Patience on the road to recovery

In a comment on my most recent blog Jason suggested that my current goal should not be described as ‘speeding recovery’ but ‘ensuring proper recovery’. His choice of words implies the importance of the crucial but daunting virtue of patience.

Mostly I have been patient, but every so often I am tempted to test the limits. It is now a little over three weeks since I suffered a minor tear of my calf muscle. The injury was almost certainly a consequence of increasing intensity of training too quickly. I had introduced some interval training after a period of base building. The first two sessions went well, but then in the third session, in which I planned 6x1km at my estimated 5K pace, I pushed myself a little faster the target pace that I had set myself and had suffered a tear of soleus on the 4th repetition.

After icing for two days and a further day of rest, I had very gradually introduced light exercise, starting with body-weight calf raises while bearing weight equally on two legs; then moving onto calf raises while standing on one leg and gradually building up the number. Apart from a mild setback when I suffered nocturnal cramp after getting dehydrated during a very long flight from Shanghai to London, things progressed well. After two and a half weeks, I had progressed to 3×20 ‘one leg’ calf raises with no trace of discomfort. I then re-introduced running technique sessions that involved running with very short strides covering only a few metres at a time, concentrating on technique. The calf felt good and I was itching to increase the distance a bit. So today, as it was now over three weeks since the injury, I set out to jog a few Km in the local woods.

The day had dawned with a blue sky and brilliant sunlight on the autumn leaves. The dark clouds started to roll in as I set out from home, but it was still an inspiring morning to be out and about. After jogging about 2 Km there was no trace of discomfort in the calf, so I decided to increase pace a little up to what I would estimate is my current marathon pace – around 5 minutes per Km. After a Km, I slowed to a jog for another Km, and as my calf still felt fine, I increased pace up to estimated marathon pace again. However this was a mistake – as I negotiated a boggy patch of woodland I felt a slight but ominous jab in the calf – a few inches about the site of the initial injury but in the vicinity of the site which had been most painful following the ferocious nocturnal cramp I had suffered two weeks ago. I stopped immediately and walked home. Fortunately I had decided to stick to the one Km loop path near to home so I only had to walk a short distance. Now, a few hours later, there is a definite persisting pain at the site damaged by the nocturnal cramp. So my calf is still very vulnerable and I need to remind myself that patience continues to be the prime virtue.

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4 Responses to “Patience on the road to recovery”

  1. Andrew(AJH) Says:

    I was reading an article the other day (which I cannot now find, otherwise I’d post the link) which talked about the importance of diet to recovery from injury – are you looking after that aspect too? Hope it picks up soon.

  2. Ewen Says:

    It’s on those inspiring days that it’s most difficult to be patient.

    My thoughts are that even a short distance at “marathon pace” is probably too much on a comeback from injury run. Maybe when it’s time, try very easy running for a short distance, and gradually increase the distance of easy running over a couple of weeks.

    I always remember an article about when Patti Catalano was coming back from injury – her coach would only allow her to run for 100m at first, then ever so slowly added distance of run/walks over weeks.

    By the way, with my soleus tear in 2006, I had two weeks off, ran for two days (bad idea) then needed another two weeks off. So, four weeks in all.

  3. canute1 Says:

    Andrew, Thanks for reminding me of diet. I do not usually plan my diet in a focused way, though I tend to avoid fats and refined sugar, and I eat a lot of unrefined carbohydrates including vegetables and fruit. Maybe I should include more protein, especially when recovering from an injury. I would appreciate any more specific advice.
    Ewan, I am sure you are right – I should stay well below marathon pace until I have built up to a reasonable mileage at a slower pace. The need to strengthen muscles and ligaments is probably an even stronger reason for an extensive base-building phase than the need to build aerobic capacity. My aerobic capacity at present is relatively satisfactory but it appears that my muscles and ligaments are not yet strong enough. I am thinking of adjusting my current plan to work on speed development in the next few months, and rinclude an even more extensive period of base-building. However, like you, I am inclined to include a little bit of moderately high intensity work within the base-building phase once I have put this injury behind me, because a moderate amount of higher intensity running is likely to help strengthen the muscles more efficiently – provided I can avoid overdoing it.

  4. AndrewE Says:

    I always find that reading about other people’s injuries reminds me to take it easier on my own runs!

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