So you like to run? Unfortunately, despite your best intentions the chances of some form of running injury is inevitable. This can mean some people stop running but if you are like me, once you started and then fell in love with running, you won’t want to stop. So how you bounce back from your injury is critical. Do follow your rehab plan to the letter? Do take a few days off then get back into it or maybe you say, “no injury will stop me!” I think over the last 12 months I have gone through all of these different approaches and have finally found what I think is the right approach to returning from injury (I wish I worked it out sooner.)
Don't Ignore the Niggle
Now perhaps you are the chosen one, the runner who has not gotten injured before. But chances are that if you are reading this, you have experienced some form of running niggle. Something that doesn't feel quite right. Niggles are your body’s way of telling you something is not quite right. Do not ignore them! Look, maybe in a race you push through because it is a race. But in training, if you notice a niggle take some time to think about what it could be. Niggles are usually caused by an imbalance which leads to tightness. Tightness can lead to tears and sprains and they can lead to lots of time off running. So, if you start to notice some niggles, address them. If you know what is the cause do what you can to fix it. Maybe you need to stretch more, maybe you need to use the roller, maybe you need to work on your biomechanics or some activation exercises. If you aren’t too sure or it doesn't get better, see a professional.
Ask For Help
So, you tried to fix your niggle and it didn’t go away… Don’t panic, it isn’t the end of the world yet! There are a whole range of professionals out there who can help. If nothing else, a diagnosis can often mean that you have peace of mind and know what is actually wrong. My advice here is that if you can, try and find someone who understands the demands of your sport. If you are a sprinter, find someone who knows about sprinting, if you are a triathlete, try and find someone who understands triathlon, if you are an ultra-runner, find a psychologist because you are clearly crazy and then find someone who gets the demands you put on your body. Also, if you are not happy with the service you are receiving, get a second opinion. There is nothing worse than not having faith in the people who are meant to help you get better.
Listen to Advice
If you have gone and seen someone, listen to what they tell you. You do not know better than them. They have spent more hours learning their skills than you probably have spent running. If they tell you that you need to take a break from running, then listen to them. If they say you need to spend more time in the gym working on your core strength listen to them. If they recommend frequent massage listen to them. This can be hard to do because often we do not want to hear we have to stop doing what we love. The other option though is to ignore them and extend the duration of the injury.
Do Your Rehab
Most likely you will be given a rehab program. If you train a lot, then chances are extremely high that you will think the program is a joke! A rehab plan is not a workout! It is meant to get you back to working out sooner. It is also important with your rehab to leave your competitiveness at the door too. You do not need to go harder or heavier or further than is prescribed. This is especially true with stretching. Do not think the pain is a good thing. You need to be gentle with your stretching and listen to what your health care provider has told you.
Ease Back Into It
I have slowly started re-introducing running into my rehab and training. Now I think I imagined the clouds parting and a choir of angels singing while I ran with perfect form at 3:30 pace when I made my eventual return. The only singing I am currently hearing is that of the metronome I am running to. Yep, I have to run on a treadmill set at a slow pace with a metronome beeping 170 times every minute. I run for 4 minutes and then walk for a minute and repeat this again and again. Far from the glorious return I envisioned. But that is the point. There is no point rushing to get back to where you were. There is no point running too hard too quickly or before you have addressed what actually caused the issue in the first place because guess what will happen – you will get injured again. It is frustrating, and it can be embarrassing but in reality, unless you fell over or got run into or beat up, the injury is probably your own fault. So, take it easy to start and make sure you come back 100% and unlikely to get injured again.
The final point, and I think the most important is to learn from your mistakes. If you have done something silly like over trained or trained through an injury or some horrible combination of the two like I did, you are probably paying the price for it now. But you don't have to do it again. Use this as an opportunity to learn from your past errors and come out the other side as a more rounded and whole athlete. I think of my injury as a bit of a blessing in disguise. I neglected strength and conditioning work and now I do it several times a week. I make sure to do a proper warm up and cool down before and after sessions and I have absolutely cleaned up my run technique.
I am confident that when I am back to running at 100% I will be a better runner than I was before. I remind myself of that daily and it helps to keep me on track. Hopefully it will help keep you on track too! For those people interested, I continued to run after a bad bike crash last year and to deal with the pain, my body compensated, and my technique fell apart. This coupled with some serious over training led to an overuse injury in my hamstring tendon. I continued to train and race for months while it got worse and worse. 6 months ago, I realised it was a real problem and started to seek proper help for it.
I have since seen physios, chiros, and a sports Dr. I have had 3 PRP injections into the tendon and am working with my physio, S&C coach and an exercise physiologist on my rehab. I am still probably 2 months away from running properly. It is slow and frustrating but I am learning to take my time with it. Learn more about Tim Ford by following him on Instagram @tford14