By Hanna Tarver
Sweating it out 14 months ago on a spin bike I had the European U23 champs in the back of my mind, pushing me through sessions. If I cross trained hard enough for a few weeks I would be able to get back into running without losing too much fitness. At that point I was told I had a strain in my foot which should heal quickly with rest. I embraced the gym life; blinded by sweat and stared at by people walking on treadmills.
It was 3 months later after frustrating cycles of successful, pain free training followed by weeks of rest and cross training when my foot flared up again, before I had an MRI scan showing a Navicular stress fracture. Fortunately it was only 1/3 of the way through the bone so didn’t require surgery and healed after 8 weeks on crutches and 2 further weeks walking in a boot, I was lucky as this bone has a poor blood supply with reduced chance of healing.
Whilst on crutches I was told not to put any weight or stress on my foot which meant I couldn’t even Aqua jog or swim. Therefore I sniffed out the hand bike in need of some sort of exercise – but had to be careful not to develop too much upper body strength.
I also purchased a Compex SP 2.0 muscle stimulator for use on my calf, quads and hamstrings to try to prevent too much muscle atrophy. I would really recommend this device, as although expensive, it helped to maintain muscle and left me with satisfying DOMS!! It also has useful pain relief and recovery programmes.
Returning to running after having long periods off can be a very slow process. I saw three great physios- Alison Rose based in Leeds (Coach House sports physio clinic), Leigh Halfteck based on Wirral and Liverpool (The Chiro Clinic) and Cris Kellet in Cambridge (Progress Health) who were careful not to let me run until I could perform 20 single leg calf raises and hopping to ensure sufficient calf strength to prevent further injury. My foot was stiff and my muscles were not used to running however I gradually made my way through the recovery programme, including up to 2 hours of rehab exercises a day.
I wouldn’t particularly class rehab as fun- it can be very tedious but eventually you will see improvement that will benefit your running and you can make use of time off to work on your weaknesses.
I supplemented running with these great forms of cross training:
Elliptical– Good to simulate steady running- I use it in place of morning runs whilst returning from injury
Spin Bike/ Watt Bike– Good for high intensity interval sessions
Aqua Jogging– Most effective if you do intervals such as 20 x 1min hard, 20 sec easy, you are suspended in the water using a flotation belt and perform a running type action.
Swimming– Can help keep up your aerobic base, I usually incorporate 15-20 min continuous swim before an aqua jogging session.
Hand bike– Last resort if you are in a cast/ boot or can’t weight bear.
Injuries are annoying but you will come out stronger and time off makes you appreciate running even more when you start back again!
‘SLOW PROGRESS IS BETTER THAN NO PROGRESS’