Injury Recovery Tip 3: Stretching and Rolling

Tip 3: Stretching and Rolling

Now that I had diagnosed my second injury, I researched every possible stretch I could find. Whilst I was on youtube, I found this video all about stretching the IT band by the channel ‘Bob and Brad’. (I always make sure the channel has more than 1 million subscribers before following; they are usually the most reliable!): Video 1https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERylaMvyDbM

In another video on their channel, the physios mentioned that a triathlete asked them for help after he was struggling with excruciating pain on the outside of his knee. The link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShlL9EHohug He could barely walk, so they recommended he did these three exercises everyday, and after two weeks, his injury went away. I couldn’t believe that the story could be true, so I experimented and tried it out myself, and along with strength training, bathing and icing, and proper nutrition, the pain went away in two weeks! This is an incredibly short amount of time to have ITB syndrome, as the injury normally lasts from four-to-eight weeks, depending on the severity!

The Three Exercises Were: (all demonstrated in the video)

  1. Figure Four Variation – 30 secs
  2. Wall Stretch – 30 secs
  3. Pull knee over Stretch – 30 secs (pictured right and certainly the most effective!)

Aside from stretching, I would also roll. I did not own a roller, and since I had just recently moved to England (before quarantine), it was the perfect time to buy one. Here is the roller I bought: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Starwood-Sports-Unisexs-Massage-Trigger-Therapy-Myofascial/dp/B07W9KR37C/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=star+sport+foam+roller&qid=1592687000&s=fitness&sr=1-5

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It is a good price, and it has both a spiky and flat surface for really targeting the tougher muscles. It came in around three days, and I used it for the first time that night. I had never rolled before and didn’t know how so I looked up a tutorial online and found the Adidas rolling video: https://www.self.com/gallery/best-stretches-for-knee-pain Currently, it is the best rolling video I have found, with great explanations and limited talking, but feel free to use any of your favourite videos to follow!

The first time I rolled, it was honestly one of the most painful experiences ever. The video requires you to roll out each muscle for around 30 seconds-1 minute, and then hold the muscle on the roller for 30 seconds. I had honestly never experienced pain like it! But, I knew it would help my recovery, and I hoped it would get easier with time. I also rolled out my TFL and glutes with a dog ball or hard tennis ball to try to loosen out the sturdier muscles. More information on the TFL is linked here: http://www.clinic88.com.au/articles/tensor-fascia-lata-and-the-itb/ Prior to my injury, I had no idea what the TFL muscle was, so it is very important to keep learning about our bodies!

I kept a consistent timetable for the next three weeks, rolling and stretching both in the morning before my strength workout (9am), and in the evening before dinner (5:30pm). Keeping this strict timetable made sure that I remembered to stretch, because honestly, I truly believe that stretching and rolling are more important than any other physical activity in regards to injury. 

Thankfully, the rolling got easier and easier, and now I don’t even need to watch the video because I have learnt all the exercises by heart. Consistency is so so vital to any process in life, along with patience. I have certainly learnt the meaning of those words in the past few months!

Consistency is shown below: in the left photo, I had been running for one year and in the right photo I had been running for two years. You can see the change in my form after only one extra year of training; one year can change everything!

May 2019
February 2020

Once I started training again after the six weeks, I noticed that I would get niggles in different areas of my knee joints. I wasn’t sure whether this was normal after an injury or not, but I decided that I had focused so much time on my IT band, that I needed to dedicate the same amount of time to the other areas of my knee. 

After researching online again, I found these 7 stretches which I would do every morning before my run, and every evening before dinner. These made a huge difference to my recovery and made sure that I didn’t have any niggles on my next run: https://www.self.com/gallery/best-stretches-for-knee-pain

Stretching, rolling, and overall recovery are honestly so important in overcoming your injury. Make sure to ask your physio if you are able to stretch or if it will make the injury worse. For my tendonitis, it was best not to stretch because it aggravated the tendon, but for ITB, I really needed to work on my knee mobility and quad and hamstring flexibility. So the lesson learnt is to focus on recovery with the same amount of drive and passion we use for running! Create a consistent timetable so that you always remember to stretch twice a day both during and after your injury process!

Lots of love,

Florence 😉

Injury Recovery Tip 2: Don’t Self-diagnose!!!

Tip 2: Don’t Self-diagnose!!!

Now that I had handled the mental side of my injury, I now needed to finally understand what was wrong with my knee. It hurt at the front of my knee when I walked and it especially hurt when I sat down, went up and down the stairs or ran, but I couldn’t do this by myself. 

The minute I got the injury, I started self-diagnosing. This is something that everyone does at some point in their injury process, because we don’t want to have to admit that our body could actually be injured.  I spent two weeks running on and off with my injury, and then decided to rest. I felt much so better now I had “Rebound” (tip 1), but that only focused on my mind, not my body, and I knew I needed to talk to a professional. 

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It was difficult talking to my coach in Spain as it was so long-distance, so I decided to contact the coach of my new running club, Cornwall Athletics Club. He was very helpful and recommended two phone numbers for local physios. I couldn’t physically visit them or have any treatments to reduce the pain, but I could talk to them. Honestly, calling my new physio was the best step I ever took. She immediately made me feel so much more confident and relaxed because I finally had the answers I had been searching for. 

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She told me that I had patellar tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon which causes pain at the front of the knee. It is also called ‘Jumper’s Knee’, and occurs due to repetitive stress and overuse of the knee. To learn more about patellar tendonitis: https://www.healthline.com/health/patellar-tendonitis

She recommended:

  1. To take three weeks off and then see how the knee feels.
  2. To continue strength training, but avoid activities which cause pain, such as squatting, lunging, and even calf raises!
  3. To strengthen my glutes and hamstrings because strain on the knee is caused from weakness in these muscle areas.
  4. To stop stretching because it overstrains the knee.
  5. To take warm baths, roll, and then ice. 
  6. To continue swimming freestyle or backstroke, but avoid breaststroke.

I followed all of these steps, without a gym and swimming in the freezing cold sea,  and was back training in around two and a half weeks. (Don’t worry if you do not have access to a swimming pool or beach, I mainly focused on strength training and only used swimming to break up the monotony) I was thrilled that the advice had worked! I started training again and ran for four days in a row. I experienced slight discomfort in my joints, but on the fourth day of training, I felt a pain on the outside of my right leg.

Tendonitis and ITB Syndrome

I went for a walk later that night and honestly couldn’t take another step, so I decided to ring my physio once again (she was probably sick of me by now;). After telling her my symptoms, she told me that I probably had ITB syndrome, and it was a continuation from the tendonitis. I got a little bit panicky again because she told me that it was probably necessary for me to have treatment but she didn’t know when the physios would be open again, but I knew that I had recovered from the last injury, so I knew I could do it again. It just required patience.

She gave me some different advice this time:

  1. To avoid squatting because it aggravates the TFL which pulls on the IT band and causes pain. She also sent me this link which I found so interesting because I never even heard of some of these parts of the body: https://www.rehab4runners.co.uk/running-injuries/hip-groin-pain/tfl-pain/
  2. To continue rolling.

I was a bit worried about this injury because I had read online that it can take anywhere from four weeks to six months to heal, so I knew that I needed to continue researching. The main tip that I can give you is to keep educating yourself on your injury; keep looking up every possible stretch, ever possible activity and try them out.

The lesson learnt from any injury is to always see yourself as a student of the sport. There are so many ways your can improve, regardless of whether you are an elite Olympian or simply a fun runner. This is the reason why we run: to challenge our minds and bodies, and learn new things everyday!

Tip 3 on the next blog!

Lots of love,

Florence 😉

Injury Recovery Tip 1: Mindset Improvement, Motivation and Reading

Hi Runners! So, after hopefully reading the backstory to my knee injuries, I will be telling you the top tips I have learnt in recovering from an injury and making the most of your time to fully repair your body both physically and mentally. You do not have to have an injury to follow a few of these tips; it is the perfect time to add some additional strength and mindset training into your schedules. Just make sure to only add them into your easier days, or even take a day off to try them out. Don’t try to do all of these on one day, and make sure to be patient. I am slowly learning the meaning of this word, and it is more important than you might think. Be consistent, but listen to your body! 

Spanish Provincial Outdoor Champs

Remember that even though you might be injured, you are still an athlete, you are still a runner. Now is not the time to simply sit around and not do anything, your role is to return to the sport you love stronger, faster, and more motivated than you have ever been before, so make sure you follow all of the necessary steps so you can return to running having learnt so much more and work hard to achieve your goals!

Tip 1: Mindset Improvement, Motivation and Reading (The most crucial!)

One of the BEST Running Podcasts!

I am most definitely choosing to put this one at the top of the list. As I mentioned in my previous blog, a positive mindset was something that I have struggled with in the past. I am sure many of you have also experienced it when you finish a race disappointed, or hit a plateau in your training or race times. Before my injury, I started reading biographies and listening to podcasts to try and find ways to shape my mind, but I honestly couldn’t figure out how. And then, I got my injury.

So the first thing to think about is why did you get injured? It is a very difficult question to answer, because you don’t even want to class your body part as “injured”, but it is so crucial in making sure that you don’t make the same mistake when you return to the sport. Is it because you have undernourished? Or is it because you overtrained? My reason was definitely because I overtrained way too quickly, and did too many hills during my training (I live in a super hilly area!). 

So, now that I knew why I got injured, I was absolutely desperate to find a cure and make sure that I wouldn’t be out of training for too long. I was feeling very down because I knew how hard I had trained over the past five weeks. I spent hours reading articles about injury comebacks, and then I stumbled across an article selling a mental health book. I clicked on the link and it took me to this page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebound-Bounce-Stronger-Sports-Injuries-ebook/dp/B07PLFJJ9W

My favourite reading spot!

The book being sold was called “Rebound”, and it specialised in how to deal with a devastating injury and how to mentally come back stronger; it was everything I had been looking for! I bought the book, and immediately started reading it, and honestly, it is the best book I have ever purchased in my life! (and this is NOT an exaggeration). I recommend this book to anybody, regardless of whether they are injured or not, because it does not solely tell you how to change your mindset, it also includes activities that you can try out yourself and experiment with, such as visualisation and meditation. In the future, I would love to write a book about everything that I have learned during my running journey, but honestly, I could never write anything as incredible as this book.

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Whilst reading the same article, I also came across this book. I didn’t end up purchasing it, but it looks incredible and I would love to read it in the future. Check it out if you fancy a read! https://www.beyondgrit.com/book/

Apart from reading “Rebound” and highlighting the pages which I believed were the most valuable and most important to me, I didn’t purchase anything else. I didn’t need to, everything was included in the book. But, I did download their activities book which you can find linked here: https://injuredathletesclub.com The exercises were so so helpful in making me see the perspective of my injury. I was so lucky that it wasn’t life-altering and I learnt to accept my injury by filling in the activity book. The book also recommended meditation and journaling, so I started doing those most mornings and I honestly saw a massive change in my mental state; I was a lot calmer and more accepting of the fact that I couldn’t run!

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I also joined their facebook page ‘The Injured Athletes Club’. This is a step that I am very proud of because I gained the confidence to download Facebook just so I could request access to the ‘Injured Athletes Club’. I wrote my problems, doubts and worries to complete strangers, but just reading their personal injury experiences, and having them respond to my injury was so reassuring and made me feel like I wasn’t alone anymore.

Tip 2-9 will be published on the following blogs. I am sorry to keep breaking up the blogs into sub-parts, but honestly each section of the recovery process is so so important, so I wanted to dedicate a blog to each tip!

Lots of love,

Florence 😉

Injured Athlete Life Update and Recovery

Hi Runners, Welcome back! I just wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming support I received on my previous blog. I was so humbled to be able to talk about my past experiences with different athletes, and I was so grateful for all the incredibly kind messages I received. 

So, the blog, as you have read by the title, is all related to injury. Many of you may not be interested in this topic because you might never have experienced a long-term injury in the past, and that would have been my reaction two months ago. But, all of that changed after I obtained two knee injuries in the space of six weeks. And I know, I know that six weeks doesn’t sound like a crazy amount of time, but being injured for the first time, with little knowledge or support left me feeling very panicky and isolated.

An injury is every runner’s worst nightmare, but mine ended up being a blessing in disguise; it came at the perfect time. Yes, the gyms weren’t open, and I couldn’t visit a physio to get professional treatment, but I could focus on so many different areas of the sport that I had left untouched for too long. The first area was my mental health, and the second was my physical strength, but my mental health was the most crucial for me. 

After my experience at nationals, I had been in a bit of a low state. I hadn’t been able to show off my fitness or race to my full potential, so after travelling to the UK at the beginning of the quarantine, I continued training as if races were still being held. Honestly, I drove my body to its limit, and as a result of this, I got injured.

One year ago, if you had told me that I would have an injury, I would never have believed you. Why? Because you take your body for granted when it’s healthy; there’s no need for you to focus on a pain free area. So, when I got injured, it came as a massive shock.

Tendonitis and ITB Syndrome

At first, I presumed it was just a niggle, like I had experienced in the past, so I rested for two or three days, and then kept running. Of course, everyone’s initial reaction is “well, that’s stupid, you need to stop or it will get worse”, but it’s so so hard to rest as an athlete. You don’t want to admit that you need to take time off, because then you know that all the fitness that you have gained over the past few months or even the past few years has vanished. Those were my thoughts for the first two weeks, and it destroyed my mind and led to a vicious cycle of negativity. 

Stronger and happier

I’m not saying my injury was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I am certainly not saying that you need to get injured to improve your mindset and eventually come back as a stronger and faster runner, but I am saying that if you get injured, there are so many possibilities for you. It may not seem like it at the time, but you can completely change as a person in the space of your recovery period. I know that I certainly have!

So, here are the nine tips I have learnt along the way during my recovery period dealing with tendonitis and ITB syndrome. My injury journey may be very different to yours, but make sure you embrace the chance to recover. It may seem like nothing is going the way you want it to go, but know that success takes time and patience, you just might need to overcome various obstacles before achieving your goals! Due to never having an injury prior to these past six weeks, the tips I learnt were mainly down to trial and error, and of course from the information given to me by my physio. I made a lot of mistakes, which ultimately led to me injuring myself more, and this is why I would love to share my tips with you so you don’t make the same mistakes as I did!

Follow my Instragram Stories!!!

I am currently starting to slowly train again, and today marks the first day that I have run pain-free, which is a massive milestone for me! Make sure to celebrate those special milestones, because they are so so important for your motivation!

The 9 tips to recovery will be linked in the next 9 blogs. They each have their own individual blog because I know what it feels like to be injured, and it would be so unfair on other injured athletes if they had to wait a few weeks for the tip that they have been looking for. You don’t have to read all of them, just choose the tip which you need the most help and advice on; you can always come back and read the others later!

If you are injured, make sure you fill your time in the day, don’t spend time moping around watching netflix because it will make everything 10x worse. If you aren’t injured, keep training consistently, but don’t focus on one specific training. One training won’t make or break you, it is the accumulation of each training day-by-day.

Lots of Love,

Florence 😉

My Running Journey So Far: Part 1, 2004 – 2012

Hi, welcome to the Runner Diaries, a blog focused on documenting my running journey to share my experiences with the sport and hopefully inspire you along the way. Running is something that truly interests me and I love to see how other people became inspired to run and race; was it because they were scouted by a coach? Was it because of their parents? Or was it simply because they wanted to try something new? My story is mainly based on the third question; I started running because I had a love for it at a very young age. 

I know, I know, it’s a major cliche, but I had always loved to run, unlike every other kid in my year who thought running was for “weirdos”. I lived in England for 7 years, and we were always forced to run around the football pitch in our white velcro trainers (which I always used to rip because I wanted them too tight hehe). I would always come in 3rd, behind the faster girls, but I clearly remember winning the Year 3 time trial for the first time. I really wanted to impress the teacher! However, running wasn’t anything special to me, it was just a PE class sport, similar to hockey or tennis, something that we had to do everyday.  I had been introduced to swimming at a very young age and that became my main sport. I competed for a club, and it became something that I loved to do, a sport where I could compete in a team with my friends. 

My family then moved to Dubai for two years, and I became involved in so many new activities. Netball, swimming and football became my main passions and I would spend the weekends cycling or running with my dad around the lake by my house. I swam for the school and for my swim club and we would regularly compete at our local pool which just so happened to be an Olympic sized, 50m pool!! You can imagine how daunting that was at age 9…

I arrived at my school in Dubai not really accustomed to competition. I had been at an all-girls school for a while, where enjoyment was a main factor in sport and I had to quickly adjust to the dedicated attitude to competing. In the November of my first year, we had a Year 4 girls cross-country race in the desert. It doesn’t sound like anything special, but there were 200 people in my year, 10 form classes and around 100 girls, so the race was a pretty big deal. There were some very naturally fast girls and we set off on the 3km course. I ended up finishing 3rd, very very happy for my first competitive race.

My sports days at school had always been my downfall. I couldn’t understand why everyone was so determined to beat the fastest girl in my year in the 800m and I was confused by the fierce and aggressive competition; sports day had always been something fun for me and for everyone, so I finished my Year 4 sports day as one of the last in the 400m and 800m.

With a long history of sport filling up my childhood, I decided to spare you the lengthy posts and divide my running background into three parts (hopefully it will be easier to navigate as well!)

Part 2 is available on the next blog post, “My Running Journey so Far: 2013-2018”.

Thank you for visiting my blog, I can’t wait to start this new adventure and share my experiences with you all!

Lots of Love,

Florence 🙂

My Running Journey So Far: Part 2, 2013-2018

Hi Runners! Part 2 of my Running Journey is here. Enjoy!

…However, I knew that cross-country was my strength. I had come 3rd the year before and I knew that I was stronger than ever in Year 5. I had spent weeks preparing with my dad, running in circles around the lake and I felt calm walking up to the start line. I expected to feel nervous, but I suppose I was the underdog against the fastest girl in the year.

We set off on the 3km desert course, much harder than the previous year, and the pace felt hard but good. We flew around cones and we were tied in first place. The final 100m leered into view and we both sprinted to the finish line. I leaned across the line, absolutely dead from the race. I remember the teacher handing me a card and I looked down to see that it said 1 on it. I couldn’t believe it! I had won! I guess you could say I got addicted to the adrenalin rush of racing from that day onwards…

We moved to Spain at the end of Year 5, and I joined a new swimming club. Swimming was very different to Dubai, less competitive and there was less camaraderie. I couldn’t speak the language and the athletes didn’t really want to accept a newbie into the group. I swam with the club for two years, before changing to a different one, but I could tell that I was much slower and I wasn’t progressing. I loved to swim, but I didn’t have the same drive to compete. Training was from 8-10pm at night and it didn’t fit into my schedule. So, in January of 2018, I decided to stop swimming, which was quite a big deal at the time considering it had always been my main sport.

I took up triathlon instead. I could run well and I competed in school cross-country competitions. I could swim very well and I presumed that cycling would be easy to pick up because I was a competent cyclist. I learnt a lot in the two months of triathlon, but the cycling was much harder than expected. I was 14 by then, old to be picking up a completely new sport like cycling. I was also the oldest in the group, training with kids much younger than me and although I placed in quite a few races, it was just a lot to learn in a short space of time. I came 7th in my first duathlon, and then came 2nd in my first triathlon. It was a massive shock to finish about 600m behind the highest ranked Andalucian triathlete, so I signed up for my second triathlon in April, however this wouldn’t last long…

The following week, I had a fun run, a mile in the Mijas mountains. After the race, a man approached me and asked if I ran for a club. I said I competed in triathlons and he asked if I would be interested in joining his running club. I had been wondering whether to drop triathlon and solely focus on running and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

Part 3 is on the next blog. Sorry to make this post long-winded, but my journey into running means a lot to me. It showed me that you do not have to start competing in a sport at a very young age. Anybody can achieve anything, or start a new hobby or activity, regardless of their age. Age is not an excuse!

How has your sport shaped and changed you? And why did you start your sport?

Lots of love,

Florence 🙂

My Running Journey So Far: Part 3 (Finale), 2018 – Present

Part 3, The Finale. Some of my most incredible experiences occurred over the past two years, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds. Running is such a simple, yet incredibly mind-blowing sport. The body and mind are tested to their limits, and many athletes achieve times that they never believed was possible. It may take months, or years, or even decades to reach your desired goals, but keep working, the results will be so so rewarding!

I spent the summer of 2018 running miles and miles, nearly collapsing and throwing up in the Spanish summer heat as I ran with the older men. I didn’t know much about running, I just knew that I needed to run many miles to get better and I needed to start off fast to win. 

In December of 2018 I ran my first track race, 600m in 1:45. I didn’t know what a good time was back then, I didn’t own any spikes and I thought the indoor track was incredible. I then started properly competing in January of 2019, running a 3000m in 10:58 and a 1000m in 3:03. 

In March, after coming second in my regional meet, I went to my first Spanish Nationals in Barcelona. I was nervous. I wanted a medal, but I zoned out the competition. I didn’t know any of my competitors and they didn’t know me. I was the underdog once again. I was running the 1000m and I finished my heat with a new PB and a place in the final with a chance to place on the podium, I couldn’t believe it…

The race was the next day, the last of the day. The crowd were impatient, wanting the day to be over and I felt the buzz as I stepped out onto the track. I was very nervous. The gun went and the girls shot off. I can’t remember the rest of the race because it was kind of a blur. It felt like I was outside of my body, watching the race from above, like a spectator. I finished the race 7th in Spain; relatively pleased but mostly disappointed, which now seems crazy given how naive I was to the sport and its competition.

Forward a year, and I’m at the u18 Nationals in Valencia. I ran the semis and I’m not really sure what happened. My parents and my coach told me to lead from the front, I had always stuck to that technique, but what I had noticed recently was that I didn’t want people to take me over at the end. I wanted to finish the race feeling good and strong, not weak with people passing me. Thinking about it now, I didn’t want to accept that it was going to hurt. The week before, I had run an 800m from the front and it had hurt so much, and I only finished with a time of 2:20. I knew that I didn’t want to feel that type of pain again, so I thought I would stick in the pack, let someone else lead, and then finish strong and get a place in the final.

The race definitely did not pan out that way.

I started off strong, first in the pack. I knew that someone had a time of 2:13 (my time was 2:17), so I thought they would lead from the front. However, before I could register, about five girls were cutting in front of me. I tried to stay calm but I knew the race wasn’t going according to plan. I counted the amount of girls in front of me, and knew I was last in the pack (not what I had intended to do). Before I knew it, the bell lap had gone and I sprinted in front of the pack to finish in 2nd, with no Pb and a time of 2:19 (absolutely tragic, I know). I remember not feeling too bad when I finished, but the minute I saw my mum, I knew I had totally messed up. All the months of training and the times when I had thrown up came flooding back to mind, and I ran outside the stadium crying. I was frustrated with myself. I saw myself as a failure, because I had done so much, my family had done so much for me, and I got a worse result than the year before, coming 11th in Spain.

Andalucian Outdoor Championships 2019
Spanish Outdoor Provincial Championships 2019

I suppose I learnt a lot of lessons from that race, more than I can realise. I know that I need to focus on the mental side of the sport, not just the physical, that I need to stick to my technique of racing from the front because it is obviously going to hurt by the end of the race, and I need to learn to stop comparing myself to other people and only focus on myself and my improvements.

But, I am learning and growing as a person each day and this is what the sport is all about.

This quarantine has definitely made me realise how much I miss the competitive aspect of racing: the crowds, the track, the adrenalin rush… But, we will be able to compete very very soon!

More Blogs coming soon. Thank you again for reading!!!

“Everyday is a perfect day to improve and grow.” – Deena Kastor’s Biography (a definite recommendation!)

Lots of Love,

Florence 🙂