I know better than this. I know the consequences. “I’ll just get them tomorrow.” Well, two weeks went by and I have yet to rectify a looming disaster. The writing was on the wall (and in my training log). I haven’t made the switch in a long time. The legs were painted with an underlying “ache,” while other signs might as well be shooting injury flares—I better hurry up and fix this issue.
Broken and worn, I trudged through the first six weeks of my Boston training plan living on the “I’ll get new shoes tomorrow.” My Nike Pegasus were a mess. Between procrastinating and simply forgetting, I backed myself into a dark corner.
The first blow came at the expense of my left calf. A few short weeks later (still in the same shoes), my right heel began to have a bite. This article isn’t about the “listen to your body” or “don’t be a dumby like me, change your shoes,” but rather how I managed to work through two injuries within a month while sacrificing only a week of running each time.
Truthfully, I haven’t had an injury last longer than two weeks in the past four years. (man, I really hope this doesn’t jinx me) I’m not going to lie, I’ve had a few scares: hamstrings strain, calf strain (x2), Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis and IT Band Syndrome.
Each injury presented with an underlying fear that THIS will be the injury that completely derails my training. The injury that puts my tail between my legs and leaves me explaining why I’m not running to you and my patients.
The two-week fix has worked time and again for not only me, but my patients. The two-week fix isn’t really that difficult to perfect, either. The trickiness comes with execution. It will go against your better judgement. An inner dialogue will leave your denial and doubt bullying your logic and reason.
For me, I’m somewhat of an “expert,” but you don’t have to be to execute a plan to ensure a quick recovery. The secret lies in being truthful to yourself, admitting you’re in trouble, and taking the appropriate steps moving forward.
Recognizing and Healing Any Injury in Two Weeks
Rarely will you find an injury that has an abrupt onset. Injuries that are accompanied with a quick, sharp pain are less common. Most running injuries are either a gradual onset over the course of weeks (the I’ll just run through it type of thing) or present as pain following a run.
The “slow onset” injury can be a disaster. Slow onset is tricky. These injuries usually “only hurt after” or “get better after I get going for a few minutes.” This leaves much to interpretation and unfortunately most runners live in a distorted reality. “I’ll just ignore it and hope it goes away.”
Avoiding major setbacks is pretty simple, but you’re going to hate what I have to tell you. You’re going to have to stop running. Don’t paint me as that typical clinician who tells everyone to stop running. Hear me out. A simple, short hiatus has been crucial to help me avoid major setbacks in my training.
If you’re going to grumble and get aggravated by the fact that I told you stop running then you should stop reading.
Truth is, most running injuries are intolerant to impact. Every impact aggravates injured tissue. With an average of 80 impacts a minute, how can you expect something to recover/heal when you bash the hell out of it a few thousand times every run?
Instead, accept that something is wrong and remove the high load of running. The key to a quick recovery is quite simple: stop running and cross train. The bike, elliptical, and my online strength workouts have been staples in every effort to ensure a quick recovery.
Here’s how I responded to my calf injury:
It’s worth noting that my 8 mile run on Sunday went “ok.” Just ok. I was sore and tight, but I knew I was about to tip in the wrong direction. For better understanding the difference between every day ache and injury click here. Paired with a lot of heat, isolated stretching and cross training I started to feel better fairly quick. I bailed on the entire week of mileage (I was supposed to run 60 miles that week—Total? 9).
Here’s a look at my heel injury (plantar fasciitis). This is by far one of the worst injuries I get to see, but I’m not confident that my patient is usually at fault. Most of my patients stroll in after months of bashing their heel into the ground and hope I have a miracle cure. Plantar fasciitis is typically a slow progression from tightness to absolute agony–but it doens’t have to be. This is an injury that is just terrible at healing once you light the match and start the fire.
I substituted runnig for cross training and I wore the Strassburg Sock every night. Here’s another week that was supposed to measure 60+ miles, yet I settled for eight. I’m not going to lie… I was battling demons who were pushing me to “just test it out” and “see how it goes.” More demons shouted that “you’re losing all your fitness” and “you’re going to suck on race day!”
I’m happy to report that the following week was a nearly (not completely) symptom free week, totaling 60 miles and one 16 mile run.
The take home message is that you can’t just run on hope and early detection is crucial to avoid major set backs. Once you detect an injury start by taking a deep breath. Then plan on forfeiting two weeks of training. You don’t have to do nothing. In fact, that might be the worst thing (learn more here).
Being resilient and tough are embedded with every step we take. Runners are tough. After all, what other non-professional athlete subject themselves to the torment of running in sub-zero temps, scorching heat, and efforts that leave your body pleading with you to stop?
Maybe that’s our flaw. We participate in a sport that breads toughness and willingness to show we can persevere. Either way, your desire and need to run can’t be destructive—not if you want a long career.
If you’re looking for strength workouts that I use weekly to not only prevent injury, but to also get over my previous run ins, click here.