Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How I Made My Way Back to Running

I started suffering from foot pain about eleven months ago - a month before I was going to run my first marathon. I pushed through the training and through the race, but finished with a time much slower than I had originally set as my goal. I was proud though, because I had spent a lot of time training and I crossed the finish line. Two days after the race I learned that I had fractured my right foot sometime during those 26.2 miles. Then a few months after I had recovered from that injury, I somehow caused the ligaments near my heel to become inflamed, resulting in extreme pain with every step. I went from running a marathon to being confined to a walking boot then once I finally was able to walk the city again without anything weighing me down, and finally had just started running again, I was sidelined once again. It was frustrating to say the least; I felt like part of me was missing when I couldn't run.

After more months than I'd like to remember and countless hours spent on the stationary bike, I felt I was ready to start my comeback at the end of July. In order to make it last, to make sure (as much as anyone can) that I would be able to run for years to come, I knew that I had to be careful and take my time. You've all be following me through these last few months, and while you know I'm still not where I was before this all started, I thought I'd share with you my comeback tips.

Step 1: know when you're ready
DO NOT, decide you're ready when you're frustrated. Chances are, you're not ready. Don't start too early. Listen to your body and your doctor. The worst thing you can do is rush back too soon.

Step 2: Set a realistic goal
I chose the 4 mile race last Saturday as my return to racing because it was a very reasonable and attainable goal. It would require me to get in some quality runs, but nothing too long that it would be taxing. It was a goal I knew I could reach and put me on the track to increase my miles safely.

Step 3: Take it slow & steady
Don't push too hard, too fast. And, if at all possible, don't start on the road. Roads are hard and unforgiving. Instead, start on the treadmill so you can easily regulate your speed, distance and switch between walk/jog intervals. If a treadmill isn't accessible, try a track or soft trail. Depending on your injury, you may just want to start with a half mile, or time intervals for a mile, slowly building your mileage. Keep your pace slow, and above all else, listen to your body! As frustrating as it may be at times, the key is to remember that your goal is to run for years to come, not to run 5 miles your first week back!

Step 4: Strength & flexibility
Be sure to take time for dynamic stretching (continuous movements) before you run and static stretches after. Tight muscles will not help you come back strong. Also, strength training sessions (which you should be focusing on while you're not running) will keep your core strong to support your form while you're running.

Step 5: Diet
Don't forget that your body needs healthy foods to stay strong. Be sure to get the right mix of nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats and fiber are essential. Veggies and fruit are a must. Saturated fats and sugars are not. (A treat every now and then won't set you back though, you still have to enjoy life!) And of course, variety is the best. Just like doing different workouts helps your running, eating different (albeit, healthy) foods is best for your nutritional health!

I can't guarantee that this will work for you, but so far, it's been working for me! Next up on my list, a 10K on October 3rd! I'll get there by adding a bit of distance to my runs as the day gets closer. My goal for next year is to run at least 3 half marathons, finish each one strong and set a PR! I'd love to run a half marathon this year, but I don't think it would be a smart goal for me. I want to be running well into my old age!

Have you been sidelined by injuries? What was the key to your comeback?
workout stats -
4 mile run
crunches and planks


Silly Girl Running said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing! And YAY for getting back to racing. :)

Zaneta said...

wonderful post! Thanks for the tips! and i'm glad your back into racing :)

Sarah said...

im just getting back to running after having my first baby! eeek its hard work!! this year i am focusing on getting back into shape and will train for my first marathon oct 2011! glad you are back to racing!!!

Paula said...

Why, yes I have and I am! Thank you for giving me hope/reassurance that although this is going to last a lot longer than I would like, it does end some day and I can be back on track (ha ha pun time!). Here's my blog about my pain, etc.

Jon said...

Thanks for this post! My foot is currently in that state of limbo where "how injured" it is the big Q. One more run on it tomorrow to test if its gonna hurt or not, then its off to the Dr. if it does hurt.

Gonna follow your plan if it does hurt.

Melanie said...

Love this Lisa!! you are so wise...lordy I miss your return race, I am so sorry, I have next to no time to read blogs anymore, makes me soo sad..

Tall Mom posting from Gmail

Lauren said...

I have had deal with a few injuries: Compartment Syndrome in High School and "Runner's Knee" last year. All have been a struggle to come back from, but each time "I come back" I feel stronger. Good luck with your running!

Julie said...

Great post, especially as someone also coming off an injury! I'd add make sure you find medical practitioners (doctor, pt, podiatrist, massage therapist, etc.) who understand runners. We're not your average patients and we need doctors who can help us modify our goals, not derail them. As for exercise during injury, deep-water running is AMAZING. Lots of research to support it as the best alternative to running. You can even improve some aspects of your running by hitting the pool. Last bit of advice from my PT - don't switch surfaces during a run -i.e. never go from road to grass and back - your body adjusts to take the impact from whatever surface you're on...don't confuse it!

Erica said...

Perfect timing for this entry...I am currently dealing with achilles tendinitis. I signed up for a half-marathon that takes place in Oct; as soon as I started training, I got tendinitis. Right now I'm feeling frustrated, mainly because with my schedule it is hard for me to get to a gym - it is much easier to just throw on a pair of sneakers and run whenever I have free time. Needless to say, since my injury, I have lost some of my fitness and gained a few pounds. I was feeling very frustrated today and almost put on my running shoes. Tonight I was walking to my apartment when I felt a twinge of pain, but I still thought I would do it. And then I happened to read this post. Truly what I needed to read at this exact moment. Thank you for sharing. I'm definitely going to work on all of your steps.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I feel like runners are a special breed. We're so freakin' stubborn. I probably had a minor calf injury back in late 2006 and decided to just keep running. Well, 6 months later - after compensating and rotating the injury I finally gave it time to heal! Looks like you were smart - kudos!