Ultra running is stressful on the body; repetitive movement, high milage, arguably not enough rest and a gritted determination to never give up. Over-use injuries are probable rather than inevitable but it takes some sensible management to avoid them. I’m not always sensible with myself, yes, happy to advise others on what to do and not to do, but occasionally I should apply that knowledge to myself. So eventually I found myself gym bound due hamstring tendonopathy. I’ve managed this for over two years now but it raised its head again during an interval session in July during which, when the pain level started to creep up, I failed to quit from. I can beat myself up about that for eternity, but that doesn’t get me better and will only get me down so my thoughts turn back to a physio friend of mine who once told me that the best physio is often rest. After an Ultra in Sept and trying to run through it in Oct, I decided to take November off, made a rehab plan and got stuck in.
So for the last month I’ve done all the things which, as a PT I tell other people they should be doing, cross-training and strength work. I’ve run numerous boot camp sessions in between house moves (we are a mobile family) and have always convinced myself that they count as my strength work alongside a few exercises after each run. No doubt, doing the amount of squats, dips and burpees I get to do whilst running sessions is pretty useful but my indifference to the gym was always going to catch up with me. I needed, and have always needed specific strength sessions where the only focus is weight training and plyometrics, not a few (well thought through) exercises shoved on the end of a run. November was the time to reconnect with the indoor gym and, alongside a running buddy, we have ran through every running strength exercise I could think of.
On top of that I’ve got amongst some Sufferfest on the spin bike, I’ve invested in and started using a skipping rope and I’ve even ventured into a pool. I’m not convinced that appearing on the side of the pool wearing my 8 year old sons goggles and clutching his float was the best look, but my swim time is 0600hrs so I guess no one is ever awake enough to bother looking.
And now I find myself at the end of November, I’ve gone beyond the usual body weight exercises and kettlebells which I rotate around after each run, I feel strong, I feel as though I’ve got a spring back in my step and yet there is something hanging over my head. I’m scared of what that first run will feel like. I’m walking pain free and have made sure that I’ve done a week of being pain free before running again so why am I scared?
I’m not worried that my CV will be shot, I’ve done enough on the bike and I’m experienced enough to know that it will always improve again. I guess that I’m worried that the pain will come back and that I will be back to square one. I’m scared that I’ve grown a bit too accustomed to the nice warm gym and that the biting cold will be just too miserable, I’m worried that I’ve left it all too late and that my training program isn’t enough to cope with next year.
So, what to do? I’ve recruited my one and only running buddy for my first run out so that I can be distracted and not focus on my niggling hamstrings, I will try a bit of mindfulness and attempt to concentrate on the ‘now’ and not on what pain might be around the corner and I will have faith in my training program. At the end of the day, I don’t earn a living from running so why feel so pressured. I have numerous friends and ex-colleagues who have returned from military Operations missing limbs so I feel enormous gratitude for everything that I am able to do. I will go out and enjoy running in the cold, soak in the beauty of the last autumn leaves clinging on to the frozen trees and be thankful that I have running in my life at all.