Aaron Pidgeon writes about his personal experiences as a runner and a sports massage therapist.
There are few worse things than building up your physical fitness only to have it taken away by getting an injury. From Superman to super failure! I have been there quite a few times over the years in my sporting endeavours. So how do you rebuild? And what is to be expected on your return? Mentally speaking, you’re more than willing to get back out there but is the body ready for that 5km run? The physio might have given you the all clear but what do you need to watch out for?
There are some key points to bear in mind as you lace up your running shoes:
- Your cardiovascular fitness has been set back and needs retraining. Because of this, your blood supply is not as rapid as before, so your arterial flow is not as efficient at bringing oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to your muscles, and your venous return is slower at taking away waste products from your muscles.
- Neural pathways have slowed down, so your reflexes are slower and need to be fine-tuned again.
- Your muscles have atrophied, so you need to build strength up.
- There might be local scar tissue, which needs time to heal to prevent further injury and localised swelling.
- Where you’ve been injured, the local muscle group will be guarding the injured area, leading to tension in the muscles. This can result in other areas of your body over-compensating for the weak area, which can lead to secondary injury or pain.
The key to a successful return to running is patience. You need to set up a plan for a slow build-up and – importantly – stick to it. You cannot skip steps.
Management of expectations is vital: understand your physical limitations and try to keep a check on over-confidence. You might be pain-free and excited about getting back out there, but recognise that your body needs time to build its strength back up in the various areas mentioned above.
Start at the beginning: do a brisk walk for ten minutes, then some dynamic movement (warm-up) specific for your injury and any rehab exercises you’ve been advised to do. After your run don’t forget to warm down the body and end with specific stretches around your injured site.
- keep checking your watch
- worry about speed or distance
- ignore body signs – if you feel pain or discomfort, stop and stretch
- push yourself too hard
- compare yourself to the fitness of others:
Everyone has a different pace, so don’t feel bad if you aren’t keeping up with that seasoned runner who just passed you. While it can be fun (and beneficial) to run alongside someone who challenges your time, when you first start, your focus should be on completing that training set, not setting a PB
- stick to a training schedule
- alternate walking with running
- cross train to build overall fitness
- wear the right running shoes to prevent injury
- be patient!
On your road back from injury it is important to consult a sports massage therapist who can assess your level of fitness, guide you on appropriate exercise, and work with you to build a routine that will maximise your recovery times.
Aaron Pidgeon is an Australian sports massage therapist and naturopath with twenty years experience in the alternative health and fitness industry. After training as a medic in the Australian army, Aaron achieved his diploma in Applied Science(Naturopathy) and diploma of Remedial Therapies. Aaron has worked with professional football and rugby teams and also ran a sports clinic in the exclusive Alpine resort of Courcheval 1850, France. He has recently returned to London from Sydney where he was working with the ex-Wallabies physio in private practice.
For further advice or information on running, injuries or sports health issues please feel free to contact him on 07405 822 643