From Stride to Struggle: My Injury Recovery Plan

Chloe running in Santa Monica CA. She is recovering fully from her calf injury recovery

How do you keep your sanity when you’re injured? It starts with making a plan for the present and future. Over the years of treating many thousands of patients, I can tell you that one of the most important things is to identify what you can control and make an injury recovery plan around that. In other words, I can’t exactly make the bone heal faster or will myself to run sooner. But! What I can do is make an actionable plan. There are three aspects to my injury recovery plan that are happening concurrently. Let me break down what they are:

  1. Address my injury
  2. Find a running substitute 
  3. Make changes for the future

Now, this is a lot to cover, so we are going to do in over the next 2 weeks.  Today, let’s take a look at Parts 1 & 2…

Injury Recovery Plan - Part 1: Addressing My Injury

Last week I spent the majority of the blog, telling you about my injury and its contributing factors and presentation. To address the injury, I’m rebuilding a foundation. This is step 1 in my actionable, sanity-maintaining plan. The foundation rebuild necessitates a mulit-faceted approach to restore (or, really, establish) normal mechanics. In last week’s blog, I talked about addressing the lower body chain through flexibility, stability and strength work that’s specific to me as well as getting treated. Here is where I’ll say that I may not be able to make the bone heal faster, but I can make the muscle heal faster while addressing the imbalances that got me here. I’ve been consistent with this for three weeks.

Chloe going into hip flexion with high knee walks for her injury recovery plan

Consistency Counts

After three weeks, I’m now walking without pain or even stiffness. I knew I was ready to add in the next phase of my foundation rebuild. (I won’t go into the specifics of how I knew I was ready for this next phase as it goes beyond the scope of this blog, but it’s based on clinical judgment. That’s why it’s important to have someone help you in this process). 

So! Here’s where it gets more exciting. I started doing some running drills. Don’t worry, I’ll get into those specifics, but first, something like these drills are important to appropriately stress the muscle and bone. I’m doing the flexibility work and the stability/strength work.  Some of that work is what we call impact control. I need my body to relearn how to withstand the force of gravity on a single leg which is the essence of running. So these drills are all about single leg and bounding.

Re-introducing Running "Like" Activities

When I say running drills I mean things like grapevine, high knees, butt kicks, power skips, and running backward. I headed to the track to do these, so I could do about 100 meter intervals for each. I slowly increased the volume and duration. To add a bit more detail:

(Each tab is different so make sure you check each day to see the progression!)

Let Your Symptoms Be Your Guide

As you can see, I progressively transitioned from running drills to shorter intervals of running. I let my symptoms guide me in terms of if I could progress. In order to know if you can keep adding, you have to ask yourself a lot of questions: how does it feel during the activity? What about after? What about the next morning? For me, I could feel some aching throughout my shin, and I felt my calf getting tired. However, when I stopped it felt fine walking. Later on that night, I could feel a little bit of aching. The next morning I felt fine. This is telling me that I can proceed with caution. 

Dr. Chloe working through her shin splints injury recovery re-entry phase.

I’m not ready for consecutive days or more running, because at the end of the 2 mile run, it was feeling more achy than when I had started. So this phase is about having a dialogue with yourself (and potentially a PT) to know how much or how little you need. One point to remember and this is something I always tell my patient: it will not feel like you’re running at first. You won’t be “back.” It won’t feel the same. But you’re on your way. 

Part 2: My Safe Substitute

Now, it’s fantastic that I’ve been able to start doing running drills and running. But remember, we’re concerned about sanity during the injury process. Some running drills aren’t a substitute for running. I always encourage my patients to find a safe substitute if possible. For me, this is where I found my beloved bike that I’ve been talking about. I am able to mimic some of the same effects of running in terms of HR and training effect. I’ve been able to get a mix of high/low aerobic workouts and anaerobic workouts. Also, it was important for me to maintain my routine of working out in the morning. Some examples of workouts I’ve done:

Now I’ll add that the bike isn’t an equal substitute for running. Don’t get me wrong, the bike isn’t called the Devil’s Tricycle for no reason, but it’s not the same.

Looking Ahead

With running, there is something about being outside and moving through space that is incomparable. There is this sort of comfort I get from running that I don’t get from anything else. And because I love running as much as I do, it motivated me to stick with my injury recovery plan. It makes me feel confident that I’ll do what it takes to get back to running, injury free.

Watch My Re-Cap Video about Week 3 of my Recovery Journey!

This is where we will pause because this love for running translates directly into Part 3 of my injury recovery plan.  Adaptations for the future.  I want to run.  It is part of who I am and I want to protect myself from not just future injury, but future heart ache.  Check in again next week, subscribe to our blog, or follow our socials so you can see how I’m going to make these adaptations to my future training.

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