Anna Boniface now realises that no athlete’s injury, physiology or circumstances are identical, and while the road to recovery can be long, it should be embraced as an opportunity to work on your weaknesses.
Several months have been and gone since my flimsy fibula decided to break at the worst time imaginable. Fooled by perfect rehab plans displayed by other athletes on Instagram, I anticipated, quite literally, running out of my moon boot like the scene from Forrest Gump.
Was the expectation of running six weeks post-injury unrealistic?
Even as a physiotherapist I had the impression that breaking a bone would involve prescriptive and predictable management. Lower limb fractures usually have a healing timescale of six to 12 weeks.
Mixed with seeing the likes of Laura Muir return from a stress reaction and win the European Indoors in a matter of weeks, perhaps I was unrealistic, forgetting the circumstances of my injury.
The principles of physiology guide healing times and the literature can suggest evidence based protocols, but ultimately injuries are individualised. No athlete’s injury, physiology or circumstances are identical.
My stress fracture hasn’t been textbook due to my bone health leaving me at high risk of further fractures. It took six months to even start running.
Even these few weeks back have not been smooth with another stress fracture scare, however, with the appropriate damage control and rest, thankfully this has settled. It was another bump on this rocky road to recovery but it made me reflect on my rehab process and think about any other weaknesses I need to address.
A wise coach once told me, “you are only as strong as your weakest point”. Injuries provide an opportunity to work on all of your weaknesses. Forever the optimist, I have embraced this concept.
My bones are weak, primarily down to issues with my energy availability, which am I addressing through working on my nutrition and getting a healthier relationship with training. For bone adaption to occur, I need to provide the skeleton gradually to impact activities. Hitting that “sweet spot” requires a careful balance of loading.
I’ve never been a particularly strong athlete and my running form is far from perfect. The weaknesses and movement limitations established from biomechanical analysis with Run 3D has also contributed to my injury. Classic weak glutes, a stiff thoracic spine and being a forefoot striker, my fibula has been subjected to increased loading.
When in the depths of marathon training, I did the odd bit of strength work, but running was always the priority. Now strength and conditioning has been the cornerstone to my rehab programme. I value hitting the gym far more post injury and it’s not an area I will neglect in the future.
I do three to four gym/rehab sessions a week. I mix up with the following exercises alongside my cross training and return to running.
Key messages to take away
Don’t compare yourself to other athletes when injured. Everyone responds differently. Concentrate on your own recovery and goals.
See injuries as an opportunity to focus on your weakness. Use the additional time to address them.
Be proactive, not reactive. Cut out junk miles and replace them with quality strength and conditioning. Invest in nailing your nutrition and recovery. Don’t ignore ‘RED’ flags in your health.
You are only as strong as your weakest point. Come away from an injury better than you were before. A setback is a setup for a great comeback.
Anna Boniface features in the ‘Fast 10: class of 2018’ and will share her running journey throughout the year. You can read Anna’s previous posts here and further information about the ‘class of 2018’ can be found here.