Injury is something that almost every runner will have to deal with at some point in their running career. Injuries can be something mild that will be able to heal in a week or less while others can be more serious chronic injuries that take a considerable amount of time to get over. Getting a serious injury in running can be a devastating experience taking you out of doing what you love but it is important to keep your head up in these times to come back even stronger.
In the fall of 2019 only a week after my first race as a collegiate cross country runner I was sidelined by stress fractures in both tibias. Prior to this injury I had avoided Under doctor’s orders, this injury put me in a walking boot and kept me out of running completely for an entire month. Getting over this injury wasn’t easy and I am still struggling with it here and there but through all the trial and error I can better deal with injuries today.
Because this injury forbid me from running I was left only with low-impact cross training options for cardio training. In the beginning the pain in my shins was still intense so I limited myself to swimming for the first week. Swimming is a great workout to try while you can’t run because it provides good cardiovascular exercise and works virtually every muscle in your body, which can help to correct muscular imbalances that you may have helping to prevent injuries later.
I later started to incorporate stationary biking as my main source of cardio each day after a week once my shins were feeling a little better. I was still swimming here and there as well on top of biking, getting quality cardio in each day for 3 weeks until I was healed enough to take off the walking boot.
Once the boot was off I was given permission by the athletic training staff at my school to start using a Boost treadmill which allowed me to run while only taking the impact of 30% of my body weight. This was exciting because it meant I could finally get back into running motions but unfortunately the buildup of speed on the machine would be very gradual. Since I was only allowed to be on the machine about 40 minutes at a time I still had to cross train for another 50 minutes to an hour to get the 90 minutes of cardio that I wanted to get each day.
Soon this process of running on the boost and cross training after became very monotonous and the quality of my workouts declined due to a lack of motivation caused by that monotony and the slow build up of things. This trend continued into that winter break and since the school facilities would be closed I could no longer run on the boost. During this break I had to resort back to doing walking and jogging intervals, Increasing in jogging time until I could jog for 30 minutes and then adding 5 minutes each week.
As I continued to add more mileage each week I finally felt ready to start doing workouts again once I was running around 5 miles a day. Although my workouts were adjusted to be shorter because I was coming off of an injury, the intensity was not. This eventually led to me experiencing shin pain once again.
When this happened I knew I had to do something different. I knew that to really get better I would have to allow the deep seeded injury to heal so for a few weeks I took things really easy and took a new approach to recovery that proved to be more effective. After doing a little more research on medial shin injuries I soon learned that a contributing factor to said injuries was weakness and muscular imbalances in the calves and heels. So with this information I have started to understand my body more and put in the proper strength training on the areas that need it.
On top of the strength training I have also incorporated elliptical training which I had not thought to do before because it didn’t seem to have more of an effect than biking and I could not have been more wrong. I cannot say the same for everyone but as I started to do more elliptical workouts for my cross training, I found it much more entertaining than the swimming and biking that I had done before. I still bike a few times a week to take the stress off of my knees from the elliptical. I have also began to add two interval or faster workouts on both the bike and elliptical which have proven to be extra motivating for me as well because it keeps things interesting by switching things up.
After continuing to cross train each day, building up my running time by 5 minutes each day each week and sticking to my strength training I am finally in a place where I feel like I will be ready to come back into full running in already good shape and have a strong and quick return. Also with the positive results I’ve been having on my road back to running and this new approach to recovery I am confident in the process and have a positive outlook on minimizing injury in the future.