Returning from injury is unfortunately something I have become very familiar with over the last few years. It all started with a stress fracture on my Sunday long run at the age of 16. This was followed by an inflamed achilles, an aggravated hip flexor, and many niggling tendons. Thankfully, I am now 18 and have finally made my return to the competitive scene, and since being on the sidelines for so long I have now learned to truly appreciate running pain-free. It is amazing how many injuries can arise from simply putting one foot in front of the other and so considering this, I thought that today I would shed some light upon some of the things I have learned whilst trying to get back on track.
1 - It takes a while
This point is number one for a reason. Recovery from an injury is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one. When I first found myself unable to run, I would count down the days until the physio’s suggested ‘first run’ date. And when this day arrived, I would still run even if I could feel the niggle re-emerging, putting me straight back to square one. My justification? A medical professional had said I could run so it must have been the right thing to do.
I now realise that accepting an injury is the most important thing. Recognising that your body is indeed hurting and needs some rest is the first step to recovering. I know from experience that it is very frustrating when rehab and cross training is progressing nicely, and then a spanner is thrown in the works and you end up having to take two steps back. But this happens to us all. Recovery is never straight forward, and so in learning to deal with all the curve balls that come your way, you will improve as an athlete both physically and mentally.
2 - Rehab is important
I am usually really good with completing all of the exercises that the physio prescribes. However my downfall is that as soon as the injury is healed, I forget to carry on with as much rigour, and inevitably suffer from similar injuries over and over.
What has really helped me is to have a set schedule for the week. Every other day I do a range of different exercises over the space of 10 minutes whilst watching the TV in the evening, even when I am not injured. This includes foot resistance band exercises on Monday evening, stretching and glute exercises on Wednesday, and calf raises on Friday. Planning rehab in short, manageable bursts makes it so much easier to complete. It also means that if you do end up missing a session or too, you won’t be affected to a great extent because you have been performing them so regularly.
One last point under this section. From personal experience, keeping up glutes and calf strength has been most important in keeping me injury-free! So if you are thinking of starting regular strengthening, I would start there!
3 - Listening to your body
Being both a competitive runner and a blogger, at first I found it really hard to focus on my own progress. I would scroll through Instagram and see pictures of people completing long runs. I would also see my friends and competitors getting faster and faster on Strava. This of course motivated me to try my hardest to return to fitness, but it also had a negative effect in the way I would compare myself to others.
I have now come off Strava and track my own runs independently on Final Surge, which sends my progress and performances to my coach only. Everyone’s training is different, but more importantly everyone’s journey is different so they may be running at a faster or slower pace than you at any point during their training cycle. The best thing to do when injured is to focus on your own progress, not anyone else’s.
I hope that you are indeed fit and healthy at the moment, but as I have come to realise, injuries often surface at the most inconvenient of times, so I have aimed to make this post as useful as possible!
Huge thanks to Ellen for sharing her advice on understanding your injuries and taking your time to get back to full fitness.
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