Running: Step 8 ... What Happens When You Need "Triple A"

by Mike Naylor

(continued from home page)

Unfortunately, it is not that easy for us runners. When we get injured, and it can happen when least expected, there is no magic number for us to call and often we don’t even know who we should call.

In my younger years, I did have some significant injuries that took me away from the sport for weeks, and sometimes months, at a time. Before I got smart, and made calls to a professional who could help me recover, I spent many years self-medicating and treating my athletic injuries. Let me go through some of them and maybe you can relate to what happened and what I experienced during those periods when an injury stopped me from doing what I love to do.

I don’t quite remember the order these injuries came in, but I do recall the pain and frustration they caused. First, there was Achilles tendonitis, a condition caused by not having the proper running shoes. Even though they were a name brand, the shoes still had some design flaws that caused the pain. I used Motrin and ice to relieve the pain, and would try to go out and run on it after a few days, only to have pain return and shut me down. Ultimately, rest was the best cure, and the purchase of a new pair of shoes (I would do anything to have an excuse to buy a new pair of running shoes [lol]) did the trick.

Next, I’ll talk to you about one of my worst and most painful injuries, plantar fasciitis. This really was an awful injury. I struggled with it for months. I could run on it for a few days, but then it would flare up again and down I went. I had to use a cane when it really got bad. Back then we didn’t really understand the effect some of these injuries had on us. I went to a doctor and he prescribed custom insoles that he said would relieve the pressure under my foot and re-align it so it wouldn’t hurt any more. I was a bit skeptical that these would cure the problem. After having my foot plastered, and waiting a few weeks for the insoles to come in, the day finally came and I was able to place them in my shoes and begin my recovery. It took several months before they were comfortable enough for me to try to go out and run on them. They were a bit bulky, and I had to find a running shoe that would house them comfortably. I started out walking with them in my regular working shoes, and then gradually progressed to a point where they molded my feet in place and I could move around quite easily. This was followed by running with them in my running shoes.

I had no pain. But I became addicted to wearing the insoles, and I would never go out on a run or leave the house without them on. I bet it was almost 5 years before I started not wearing them in my dress shoes or around the house. I continued to wear them when trained, even though I had not felt any pain for years. Of course, a time came when I went out for run without them, and still had no pain. I was cured. Crazy!

I placed them in my top sock drawer and I would wear them periodically when I spent too much time walking around in a mall or working around the house. But for the most part, the problem was solved.

Then, when I decided to return to running on the track to prepare for some track races, a couple of new injuries popped up -- shin splints and Iliotibial band syndrome. Both of these injuries were caused by running and overtraining on the track. Again to heal, I had to rest, and to do some preventive exercises that would strengthen the muscles around the knee for the iliotibial band. For the shins it just took some time, running on the grass and not stretching them out too much. Soon, I was back training. Did you ever notice that to get in shape it takes years, but to get out of shape it only takes two weeks, and you feel like you never ran before.

Finally, a list of the more common injuries that we suffer: ankle sprain, pulled muscles, blisters, chafing, and side stitches. For some reason, growing up I sprained my ankles more times then I want to remember. I once was literally carried home from the gym by my teammate (I lived about 4 blocks from the gym). They say that once you have turned an ankle the tendons never really return to their normal size, even when you do all kinds of strengthening exercises. If you ankle wants to turn over, it will turn over.

It’s funny (not really) that I have pulled my hamstring so badly on a couple of occasions that I still can feel today when it is close to happening, so I pull up and relax. The first time it happened, I was competing in a decathlon, and right after the 100 meters I felt a twitch but let it go. On my very first long jump it pulled. I was so mad because I had trained for so long and hard I didn’t want to stop. I wrapped the leg in tape and took two more jumps. I was done. But before I walked away, I threw the shot put and placed second in the event, which would have been additional points and placed me in good spot for the competition. Instead, I withdrew and my wife and I went home. I really damaged the hamstring and it took me some time before I was mentally and physically ready to return to the track.

Eventually, I began looking forward to getting ready for the next decathlon. I started training hard and was showing progress with my technique in all of the events. Then it happened. One night I got to the track and rushed through my warm-up, as I had to get home for some reason. The first flight of hurdles went OK. In the second flight of hurdles, I found myself a bit short in gliding over a hurdle, and I lifted my hips to clear the top of the hurdle and that’s when it occurred. My groin popped on both sides. It is the only way I can describe it. There was no pain, but I knew something had happened. I decided to move on to try some high jumping. On the very first one, as I twisted in the air and arched my back to clear the bar, it felt like someone just stabbed me with knitting needles on both sides. I crashed into the crossbar, and continued into the pit, landing on the bar. I lay there for several minutes, and when I got up there was no pain.

However, when I tried to climb steps it hurt. When I got in my car it hurt. So, I decided to see my doctor. He laid me on the table with my legs straight out. He told me to rise up one leg, and as he applied pressure to it, I screamed (not a high pitched one but an ahhhhhhh! one). He did the same to the other leg, with same result. I looked at him and he said that it would take six months for a recovery. It was like getting hit by Mike Tyson. Six months to recover, no way. But guess what? It did take six months. For those six months, I lifted weights, swam, and ran backwards on the track (I could run backwards, but couldn’t run forward). I can’t tell you how it happened, but one day I decided to try to jog forward and had no pain. I was cured again, and facing another year of training. I never did attempt another decathlon, but I did continue to run in club races. Being the competitive guy I am, I foolishly thought I could beat these guys at their own game. It didn’t happen. Running on the track and racing on the roads are two different animals. They both have their own unique training methods and you have to commit the time for more mileage and rest.

The bottom line to all this is that you will experience an injury or two while running, so there two things to do: first, see a doctor if you feel you have been injured, and second, rest and take it easy. Don’t be in a rush to be healed. The injury will always win.

My wish is that no one ever has to experience an injury that takes them away from doing something they love to do -- running outdoors with their family and friends.

Love you all, Coach Mike

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