Niggling injuries are not a runner’s best friend, but they can be your constant companion. And, with age comes the greater risk of injuries rearing their heads. It can be a headache in training, as I found out just before Christmas…
A trip too far
Let’s go back a few weeks to mid-December. It was a hectic time and my morning routine went out the window. My runs were less frequent, my stretching sporadic, and morning yoga ground to a halt. So, when I slipped off a kerb during a morning run on 19thDecember, it was no surprise when I tore the inside of my right thigh.
It stopped me in my tracks, and I had to slowly walk the three miles back to the hotel – I was late for work! To make matters worse, my right quad had a constant ‘dead leg’ sensation, as the muscles were trying to support my new awkward gait and protect the injury.
While the inner thigh was sore, the accident set off a niggly right pelvis, which I’d injured back in 2018. That year, I had a place in the UTMB and didn’t want to pull back from training to rest and recover. That blind focus on making my ‘A’ event meant things just got a lot worse. By that June, I’d pulled out of the UTMB. But it wasn’t until that autumn that I took some proper rest and sought the help of Clive Richards, an excellent physio and accomplished runner who ‘gets it’ when it comes to treating runners. He diagnosed me with a ‘dropped’ right hip, and, after a few visits and some good advice, got me back on my feet.
Fast forward to last Christmas, and I knew I should book another visit to Clive. In the meantime, I continued running, although I limited my daily run to three miles. Initially, I was only knocking out 12.30 minute miles; after a few weeks, however, I could put in more effort and comfortably do 9.30, albeit with some ups and downs.
Three big lessons I’ve learnt about injuries
Runners are remarkably in tune with their bodies, but persistence and endurance often mean we push through a degree of pain to achieve our goals. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Lesson 1: don’t ignore niggling pain
Sounds obvious, right? After discovering Clive in 2018 and knowing I had pain where I’d had it before, I knew I needed to head back to him. In just one visit, he’d realigned the right side of my pelvis. What a difference!
Lesson 2: prioritise your mornings
Stick to a routine. It’s boring, but it works. The root cause of my injury wasn’t really the trip; I’d been feeling ‘tight’ for a while and my running had become a bit awkward. In the two weeks before the trip, I’d ignored my morning stretching and usual routine, instead focusing on a busy period of work. In some ways, it’s totally understandable – we all live busy lives. But at the same time, I know I perform best at work when I’m feeling fit and energised from my running. So, sacrificing my morning routine was really short-term, and – in effect – a false economy.
Lesson 3: don’t scrimp on strength
As part of my recovery in 2018 I bought an adjustable step-board. Since then, I’ve used it before and after almost every run I do when I’m at home. I’d really recommend it. I travel regularly for work, so in hotels I’ll normally use a set of stairs.
Either way, heel raises and drops are a great preventative stretch. Clive taught me that if the achilles is tight, the whole leg is tight, and your entire running posture will suffer. Sounds fairly obvious, but I was only really focused on the ‘doing’ of running, not the taking care of myself generally around running.
Last summer a friend recommended a short yoga routine for runners on Youtube, and I’ve been doing that at least three times a week before morning runs – check out Sarah Beth’s Morning Yoga for Runners.
My recovery, much like most things in life, hasn’t been linear. That’s why I started this blog with the idea of life being a sine curve of cyclical highs and lows. It’s the same in any ultramarathon event – you go through huge highs where moving feels great, and gigantic lows where you don’t know how to keep going. In recovering from this latest niggling injury, some days felt great and on others I could barely managed 12.30-minute miles. Either way, the trick is to embrace the moment and enjoy whatever performance your body can deliver at that moment in time. Why? Because being focused on recovery should eventually get you out the other side and nearer your next running goal. Enjoy the journey.
Niggling injury? Most of us have been there. Let me know your tips in the comments…