Training smarter

2016 has been a year of mixed feelings. I’ve completed my first ultra but I’ll probably won’t reach my goal of 2016 km because I’ve been injured for the most part. Bummer 🙁

What was wrong?

In April I started to get some hamstring issues in my right leg. I thought it was some soreness from the extensive training and racing in the previous months so I kept on running but by the time that I had to race in the Tail des Trappistes (end of May) it got worse. I started doing some workouts to strengthen my glutes and hamstrings, visited the doctor regularly but nothing worked.

I ran my first ultra, took some time off from running, included more core and strength workouts and more cross training with bike commutes and some cyclocross rides. But halas, no improvement. I was starting to get frustrated so it was time for a second opinion. I searched on the interwebz for a sports physician with experience in endurance athletes and who is (or was) an athlete himself. I found Peter Vervoort and made an appointment.

I explained my problem: sore right hamstring (only when running), loss of strength in my right leg and pressure on the piriformis and/or sciatic nerve. His only response was: “Did they take an NMR scan?”. No they haven’t. He couldn’t make a diagnosis without that scan. So I had to make an appointment for an NMR scan at my local hospital and come back when that was done. Two weeks later, with the scan taken, I was back in his office. Conclusion: “hamstring tendinitis and a lumbar cartilage crack”.

The hamstring tendinitis can be cured with a PRP injection. The lumbar cartilage crack is a bit harder. This will take manual therapy (physiotherapist), a lot of excercises and a special (and very expensive) medicin to heal the crack in the cartilage in my vertebrae. I’m expected to be cured of the cartilage crack in 2 (or 3) months and the tendinitis should be gone after 7 days. During those 7 days (after the PRP) I wasn’t not allowed to do any physical excercise. No running, no biking, no strength workouts, nothing! I am allowed to do all after those 7 days and during my rehab of the lumbar cartilage crack. Just to be on the safe side I took an extra week of resting.

The cause

My face with a black eye and fat lip
My bruised right eye and fat lip 🤕
but the actual damage was in my spine.

We've concluded that the cause of all this was my fall during the "Koning van Spanje" (King of Spain) trail. I can't recall completely what body parts hit the ground but I can remember that my face took a big part of the impact as I was too late to place my hands to break my fall. Maybe my spine must have hit a root or something else. Who knows?

The crack in the cartilage triggers nerves, which trigger the muscles in my right buttock and the hamstring. The constant activation caused the inflammation.

The remedy

Apart from the medication for the cartilage and the PRP injection the remedy lies in training smarter. During my inactivity I (re-)read a couple of books about training smarter. One was about MAF running which I was already familiar with, another about Strengthrunning and one about the 80/20rule

MAF is all about running slower to become faster and improving fat burning.

Strengthrunning is about becoming stronger by mixing various workouts and vary the pace of your workouts. The pace thing is adding strides or doing hill repeats or any other type of running. The various workouts is also doing crosstraining. Crosstraining is adding cycling, swimming and weight training to your routine. Limiting your workouts to “running only” is the worst a runner can do. The swimming part is something that I’m gonna skip but the cycling and weight training is already in my routine. Another important rule: be consistent. Train regularly and increase your mileage in a smart way. Only when you’re comfortably at a certain weekly mileage, you can increase the distance (or time). So out with the “add 10% weekly”-rule. Now it’s “add 10% when you’re ready for it”-rule.

The 80/20 rule is doing 80% of your workouts at an easy pace and only 20% of hard, intense workouts. Let’s say you run a weekly total of 60k. You must run 48k at an easy pace and not more than 12k is intense. The key here is that your easy runs are atually very easy and your hard runs, well you guessed it by now, are really hard. Most runners run too much in the grey zone between easy and hard. Never easy and never hard which causes injuries because it’s always the same repetitive motion. The way you can structure these workouts is endless. Let’s say you do 6 runs per week. You can do 5 runs very easy and one hard. Or you can mix them all up by starting every run easy and only the last 1 or 2k hard, depending on the length of the run. Just be creative and vary.

My training schedule for now is mainly focussed on fixing my core and building strength. So a lot of ab and weight training. The abs should also fix my anterior pelvic tilt and reduce the stress on my hamstrings. Here’s a good video on the issue. The weight training should give me a stronger body to handle the beating and pounding on my legs and feet during running and a better posture to improve running performance. Running is reduced to 15mins max at a very low pace and with at least one day of recovery between each run. The objective here is to run pain free and not to stress that hamstring. Once I’m able to run 2 weeks consistently of one day on/one day off I will increase the time or mileage.

Goals for 2017

My main goal for 2017 is the 100k of Trail des Fantômes in august. The first big test is Trail du Grand Ballon 54k in France in april to prepare for that 100k. And a year without injuries is also on the bucket list. 😅 #thistimeillsucceed 🏃