I’ve Reinjured Myself…Dagnabbit!
How it happened, how I’m going to recover, and what changes I'm going to make to prevent this from EVER happening again!
In the very first blog post I wrote a few years ago (Lessons from an Injured Runner), I detailed my experience with my first significant running injury: A Stress Fracture on my Tibia. Up until that point, I had never dealt with any significant injury. It was a big shock to have to hang up my running shoes for several months and also to realize that I could even be seriously injured. When nothing like that has ever happened before, you never expect it to happen at all.
Fortunately, after several months of resting and waiting, I was back to running. All that much more appreciative of running and all that it gives me: an outlet of frustration, a sense of community, sense of purpose and pride and so much more. I put in some of my best runs after that. Completing my first Marathon, raking in PBs in short as well as longer distance races. All in all, it seemed like that injury was behind me and I was getting stronger and stronger as the months went on. Things seemed to be on their way up, which is why what happened next came as a complete shock.
I was in full training mode for my next race: The 2020 Veterans Day 10k, which I had participated in many times in honor of my late Grandfather. After a training run one evening, where I ran at 6:30min/mile for 3 miles and then 7:30min/mile for another 3 miles after (trying to do a combination of a tempo and long-distance run), I started to feel a slight pressure on my Tibia at the site of my old injury. I felt concerned but not overly so. It wasn't the first time I felt the occasional pain in that area from months prior.
I opted to do another training session two days later and see how it felt. This time only doing 5 miles at a steady pace of 7:30min/mile. Yet again, afterward, I felt pressure in the area. Temporary pains, for me, happens quite often, but whenever it turns into pain that persists for several sessions, then you know somethings wrong.
Feeling concerned, I put a halt to my running training and turned to only doing workouts on the Stationary Bike. It sucked that I couldn’t run, but at least I did have one activity that I felt as though I could push myself in. I switched to using Zwift Ride to do some training sessions and races. After all, I had observed that doing Stationary Bike workouts still did contribute to Running fitness. However, after a month of only doing Stationary Bike workouts, I still felt pressure in my Tibia. This time, however, it was turning into full-blown pain in that area.
This is how I knew, my Stress Fracture…was back :(
Road to Recovery
I’m currently still in the Recovery Phase. These are the things I’m focusing on doing at the moment:
Seek Medical Advice
I’ve already seen my Primary Care Physician who referred me to a specialist I had worked within the past. After taking X-Rays they weren't really able to determine if the Stress Fracture was back. But my report of pain to the Specialist made them assume the worst. Apparently, because it was a Chronic Injury (an injury that has been around for a while or you’ve had in the past) it becomes difficult to tell if the Fracture is back or is unrelated pain. But they thought it best to assume the Fracture is back at this point.
So you can tell, overall not the most definitive diagnosis. But that's how injuries can be, unfortunately. Uncertain and Annoying!
There’s really nothing else I can do. If I want this Stress Fracture to heal and heal for good, I need to rest and let my body do its thing.
Several Doctors (my Primary Care Physician, the Specialist, and even my sister whose a world-renowned Podiatrist) have mentioned to me that Cycling is something I can do during this injury as it is low impact. This allows me to get my heart rate up while not putting too much pressure on my leg and allowing it to heal.
The thing is…I don’t think they know what kind of Cycling workouts I do. They probably meant for me to just sit on the bike and do some light spinning. But my workouts are somewhat…more intense than that. If I hear I can Cycle, then that means I feel like I can do long Cycling workouts for several hours or do some heavy interval exercises where I’m pushing at 350 Watts for a few minutes.
After a month of no running and only this type of cycling I described above, I felt like my leg wasn't getting better, but rather getting worse. Finally, I put two and two together: the way I was Cycling was not conducive to my body being able to heal. I finally told myself: No More.
It's now been several months of resting and I’m looking ahead to when I can start rebuilding. A key part of making this rebuilding successful and preventing re-injury is going to be to do Physical Therapy. For me, this consists of doing several strength training exercises to strengthen my Calves, Hips, Core, and other areas that may have atrophied while resting.
Dust Off the Boot
By Boot, I mean an Aircast Boot used to reduce pressure on my Tibia for when you’re walking. I used one during my first injury and I was proud to say that it has been collecting dust since. But now that the injury is back, I’m back to instituting the same protocol that I had before. This means, wearing the boot whenever I go out walking.
Explore Other Interests
Being Reinjured actually seems worse than the first-time. Yes, that first-time was a big challenge mentally, but this time makes me feel as though my body is somehow failing me. I have so many races and events I want to take part in, and this reinjury makes me feel as though I will never be able to get to those. In my mind I think: if it happened once, it can happen twice, if it happened twice it can continue to happen! These thoughts have introduced a lot of stress and uncertainty in my life. To avoid that, I’ve opted to try and take my mind off it as best as I can and explore other interests. Things like reading Sci-Fi books, Golfing, writing and so much more.
Vitamins and Nutrition
On top of a clean diet, I’m currently taking additional supplements in the event that my body needs additional Vitamins and Minerals to heal the injury. This includes vitamin D, vitamin C, and Calcium.
Avoid Touching the Injury
In the beginning, I was putting pressure on the Stress Fracture, by pushing down on it with my index finger, almost every day to test it to see if it was improving. Now, of course, I feel as though this was actually preventing it from healing and I was actually doing more damage over time. Not only that, but this actually became a bit of a habit and I was regularly “checking” the injury. Funny how my own impatience caused more damage. At a certain point, I realized this and forced myself to stop and just take my mind off the injury and let it heal.
Rome wasn't built in a day and injuries don’t go away in one either! Every day I have to constantly remind myself that I need to stay patient and trust that the injury will go away soon. Only then can I finally get back to what I love to do.
While I’m still in recovery, I already have a plan for how I’m going to proceed when I’m going to rebuild. Here are some things I intend to do:
So important it’s worth throwing in this list twice!
Endurance Sports is a delicate balance between training (destroying your muscle) and rest (letting your muscles rebuild larger) for the next round of training. It's when your training too much is when your muscles can’t adequately return to form when you start to run into issues. My goal for the future will be to rest more than what I’ve done in the past. Especially during training blocks.
Less Emphasis on Running and More on Strengthening
I’ve heard some of the most successful Marathon and Ironman Athletes talk about those events not as an “Endurance” sport, but as a “Strength Endurance” sport. A sport where you have to be able to maintain strength, form, and speed for a long period of time. After thinking of it from that angle, it made a lot of sense and can also help guide you on how to prevent injury while running.
In many cases, running injuries occur due to a lack of muscle strength in a particular area of your body. In my case, it was an instance of running too often and thus my muscles were not able to fully regenerate and my bones having to bear more and more pressure over time. When I’m back to running, I intend to spend more time in the gym doing strength exercises and continuing to do some form of Physical Therapy.
This is something that I’ve been doing quite a bit of since my first instance of the injury. I’ve gotten really into Cycling and now have many fitness goals that include this activity. But I now want to take this a step further with such things as Swimming and other forms of Strengthening I mentioned above.
GRADUAL Build of Distance
In the past, there was never a strategy I used to determine how far I could safely run the following week. I just figured my legs could carry me any distance and it was more about acclimating my legs to being able to cover that distance in a certain amount of time. Now, after several injuries, it's become abundantly apparent that I’m not actually able to determine how far I can safely run. To that end, I will be trying out the 10% Rule (10PR) (basically stating that you shouldn’t increase your distance any more than 10% from week to week) to determine how far I can safely run from week to week.
Dedicated Training for Speed
In the beginning, I described what I feel led to this re-injury as me essentially combining two types of workouts: A Tempo Run and a Distance Run. Moving forward, I am going to ensure that I’m working on one thing at a time. If I need to do a speed session then do a dedicated speed session at a track. If I need to do an endurance run then do a dedicated endurance run but don't run too fast.
Is there anything else you think I should do? Comment below :)
Hopefully, this story of mine helps you to avoid injury or help give you ideas on what you can do to recover from your own injury.