March 11, 2013

Returning to run training after injury

After a four-month complete layoff from running -- which followed more than three months of drastically reduced run training -- I am now slowly easing back into running.

I began by power-walking five weeks ago; if my body, or more specifically my right heel, could not deal with that, it certainly would not be ready to run either.

My injury has been a persistent and mysterious one that has not responded to various types of treatment (ART, IMS, massage) and did not show up on an MRI either. The roller coaster of hope and disappointment has made me extremely cautious; yet the only way to find out if I can run again is by running.

If the injury, resulting in pain in my right heel has not healed by now, after eight months, I need to know. In the past five months, I have taken charge of my own body again by revamping my diet, adding Bikram yoga, as well as bike and swim training. And of course a complete break from running.

By December I was able to walk again without pain. Easy daily walks with the dog, initially flat for about 30 minutes, later moving to the undulating local trails for up to an hour. By then I could also do some simple strengthening exercises like calf raises.

By the third week of January I introduced power walks to my routine, beginning with 45 minutes and increasing them to an hour. I felt comfortable enough to try the steep hike up, and down, the Chief by February 1. As the pain stayed away, I began a very easy walk-run routine on February 3.

It consists of a 20-minute workout with four stretches of running, interspersed with walking. It begins with four and a half minutes of walking, followed by 30 seconds of running, repeated another three times. I don't know anything about the source, but I liked the low-key approach and am using it to build up to running five minutes.

When I can do that, I plan to follow this seven-week returning-from-injury program by running coach Pete Pfitzinger; I am a big fan of his approach to training though his book Advanced Marathoning.

A couple of setbacks have slowed progress but I am ready to run 3-minute stretches tomorrow. So far so good, though the proof will be in the pudding; will the pain stay away?

Yesterday I did my second workout with 2 1/2-minute stretches of running -- it is amazing how long such a short run feels right now, after I thought nothing of going for a mid-week 24K run not that long ago. But I am certainly not complaining -- any running is bliss, and I am loving each second.

As the teachers at Bikram yoga remind me each practice, "You are exactly where you need to be."  

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