Yes. A friend and coworker of mine puts on a summer conditioning program for HS athletes and asked me the above. I had helped minimally with the planning and knew it would be a good general workout and would help with speed work, which I had been building up. So, I said yes.
The first day we were trialing was a day involving a dynamic warm up, hill sprints, flat sprints, and core work. All of this fit right into my plans for the coming 2-3 weeks, which were mostly focused on developing raw speed along with my long run endurance (think two ends of the spectrum before bringing it back together). I have done a few runs with hill sprints during my 10k training and have been introducing more raw speed work in the form of short timed sprints during 1 run/week. I have my eyes set on two races in about 9 and 11 weeks at the 10k distance. I’ve been running well at PR times but want to see if I can speed it up even more.
So, that’s the background for you … here are some lessons to pass along from today’s experiences:
1) Say yes if you get a chance to do a nice general conditioning workout. As runners we tend to get imbalanced due to most of our time (or all of our time) spent doing straight plane running of minimally varied speeds. This means that we have some really strong areas but also some really weak areas. Eventually, this is likely to show up in the form of injury even if we can’t directly link it back to that. General conditioning that includes various strength work, dynamic muscle activation routines, explosive movements, and speed can all benefit each of us as runners. It also gives our strong running muscles different stimulus that can help them become better for running.
2) Running sprints/speed work with people equal to or better than you is a good motivator. Deep inside (or maybe right on the surface) each of us is a competitor, and that shows up when you are doing hard workouts with other people. If you can find someone who is slightly better than you, that is an even stronger motivator. As I was running and getting beat by Travis early in the workout, I found myself pushing harder and harder to try to pull even.
3) If you feel a tweak that lingers, have the sense to either stop altogether or change what you are doing. “Hmm. I felt a tweak in my left hamstring that rep. I haven’t had any left sided problems … I’ll have to see how I do on this next rep – not sure if I’ll be able to finish.” 5 strides later into a 6 sec sprint I ended up sprawled out on the track with a hamstring strain. I’d had no hamstring problems on the left up until that tweak. Hindsight is always 20/20 and tells me that I should have A) stopped the workout altogether or B) tried some lighter intensity running to see how it felt before easing back into the workout. “Tweaks” are manageable but “strains” are detrimental and will have a great impact on your training.
4) Altered/compensatory running mechanics will catch up to you at some point. I mentioned above that I specifically didn’t have any left sided hamstring issues … that’s because I have had plenty of right hamstring issues. In fact almost 1 year ago to the date, my right hamstring was pulled during a softball game. I was in the middle of some higher level training at the time, and it took me right out of that training for about 6 weeks. It also made me change some things about my running mechanics – some of those changes were intentional and good, but others were compensatory and bad (more on that below). Since ramping up my training in February, I have “felt” my right hamstring, but it has not been “painful” at all. However, during hard workouts especially as my speed has increased, I have noticed that I am driving much more with my left leg and getting off of my right leg as soon as possible. I’ve been working on this by easing into harder work and trying to alter my mechanics, but it takes time. And if the change doesn’t get made, the compensatory mechanics will lead to a problem … like a left hamstring strain.
5) Avoid catastrophic thinking. I was seriously bummed last year when my right side got injured. I was in the middle of some good training and had big race plans. This year, I am in even better shape and have even bigger race plans, but so far I am less bummed out. Last year’s catastrophic thinking didn’t do me any favors. I was down, angry, and rushing to get back to training to be able to still reach my goals. Maybe I am just a year wiser, but I am trying to avoid that catastrophic thinking this time. I know what I need to do to start the rehab process, and I just have to see where that takes me. Thinking negatively is only going to make the rehab process slower and could lead to re-injury due to rushing back in.
6) Learn from your mistakes!
“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change may be” – John Wooden
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” – Henry Ford
Wow! I am so excited to be presented with this opportunity to fail, so that I can change and learn something! (Just kidding). I’d prefer to avoid failure and injury time off as much as anybody else, but I do know there are lessons to be learned. Here are some of the things from these two injuries that I have learned and changed:
Right side (last year) – shorter stride length, quicker step rate, focus on glute activation during base runs, single leg strengthening/rehab, full dynamic warm up before any speed work
Left side (right now) – improved attitude toward injury, small compensatory mechanics will add up, need for consistent strength training for both hamstrings, no more than once/week and small doses of raw/max short session speed work, patience upon return to harder work
7) Take advantage of rehab time! Now I’ve got work to do. I’ve iced 4 times, stayed off my feet more than typical, completed gentle range of motion work, and am trying to normalize my basic movement patterns. Next comes lower level single leg work along with a return to a general strength training routine. Then comes more dynamic hamstring work and pure hamstring strengthening. The bike and elliptical might become better friends than I would like, and I am hoping to find some pool time as well. I am in good shape overall and have 2-3 weeks to play with before I start to have any major losses in fitness. Hopefully by that time I will be back to base level running and able to do some harder workouts during cross training. And I’ve got to start fresh with both sides to try to get rid of any compensatory mechanical changes.
There’s my story for summer conditioning program workouts! In spite of the injury, I still think it was a good workout and something that would benefit most people. My mistake came not from the workout but from not listening to my body and responding incorrectly to what I did “hear”.
You might find it funny that I advertise myself as an injury rehabilitation and prevention expert in the coaching world and just told you I injured myself running … I guess I would say that is fair :) Research shows that upwards of 80% of runners will have an injury during the year that keeps them from running at least a few days. Even with expertise and knowledge, it is hard to stay out of that group. And I fall into the same traps that other runners do – not listening to your body, pushing too hard/much, and struggling to find the time to do the cross training that will help rehab/prevent injuries. Knowledge is helpful and powerful, but practicing that knowledge is where the benefit really comes in. Now my challenge is to practice it and not just preach it :)
Here’s to a quick recovery and lessons learned from the mistakes we make!
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