How a Coach Manages an Injury
This week I faced the runner's depressingly familiar nightmare: an injury. It wasn't that bad, but I'd like to take you through how it happened and what I did to resolve it. I'll do my best to point out what you can do when things like this happen to you.
Two weeks ago I was running on a trail down a creek canyon. As I started getting lost in thought evaluating how my running didn't feel quite as good as I wanted it to, I found myself twisting down towards the trail at my feet.
It wasn't a bad fall, but it still ended up having an impact for several weeks until I was able to resolve it properly. I fell on my right side, but thanks to the spiral of force crossing over from one side of the body to the other when running, it turned out that my left side was actually worse off. While the right side had some scrapes, the left side had strained itself as I attempted to minimize the impact of the fall.
When injured, I recommend taking a look at an anatomy book to pinpoint where things are bothering you. While this won't be all the information necessary to fix it, it is a good step. For me, my left IT band felt a bit strained, into my left hip and up along the left side of my spine from the sacrum to the top of my lower back.
In evaluating any injury, the first step is to distinguish between “good pain” and “bad pain”. Unfortunately, this is subjective and requires experience. However, bad pain is generally sharper and more painful. It tends to impact the way you move more and send a far clearer signal to our brains that we shouldn't be doing whatever it is we are doing to create that pain.
If that's the kind of pain you feel, don't run. Seriously, just stop. Way too many runners push through injuries and make it worse. And its not a death sentence: many injuries can be managed with running (combined with other measures) until before the pain threshold and allowing that threshold to slowly increase as the injury heals.
My pain wasn't at that level, but it didn't feel great either. Some injuries fit well known pathologies, such as runner's knee, ITBS, Achilles tendonosis, plantar fasciitis, and tibial strains or shin splints. Others are more unique, like mine.
The first step with mine was to see what extra stretching and foam rolling could do. Sometimes this is all that's needed. Its important to give it at least a couple days to see if that has an impact. With me, it did but it wasn't enough.
My next step was to get a massage from someone I knew could help me. And it did! I was good to go for the next week. But as you can probably guess from how abruptly this article would end if the story ended there, it doesn't.
Between having too much fun one night and a long run with subpar technique two days later, I faced the same issue once again. It didn't immediately come back from those two events, but despite no major physical activity for two days afterwards my hip was back to being angry.
Here there are many things I could have done. For most people, I would say go back to the massage guy, or physical therapy, or a chiropractor, or someone certified in Rolfing or Reposturing. They would all be able to diagnose and provide exercises to help. Depending on what's going on, some running coaches may also know what to do, but most would refer out to someone more qualified.
Thankfully for me, my martial arts master John Bracy just taught me another level of working with muscles and connective tissue within one's own body. I learned the new techniques, and my hip was back to happy in about ten minutes. Needless to say (assuming it continues to work well for us and many others), we plan on making those techniques the centerpiece of a future system we hope people can get certified in.
While I was injured, I also backed off of my training program, although only a little bit. I stopped with the fartleks and hill sprints I was doing. I also moved my hard workout from Monday when my hip still bothered me until Wednesday when I was able to heal it. If I hand't healed it, I would not have done the hard workout. It's a tough pill to swallow for some, but in that case the most productive thing for my training progression would have been to not push it.
The final consideration to all this injury stuff is to never assume that an injury is over because you cannot feel it anymore. If you had exercises that helped with it, don't stop just because the injury seems to be gone. It might still be there, lurking in the background. While the exercises received from a professional might not need to be done as often, its still important to do them once or twice a week. In my case, the exercises I did to fix them are still something I am doing twice a week to assure myself it does not come back.
So there you have it: how this coach handled an injury while training for a half marathon.
Happy running and until next time!
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