Justin pulled his left hamstring. Not badly – and he wisely stopped and walked home as soon as he felt the twinge. He iced and lightly stretched the hamstring over the next three days. Also water ran and StairMastered, neither of which caused any pain. His chiropractor did some Graston work and noted one hip was tighter than the other, prescribing stretches to even things out.
All was feeling pretty good, so after four days Justin thought he’d test it out. He was registered for an important half marathon in nine days and felt the need to get in some miles. He aimed for three miles on the treadmill. But in the second mile, the hamstring pulled again. He stopped — frustrated, disappointed, and angry.
Every competitive runner hits these bumps. We push it to the limit. The reality is even a well conditioned athlete may be just one hard workout away from injury. Yet we have goals and work meticulously and progressively to meet them. It’s damned if we do and damned if we don’t! Meanwhile, race dates don’t change so we try to compact the recovery period to make it to the start line.
None of this is fun. Justin started second-guessing himself – what if he had waited another couple of days? But Justin took his chances, as might have most runners in this situation. Thankfully, no great harm done. It’s still a Grade 1 strain and recovery probably set back a week or less. He had to come to grips with missing the half marathon and focus on races four or five weeks down the road. In the whole scheme of things, not a big deal.
What would each of us have done here? My guess is we’d be inclined to push the envelope. Hopefully minimizing further damage, as did Justin, and realize recovery of a hamstring pull is generally not three days, rather three to five times longer. We would then recalibrate our training and look to running equivalents (REQ’s) to maintain our fitness.
At bottom, we are all an experiment of one. No book, article, or blog post will settle the issue. We have our own body structure and injury and health history. And our age affects both maximum capacity and resiliency. Along with Justin, we will probably venture into the dark side – where we know danger lurks but also where adventure lives.
The good news is after two weeks of very active rehab, Justin is back running without any apparent effects from the hamstring pull. He’s stretching his tight hip, doing full warm-ups and cool-downs, and diligently using a foam roller and rope stretches. And looking forward to those races down the road!