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Saturday, 16 April 2011

parkrun is....great for injury rehab

About 2 and a half weeks ago I injured my right hamstring training for the Leamington Regency 10km. I had been running really well at parkrun for many months and had finally sorted myself out with my first 10km run since the 2007 Great Manchester run (my only previous 10km). I had been certain that I would smash my PB, but unfortunately the injury meant that wasn't to be.

I did manage to get round the10km in a little under 46 minutes, but that was nowhere near the time I would have aimed for.

So why is parkrun good for injury rehabilitation? Well it wouldn't be a good idea in the early stages of recovery. Certainly not in the first 48-72 hours where RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) is the order of the day. And not too good either in the next phase of stretching, strengthening and then light jogging. But after that, parkrun is a great way to gradually build back up to your best.

So apart from that 10km run I have spent the last 2 and a half weeks trying to do all the right things for my hamstring. I did all the RICEing in the first 48 hours, lots of stretching and strengthening exercises, and a bit of slow jogging. I then reached the point where I was ready to do a longer slow run. What better way to do that than to get to my local parkrun course and run a Freedom parkrun?

So yesterday I jogged up to the park and ran a Freedom parkrun. I started slowly and took it very easy on the down hill stretches (which is where I had the injury in the first place), and then gradually picked up the pace a bit. It was an amazing feeling just to be back out running again. I am terrible at being injured. It really gets me down. I must have been a real grumpy old man the last couple of weeks. I have always been this way ever since all my hamstring problems from my days as a semi-pro footballer (get me!). In those days I would always come back too soon and re-injure the hamstring. Which probably explains why I still have a weakness there now. Anyway, I never took injuries well and I would always let them get me down. This time has been no different. But just getting out for a run yesterday and not feeling any pain was great and totally lifted my mood. I didn't even mind the cold bath afterwards, which I normally hate with a passion. Straight after the run I was filled with optimism with the end of my recovery now in sight.

Freedom parkrun done without injury - check! So on to today and a proper Saturday parkrun. Again, a great way to slowly come back from injury. I normally position myself at the very front of the pack on the start line. But today, I very sensibly (unlike me!) put myself near to the back of the field. This naturally forced me to start slowly. But as spaces appeared after the first couple of minutes I slowly built in confidence and eased my way past many of the others runners. I knew I was going faster than the previous day, but there was no pain, so I was happy to carry on at the same pace.

It was after a few minutes that I realised what a cunning plan the bottle of wine (all to myself. That sounds bad - does 2 bottles shared sound better? No.) had been last night. Had I not had that I would have quickly gained far too much confidence and raced off and risked further injury. As it was, the bottle of wine ensured that I really didn't fancy going too fast!

I completed the first lap in 10:30, far quicker than the 11:30 I was aiming for, and then proceeded to edge my way through the field to a sub 10:00 second lap and 20:23 overall finishing in 30th place. A pretty decent result for taking it easy! I think that works out as my second slowest parkrun ever. The slowest being due to the morning after a bottle and a half of wine the night before. This evidence does seem to suggest that wine is not as good for you as I keep hoping. That doesn't mean that it won't be me fuel of choice for a parkrun again at some point in the future. I don't like to learn my lessons too quickly where wine is involved! Anyway, I'll take that time very happily as I was only hoping for 22 to 23 minutes.

So that is another huge step forward in my hamstring rehab thanks to parkrun. Having so many runners to run with and alongside makes running so much easier. Just the boost I needed on my way back from this injury. Being timed over a course that I have come to know very well certainly helps. By knowing how far you have run in a certain time lets you know what pace you are running. If you can be strict with yourself it is an easy way to gradually run faster over a number of days and weeks. I'm looking forward to next week's parkrun already. Hopefully I can look at a time closer to 19 minutes next week, not quite at my best, but heading that way would be great.

My plan now will be to rest tomorrow and then maybe do another freedom parkrun on Monday. Then hopefully another later in the week and then again next Saturday. The aim will be to knock another 20 to 30 seconds or so off the previous time each run. Hopefully this will help me build my confidence to run faster and faster and head back towards my best.

parkrun really is a great way to come back from injury. And I am so glad that I am backing running again and more importantly back running at parkrun again. I was only absent for 2 weeks, but I really missed it a lot. Thank you parkrun and all those involved in organising it each week.

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