As the race gets closer, my training has been ramping up. My speed work is getting faster and long runs getting longer. My weekly mileage has gradually increased over the past 6 weeks, with Saturday long runs up to 20 miles.
This was the case up until about a month ago. My left knee started bothering me after running trails. This was a new pain for me. I don’t remember injuring it during the run, but 12 hard miles on undulating hills with steep ups and downs did something to set it off.
I took a few days to rest and restart slow running, but it still didn’t feel quite right. I then took four days off, had a massage, and tried to stretch my low legs (calves, hamstrings, quads). I also iced a few times a day during those days off. I don’t normally stretch and know my leg muscles tend to stay tight – a perfect setup for an overuse injury.
I moved and stretched my knee, felt around for the sore areas, and self-diagnosed myself with a popliteus strain. This is a small muscle behind the knee that can be injured by knee hyperextension or overuse, especially with downhill running.
It’s not easy to be injured, especially when you are training for a race.
Here are some keys to overcoming injury while training:
- Be patient – Rest, ice, and stretching can go a long way. Back off from high levels of running. Taking days off might be just what your body needs. Be sure to have a positive outlook going forward.
- Cross training – Use your time away from your training plan to strengthen other muscle groups. Consider biking, swimming, aqua jogging, yoga, weight training to keep your heart pumping and muscles working as you give your injury time to heal.
- Seek an expert opinion – For most injuries, if you are not able to get back to easy running in 2 weeks, it is time to be evaluated by a professional. You may need help from a team of experts to get back, including your primary care doctor, sports medicine specialist, or physical therapist.
Keep a positive outlook going forward. Some injuries can take you away from training for weeks or months, but most don’t take quite that long. You will likely be able to get back on track towards your racing goals.