Coming Back from a Running Injury: Recovering Physically and Mentally
By Stephanie Jacob
It started as a nagging tightness in the hamstring after my daily runs. I kept running. Two months later, it was a regular presence on every run -- tightness in the hamstring and a constant pulling sensation where the muscle connected to my pelvic bone. I ran anyway.
After four more weeks, I was reduced to a hobble, as the pain worsened and my entire hip and hamstring area seized with every stride. I tried the standard rehab techniques -- deep tissue massage, icing, ibuprofen, stretching, even a compression wrap. But I kept running too.
Finally, when I couldn't bear the pain any longer, I went to a specialist. Diagnosis: partial tear of the hamstring and a fracture in my pelvis where the hamstring tendon connects to the bone. The original tight hamstring had gotten so bad that it pulled on the bone and led to a fracture. Treatment: no running for eight weeks at minimum and no activity that uses the hamstring for at least three weeks.
As someone whose identity is deeply tied to running, this was a huge blow. But it was also a critical wake-up call. I was convinced I had to run every day, no exceptions. But my body was breaking down, not just the hamstring. I was overtraining. I realized that that in order to be a lifetime runner, I had to take the time to let my body heal from this injury and at the same time address the root causes -- muscle imbalances, bone weakness and overtraining.
The good news is I am on my way back to full health, running steadily 5 to 6 days a week. Although it was a difficult time and a huge challenge to be sidelined with injury, I came out of it learning valuable lessons about dealing with running injuries, how to stay fit when not running, and how to correctly return to running after an extended layoff.
In a series of upcoming stories, I will share some of the things I learned throughout this process, in hopes that it will help you avoid a major running injury or if hurt, deal with the time off and come back as a stronger, smarter runner.
Stephanie is an avid runner and writer living in Atlanta. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Part 1: Training Smarter to Avoid Injury >>
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