How is your training going? How are your injuries? Sound familiar? Welcome to the runners conversation. These questions are usually followed by… fine, just need to improve my stamina and run more miles, stretch more etc and… well I have this tight hamstring, calf, knee, leg, back, a bit of a niggle… the list of injuries is endless!
What do we do with those niggles? We either manage them, mask them, or just ignore them yet somehow they never seem to clear up completely and I wonder why? Is it because the moon is waning? or maybe it has something to do with the fact that you never win at cards and therefore plagued by bad luck?
The answer is of course…bad luck! No it isn’t, in truth we runners are frightened of losing our fitness overnight, our speed will immediately disappear into the ether, we must keep running, running ,running! We are all guilty of this, even after years of running experience we continue to think this way.
We runners will not rest. Rest means putting your feet up with a cuppa and a slice of cake or tucking into fish and chips and a good movie and gradually turning into a couch potato, we can’t rest it would be a cardinal sin! In truth rest is a runners best friend, it repairs your body and a well rested body will perform better when called on. A runner isn’t going to suddenly change into a couch potato, its not who we are.
Believe it or not we can rest and run at the same time, by this I mean doing recovery runs, slow paced, easy and without looking at our watches. Our bodies will thank us for it.
But sometimes we need complete rest, especially when we cannot run because our niggle has now graduated into more than a niggle, its become an injury. And it needs to be taken seriously.
We runners build up a high pain threshold through training that allows us a certain amount of leeway especially when young and at near optimum fitness. We have all been guilty of thinking we can run through the pain barrier but it is an illusion. That sore right ankle you are always complaining about has eased but you now have a sore left hip! Will these niggles never disappear?
Yes but only with proper rest and recuperation. All we do is mask the issue and confuse painful muscles, a by-product of training, with real pain, a by-product of overtraining.
Receiving a serious injury is probably the only time we runners will actually heed a wake up call because only then is it impossible to run. Fortunately it is pretty rare to sustain a major injury and we all hope and pray we stay safe but life is life and has a tendency to surprise, and not always in a pleasant way.
I was certainly a victim of one of life’s surprises on Tuesday 3-3-20, a trip I never wanted to make.
Re-running the incident through my mind I try to analyse what I could have done differently to prevent it.
I attended my usual weights session in the morning but when I set off with the group that evening I did notice I had the feeling of heavy legs, a result of the weights I’m convinced, and nothing unusual. I’m sure you recognise this feeling. I couldn’t seem to step up and remember having a couple of minor skirmishes with the pavement during the session – a wake up call maybe!
Running is a great social sport and running with a group gives you the time to chat about…well all things running, oh and injuries! But chatting and running isn’t a perfect combination because it can reduce concentration.
Looking back I now know I wasn’t concentrating. It was the jog in after a great session and I was chatting, socialising with my fellow runners. The hard work was done, I had the endorphins running through my body, proud I’d finished running all the hills so now it time to relax – BIG mistake!
It could be argued that the worst injuries result from the most innocuous slip or trip. Who’d of thought that a simple trip over a loose paving slab would result in dislodging my right Achilles tendon from the heel bone, taking some of the heel bone with it as it journeyed up the back of my leg! Surely an injury of this magnitude can only happen on the fells or trails over steep descents and loose terrain?
No. It proves that no matter where we run, our concentration must always be a key element of the running process. Be mindful where we place our feet and heed any tell-tale physical signs of fatigue. Remember we aren’t machines, our fitness levels don’t always stay in peak shape. Don’t ignore external stresses placed on our bodies, such as shift working, raising a young family etc. Don’t ignore the signs.
So, her I am. 10 days on from my incident. An operation to pin everything back together again and my leg in plaster and elevated as much as possible. A bottle of liquid morphine and packets of paracetamol to keep me company as well as a daily injection of medication to help aid blood flow. Funnily enough I never experienced a massive amount of pain. Apart from the initial impact pain the only other feeling was of numbness and gradual stiffness of the right lower leg.
The worst part of being in this situation is the shock of going from training 5-6 days a week to zero activity! OK, maybe not exactly zero, there is an element of physical exercise just trying to get around on the crutches, but it is a massive drop in my personal physical activity.
I worry I may become a couch potato, I spend so much of my day sitting with my leg elevated. To negate this worry I try to stick to my usual daily routine. I haven’t altered my diet, I don’t seek solace in comfort food. I make sure I keep my mind active by doing crosswords, reading etc. I am lucky enough to be able to continue working too – a huge bonus!
I have quickly come to terms with the fact that this is going to be a long slow slog back to my 5-6 days a week exercise routine and lord knows how far my physical fitness levels are going to drop during my convalescence. But I am keeping a positive frame of mind, really important in order not to lose my running mojo.
For the present I continue with mainly resting. I have my first review in 5 days time and will report back on the findings.
So I’m 2 weeks into my convalescence. My first checkup was good news. Stitches out and the wound is healing nicely, and as an added bonus I now have a very cool lightweight black cast!
The only activity I get is hobbling around on crutches. It is hard work trying to keep your leg off the ground. Some degree of upper body strength is needed in order to hop around and up and down stairs and manoeuvring on a set of crutches is also improving my balance. I approach this daily routine as if I would a training session but careful not to overdo things. Every effort helps.
However it’s amazing how quickly the stamina goes, not that I’m gasping for breath or anything, but I am a little breathless after ascending the stairs on my backside, still my triceps and arms are getting a good workout.
Keeping a positive frame of mind is really important. I do have my low moments but tuning in to the Saltwell Facebook page each day provides my dose of positivity, a great help!
So the next two weeks will hopefully see me moving into a moon boot and afford more mobility but for the moment I continue slowly and deliberately forward.