Now that I am back to running, the big question is…Did I lose fitness? I am getting asked this a lot, so thought I would do a post on it.
I think the biggest fear people have when they are injured is that they will lose the fitness they’ve worked so hard to build up. I know I have had that fear. Especially if you have a severe injury and can’t cross train.
With this particular injury, I did have the ability to cross train. I swam and biked A LOT. I simulated long run days by swimming for 60-120 minutes, then jumping on the bike and going for another 1-2 hours. I also made the time to run on the Alter-G treadmill.
The swimming/biking long run days were kind of hard to achieve with things going on during the weekend. Plus they were a little tedious. Swimming for two hours with no music was certainly mental toughness, if nothing else.
Running on the Alter-G was also great. However, it felt SO EASY. You are propelling less body weight – I started off running at 65% of my body weight, so I felt like the runners at the front the Boston marathon. Perfect form, easy effort, great pace. I mean, I got out of breath and sweaty, and it got my heart rate up – but it wasn’t like running on cement or dirt, into the wind, on a hot day. Ya feel me?
SO….I ran 10 miles total last week and I’m not going to tell you that I bounded out onto the track/trails and breezed along. To me, nothing is quite the same as running. Which is why we love it, amirite?!
The first day I ran two miles, it was hard. I felt unsteady and like my legs just didn’t know what to do with themselves. It was an odd feeling – but I’ll try to explain. It wasn’t that my lungs hurt, or my legs were tired right away, it was mostly just foreign feeling. I described it like a baby giraffe on ice HA! Or perhaps, a very intoxicated girl in heels. Whichever.
As I am running a little more each day, I can feel it coming back quickly. “It” being the normal feeling I had when I ran. The second run back, I looked down at the pace on my watch and thought “no way am I working this hard for an 8:00 pace.” But today, a few runs later, I looked down at a 7:30 pace that felt nice and easy.
Here are my biggest take homes:
- BE A GOOD PATIENT. You need to let your doctors do their job. You are paying them. So put your trust in them and sit back and follow orders.
- Listen to your body. Just because you are cross training, doesn’t mean you can’t over train. A few weeks back I was feeling so tired despite 8 hours of sleep, bloated, achy joints, ect ect. I decided just to back off the endurance training a bit. Lift a little bit lighter weights for the week. It helped immensely.
- Be kind to yourself on your come back. You aren’t going to be running your PR times the first day back. Give yourself a lot of time to build. Don’t worry about your pace. It will come.
- Change your watch display. If you can’t stop looking at your pace and stressing about it, change the display so you can’t see it. Better yet, take the watch off until you can trust yourself. I change my Garmin display to only show my heart rate. If my heart rate gets too high, I back off.
- Recover. Recover. Recover. Can I say this enough? This is the time to be very mindful of TLC – stretch, foam roll, ice literally anything that hurts in the least. Be a freak about it. You won’t be sorry.
- Don’t build mileage too fast, or you will get hurt all over again.
- Invest in an Active Release Therapy doctor. My body responds so well to this, as do many other runners I know. Your injured area may have some build up of scar tissue. When your body is hurt, it works to repair the problem – with scar tissue. Sometimes that gets built up and causes adhesions in your body. That causes overuse injuries.
- Don’t give up your cross training. Now that you can run again, you don’t need to cross train anymore, right?! WRONG. Your muscles need some variety. Since you are building your mileage super slowly, you will have more time to keep cross training.
- Celebrate the little victories. I started off running for 2 minutes, then walking for 2 minutes. That was a big deal! Be excited that you are coming back, instead of feeling envious that you aren’t racing, or that you can’t do a long run this weekend. Treat yourself to a new pair of socks, a glass of wine, cook yourself a nice dinner.
- Be prepared for set backs. This is my biggest one. One of the days I went to run on the Alter-G, I expected to feel better than I had the last time. That was not the case. Improvement is not linear. You will not start improving on a constant upward trajectory. You are going to have ups and downs, and sometimes you will call your mom crying because your foot feels weird. THANKS MOM LOVE YOU!!
How have you coped coming back from an injury?