As you read this, I better be 30 minutes into my trip to the Adirondacks. More than likely, I will still be with the four boys trying to get their butts in gear, things in the cars, and on the road. But you know what? Maybe they will surprise me and things will go smoothly. No matter the case, I am definitely headed for a weeklong vacation away from the outside world and it is so, so, so needed. With that, I leave you a three part series regarding the knowledge I’ve gained from working with an amazing physical therapist who has credentials I couldn’t even dream up if I tried (no, really).
The most important thing for anyone returning from an injury is learning how to avoid another injury. In my physical therapy evaluation almost exactly a year ago to the day (July 24th), we discussed pre-hab, post-hab, and just how running should really look. It’s taken me a while to get to where I am today, probably a lot longer than many other recreational runners, but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have learned anything with a quick recovery. The learning had nothing to do with the length of time I was in therapy, but rather the amount of information I was willing to absorb and actually follow. What can I say? Sometimes I’m stubborn. Most likely, my stubborness is actually what kept me in therapy as long as I was and I’m okay with admiting it now.
Before physical therapy, my workouts looked like this: Change, lace-up, run as soon as Sir Garmin decided to sync, get home, shower, lounge around. I was on a schedule; taking the time to warm-up and cool-down properly was too time consuming. I knew (or assumed I knew) plenty of people who ran this way and they were fine so I was going to be, too. Whoops.
Now my runs are actually time consuming and the two times I tried to make them not so time consuming? I paid for it.
I’m not flexible. When I don’t work on it before and after my runs, running hurts. I hate warming up. When I don’t fully warm-up, running hurts. I don’t have “time” to cool down. When I don’t cool down, everything hurts after running hurt. I’m learning very quickly that you can’t run without being smart about it. It will catch up to you.
Prehabilitation, or pre hab, a form of strength training, aims to prevent injuries before the actual occurrence.
I have an arsenal of exercises from the past year, all building upon each other. They’re geared towards my specific weaknesses (weak hips, tight glutes) but more importantly, geared towards good running form. These exercises aren’t something you need because you’re injured, though that’s why I started them. These are exercises you need because you want to be a better, stronger, and less injury-prone runner. It’s all about functional fitness. [Note: I didn’t listen/watch these videos in full. I watched for form, skipped through, but had them on mute because Pandora is way better to my ears at the moment.]
- Clams (legs on floor), then side plank clams
- Foot-Hand Crawls – Forwards, Backwards, Sideways (Sidewards, if you’re my boyfriend) (Good video explanation but you want the hand/foot to touch at the same time, good video example of the form but without explanation)
- Lateral miniband walks (bent and straight leg)
- Forward/Backward miniband walks (bent and straight leg)
- Two leg hip hinge
- Single leg hip hinge
- Squats with miniband (or better yet, a belt)
- Single leg squats
- Standing hip abduction (but on a step and with a band above the knees)
- Bridges with miniband (or better yet, a belt) – full movement, all the way up and all the way back to the floor
- Single leg bridges (use opposite hand for resistance against raised leg)
- Walking bridges (essentially, alternating sides of the single leg bridge with your hands on the ground, maintaining core activation by keeping your leg slightly beyond your hips)
- Drop squats
- Single leg drop squats (don’t let your foot hang to the side like this guy – think running form!)
- Single leg banana hurdle hops (think running form, like adding hudles to the drop squat, do variations)
- TRX push-ups
- TRX hip hinge with row (keep your feet on the floor, bring hips up, row, lower hips, repeat)
These are exercises I never do on a complete rest day and doing them all in one day is a little too extensive for me, probably unnecessary too. Usually I pair them up with a day I’m also doing weight training, if not on a day of their own. I felt that the miniband walks, hip hinge variations, and foot-hand crawls were hands down the most beneficial to me. I haven’t done much work with the drop squats and hops because they’re taxing on my tendon, but I know of their importance to building power back up. With still working up to a continuous run, I’m avoiding adding them into the regular rotation of exercises.
The one thing I’ve taken away from therapy is that what I learned was not just a one and done thing. It wasn’t “do these exercises and you can run again, then forget them”. Coming back better, faster, and most importatly – stronger – is the goal. I won’t settle for anything less.