I started running in 2015 and I had never encountered a big injury until last year when I had to deal with two. However, once I was completely healed from these setbacks, my running became better. Want to know how? Read further the learn how I dealt (and learned) from it.
Focus on recovery
So with my first injury, I literally had no idea what to do since I had never encountered a situation like this before. The first thing I did was book an appointment with my doctor and later with a physical therapist. I really recommend doing this, since these people have the needed knowledge to get you back on track.
For me, it was quite the adjustment to not be able to train. The first two weeks, I only went to the physical therapist but, after checking with him, I started cycling a lot. It is a good alternative for running to keep your endurance without putting too much strain on your body.
I also focused a lot on eating fresh vegetables and fruits and a lot of protein. It is important to focus on the latter, since your body needs it to recover more quickly. For those who are afraid of putting on extra weight could focus on lowering their carb intake (smaller portions), but I would never recommend to cut it completely out of your diet, since it is an important macronutrient which your body needs.
As mentioned before, I started cycling. I had never liked cycling, nor did I have a special bike (those are really expensive…). Thus, I started doing trips between the 50-60K on my old school bike. I didn’t go fast, but I loved being able to move my body again.
One time, I did a 135K trip which took met 7h and after that, I decided to buy myself a proper bike. You do not have to go crazy expensive, if you just do it as an alternative. I, for example, bought a bike of €300 and I have done quite some distance with it already and it has never failed me.
Once I injury started to get better (not cleared for running yet) I started to focus more on strength training. Thanks to the physical therapist, I had discovered my weak points so I could focus on improving them. I had done strength training in the beginning, but never really that specified. So you can imagine that it really helped me to get stronger in my ‘weak’ areas.
I did not do this, because do to COVID-19 it was too much of a dazzle (in my opinion) to book a swimming appointment. But I know plenty of runners that choose this option, since it really engages all of your muscles without the strain that you would normally feel.
Back to running
A mistake a lot of people make when they (finally) can start running again after an injury is that they go too fast too soon. Or too far. It is really really really important to take it slow. The first week, I only went for two runs in which I did not run more than five times five minutes of running following with some walking. However, I was beyond happy that I could finally run again!
Instead of focusing too much on improving my running, I started incorporating more strength training into my schedule as well as cycling. When I started to run more and more again, I diminished my cycling distances and started doing strength training 2-3 times a week.
Because I was able to keep my endurance (cycling) and to improve my weak spots (strength training), my body was better prepared for tougher sessions and longer distances. If I would not haven been injured, I would never have started with cycling nor would I focus that much on strength training.
To give some idea about my progress; before my injuries I would never have imagined myself running at a pace of 4:30 and now I can ‘easily’ run at this pace for two kilometers without being dead afterwards. I can also step out of the door and run (almost) whatever distance I would like to run. I guess it is safe to say that I really learned a lot from my injuries. And you know what they say;
The comeback is always stronger than the setback
*little side note I want to add: this post might seem like I was not that frustrated that I could not run, but believe me, every time I saw someone running my heart kinda broke. It is totally fine to feel unmotivated to do anything else the first few days/ weeks, but it is important to start focusing on other things instead that can improve your running once your are cleared to go again.