Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Managing pain

I've been a bit worried the last week or so about the state of my calves. They've felt pretty much shot - stiff, sore and tight - but aside from one missed run last week I've ran through the discomfort.

By Monday (which was my rest day) I was hobbling around and just beginning to consider taking a week off to give them time to recover but as that would have a big impact on the training plan it wasn't something I really wanted to do.

I was pretty sure that there was no chronic injury - it was simple sustained overuse - but I recognised that it needed to be addressed in order to prevent a chronic injury developing and to allow me to get the most out of my training.

So, I gave a little thought as to what might have happened and what I might do about it to avoid breaking training if at all possible.

Here's my list:

  • The pain coincided with a stepped increase in training - longer mileage, longer speed sessions, longer endurance run. Not much I can do about that but next week will be a cut back week so will give a bit of respite.

  • I have compounded that a bit by allowing myself to run 2-3 miles over each week recently. Doing that for long runs has been deliberate - adding on a mile - but the rest has been a result of over confidence. I'll stick to the plan more in future though will continue with the extra long run mile for the most part.

  • In the last 3 weeks or so I've let self competition make me forget about some of my pacing. The programme calls for 5 runs a week including 3 hard sessions, plus a day of cardio cross training, and the facilitator of that workload is that some of the mileage is done at a very slow pace. Lately I've been running 'recovery' runs at 60-90s a mile faster than I should have and 'base pace' and endurance runs at about 20-30s a mile faster. I think that may be the main culprit. So, I'm going to stick rigidly to the slower pace guides.

  • Like many lazy runners I don't stretch unless something hurts. Generally that's not a problem but with the increased training volume and intensity I need to start doing a basic programme daily and post run.

  • I've put on weight over Christmas yet been running at faster paces. That must put a little extra strain on my body. That should take care of itself as the festive gain falls away.

  • I have a neanderthal approach to self massage that goes something like this: calves feel tight...massage with massage stick very aggressively trying to destroy all knots...very painful during and causing inflammation and further tightening afterwards. This is another big culprit. Approach now is gentle daily massage with arnica oil - softly, softly catchee monkey.

  • Over the past 12 days I gave my body lots of fuel in the form of refined carbs and fats but maybe not all the nutrients it needed to repair itself. Timing has been poor too. Take last Wednesday's tough intervals session as an example. I finished it by 10am but didn't have anything to eat until 1pm. A renewed focus on macros and timing will help my body to recover from the increased demands.

  • Whilst I did have a cold bath after Sunday's run I generally haven't been in recent weeks. Policy now is to ice after every run (bag of peas now bought for that purpose) and to have cold baths after all long runs.

I suppose that all boils down to me getting carried away, not respecting the plan, and then not having a safety net of effective maintenance and fuelling measures in place to help manage the fall out. The changes I'm making are designed to allow me to slowly repair the damage whilst removing the cause. If it doesn't work then I'll drop/shorten/change runs to help further. I'll also get a massage booked for later this week.

Yesterday's run was the first test. Seven miles at base pace was scheduled and I was worried about whether I could do it or what I might be like afterwards. I deliberately ran slowly - slower than base pace, more like recovery pace, and afterwards I felt no ill effects. I iced with the bag of peas on the main hot spot on the right calf (where I'd found a big but generally pain free knot the week before then massaged it into a huge and tender lump...). By the evening my calves were still feeling fatigued and sore but far less stiff than they had pre-run.

This morning there's still some stiffness, fatigue and soreness, but no worse than yesterday so I take that as a qualified success at this stage.

Today's intervals session will be an interesting test though


Just a Girl said...

Have you thought about seeing a proper sports therapist mate? My calves were terrible earlier this year due to the increase in running and he really sorted them out for me.

BabyWilt said...

I can fully understand your over training, the desire to push "just that little further" is a trait I have as well. Good to see you have assessed how and why the pain started and your action plan but I do think for full recovery and to keep you on track (with no more self-copetitions planned) I'd second JAGs comment.

Alison said...

Excellent, thorough analysis. One final thing: running on snow and ice puts more pressure on the calves and feet. I agree though that it would be prudent to pull back and not let over-confidence or ambition derail you. While a week off might be disruptive, a chronic injury is even more so. So I'd consider extra rest if the problem persists with these changes in place.

Stern words ;)

Maria said...

I am so bad at stretching! I know I should do it but it always seems to take so long and usually I dont ache too much! I must take your advice and stretch properly!
At least you have assessed what the issue might be and are taking steps to remedy it.