This week started off, well interesting. On Sunday, I took a little bit of a trail spill at about mile 9. I didn’t trip, like I normally do, but hit some loose dirt on a turn and just kinda slid off the trail a bit. Luckily, my knee caught some gravel to keep me from sliding all the way down. Unfortunately, this resulted in a pretty fantastic scrape that didn’t feel too bad in the moment. When I finished up the loop, though, I could see a good amount of blood on my leg, and over the last couple of days I’ve made friends with a pretty gross scab. I also noticed a little swelling behind my knee, and was not exactly pleased with the possibility of a running injury during training. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, trail running is just so glamorous.
When I woke up on Monday, I could feel a good amount of inflammation behind my knee, and it seems like I possibly strained or over rotated something in there that was not thrilled about it. I bailed on my run and settled for a hike, hoping it would improve with a day of rest. Fortunately, it did, but it did make me really grateful that I always program some extra time in my training block for the unplanned illness or injury in training. The knee has been a little sore throughout the last week, but hasn’t been overly concerning for me, though I have slowed down my pace and been a little more cautious on the technical trails to make sure I don’t piss it off.
Related Post: Endurance Racing, It’s Going to Hurt
In the midst of this, one of the running mom groups I am in had a post about a trail race that is taking place next month. Several ladies shared that they were signing up, since racing has basically been non-existent for a real long time. A friend who is training for a 100 mile race asked if I’d be interested in running the 50k distance as part of ultramarathon training, and I immediately signed up. And then I realized that the race happens about a week after we’re scheduled to close on our new house. Thankfully, my husband is fully supportive and knows how much I’ve missed racing. So I guess all the things are happening in September!
Saturday, I had planned a 20 mile run on the trails, and when I woke up I saw that there was a 20% chance of rain. That didn’t worry me, so I got out just before sunrise, and was really enjoying the cloud cover and temperature drop. Then about mile 13, some thunder started, but it seemed far off and there were only very intermittent sprinkles, so I kept moving. Then at about mile 15, the skies opened up and it started pouring and thundering like crazy. I don’t mind being rained on, but I don’t love the combination of slick rocks and a recent strain/injury. Also not a super huge fan of being struck by lightening. Unfortunately, I was about 2 miles into a loop, and had to run back to the trail head to get off the trail. Thankfully, I made it back without anything worse than super soggy shoes. My pace was laughable, though!
The storm cleared out pretty quickly, and after a couple of hours I decided to head back out and finish up my last 2.75 miles on the roads. The trails were a little too soggy for my personal preference. Did I absolutely need to get in those last 2.75 miles? Nope! But the heart wants what it wants, and on Saturday mine wanted to be stubborn and log 20 miles.
Later that evening, my husband and I took our son to MainEvent. He has been asking to go for months, and we finally gave in. My brother in law was in town for the weekend, and the guys had so much fun. My knee was still a little sore, but it didn’t protest too much. I’ve had so many running clients go straight into panic if they end up with a small injury or illness during training, but fortunately I’ve got lots of ways to help keep things on track, depending on the situation. Today, I want to share some of my recommendations for dealing with injury in training.
How to Recover From A Running Injury During Training
Most runners will experience either illness or injury in training for a big race. Sometimes it’s as benign as a bruised toe, other times it can be as significant as a stress fracture or tendonitis. The best defense is a good offense, and while most running injuries can be staved off or prevented, it is inevitable that every runner will experience some sort of pain if they run long enough. Fortunately, very few injuries are truly career enders, and for most injuries there’s a few things that can be done to help runners get back to the roads or trails they love so much.
Running Injury Assessment
When figuring out how to address an injury, the first thing you have to do is understand that there are different types of injuries, which will require different kinds of treatment. There are muscle and tendon strains, which will likely improve with some rest and muscle strengthening. There are injuries that result primarily from inflammation like bursitis or a Morton’s neuroma. There’s also bone injuries spanning from stress reactions all the way to stress fractures. It’s important to understand exactly what you’re dealing with before trying to figure out exactly what to do about it.
Additionally, it’s important to assess if the injury came on suddenly. Say from a graceful trip and fall on the trails that could result in a twisted ankle or pulled muscle. Or the dreaded overuse injury, which tends to come on slowly and get worse over time. Many runners often struggle with these kinds of injuries more, because symptoms can feel mild and like muscle soreness at first. And then one morning you wake up to set out for a run and realize you’re limping around your kitchen while you make your coffee (not good). This is definitely something you’ll want to assess and discuss with whatever medical providers you bring in to help you recover.
I almost always recommend that injured runners see some sort of medical professional for an evaluation. Now, I hate going to doctors. I’m not a good patient, especially because I’m opinionated and stubborn. But I do try to make sure I see a chiropractor somewhat regularly, and have previously worked with PT’s at a local Airrosti clinic. Having an established relationship with these providers helps when I come in with a description of something that is painful. They know I’m an athlete and won’t recommend taking a week off unless it’s absolutely necessary. I typically save urgent care centers for sudden major issues (like the time my entire back suddenly seized up on me), or illness. Whatever medical provider you feel most comfortable with, make sure you schedule an appointment when you start to feel something painful.
How to Manage a Running Injury
The first recommendation I make for all my coaching clients is to understand that most training blocks will have some sort of disruption that results in unplanned time off. What can you do about that? Well, plan for it. I always build in 1-2 extra weeks that can be bagged if needed to allow for recovery. Knowing that your training schedule has a little cushion can help you from going into a complete tailspin when you have to miss a long run to let your sprained ankle recovery. Most runners will still be very cranky about the forced rest, but not feeling the pressure of “making up” missed runs can certainly go a long way to save your sanity.
Once you’ve figured out what is causing the pain, and talked to a medical professional that is not dr. Google, I’d almost always recommend following their medical advice. But I do add in a couple of caveats for seasoned runners in their running injury recovery program. If your injury doesn’t prevent you from walking without pain, I generally don’t recommend being completely sedentary. Do you want to rest and maybe take a few days off from pounding the pavement? Absolutely. But do you need to post up in your bed like you’ve come down with the dreaded man flu and are moments away from death? Definitely not.
Going from very active to very sedentary can sometimes make things worse. Not moving around can make your body and muscles feel stiffer, increase inflammation over time, and can actually slow the healing process. For most overuse injuries, your body needs to work to improve muscle imbalances through PT exercises, and the majority of these can’t be done from underneath the blankets. Take some time off, get some extra rest, but don’t start planning your funeral.
Then there are the general recovery aiding activities that I’ve found can help shorten the length of time off of running. Here are a few ways you can help your body recovery from running injuries at home:
- Alternating ice and heat to help reduce inflammation and keep soft tissue soft
- Getting a gentle massage to help strained muscles get some blood flow
- Using a Tumeric supplement to help reduce inflammation
- Dry needling
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Massage Gun
There are two types of treatment (outside chiropractic adjustments) that I’ve had a lot of success with, especially when used early in the running injury game. The first is a home TENs unit, which is similar to the stim treatments that you might get at a PT. Four little pads deliver some mild electronic charge to area to help promote blood blow and encourage recovery. Anytime I start to feel a muscle issue coming on, I can usually get it resolved with about 10-15 minutes of stim for a couple of days. The other technique is Graston, which is great at breaking up scar tissue and providing better range of motion. There’s several youtube tutorials to show you how to use a self-manipulated Graston tool, and some PT’s, sports doctors, or chiropractors are also familiar with the technique.
One question that clients often have when they have to take a few days off training is how they should adjust their caloric intake. My recommendation is always not to. If you’ve got an injury that is reducing your volume, your body needs you to keep fueling it so that it can utilize that energy to heal. In fact, during injury recovery you might want to shift your focus to anti-inflammatory foods that can help reduce inflammation like berries, avocados, fatty fish, or broccoli.
Once you’re body is ready to resume training, you need to resist the urge to jump right back into training as if nothing happened. You’re not suffering from amnesia, and you don’t need to make up for missed time. Especially if you built a little cushion in your training plan. I always recommend going out for a short test run to see if your body feels ok. The distance will depend on your current volume and fitness, but shoot for about 50-70% of your shortest weekly run to see how your body responds. Expect some muscle soreness, and monitor your injured area for any swelling, tenderness, or new symptoms.
If you don’t notice anything concerning, build your mileage back up to your normal volume before resuming any speed or strength workouts. Immediately after an injury, you are a greater risk for developing a new injury or injuring something else (more fun!). So take things slow, and try to be more patient than a I am when I try to teach my 7 year old how to subtract large numbers. Once you’ve gotten back into normal training, you can start to decide if you need to reassess your training time or goals. If you took off 2-3 days, and were able to resume regular training in a week, you can probably keep working towards your original goals without issue. If you took off more than a week, and it took you two more weeks to get back to solid training, you might want to consider changing your goal race to one further out, or adjusting how aggressive your goals are.
Trying to figure out how to return to running after injury, and making adjustments to your racing goals can be a bit of an art and science. Sometimes having a coach to help guide you can remove some of the mental gymnastics, anxiety, and doubts. If you have any questions about if coaching is a good option for you, I’d love to walk you through what the coaching relationship looks like and how it can help you reach your goals. Send me a message through my Contact Me page.
My last piece of advice is to remember that most runners will experience injuries at some point in training. In fact, Whitney from the Mother Runners recently shared some amazing lessons she learned from her experience of working through a chronic running injury. If you’re struggling with an overuse injury and need a little encouragement, I definitely recommend checking it out.
This Weeks Workouts
Total Miles: 71.75
Total Workouts: 4
50 Mile Training, Week 13
How the Runs Felt
Sunday’s run kinda threw a wrench into my running week. Normally Tuesday’s are my rest day, but I moved that to Monday after my knee felt swollen. The rest of the week, I wanted to keep my mileage high as long as my knee held up, but that also meant I needed to break my runs up around my work schedule. Thursday, I ran on the greenway to try and get my miles done quickly. I had planned to do a 7×5 min workout, and I kept the structure but subbed out 7 min/miles for pick ups instead.
Other than my slightly tweaked knee, and the unexpected thunderstorm on Saturday, my runs overall felt pretty good. The morning temperatures have been a little cooler this week than most of the summer, and it’s giving me a lot of hope that maybe fall is in fact on its way. Running in the summer is brutal, and I’m so looking forward to not sweating like an animal during every single run.
I’m also really excited about getting to run an actual race in the near future. It’s been a couple of years since I ran an official 50k distance, and a long time since I had the opportunity to run a legitimate trail race. I’m definitely looking forward to running with a friend, and I’m interested to see how racing post-pandemic is going to be different than what we’re all used to. But mostly, I’m just really grateful for a small return to the running community.
How the WODs Felt
This week I continued to keep the weights in my workouts fairly light. I did do a few heavier sets in my strength portion for my back squat and squat clean, but nothing too close to my 1 rep max weights. Tuesday, I was still feeling pretty worn out, so I decided to workout from home instead of messing with getting to the gym. The workout was 90% body weight, and it was just enough to get my heart rate up and working. Honestly though, all those push ups made me pretty sore.
Wednesdays workout was also primarily body weight, and even though my upper body was pretty sore, I felt good overall. I really liked Thursdays workout; it felt like it had a little bit of everything and went by really quick. I think it’s one I’ll be repeating. Friday’s workout felt fairly solid, though my legs had a hard time with squat clean strength portion. Last week, I stuck to very light weights and didn’t do too much lower body stuff since I was running so much. So it might take my legs a few weeks to feel like they aren’t made of lead during my workouts.
What I’ve Been Listening To
This week, I started a couple of new series. The Orange Tree, which is a true crime podcast about a murder that happened 15 years ago near the UT campus. I was in college in Austin when this murder happened, and it’s been interesting to hear from all sides of the story. I also started Morally Indefensible, which is connected to a documentary done by FX. It covers a murder that happened decades ago, where the husband was convicted, but has maintained his innocence. Throughout this process, an author lived with the man with the intentions of writing a book that the defendant agreed to. However, after the book was published, it was involved in a lot of controversy. It’s been very interesting so far. And my favorite mother runner podcasters recently did an episode with Lindsey Ulrich covering her recent FKT attempt on the Oregon PCT. I love hearing about all of these women and their amazing adventures!
What Went Well
Despite my initial spill early in the week, I was able to complete all of my runs and workouts. My knee seems to be healing pretty well, and despite being covered in dirt for a few miles, it seems to have avoided picking up any sort of infection. It was also really nice seeing my boys have such a good time together this weekend.
What Went Shitty
Starting out with a trail slide wasn’t exactly how I had planned for things to happen. It wasn’t easy to keep things easy for the rest of the week, and like most runners the threat of injury definitely messed with my head a little. I also have to admit that I still haven’t been great about stretching or core work. I usually pair the two together, and the giant scab on my knee made it pretty difficult to get any solid stretching in.
Plans to Improve Next Week
Next week I’m going to take things one day at a time with my knee. I plan on keeping up with all of the PT work, icing, and anti-inflammatories.