Last week, some members of the PTO Tri Club met to discuss a very important topic: dealing with injuries. Specifically, running injuries. Of the three disciplines of triathlon, I think most people would agree that running is the cause of most injuries.
Swimming– you might develop a shoulder problem, or get water in your ear, but probably never a serious enough injury to leave you sidelined. Personally, the only swimming –related problem I’ve ever had is swallowing to much water, and dealing with the stomach-cramping effects of that.
Biking– the major cause of bike-related injuries, in my own and from personal experience, is due to crashing. Fortunately, the crashes that caused me injury haven’t involved someone else, just me and the road. Never broken a bone because of cycling, just skin, knock on wood. Right now, I’ve got a couple of fresh wounds thanks to an unfortunate incident with my aerobars yesterday. I won’t post photos of them because that’s just gross.
Running– a completely different beast! I have suffered so many injuries thanks to running, that a logical person would just give up the sport. Not so for me. I love running, but hate the injuries. Currently, I’m suffering from a tibial stress fracture, see Exhibit A.
But I’m not alone. Even elite runners (e.g. Paula Radcliffe, Michael Wardian) get sidelined by injuries, so it’s important not to fall into negative thinking. As a recreational athlete, getting injured doesn’t mean that I’m wasting my time trying to pursue a passion that will never amount to anything. The key is that I’m pursing my passion. Anything worth doing is going to have both ups and downs, and it’s essential to persevere through the low points.
Whether it’s knee pain, plantar fasciitis, a stress fracture, or some other musculoskeletal problem, we all had stories to share, and also ways to cope, both physically and mentally.
Nearly everyone is bound to get injured from running at some point. Even if it doesn’t seem like an injury but just a small discomfort, DON’T IGNORE IT!! Don’t wishfully think that it’ll go away if you keep on running with that discomfort. I am blessed/cursed with a high tolerance for pain, so that pain that seems minor to me would probably already have had someone else packing for the doctors weeks ago. So if something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out immediately!
I know my hesitation with going to a doctor is that I’m a self-professed know-it-all, plus I hate how most doctors seem to be completely anti-exercise. They’d be more than happy to prescribe total bed-rest and would wag their tongues when I tell them I want to continue working out. I finally went to an orthopaedist who himself is a runner. So that is also important- go to a sports doctor or one who is athletically-inclined himself/herself. These are ones who will be sympathetic to your pursuits. Sure, they will still tell you that rest is necessary, but also tell you what alternative activities you can do.
For me, I was afraid that, once I got the MRI report that said that, yes indeed, I do have a stress fracture in my tibia, I wouldn’t be allowed to do anything except swim and deep-water aquajog. So you can imagine my surprise and joy when this orthopaedist said that I could do not only that, but bike and use the elliptical! Normally, I hate working out in a gym, but I using the elliptical is better than not doing any weight-bearing exercise for 8-10 weeks.
I’ve got some great ideas for aquajogging workouts from http://www.eatrunread.com/2011/07/best-pool-runningaqua-jogging-workouts.html. Even for someone like me, who has nerves of steel and can soldier through multi-hour workouts alone, without external stimulation, aquajogging is a tough activity in which to remain focused for very long. Thanks to interval workouts that I’ve modified, I’ve been able to do 2 ½ hour of aquajogging without getting bored or losing focus. And I’ve felt like it’s been a really got workout in the process! Because you’re in deep water, it has zero impact, so I would highly recommend aquajogging for any kind of injury. All you need is a flotation belt, which should be part of the facility’s equipment made available for public use. Again, definitely check out the above blog for workout ideas. If you have any specific questions re: aquajogging, feel free to ask me!
For workouts on the elliptical machine, I get some very helpful information on http://runnersconnect.net/Supplemental/Elliptical-Training.pdf. Usually, what I’ve done with the past when forced to use the elliptical is to set a moderately high slope along with a moderately-high resistance. And then I’ve always wondered how it’s supposed to be a good alternative for running when the motion is nothing like it! The key is that you DON’T want a high slope. The slope should be set pretty low so that it more-closely mimics running. The resistance can be adjusted as needed to vary the intensity. The most important thing, however, is to achieve a cadence of 160-180 strides/min. This field isn’t something you need to calculate; most, if not all, elliptical machines provide this data field. Why 160-180? The ideal running cadence is 90 steps/minute. Since 1 step = 2 strides, the magic number on the elliptical should be 180. But, until you try it, you have no idea how difficult it can be! Well, you could set the resistance to 1, but then you’re just throwing your legs back and forth and looking silly. Check out the site for more info, or, again, contact me if you have any questions.
In summary, never hesitate to get checked out if something feels off, but find a qualified professional who at least understands the mindset of an athlete. And find a friend or colleague with whom to talk, possibly even commiserate. And discover alternative activities you can do to keep up your fitness. Even if you’re relegated to a stationary machine in a gym, find ways to make it challenging so you can keep yourself motivated! Remember that cross-training is great for the body!
If all else fails, just grit your teeth and persevere- that’s what I do 🙂