Coming back from injury (or from taking a break from sports) is never easy. We are used to the way we were (the way we trained, the way we felt, the pace we held) before we had to stop so when we are starting again we forget that it is just that: a new start and not a “let’s continue from where we left off”.
When we started training (the very first time we took any sport or activity we do) we didn’t know what to expect. We probably didn’t know about pace or about what was hard and what was not. We started building from scratch so the transition was gradual. Then you had to stop. When you are finally ready to come back perhaps the first workout is great, after all, You are doing it! but, What happens next? we start to see how bad or slow everything is or feels in comparison to where we were.
I have been injured many times since I started running. I learned a lot about resilience, about how much I wanted this, about letting go, about patience and trust. Then I finally had a good couple of years with no pains of any kind. And no illnesses of any kind other than my asthma. This year I was running really strong and doing the best and fastest workouts of my entire life. At the beginning of February my achilles tendon on the right leg started feeling weird while my body was feeling sick. I ended up with pneumonia and tendinitis on that tendon. February used to be my favorite month (it’s my birthday month!) but the past three Februaries I have started wondering if the month loves me back. That’s when my asthma flares up (because of everything blooming in AZ) and this year was no exception. I had to take the whole month off to recover from pneumonia and to let my achilles heal (which is better than having to take a month off from pneumonia and another one from the achilles. Two for the price of one so it’s not that bad).
I thought “well, it’s only four weeks and I kinda have been running here and there so I will be fine coming back”. Then reality hit this week when I started training again. See? the problem is I was EXPECTING this to be a comeback from where I left off and that is never the case. I am still hesitant every time I run wondering if my achilles will flare up. This statement I have found it’s normal. We are worried about getting re injured so we are very careful, wondering and stopping at the first sign of distress. This goes out and confidence comes back (and forgetting about the injury) as we are able to train consistently again so, at least this one I have down. I ran 60 miles this week. I was able to run 5 days without really making it worse. A little swollen from time to time but this is normal and it didn’t get worse… so What did I do next? I went and had my first couple of workouts and, instead of thinking “great! let’s see if the achilles holds up” I was thinking “this is the pace I was hitting so this is the pace I want to hit”.
On Saturday (yesterday) I ran 10 miles with 10×800. Not 6 to see where I am at. 10 because “6 is lame since I was doing more than that” (yes Tere, in the middle of a training cycle, not when you started!) I thought my 800’s went well. I was having a hard time breathing and I started over thinking (Don’t I know better? Isn’t it part of my job to tell people not to do this???). I was wondering if it was leftovers from the pneumonia, that I was out of shape or just the asthma since I have been having issues breathing because of the excess pollen in the air?… anyway, I felt better at the end of the workout and I thought my pace was okay for being a comeback…. but then I came home and the first thing I did was to go and see my log book and look for the last time I did 800’s… well it was not even close. I was at about 2:45 average this time and the last time I was at about 2:32 average. Darn it!
So, if you can relate a little to this, here is what we should do instead of what I have been doing:
- Remember this is a starting point: Remember you are not taking it from where you left, you are starting again. You wouldn’t go out the first time you take on a sport and run a lot or try to hit a fast time. Start building little by little and remember the golden rule: add only 10% more per week to avoid getting re injured again
- Give yourself time: If you have goals this is a good time to check them again. You shouldn’t forget about them, just reframe the time line you had. And perhaps is time to set new short term goals (without forgetting the other ones) focused on building back your fitness and other things under your control.
- Avoid comparisons: I am not talking only about comparing yourself with other people, but comparing your current fitness level to where you were pre-injury or before you had to stop. Compare is never fare but if you must do it compare yourself to where you were yesterday and see if you are progressing. Granted, I didn’t run my 800’s as fast as a month ago but I was able to run 800’s which is progress from a week ago when I couldn’t even run.
- Listen to your body: sometimes (especially if you are coming back from an injury) your body needs a little bit more rest in between workouts. Or sometimes you get a little bit of more discomfort or swelling that when you weren’t injured in the first place. Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to take a day off (or a coulee of days off) in between workouts until you get back to your 100% fitness shape. Remember that is better to miss a day or a couple of days than a week or a couple of weeks (or months!)
Hope this was helpful to you. It surely is helpful to me to write it down so I can remember and follow my own advice!
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