Recently I started getting back to running after a ten-year break. I wasn’t actually injured for ten years.
I had shin splints and I took a break from running for six months. After the break I struggled to get back to running so I stopped running altogether.
To give a bit of context, I used to run 30+km per week. It will consist of one ~20km run plus two 5-7km runs. That stopped with the injury and I never got back to it.
Today we share five tips to help you avoid what happened to me.
1. Seek professional help
You probably would get the fastest results if you seek professional help.
Think about it, you are an expert at your job and it’s very unlikely for me to be able to do your job well.
Likewise, chiropractors and physiotherapists are experts in musculoskeletal care. Some of us work closely with athletes and specialise in sports injuries. You are likely to get better results by letting us help you.
Of course there are good chiropractors and bad chiropractors around. It’s important to make sure you are seeking treatment from some one who is competent.
With professional help, I would probably have set more reasonable goals and had a more structured recovery plan. My strategy of resting to recover and trying harder later totally didn’t work.
2. Don’t believe everything you find on the Internet
There is a lot of content on the internet – some good, mostly not so good.
A lot of recommendations and advice on the internet are outdated. For example, both the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevate) and stretching are not evidence-based advice for sports injuries. We have blogged about both topics in stretching vs. strength training.
Also, beware of fitness and health professionals who claim to be evidence-based. There’s a couple of people I personally know who brand themselves as such but they don’t even read any scientific literature or academic journals.
There are also individuals in the fitness and health scenes who claim to produce “evidence-based” content. If you were to follow through with their references or citations, you’d realise none of them are actually based on scientific studies or academic journals.
In my case, I didn’t actually take any online advice or recommendations from my training buddies. The general consensus is to go for a sports massage. There is a strong sentiment among athletes in Singapore that a good sports massage will help with recovery or reduce risk of injury. Both of these are not supported by evidence.
3. Don’t rest
Most people intuitively rest when they first injure themselves. That makes sense – but only to a limited degree.
Sure, rest and ice are probably the two most common recommendations when it comes to acute sports injuries because of the RICE protocol. Believe it or not, rice and icing are no longer considered first-line pain management for acute sports injuries.
(Check out the PEACE and LOVE soft tissue injury recommendations from the British Journal of Sports Medicine.)
Don’t get me wrong, you do feel better with rest. Rest does indeed help with symptom alleviation.
However, rest also mean you remove all load and stress going through the injured tissues. This is when the tricky part begins.
The key part to recovery for all sports injuries is load management. This may include rest but quite often, that is NOT necessary.
Load management is also not 100% about deloading. It’s about progressively adding load to the affected tissue so that you can get back into pre-injury function and performance.
The best strategy is to not rest. Instead, work with a musculoskeletal health professional or sports injuries expert to figure what is the appropriate loading for your injured tissues. From there, develop a progressive but adequate rehabilitation plan to get yourself back to stop.
Have you been resting for the last month or even year?
If so, don’t worry. It’s never too late to start loading. Sure, the initial stage might be challenging but we highly recommend you start working on it immediately!
This is 100% the biggest mistake I made – to rest for six whole months! If I was serious about running and getting back to running, I would have opted to do quite training and perhaps walks or slow jogs after the initial pain period. I was so de-conditioned after a six-month break that returning to running was at that point in time extremely challenging.
4. Set reasonable goals
You will likely need professional advice to establish what constitutes reasonable. This can range from a chiropractor, a physiotherapist, or even a coach. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your coach may choose to defer your rehabilitation programming and goals to a clinically-trained expert.
We highly recommend you listen to him or her.
The first biggest mistake I made was to take a complete break from running.
The second mistake was to set UNREASONABLE goals. I knew I wasn’t able to get back to running 20km but I didn’t expect my running pace to reduce that dramatically.
So sure, I did take short runs but I was expecting myself to do 2km runs at a 5min per km pace. That didn’t happen.
I tried for a couple of times and failed miserable and that was it.
I gave up running altogether.
For ten years.
5. Focus on the process
I am going to put it out there that returning to sport is going to be difficult. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It is always difficult.
The most important thing is to be able to focus on the process instead of how far you are from pre-injury performance.
In my own case, I repeatedly tried to get back to running but I was fixated on the amount of time I take for my short runs. I should, instead, focus on how I enjoy running.
Perhaps I should have chosen to run with a friend instead where I could focus on the company instead of the distance or the time.
This is why when I found out one of my friends was going for a 5km fun run, I jumped on it immediately. I know that the focus will be on the company and finishing the run rather than the time I will take to finish the 5km.
I did mange to finish the 5km by the way, without stopping, despite having not run for 10 years. This is the power of mindset and community.
Evidence-based chiropractic treatment will see you a long way
The best way to move forward is to seek professional help from an evidence-based chiropractor or physiotherapist. This will dramatically increases your chance of getting back to sport as soon as reasonably possible.
Most people don’t associate chiropractors with sport injuries. Chiropractors are, however, musculoskeletal experts and some of us, such as myself, have extensive experiences in dealing with sports injuries.
If you are currently suffering from an injury but you are not sure if seeing a chiropractor will help, check out our blog post on when to see a chiropractor for sport injuries. Alternatively drop us a message via the form below to let us know what is holding you back from returning to sport. We promise we will try our best to help.