Written by Josh Gorst – Rehab for runners
For runners, getting an injury is the single most frustrating aspect about this sport that we love. Unfortunately, it’s also inevitable. According to some researchers, anywhere between 65 – 80 per cent of runners pick up an injury in any given year. That’s why rehab for runners is so important!
For those of us who cannot claim the title of professional or even semi-professional. Like me, do it solely for the love of the sport (it does not always feel that way). The most common causes are poor and inadequate footwear, insufficient core and lower-limb muscle strength and occasionally issues like over or under-pronation.
At Trackstaa we have published articles on how you can build strength. Through various exercises and stretches that will help prevent injury when done consistently. It goes without saying that any runner should build up slowly and gradually. We have also highlighted those shoes that can help runners avoid certain injuries.
But what about when the unavoidable happens and you get an injury?
How do you know if it’s a niggle or an injury?
Well, how can you tell you if it’s the standard aches and pains? that is par for the course when it comes to running or something more serious? Well on this, I can talk from personal experience.
I have just recently recovered from a ‘tibial stress reaction’ . Which left untreated can lead to a more serious stress-based fracture. This is one of the most common injuries that afflicts runners. It is usually best characterised as an over-use injury. How mine came about was almost certainly from getting back into running in a serious way in early 2020 after a 2 year hiatus. Increasing my monthly mileage by around 4 to 5 times in the space of a month and a half. I was literally a ticking (and running) time-bomb.
It all started after I had just completed a “down the ladder” track workout and I got this weird sensation in my left shin, like someone was firmly pressing their finger on it. I did what we all would do, ignored it, thought it would be fine and carried on. It quickly evolved into a sharp pain whenever I started to run. It would be a further 2 weeks before I stopped running and sought advice from a physio.
Aches and pains from running are normal, expected even, but trust your instincts. Your body will tell you when you need a rest, or when you need to stop completely – listen to it.
Rehabilitation (Rehab for runners)
After my first consultation. Being diagnosed with a stress-reaction, the first step was complete rest from all running activity for 4 weeks. This was hard. With the gyms closed, thanks to covid-19 and me unable to run, I turned to the bike. Never have I watched so many films whilst cycling on the turbo trainer.
Stress reactions prevent you from running but any sort of cross-training you can do, whether it be the bike, the elliptical machine or a rower will pay huge dividends when you return. To mix it up and to help keep it interesting, building structured sessions into your cross-training to simulate track/speed/tempo workouts will help maintain optimal fitness levels.
Not only that, it’s important not to neglect the strength work too.. During my rehab, I tried to work at least 2 strength-based sessions a week and an additional yoga session. You can find a number of helpful yoga classes online, including ones specifically designed for runners.
Getting back into it
After 4 weeks of no running – not even running after my very active 2-year-old – I was finally allowed to run again albeit in short bursts followed by longer periods of walking. I started off doing 3 sessions a week of ‘run/walk’, starting at 30 seconds run and 4 minutes and 30 seconds walk, 6 times. Every 2 sessions, I increased the running duration by 30 seconds and reduced the walking time by the same amount.
The goal of this very slow, often painfully slow, progression is not to build up cardiovascular fitness but exclusively to allow the tiny fibres in your soft-tissue and bones to get used to the repetitive movement of running.
Every time your foot lands on the ground whilst running, the impact going through your body is around 6 times your body-weight and so without a graduated increase in training load, it’s easy to see how a stress injury can materialise.
I found these ‘run/walks’ to be boring and keeping motivated was a real mental challenge. I cannot express enough how important it is. Once the run/walk programme is done, you can skip as I did, like an over-excited child at Christmas into an actual run, an unbroken 30-minute run – oh the little pleasures.
After 2 weeks of easy runs of around 7km in distance, about 3 times a week, and now 9 weeks on from an injury stopping me in my Tracks’taa (get it? Sorry…) I am now looking forward to my first proper workout in the coming days; a mile repeat session which no matter the amount of cross-training, gives me that nervous sensation when I think about it.
After the boredom and mental torture of the last 9 weeks, I know the work I have put in over the course of my rehab will make me a better runner. Time to put this hard work to the test.
Thanks for reading “Rehab for runners”, you can check out the Ingebrigtsen Training method if you want more education surrounding the sport.