Prehab is Always Better than Rehab!

Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoy running so much is because runners, by their very nature, are stubborn creatures and I am as stubborn as they come (just ask my husband!). That stubbornness is what gives us the motivation to get out there when the weather is terrible and we’d rather be on the sofa with a family pack of chocolate; it’s what spurs us on to strive for better, faster running; it’s what gives us the strength to finish a marathon when our bodies are screaming in agony. Unfortunately it’s also what makes us head out for a run when a niggle suggests that rest would be a better idea, often resulting in that niggle turning into an injury that sidelines us for days, weeks, or even months. That family pack of chocolate is never quite as appealing when we can’t head out for a run and burn off all those extra calories!

I haven’t run for about 4 weeks now as I have cultivated a dense knot in my leg muscle which rubs rather uncomfortably against my shin bone during any high impact activities like running. Normally muscle knots can be shifted quite quickly with stretching and foam rolling, but the position of this one means that the only thing that will shift it is massage and rest. Massage has definitely made a difference so far and I’ve got another massage scheduled for this week. Also, for once in my life, I’m allowing my “sensible head” to be in charge and have stuck to the cross trainer and swimming to maintain my fitness. It has also provided an ideal opportunity to consider my goals and do some “pre-conditioning” in the gym.

Ordinarily, not being able to run would drive me insane. I get grumpy, frustrated and am frankly a nightmare to be around! Not this time. This time I’m listening to my body. My poor wee body has worked hard for me this year: it ran 2 marathons just 5 weeks apart; it got new PBs in almost every distance it raced and it had very little rest! So now seems like a good time to let it take a break while I consider what comes next.

I think the main reason I don’t feel frustrated by my lack of running just now is that mentally I’m already preparing for the rigours of marathon training in the new year. Realistically, that gives me a couple of months to give my body an MOT and take care of any necessary repairs ready for a smooth ride in January. In order to lessen the chance of injury from hard training, I need to make sure that my body is strong and injury free. Better to spend time on strength and conditioning now than to be sidelined with niggly injuries when I should be banking an 18 mile run, thus: prehab is better than rehab!

This time of year is a good one to cut back the mileage as the racing season is nearing its end. I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve and rather than stubbornly continuing to pound the pavements knowing that my leg isn’t quite right, I’m channelling that stubbornness into making sure every part of my body is healthy. The problem I’m having with my leg now could be caused by a lack of flexibility in my hip and a tightness in my hamstring. My “pre-conditioning” in the gym includes a lot of work on improving my flexibility and stretching out all my muscles. When I’m sure that I’m ready to start running again, then I’ll gradually rebuild my mileage and make sure I have a sound base for the bigger mileage to come. The last thing I want is a recurrence of this problem during the “monster month” so, like the Six Million Dollar Man, I am rebuilding: I have the technology!

Runners are stubborn creatures and I definitely include myself in that, but sometimes we forget to consider the bigger picture. By taking the time to rest and address any niggling problems properly, longer term issues can be reduced or even avoided. I’ve achieved a lot in my running this year and I want to go on and achieve more next year, so for now my training plan features a lot of massage & stretching time, strength & conditioning work and, most important of all, rest. After all, as a wise friend (a triathlon coach) recently pointed out: nobody ever got injured from too much rest. Perhaps, just this once, I’ll listen!

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