A lot of people have asked me how I came back from a serious injury so quickly. This is a longer post for me, so grab your coffee because it will be a while. After four months, I’m finally running confidently. While it seems like I’ve come back fast, I’m not recovered or in “peak shape” yet. It may seem like it’s been a fast recovery period but in reality it’s been 4 months. Time keeps on ticking…into the future…
Right now I’m nowhere near peak condition but I’m not gimping around from an injury…nor am I claiming I’m still “in recovery mode”. In my mind (knock on wood), I’m just training. I’m in a weird limbo zone of not injured but not in shape either. I’m just continuing to build my base up.
The base is the most important part of your running. Without a strong foundation laid slowly brick by brick, your running will crumble. As I’ve learned, consistency is one of the most important aspects of base building.
For a brief time line: I woke up August 22nd with a bruised and swollen foot. I have absolutely no idea what happened or where it came from. It was later confirmed (after an MRI and X-ray) that I had a stress fracture. It didn’t happen during a run and honestly I don’t know how it happened. When I first woke up, I thought I had walked into a wall. I just thought I had bruised my foot. After getting out of bed, I realized it was something more severe.
My best guess is the cause was hard training for 2 years and not enough time off. I took sporadic weeks and a couple of months off but I did a lot of hard training and I think it all finally caught up to me. So my injury began August 22.
From August 22 to September 21st, I did not run at all. After being in a boot a couple of weeks, I did light cross training but focused on just relaxing and resting. Since the boot was removable, I could have cross trained through the injury but I opted to rest.
It seemed stupid (because it is) to remove a boot or cast so that you can go to the gym. In my mind there wasn’t a desperate need to train. I’m not on a collegiate team anymore, I’m not elite and my life does not depend on running…so I didn’t stress about cross training. it’s weird for me to look back and say I was strangely at peace with my injury. After everything leading up to August, I’m not sure I wanted to run the Wineglass marathon anymore.
My doctor cleared me to run 1 mile on September 22. The doctor (as well as myself) did not believe the injury was as severe (closer to a reaction than fracture) because it did not happen during a run.
I had been out of the boot for a two weeks and had no pain (or gimp) when walking around. I had cross trained and been on my foot with no pain or issue.
After my checkup I ran the mile. I was told to “see how it goes, if it hurts stop. It doesn’t hurt, still stop after a mile”. During the run and directly after I felt fine. The next day my foot didn’t feel great so I waited another two weeks before running again. The day after running the single mile my foot had minor swelling and was achy. It seemed like I had taken a step back in recovery. I truly believe that mile cost me a couple of weeks of recovery. Oh well, you live and learn.
Around mid October I slowly began running again. I kept to running 1-2 miles outdoors as well as running several miles on the alter G at work.
Week 1-4: Almost complete rest. Weeks 1-3 were complete rest and a bit of cross training week 4. Nothing more than 30 minutes and nothing strenuous.
Week 5: 1 mile (regrettable). I honestly wish I had never run this mile and waited another week or 2.
Week 6: No running. I did cross train a few times but nothing more than 30-45 minutes. I alternated between the AMT as well as a standard elliptical.
Week 7: 3 miles outside, 15 miles Alter G (70% body weight). Each mile felt good (unlike 2 weeks ago).
Week 8: 6 miles outside, 15 miles Alter G (70% body weight)
Week 9: 20 miles outside
Week 10 and beyond (I’m at week 17 now):
I have built up from there. The biggest jump for me was between week 8 and week 9. I wasn’t sure how my body would take that big of a jump. I went from 6 miles to 20 miles. All of these miles were very easy (between 10-12 minute miles).
Was it the smartest idea? No but I lucked out. As I continue to build my base, I continue to monitor my foot as well as overall body feelings. If I feel any pain, I take a rest day.
Just because I’m almost over the hump with one injury does not mean I am out of the clear of a completely different injury. I’ve had a minor hiccup a few weeks ago where my plantar fascia was sore. I quickly scheduled a deep tissue massage and it went away within a day.
There were a few things (with nutrition and health), I questioned when I was diagnosed with a stress fracture. I questioned my bone density. I have a regular period (and always had) but getting a stress fracture made me worry about my hormones and bone density. After being diagnosed, I wanted my bone density and hormones checked. Overall health is more important to me than logging miles. Both my hormone levels and bone density came back normal.
Before getting my stress fracture I normally got roughly 100% of my daily required calcium intake through food. I also took a calcium supplement daily (So in total I was in taking between 100-150% of my calcium daily).
After my diagnosis, I upped my calcium intake and am currently in taking 200% of my calcium daily (from milk, cheese and dairy…IE food) as well as taking a calcium supplement twice daily.
Throughout this injury I’ve done a lot of little things that have helped me to come back. I took time off, I ate foods that helped me nutritionally and I’ve paid more attention to myself both physically and mentally. I think it’s important to look at a multiple prong attack plan. Just resting or just eating well would probably not allow me to come back stronger.
So where does this take me now?
I’ve been running well. I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous marathon experiences. In both NYCM and preparing for Wineglass I believe I was overtrained. Last May-June I was having very successful 20 mile runs (for a race that wasn’t until October). I fear if I waited until the fall doing the same type of training again I would be overtrained again.
That is why I’ve chosen to sign up for the Phoenix Full Marathon on February 28th.
It will be roughly 4 months post injury. I think it gives me a short but doable training cycle. Will it be a sub 3 hour full marathon? No, probably not. My primary goal is to make it to both the start and finish lines healthy. I would by lying if I said I wasn’t nervous but I think I’m sitting at a good spot right now. I’ve completed a 17 miler 2 months out (with the hopes to complete a 20 miler in the next 2 weeks). It gives me enough time to build fitness but not enough time to overdo it. Due to course differences and logistics, I might be able to take a stab at my marathon PR (3:17). Phoenix is much easier and low key race compared to New York. I’m also not driving 2000 miles prior.
Who knows what the future holds? As always thank you to my family, friends and readers for your support throughout the last four months. 💁💁
Questions for you:
How do you build a strong foundation post injury?
What is your average marathon training cycle length?