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