer breaks untillll…..
Jan 29: 5km @ 5MPH! No breaks! No pain!
Feb 1: 43 mins outside (yippeee!!), 6.5km averaging 10:54/mile (I know I’m mixing up kilometers and miles, don’t hate)
Feb 6: 48 mins outside, 8km averaging 9:34/mile
There’s been a few more smaller ones but I just wanted to give you an idea of the time you need to give yourself. I’m not at my 8-minute miles I was running last summer, but I’m in a much stronger position than I was 2 weeks ago and I know it’s only going to get better from here.
My final piece of advice is to not look at an injury as the end of the world. Work at getting better, but also try to find something else to do that you enjoy. During my extended running break I focused more on lifting and building muscle mass, as well as getting my good sweat sessions in on the spin bike and stairmaster. This is a great chance to cross-train and work on the weak areas you’ve been meaning to improve on. I’ve managed to grow my butt by an inch and a half and have considerably increased my strength and improved my lifting technique, something I may not have done as quick had I been running all this time.
Have you ever experienced an injury that set you back for awhile? What preventive measures do you take to ensure you can keep being the awesome warrior you are?
If you’re currently nursing an injury and are feeling pretty bummed about life, check out these brutal sports injuries, but be warned…some are pretty graphic!