I’m frustrated! It’s been going on for too long and I just want it to get better! I want to run properly again!
For the past 10 months, I have been nursing some kind of hamstring or glute injury. Most of the time it doesn’t stop me from running, but it does stop me from running fast. It hurts when I increase the pace and I’m completely fed up with it.
I’ve seen a few different professionals with more in-depth knowledge on these things than I thought I had. As it turned out though, I knew as much or more than all of them. But it was a valuable learning experience, and although it didn’t fix my injury, it did boost my self-confidence 🙂
One other huge benefit l got was the opportunity to access services that ruled out any structural injury. No torn ligaments, no severely damaged muscle, no destroyed nerves. Phew! At least I could look for a solution knowing it was nothing serious.
If my story is familiar to you, keep reading because I have re-learned something I already knew. Something so obvious that, as soon as I discovered it, I couldn’t believe it didn’t click earlier. So, why wasn’t my injury healing?
Simple – I wasn’t giving it a chance to!
Yes, I was resting. Yes, I really backed off from my running. Yes, I was foam rolling and getting deep tissue massages…
But, crucially, I did nothing to actively help my injury heal. What do I mean by that?
The majority of running related injuries (RRIs) are actually some form of damage to our soft tissue. This is our connective tissue: the body-wide network of fascia. And there is only one reason why this happens:
At some point we have overloaded those tissues.
Whether through overuse or a traumatic event (like going over on an ankle), the tissue suffered damage because it couldn’t handle the load put on it. It really is as simple as that.
Now, when the tissue is damaged, it’s ability to handle load is reduced. Often, it is reduced dramatically. This is why your injury might be OK when walking, but as soon as you run, the pain is right back where it was.
Running places extreme loads on those tissues of up to 7.5 times your body weight with each step.
Depending on how you run, those forces will be loaded more or less on different parts of your body. And your body is amazing at adapting to that. But, when something goes wrong, it has to find a new way to handle those forces. Your body needs to rely on different muscles, different areas of soft and connective tissue to take the load.
But what if they can’t?
And here is the very core of The problem. This is why rest alone often doesn’t help as much as we think. This is why rehab exercise on the injured area won’t have the impact we are promised. This is why you have to remortgage your house to keep up with the physio bills!
There is something missing. Something that you’re not doing. But what is it? Can you guess..?
When the body calls on different muscles and fascia to take the load and they can’t step up and take it, your body has no choice other than to use what it has always used: the injured tissues.
You will most certainly use other muscles & fascia, but your body will fall back to what it knows because it simply has no choice.
This is why your injury doesn’t heal.
So what’s the answer? Well, the answer is two-fold:
- Strengthen the structures that should be stepping up to take the load.
- Learn how to use those structures by moving better and in a way that gives the injured tissue a chance to recover.
If your injured structures are still stronger than the structures around it, your body will always use the injured structure leading to continual overuse.
But, by combining all the things you may have already have been doing:
- Running less
- Reducing the intensity
- Foam rolling
- Rehab on the injured area
with strengthening the other structures (muscles and fascia) and learning how to move better and use those structures, you will create the best chance you can for your injury to heal. It will still take time, but you’ll get back to running quicker and be a stronger, faster runner as a result.
This is what we specialise in at RunTeach. We have had remarkable success by following this simple system.
The hard part is knowing what to do and when to do it.
But that’s what we’re here for 😉
So why didn’t I follow my own advice? Well, when do we ever? Isn’t it much easier to help others than ourselves? But I’m pleased to report that I have now been doing exactly that and I’m well on the way to full recovery. Watch out London Marathon!