It’s been a long time since I’ve had that deep down “know” that this pain is more than just muscle soreness. The end of the race left me limping and favoring my left side which caused a beating to my right foot. The pain was deep and persistent in my hip/groin and reverberated down to the medial side of my knee. I pushed through to the finish. Next I question, “Do I admit it? I’m injured?” Because of the many miles spent training and the nature of our events, overuse injuries sneak up on us. Since it is not a sudden impact causing the pain, it is easy to remain in denial about the severity or even admission of the issue.
Getting through these early season injuries seems like such a hit to the training. The build up and the pure fun of exploring higher and higher are suddenly limited. The mountains are turning green and opening up their beautiful trails that have been covered in snow and ice for months. It is time to be up high, but instead I find myself on the elliptical and in the gym working on strength, worrying that my hard earned early season endurance is dwindling away.
I figured I may not be the only one in this predicament and thought I would write down some thoughts that are easy for me to share with others, but not necessarily is it always easy to follow your own advice. Seeing them written down will hold me to them.
First step: REST
I know it is best to rest. We train our bodies to recover. All of the miles day after day the body knows the demand of more training is coming soon and it needs to bounce back. When it comes to an injury, the body might not be able to recover as quickly as there is a bit more damage that needs repairing. That is where the rest/downtime comes in. That said I am not one to sit around and just expect something to heal. I believe the time I would normally spend training should now be focused on healing. If given the necessary tools and aids the body will recover and likely fast thanks to the nature of endurance training. I will rest from running and instead focus on massage, stretching, acupuncture, strengthening and movement that I can manage without pain.
Second step: Stay calm and work on the things you can control
It’s easy to fret and think about the loss of training that I thought I was supposed to do these days following the race. Each morning as I wake up the first thought is “does if feel better?” Then “can I move it more than yesterday?” Checking in is okay, but leave it at that. Make a recovery plan just as you would make a training plan and stick to it. My goal is to trust that my body is healing and I am going to aid it the best I can.
Third step: Nutrition remains key. It feels like when I am not running as much my appetite quiets and I don’t feel the need to eat/fuel as much. When recovering from a run or injury, fuel is a key part to keeping the body building. Breakfast is an awesome opportunity to kickstart the metabolism and positively impact your entire day. I’m pretty committed to my concoction of greek yogurt, 7 Sources Oil, fruit, maca powder and granola. Accompanied by Bhakti Chai and homemade almond milk and I’m telling you I’m set for the better part of the morning. Keep it going with snacks and meals to encourage healing and of course hydration to flush the system.
Fourth Step: Build back slowly. Today is one week plus one day post injury and the progress I’ve made is huge. Where I first lacked strength to lift my leg to put on my underwear and would have to use my hand to lift my leg, I’m getting to a point where I feel confident to run and tried a mini loop from my house this morning. It wasn’t painless, but I ran without a limp. Only in the last 5-10 minutes of a 40 minute run did my knee start to speak up… time to stop. I’ll go again tomorrow. Keep it close to home and keep the terrain mellow.
Fifth Step: Keep the bigger, long-term goals in mind. Will a 2 hour run today help or hurt me more? My next big goal is 6 weeks from now. 2 hours today and risking weakening a healing injury is not worth the potential, minor fitness gains.
1) Wintercrest is an herbal remedy. Whether it is the ingredients or the fact that I’m doing cross-fiber friction massage when I apply it, it seems to be encouraging healing.
2) E-stem is an electrode machine that bounces currents (controlled by the user) through the body stimulating the area and encouraging blood flow. Blood flow brings good nutrients to the area and discards the bad.
3) Self-massage using either a foam roller and balancing on it while rolling out the effected area or using a roller massage tool to apply pressure while rolling through the area helps encourage the area to loosen and can help tissues heal in their normal alignment.
4) Strength Training to build the body back better than prior to injury. Focus on exercises that are done without pain to strengthen the area and the entire core.
Helpful thoughts from friends that I call on during recovery:
Sage Canaday recently told me that he doesn’t do anything for 5 days after a race.
Chad Kellogg thrived on strength training to hold his otherwise thrashed body together.
Dave Terry told me that we have to tell the body what we want it to do. If it means running for 5 minutes a day until we can run 6, then we need to do that. Every day will the body to move healthfully.
Finally, there is always a lesson that comes out of these hiccups in life. Stay positive and look for the lesson(s) seems to make the time during more palpable and even rewarding.