Being patient with your body and allowing time to heal is difficult, but absolutely necessary if your goal is to run for a long time. I struggle with taking time off just to rest and recover; an injury is just as difficult for me. Usually, I continue running on it-telling myself I can run through it. And many times running through minor injuries is fine. It’s the not so minor ones that you can’t run through. Even some minor ones, get worse if you try to run through them. Knowing the difference, is the difference between an experienced and novice runner.
Injury and time off is unfortunately part of the running experience. Alternatives to running are just not the same. You don’t get that runners high. You don’t get that peace and sense of freedom. The longer it takes to heal the more agitated you become. It’s easy to fall into a pessimistic and defeatist attitude. You become an expert at positive self talk or you fall into a depression. The longer you are in the recovery mode, the farther off running feels.
You definitely go through the seven stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.
Shock and denial are lumped together most of the time, “It’s not that bad,” “I can’t believe this has happened.” “It’s nothing to worry about,” “I can still run, it’s fine.” “It’s the shoes, I’ll just get a new pair.”
Anger is directed at pretty much everyone including other runners and yourself. You beat yourself up about not taking time off right when it happened. You decide you could have prevented it and were just stupid.
Bargaining-” Dear God, I’ll take time off right away next time, if I can just have my running back now.” “I’ll volunteer more and donate money, if I can just get back out there.” “I’ll do anything to get back out there!!” Anything, but take the time to heal that is. You begin doing research about the fastest way to heal. You spend hours looking at new training programs, super foods, stretches, miracle vitamins, and strength training.
Depression comes in the form of the defeatist. “I’ll never run again.” “this is going to take years to heal.” “It will always hurt to run.” “I can’t be happy without my running.” “I can’t live without my running (you think this is going to far until you’ve been there).”
Testing-“I’ve taken a few days off, I can go back.” “I know it still hurts a little, but a little run won’t hurt it.” “Just an easy three miles.”
Acceptance- “this sucks, but my goal is to run until I die, so I guess I’ll spend six months doing physical therapy and then I’ll take the time to get back to running in the right way because if I don’t, I’ll be back where I was when this started.”
When you’re ready to start your epic return to running make sure it’s slow. Review my return from injury training program found above under the 5k and 10k training program link.
It’s a shame that we can’t start with acceptance. Maybe that should be our goal for our next injury because if we’re honest with ourselves, the next injury will come.
It’s all in the hips my friends. I know you’ve heard that it’s all about the base, and there is no doubt that having a strong base before building miles is essential, but if your hips are weak you will end up injured once your body reaches its threshold.
What types of injuries am I talking about? Shin splints, IT band issues, and runner’s knee for starters, and these can lead to additional problems if you don’t address them including stress fractures.
Your hips are a part of your core, but most people focus on the abs when doing core exercises and leave out their hips entirely. So what do I mean by hips?
Vastus Lateralis muscle: this connects the side of your thigh to your knee and then runs down the front of your leg attaching to tendons at the knee, which attach to tendons on the tibia.
Satorius Muscle: this is the longest muscle in the body. It goes from the outside of your hip down to your knee and attaches to your tibia. It helps with hip rotation, and flexing. It also helps with knee flexing.
Iliopsoas muscle this is actually two muscles but they work together. They are your major hip flexors. You can’t run without them, or walk. They help you sit up while lying on your back too. They also control hip rotation in order to keep the knee aligned properly.
The Pectineus and Adductor Longus muscles (inside of your thigh at the hip) help pull the hip toward the center of your body and help flex).
Rectus Femoris is a part of a group of four muscles that make up your quadriceps. They are the primary extenders of the knee and connect to tendons at the knee and the tibia.
Gluteus medius and gluteus minimus these are on the outside of your hip and a little toward the back. They help with rotation of the hip away from the center.
I knot this may come as a surprise to some, but your body is all connected. When you have an injury at one point along the kinetic chain, it is most likely caused by a weakness in the muscles above and/or below the point of injury.
Just reading these very simple descriptions of these muscles (Disclosure: I’m not a medical doctor or a physical therapist) shows you all the connections between your hip, knee, and down to your ankle (by way of the tibia). If you have extra rotation in the hip, it tweeks your knee and tibia the wrong way. Basically, if your hips are not working properly, everything below the hip is screwed up too. This is why you need to strengthen your hips. If your hips are strong and stable (no extra rotation toward or away from the center) you are going to enjoy injury free running a lot longer and be at a lower risk for injuries.
How do you strengthen your hips? Here is a simple workout you can do three days a week it takes about twenty minute.
3 x 20 donkey kicks
3 x 20 fire hydrants
1:30 of clams holding up for five seconds then drop and come back up to hold for five seconds. Repeat for the full one minute thirty.
One minute single leg glute bridge (do each leg)
One minute bent leg plank, this is a single leg exercise. It’s done in the same position as a plank but one leg is bent underneath you and the other is up and extended no ground contact.
3 x 10 single leg squats
3 x 20 lateral leg extensions (this can be done standing with a band or lying down Jane Fonda Style)
3 x 10 squats