Running the 10k after an Injury
I don’t think that anything can replace the feeling of euphoria that running gives me. My ritual: get up in the morning, grab my iPod (batteries charged) and a bottle of water, eat a banana, jump in my tracksuit and sneakers, and get out the door.
I focus on the sky, the neighborhood bathed in the day’s first shower of sunshine, on my regulated breathing, and I feel the air filling my lungs. After that, a jog turns into a sprint. I feel like everything is starting to expand like a balloon – my legs, arms, and chest – but nothing can mess with my focus. The runner’s high is further complemented by the goosebumps that wash over me. The adrenaline takes any feeling of soreness or exhaustion away in an instant.
My whole life I have been dedicated to exercise and fitness. I took on volleyball, swimming, and even tennis at an early age. However, when I was about 16 years old, I found that running was the only activity that kept me “addicted” to itself, and I wasn’t losing any interest. I have run a marathon twice and beat the 10k track four times.
The human body can never be in a condition as flawless not to be prone to injuries. I had smaller injuries, sprains and strains before, but nothing serious that could keep me off the track. And then I met Patellar tendinitis.
For those who don’t know, Patellar tendinitis (“jumper’s knee”) is common among jumpers and distance runners. It occurs when tiny tears in the patellar tendon (which connects the kneecap to the shinbone) strike due to overuse. I had to spend a few months in physical therapy to strengthen and soothe the tendon, and spend some time in the gym to strengthen my quads and hamstrings. Luckily, it’s a common injury, meaning that it was not that severe, so I was able to treat it.
I wanted to start running again as soon as possible, so I made an aggressive treatment approach and built an injury prevention program for the time to come. I got myself a Doyles Physio heating pad on the recommendation of a friend, and had built a routine for preventing leg muscle atrophy and improve healing.
When coming back from an injury, fast workouts are not that important as overall mileage and consistency. After a week of slow runs, I had my first workout – four miles of fast runs, but not a very taxing workout. The goal was to simply run fast to see how my knee responded. After that, I just tested each running variable to increase the effectiveness of the returning process. I ran a bit more slowly than I normally would, a little less than I should, and gradually introduced another training stress. Patience played a major role in my recovery and returning to my normal workload.
Slow Mileage Progression
Last month, I ran a 10k for the first time after my injury, and it was important for me to prioritize mileage rather that fast workouts. This again requires a gradual approach – establish consistency, test and evaluate any existing pain or soreness, and get your legs used to running. Increase the mileage up to your baseline mileage quickly, but after you surpass that limit, it should be done more carefully.
- A short test run to begin with (treadmill)
- Establish consistency – 3-4 days of low mileage
- Further establish consistency – 3-4 days of normal mileage
It was great to start running on a treadmill, because it didn’t place any extra stress on my knee and I was able to stop anytime pain occurred. Once I established consistency, I continued to progress slowly by adding more strenuous trainings such as double sessions, long runs, and workouts.
My last month’s 10k run has eventually brought my security and self-esteem back, because it was the ultimate test of my returnee ability to run. What I want to say to young injured runners is to continue their injury treatment even after the injury heals. Even after you’re healthy, keep integrating treatment steps gradually into your training.
- Samantha Olivier