2016/2017 were very frustrating years for me from an athletic point of view. I went from running the New York Marathon and competing in my first Ironman triathlon in 2015, to running with a niggle in early 2016, that then became a very frustrating injury that I am still slowly rehabilitating back into long distance running in 2018
It has however, provided me the opportunity to see my injury from both sides, being a physio and being the patient. There are a few things I have learnt along the way which I would like to share with you, in the hope that they may help you get through your injury, or maybe avoid a future one.
1. Know thy enemy
First things first, get a proper assessment and diagnosis. Know what you are dealing with and have a plan. Getting the right advice can speed up your rehabilitation and get you back on track. Booking an appointment to see a physio for musculoskeletal injuries is a good place to start and if things aren’t going to plan, they can refer you for further investigation or onward for another opinion if required. Many people come to us months down the track after an injury not resolving. If they had an early diagnosis and plan, they could potentially have gotten back to normal levels of activity or sport much earlier.
2. It very rarely goes to plan
Here’s the inconvenient truth…how you think your injury recovery will go is normally very different to reality. This graph below illustrates my recovery very accurately.
It gets frustrating, but knowing this is often the natural course of things helps to soften the blow. Set backs are normal, most of us like to push the boundaries and that’s ok. It may be important to get your program and progress re-checked by your physiotherapist and get some advice on how to manage flare ups or set backs, so you can get back on track as soon as possible.
3. Be Patient
We all want to get back into our routines as soon as possible for various reasons, to stay fit, to lose those last few Christmas kilos, or to train for a specific event, but sometimes this can cloud judgement (I am definitely guilty of this). Try to be flexible and not set too many rigid ‘event goals’, rather keep goals a bit more rehab related. As you progress these rehab goals will become signposts on the road to whatever your long-term goals are, whether that’s to get back to your normal gym routine, return to playing cricket, complete a sprint triathlon or run a marathon. If you apply a time limit to your rehab by firmly locking in an event, you run the risk of pushing yourself too far too fast and setting yourself backwards.
4. Do the work
Going back to tip 1, if you have seen a health professional for your injury, they most likely will give you some rehab exercises to help address the causative factors of your injury. It is up to you to make the time and commit to doing them. Make it a priority to get your rehab done, and you will reap the long-term rewards.
You may also have to adapt a different attitude towards your current level of exercise. Many of us are rigid about our training habits and the value we attach to different forms of exercise. Doing anything less than a 30min run may hold little value to some people as they don’t see as much benefit in it. To address this takes a bit of a shift in thinking. I’ve had many conversations with people (and myself) about the importance of doing a rehab run/walk for 15mins…yes it isn’t as much as you would normally do so maybe it is hard to justify spending the time, but the value is in bridging the gap between what you were able to do before your injury and your current capacity.
5. Learn from previous mistakes
Mistakes are meant for learning, not repeating. Make sure you analyse what caused your injury (hint: if you’re not sure about this one…refer to tip 1) and address those causative factors by adjusting your training program. Changing training habits, continuing mobility and strength exercises and addressing biomechanical factors are all great strategies to prevent further injury.
2018 is progressing well for me, I’m back running around 12km a few times a week, and am hoping to run the Melbourne marathon next year. I am getting my endurance and competitive fix from other sports, taking up rowing again and spending more time on the bike. I also have a far more consistent and committed approach to my strength work and mobility routines. I’m still not back to 100%, which for me is running marathons, but everything is progressing very well.
Hopefully, these tips can help you recover from your own injury and get you back to what you love doing in 2018.