What’s The Best Way To Recover?

One of the hardest pats of recovery is learning to trust your body again. I’m not talking about the physical aspect of recovery . . . learning to run again or gaining fitness. I’m talking about trust. Really trusting in my body and the movements it makes.

 

The human body and it’s complexity fascinates me! Especially how the nervous system works. Our nervous system is closely integrated with our motion, constantly inputting sensory data as we move through the world. This is true when we are running or playing a sport, it’s all connected – nothing is independent, or at least, each independent system requires the other to gain importance.

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I learned this through my first injury. I had a major ligament injury in my foot. A ligament rupture in the arch. I had surgery and hardware placed (then removed). There was a lot of damage. The recovery was long and slow, but eventually the pain went away and I was able to get back to walking and then running. But there were still certain limitations to the movement of my foot.

 

Technically, my foot was healed. I was cleared by my PT and my doctor to start running. But there would be days, I would inexplicably feel uncertain and weak on my right foot. I was constantly worried about it, hyper aware if it was hurting, if it was swollen or was getting injured again. I had built an association of pain and hesitance in my foot, even though it was no longer injured.  This neuro-connection lead my body to start favoring it.

 

My good friend, Levi Younger, reached out to me and told me about this technique called Rolfing and we began working together. We worked on structural integration with manual manipulation of the injury site, but the most important aspect of it was talking through the emotional/mental side of the injury. We worked on associating new movements in a positive, safe environment so that my body learned to trust in the motions it once did. This in combination with my regular physical therapy at Revo was groundbreaking. I never had considered the power of mindset when working on a physical problem – I had just assumed they were separate.

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Now, you would think I would be done right? Well, that’s never true. Even though it’s been almost 2 years since breaking my back and my ribs, there were still some days when certain movements were a bit restricted. I was doing fine and trying my best to integrate everything I had learned, but then I broke my ankle and had to really focus in on recovery again.

 

I always think things happen for a reason because through this injury I met Travis Jones, and he told me about Eldoa. It’s a technique that aims to increase the space between joints. It can be done on any area of the body, but we started working on my broken ankle, to create space in the ankle joint, to prevent stiffness and encourage full range of motion.

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The more we worked together, the more I became aware of other areas of my body that still had scare tissue from my injuries 2 years ago! Sure, I was fully recovered and my bones were healed, but why was I feeling so stuck? I felt like I had certain restrictions to the motion and no matter how much I tried my body was good at resisting these motions; it was protecting me.

 

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Working through some of these Eldoa techniques with Travis has helped bring awareness to the movement of my body and the importance of creating space between even the smallest joint spaces. It’s changed how I think about recovery from injury – focusing more on the support network of the body and how those influence the bigger picture. It’s impressive how a shift in mental perspective integrated with the correct manual manipulation can encourage a more productive recovery process.

 

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If you’d like to learn more about Eldoa check out @eldoatrainer and share your recovery tips with me!

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Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

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“Many people have been impressed, even awestruck with my recovery. I’ve been asked frequently how it was possible to recover so quickly and to such a high level after such a serious accident. Although the process was grueling, arduous and full of set backs, my success in recovery can be attributed to one thing – my strength program.

— Hillary Allen

So what’s the deal with a strength routine for endurance athletes? Is it necessary? Won’t it make me slower, or cause me to bulk up?

These are questions I’ve asked myself, and excuses I’ve relied upon to prevent me from entering the weight room. As a professional ultra runner for The North Face, if I want to improve performance, it’s an easy default to think I must do MORE – miles, hours, vertical feet – to make improvements. Since the race distances I cover range from 30 -70 miles in one go, and cover extreme elevation changes, my immediate thought is – I need to put in a ton of volume so my body can handle these distances on race day.

Although this argument is true to some extent – running is the most specific way to train for a running race – it’s not the complete picture. If my body isn’t strong enough to withstand my training load, injuries will start to creep in. The most common source of injuries in runners originate from weak hips or core. These are the powerhouses which support the biomechanics of running, so why don’t we pay more attention to them, and strengthen them?

As an endurance runner, I did zero strength work. It wasn’t until I got my first running injury that I saw a physical therapist and began to understand the importance of strength. My injury was a pinched nerve in my calf. I thought I had strained it running, but it really resulted from a weak glute causing severe compensation issues. I was forced to stop running and had no choice but go to the gym and address my hip imbalances.

At first I viewed my gym work as a tedious task, boring, and something I could leave behind when I returned to the trails. But, when I was able to start running again, I noticed how smooth, fluid and effortless my running felt. Maybe it could be the strength work? So, I continued my strength routine as I upped my running volume and I continued to see the benefits. It was the strength work that changed my body’s ability to withstand my training load. It became my new routine, and kept me injury free for 2 years, competing at a professional level.

Last year, however, I was faced with a new challenge. During the final race of my season, a rock gave way underneath my foot and I fell 150 feet off of a ridge-line. I broke 14 bones including my back and some major ligaments in my feet and ankles. I was told I would never run again, let alone compete at a world class level. My spirit – and body – were crushed.

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I was faced with an intense recovery, starting from ground zero. I had to learn how to walk again before I could even think about running. So what did I do? I got my butt into the weight room.

Now, I’m going to ruin the surprise, but nearly a year after sustaining such traumatic injuries I’m back competing and running. Many people have been impressed, even awestruck with my recovery. I’ve been asked frequently how it was possible to recover so quickly and to such a high level after such a serious accident. Although the process was grueling, arduous and full of set backs, my success in recovery can be attributed to one thing – my strength program.

Long before I could run, or even walk properly, I was working with Matt Smith at Revo Physiotherapy and Sports Performance. I would come in 5 days a week working on my hip strength, glute activation, and an all around strength program for endurance athletes. If it wasn’t for their devotion and expertise in rebuilding my body (and booty), I would have never been strong enough to start running trails again. It wasn’t about the number of miles I was putting in, it was about how strong my supporting framework was to withstand the training, allowing me to compete at my first ultra only 10 months after the accident.

So if you have doubts about your performance, maybe some niggles that keep popping up, or you’re in need of an off-season activity, I encourage you to head into Revo. They will get you up and running again, and stronger than before. From a performance and injury prevention perspective, strength training is the best thing I ever did for my endurance running.

So go work on that booty, you’ll enjoy more about it than just the look in the mirror.

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Strength training for endurance athletes