Photo by HK100
In the past few years I got very active and so naturally I have surrounded myself with other like-minded friends. We spent many hours running, cycling and working out together. I started noticing that some of my friends were having issues with their hips, knees and ankles which made it difficult for them to train and race consistently. I heard them talk about shin splints, ITB issues and stress fractures but I didn’t pay much attention to it as I myself never had any of these problems.
Beginning of last year I felt really strong and so I signed up for more races than ever before. My life started evolving around running and I would fill my calendar with more and more trail running races. I joined the Asia Trail Master competition and kept racing all over Asia. The fact that I was feeling strong and improving race by race only reassured me that there is no reason to slow down or worry about any potential injuries.
At that time I kept my old habits and still did a fair bit of cycling and cross training. It was natural to me as joining group rides and social workouts was a way to catch up with friends. Additionally, living in Shanghai meant limited access to trails and so it was nice to include other types of training into my routine apart from running on flat concrete.
In August last year I said bye to my friends in China and moved back to Europe. I definitely did not plan on taking any break from running. On the contrary I decided to increase my running volume. I was in the middle of Asia Trail Master and I also committed to my first 100 km race so I needed to be in my best shape. I stopped with the cross training as I had no friends who would join these sorts of group workouts with me. I was also cycling less as the weather in Europe was getting too cold for outdoor rides.
Beginning of October I hired a running coach to make sure I was 100% ready for my remaining races. I started following a new running plan and increased my weekly mileage significantly. To test my new running shape I joined a race in my home town end of October. I was excited to race in a familiar environment with the support of my family. I started strong and led the race from the beginning. Everything was going smoothly until about 30 km into the race. I began to feel pain around my right knee which only kept getting worse and worse. I pushed through but I was getting worried. In the end I decided to give up at the last checkpoint as the pain was becoming unbearable. It was my first DNF and I was devastated.
The weeks following this incident I was trying to find out what caused the pain and how to prevent this from happening in the future. I realised that my condition was linked to my ITB (Iliotibial Band) and it was a so-called ITB Syndrome. This is one of the most common running injuries. It happens mostly when runners over-train and increase their running mileage too fast. It also happens when runners don’t complement their running training with other types of workouts. Of course I was a perfect example of a runner who was not doing any of this. Only once I got into this situation I realised how important cross training and strength training was to stay injury free.
With only two weeks left before my 100 km race I was panicking and did all I could to make sure I can run the race. I stopped running completely to give my body enough rest. I went for a couple of physiotherapy sessions to release some of the tension in my IT band with the help of deep tissue massage and acupuncture. I started doing specific exercises on a daily basis to strengthen all my muscles surrounding the IT band. With the help of amazing physiotherapists at Joint Dynamics and a bunch of painkillers I managed to finish the big race and I was getting more optimistic about my last two races of the Asia Trail Master.
In the end I managed to complete the Asia Trail Master - with two final victories I became the Champion of 2019. Thanks to my new habits and plenty of rest my injury improved by then but I still needed some pain killers get through each race. Getting rid of an injury is a long process and for the first time in my 'running life' I had to learn to be patient and take it easy. Slowly but surely I was getting better and mid January I managed to complete another 100 km race - this time pain free.
It has been a year since I got injured and learned how to take care of my body. It takes very little to stay injury free but requires some discipline. It is important to progress slowly – increase your mileage by no more than 10% over the previous week. Your body needs time to adjust otherwise you will be facing overuse injuries. My routine these days includes 20-30 min strength session 2-3 times a week and a proper stretch after each run. It is also good to complement your training with a weekly bike ride or a swim. Since following these new habits I am running pain free and enjoying every minute spent on trails. Happy running girls!
Click here to read about a few easy tips to prevent running injuries.