Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Marathon training post injury lay-off

Injury is a bane of all experienced/regular runners - having to stay away from something that one is passionate about due to injury of all things is a dreadful phase for a runner to go through. But injuries are a fact of life for runners. There are various statistics floating around about running injuries. One popular one is that 70% of runners will get injured in a given year. Of course this is too vague as both the definition of runner and injury can vary. Another way of looking at it is that in most cases there may not be a strict line between being injured or not. The closest a runner(specially one doing Half marathon and longer distances regularly) maybe to being 'injury-free' is when he/she is able to run freely without pain and even then the runner maybe balancing several weaknesses,imbalances, scar tissues etc.

Fortunately I have  not to be laid of weeks together due to a running related injury since I did my 2nd Full marathon in 2005. Though I have had breaks from running due tom sickness, travel and even just to give my legs and body some rest. However the 2013-14 running season started with injury woes.. While training for TCS 10K 2013 using the 'Run Less, Run Faster' training program from FIRST I got hit with pain in my left calf/ankle   and I had to consult a sports physio and adjust my goal for the race. A week before the race my right calf got hurt so bad that  I had to abandon my medium pace  training run after 2 Km or so and almost decided to skip the TCS 10K. However, I ended up running the race and while trying to push for around 45 minutes time I tore  a muscle in my right calf. Based on the Physio's advice I took 3 weeks completely off from running- doing light cycling, rowing and stretching to keep myself fit. After the TCS 10K race on 19th of May my next run was a slow 10K as part of the Mother Earth run on 9th June!!

Getting back to training after an injury layoff is quite tricky.One should pick up the pace and distance very gradually however much there is temptation to do otherwise due to the eagerness to catch up on lost training time. If the stressing demands of running are introduced at a rate and volume that the body is not ready for—especially after time off after an injury—it makes recovery difficult and makes the body vulnerable to new injuries due to compromised form. The key for a successful return is allowing the soft tissues to have the chance to adapt. More in this article in Competitor - a great online resource for running. As another article in the same site states:

A  running plan post an injury should be formed strategically based on  the following five factors:
  1. 1. The severity of the injury—a stress fracture or injury that required surgery differs vastly from tendonitis.
  2. 2. How long one was  sidelined from running.
  3. 3. One's  fitness level prior to getting injured.
  4. 4. How many years of experience one  have as a runner.
  5. 5. Whether one  could cross-train during the  layoff.

Here's another nice perspective - this one from RunnesConnect on how to get back to training after injury,sickness or missing training.
In my  case after some nice easy runs during the week of 10th June to build mileage I started my training for Airtel Hyderabad marathon 2013 with 6 x 800m intervals at Kanteerva stadium on 19th June jumping into week 10 of the 16 weeks 'Run Less, Run Faster' training program. I did not push myself during the intervals which I was doing after a break of over 2 months. The 33Km slow run up and down Nandi hills on June 23rd was the longest run since SCMM in January 2013. Though exhausted at the end of the run there was no pain in either calf - so my injury seemed to have fully healed.
The next 8 weeks of training went off quite well. Was able to do most of the workouts - skipped a couple of tempo runs and a couple of cycling workouts due to travel. Most of the running workouts went well specially the long runs. Also managed to get in two 33Km runs and one 36Km run. And work out for about 15 minutes on the foam roller and do about 45 minutes of stretching at least once a day while not travelling. This was complimented by strength training - rowing, leg press, calf press, leg raises, squats, lunges, step ups 2 days a week.  My weight varied in the range 118 lbs to 123 lbs and body fat dipped just under 10% for the first time ever. Except during the tapering fortnight , when I am going through the usual jitters, doubts, aches and pains, overall I feel well trained , fitter than ever before and ready for my first marathon of the season!! .

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