It’s been 106 days since the Commonwealth Games, which means it has been 106 days without running. However, this week marked the end of the running hiatus as the red light switched to green, and I was told I can begin the return to running. It won’t be quick, and I definitely won’t be getting outside for a 20 min jog let alone a session, but the build can begin, which is VERY exciting.
What does this look like?
If you are someone that has never had a serious injury, or you are not a runner, you may be wondering what the return to running looks like? Well, it is very very gradual. The first few ‘runs’ will predominantly be walking with a few minutes of running. For example, I will be starting with 9 minutes walking followed by 1 minute running x4. The walking will then gradually reduce as the amount of running increases. The goal after 4 weeks is to be running 3 miles continuous. This will then slowly build before intervals are slowly reintroduced. It is a long process, but doing it cautiously is the most important thing. Mostly because, I do not want to end up with another injury because I did too much too soon.
This is the point where I have to control my determination and excitement. It is easy to get carried away as soon as the word running is mentioned, but I have to remain patient and remember that the process is a very gradual one.
Where will I be running?
When returning to running, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. One of these is the surface I will run on. Sometimes soft ground is better, but most of the time this can be uneven and bring the risk of rolling your ankle. I will therefore do my build up on the treadmill. For now, the treadmill is the best place to run as I can control most variables and simply focus on running strong and stable. My Noble Pro treadmill will therefore be my safe haven for the next while.
What else will I do?
Now running is returning, it is the priority. Therefore it will be done on fresh legs before I do any other training. However, I also want to stay fit, and whilst the running is very low, cross training will help keep my fitness. My training will therefore continue to mostly be cross training so the fitness does not fade. The amount I do on the elliptical will however slowly increase so more training is fully weight bearing, but I will continue to do sessions on the bike or in the pool.
When can I race again?
This is still a very unknown question. It is too early to be able to put a race in the diary as we do not know how the build up will go, but it is also not a pressure that I need to put on myself yet. Racing is something that is at the back of my mind until I am at a stage where I’m running higher volumes/intensities. Once I’m at this stage, then we will be able to set a race goal.
This is just the start of a very gradual build up, but I’ll keep you updated along the way and take you on the journey with me. I’m very excited just to take a few steps to start with.
Whether you are injured or not, or training for yourself or to perform on the world stage, cross training can have many benefits to running. Gradually, more and more people are employing cross training as part of their standard running training schedule, but why is it so good? And what benefits can it have?
Less impact. As obvious as it is, running is a high impact sport. With every stride, a lot of impact and force goes through each leg. As a result, our body can take quite the battering on a regular basis. If you want to increase your mileage, but don't quite have the body to withstand higher mileage, cross training can be a life saver. It allows you to increase your training volume, whilst limiting the amount of extra impact on your body. Instead of adding an additional easy run, you could get in the pool for half an hour, or do an easy spin on the bike. This can have the same cardiovascular benefit, but without putting your body under too much extra stress, something that would come with adding more mileage.
Refresh legs. If training is starting to catch up with you and your legs are really feeling it, opting for a cross training day can be immensely beneficial. If you allow the strain of running to be taken off your legs by having a cross training day when you’re feeling tired, you won’t regret it the following day. Just giving yourself that little bit of extra time to actively recover can be the difference between having another sub par tired session, or feeling fresh and ready to get after it. I tend to solely cross train on a Saturday because after some big sessions during the week, it allows my body to refresh and recover ahead of my long run on a Sunday. I have had many a time where I have been so grateful for this, because it’s allowed me to feel strong going into my long run and help avoid injuring something from running on tired legs.
Works different muscles. Us runners love to run. If we always did what we wanted when it comes to training, we would run miles and miles. Consequently, our bodies get very good at using the same muscles. Of course this is great when it comes to improving our running, however, if we put some of our non running muscles to work, we may find we actually improve even more. For example, cycling uses different muscles to running, and working these too, can add benefits to our running that we didn't know we needed. It also allows those running muscles to recover, whilst using other muscles.
Mental variation. Whilst you may not think you need it, sometimes it is good to spice things up. Our brains are lazy, and once they figure out how to do something more easily, we can become complacent without even realising. Cross training allows us to work at intensities we aren’t used to, and therefore allows us to push ourselves more at times without realising . It therefore keeps our brains able to work our bodies hard without always knowing where our limits lie.
Whilst we LOVE to run, we all need a bit of a refresh from time to time. Adding a form of exercise that isn’t running gives you some time away from the sport, enabling you to enjoy those moment spent running even more. When you may start to feel tired, and your motivation may begin to slide a little bit, replacing running with cross training for a day or two reminds you how much you love it. You therefore approach your next run with increased motivation.
Other social circles. It sounds crazy, but not everyone likes to run. However, most people enjoy keeping active. Opting for a bit of cross training allows you to get some time in with friends who may not like running. I find having a bit of non-running chat also allows me to keep perspective whilst appreciating other forms of movement that people do outside of running.
Next time you're tempted to increase your mileage, but you don’t think your body would thank you, choose a form of cross training. Any movement is good movement, and all forms of cross training will benefit your running in some way, so get stuck in, and enjoy doing something a little bit different.
We all know what the physical side of injury looks like and how you deal with this. You find the problem, let it heal, strengthen it, make changes, and continue to look after it. However, the mental side needs similar treatment, but is often neglected, mostly because it is not visible. When you get injured, your mind does as well, because dealing with injury can be just as painful as the injury itself. I thought I would use this blog to explore what the emotions of injury look like, how they have changed, and how I have dealt with them.
Whether you are someone that just loves to move your body, or a professional athlete, there is a sense of loss when you get injured. I was losing something that holds a massive place in my life. Having this taken away, left me with a feeling of sadness. Suddenly my mode of release/escapism was gone.
As a result, I had to look elsewhere. I had to uncover other hobbies that I perhaps don’t usually have time for. I also tried to do some form of training each day. Whether it was simply stretching, or as time went on, getting in the pool/on the bike, I made sure to enjoy other modes of movement to give me a sense of purpose.
I also found it helpful to fill my time with other positive things, such as seeing friends and spending time with my dogs. This helped to prevent me from dwelling by spending too much time on my own.
When my foot started to hurt, especially at the time that it did, I felt very confused. I would constantly ask myself, why me and not someone else? I did not understand why I had to be taken out with an injury whilst at the biggest race of my life so far. What did I do to deserve this? However, overtime, I have come to understand this.
I now see that every journey is different. Nobody is destined to follow the same path as somebody else. Whilst it may not have been the one that I would have chosen at the time, I truly feel that everything works out in the end and this is just part of my journey. Rather than forcing things, injury has shown me to appreciate every step and to go with the flow of my body, because you never know what is coming next for you. If you force anything in life, it is less likely to flow naturally.
Can’t put my finger on it.
Some days I just feel out of sorts. My brain feels up then rapidly down. I don’t feel sad, but I don’t feel happy. I want to cry then I feel fine. These sporadic and unexplained emotions have been difficult to deal with. I have felt confused by my own emotions because I don’t understand what I am actually feeling.
However, I have began to realise that it is ok to feel whatever I am feeling, even if it doesn’t make sense. We are allowed to feel whatever emotions strike us. Therefore, I chose to roll with my emotions, not beat myself up over how I feel, and know that every feeling will pass. It is only natural to go through the motions.
I find it easier to move through the emotions by talking about how I feel. Sometimes the feelings do not make sense inside my mind, but as soon as I put them all out in the open, however disjointed they may seem, they make a lot more sense.
When injury struck, one of the thoughts that flooded my mind was, ‘Am I wasting my life?’. I have chosen to give a lot of my life to running, which can be a gamble, because you never know when you could be taken out with injury. When running was suddenly taken away from, I began to question my decisions and whether I was doing the right thing. It can be risky giving so much to one thing.
However, these doubts that come with injury have only ever done one thing for me. They have always confirmed how much I love this sport and how much I want to chase after my dreams. I am not willing to give up on my dreams, and injury only confirms this. In the end, running brings me an immense amount of happiness, and if this is all it ever does, that is enough for me. No time is ever wasted spent happy, therefore no time spent focusing on running is a waste, regardless of the outcome.
I find that these heavier emotions, such as doubt, always tend to lead towards feelings of happiness. I have started to believe that injury is something to embrace. It is my opportunity to become a stronger and better athlete.
If someone came up to you and said, do you want to become a stronger, faster, and better athlete, both physically and mentally, you’d 100% say yes. Chances are, they would probably then throw an injury at you. If you can get through these difficult moments, you can overcome anything. Therefore, injury is opportunity disguised as upset.
As my injury has progressed, and the end has become in sight, I feel very determined. Don’t get me wrong, some days are still a lot harder than others, but I am SO ready to tackle whatever is thrown my way. I am ready to work hard and chase down my goals, but by enjoying every step of the journey, because as I said, you never know what is going to happen next.
When I feel determined, I know it is important to embrace those emotions, but also to remind myself that patience is key. The route to becoming a great athlete is not just through hard work, but also by being smart and sensible. This is something I have definitely come to learn more and more.
There are a whole host of other emotions that accompany injury, but I hope this blog shows you, that whatever stage of your journey you are at, whether you are going through an injury or not, it is ok to feel any emotion. They are all valid feelings, and they all have a positive to them however uncomfortable they may feel at the time.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!