Running After Surgery

On today’s Extra Kick podcast, Coach Dylan explains how to return to strong, healthy running after surgery.


Audio Transcript

Coach Dylan: Hi everyone. Here’s today’s question.

Question: I’ve been dealing with an injury for the last two years and that required surgery. Now I’m back running but I can’t seem to get my speed back. Is there an estimate on how long it takes to get the [inaudible 00:01:51] back to normal? Thank you.

Dylan: That’s a great question and one that I believe will resonate with a lot of people that have had surgeries and kept them out of running.

The first thing I should recommend is to remain patient. I know we don’t always like to hear that, but we had to play the long game returning from any major setback. I understand the frustration you may be going through as do many others who are listening right now.

We can all share this feeling with you. Nobody enjoys being taken away from the activity they love to do, and it can be very hard to work our way back to the points where we were in our past.

I ensure you that there is hope, with the right timing and with the right commitment. Seeing much can tie into the recovery period of surgery, this is all depending on the severity of the injury or the affected body part.

This also adds to the time it must be forced to be off our feet. It takes time to spend with P.T. to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps and returning to running as safely as possible.

During this time, we should focus on building back our strength through adequate weight training and mobility work and the addition of small amount of running we do initial return.

As you build your way back over time, ideally, we are much stronger and better equipped to handle the stresses related to running. We should only start running very easily once you return from your injury.

I know after I tore my I.T. band, I was in a wheelchair for nearly a month and I didn’t start running for a total of 4 months and even then, you could barely call it running.

I remember running a mile on the track on my 18th birthday and I remember coming through and I broke into tears. I was so happy to just be out there and running and during that time off, I had really forgotten what it felt like to really be out there and running.

It brought on an appreciation for having doctors, my family, and a support system who stuck by me and helped me along the way.

Now again, I understand that this was a long process to get back and for me it took a matter of about nine months to get back to where I was even remotely close to where I was prior to my injury.

Luckily though, I was helped along by some fantastic people who laid out what I was to do from day one. How I tie this into your recovery and your return to running, is that we understand that it will take time to build your way back into the volume and the intensity that you had, prior to your injury.

We must be patient in our approach and understand that training is a process and to get where we want to be, it takes a very delicate training adaptation and training recovery mind set.

Doing less now and building over time will really ensure that you have further longevity within this sport.

The speed is likely to come back but you must ensure you’re doing all the right things now so that you can continually remain upright and healthy in your future.

This includes taking care of your body and spending time working on specific areas of need that your body may need more work and more strengthening.

For many runners, this tends to be work in the weight room and work in mobility and flexibility exercises.

These are just so easily neglected but they are so essential to maintaining strength, flexibility, and mobility as your body is continually being broken down from running.

What I find helps for myself as well as the athletes I train, is to write out my goals. Write out all your goals and these can range from small short-term goals to intermediate goals to even long-term goals.

I like them all and I find that they are very beneficial in keeping us motivated as well as productive in our development in training.

This can be incredibly useful when checking and monitoring your progress over time. Ultimately, it’s a positive reinforcer that keeps us in line and ready to tackle our next goal with direction.

As of recent, I have also been keeping a training journal and in this journal I write just about everything they did or felt during the given day. I like to have this information as documentation of my mindset and feeling on any day of the week.

It also holds me more accountable and allows me to reflect on the positive aspects of any given day, no matter how negative I may have felt before during or after a specific run or training session.

What I’ve noted is that there’s always a positive take away and you just have to find it.

A lot of times during my journals, I also like to write down maybe specific quotes or interesting things or facts that I have found throughout the day or people have told me that really inspired me.

Maybe I write down videos that I watched online, a good podcast the somebody recommended, or a book. That way at the end of the day, I can reflect on it and I look at it and I say, “Oh, that’s what I learned today” or maybe I should go to the bookstore or download this podcast for my drive to work or on my run tomorrow.

It just inspires me, keeps me motivated and it keeps me going on a day to day basis. I think a lot of us employ this too.

When I speak to a lot of the Runners Connect members, a lot of us listen to podcasts, music, or we take inspiration from things in nature, positive figures, family, and this can all be added to our training.

This energy, positive reinforcement, this family that we create, it’s all tied together.

While we’re kind of moving away from your initial question, I think these are important things that we can apply during the periods of which we’re feeling down and maybe we’re not completely satisfied where we’re now.

Having a good support system and belief system in yourself is just as important as the training.

Having a positive and healthy mind is the precursor to being successful in just about everything you do.

This leads us past our documentation techniques and leads us into how social factors can improve us as well.

During my training periods in which things aren’t really going as how I wanted to be, I try to find time to enjoy things that I love to do that takes me away from running.

Sometimes removing myself from that stress allows me to be better once I return with healthier mindset and that I’ve removed myself from an activity that was only bringing negative thoughts on that given day.

For me this maybe going for a hike or calling an old friend the idea is just to find someone who you can confide in or find something that you can enjoy, that allows you to just see the world in a different perspective, and focus on other aspects of your life that provide you value.

I’ve wasted too much time stressing over my running performances that I have made it worse on many occasions.

I’ve tried to learn from this over the years of training very hard and it’s getting better and better every year, but it’s always a work in progress.

I’m the first one to tell you that I’m not perfect and I’m still learning and growing and that’s something that I’m going to continue doing because that’s just the nature of running.

It’ll never be 100% perfect and it’s so all-encompassing that there’s so many other little social or physical or mental factors that play into it and we can always improve in one of those facets.

I use these strategies to keep me level and grounded and it allows me to not apply running to other aspects of my life and bring down other aspects of my life, like I’m carrying negative baggage with me.

If I separate the two entities, it allows me to be grounded and be present in that current moment that I’m in.

If I have a bad workout that day, I try to forget it as much as possible and I move on.

I know that every day is not going to be a great day and maybe my body is not where it is right now, but there’s plenty of time. We all have time to work on it.

If we put that time and energy in every day, then we’re going to get results.

It takes time and we should be patient and we should play the long game. You can’t focus short-term when in training. We should focus on the long term.

This leads me into my last recommendation for you. If you haven’t found a club or a group of people to run with, I think you should. Though some of us are lone wolves and that’s okay.

I think one of the easiest ways to get better is to train with other people. Our motivation and accountability are high when we train with others and we often feed off that energy.

It’s very similar to when we had ten races and we run faster than we ever could in training. If you have access to train with others who can keep you motivated and uplifted, take advantage of that.

I know for myself, I love running with other people. I feel a lot of control and I have a lot of pride in myself when I get all my work done, running wise by myself, and knocking out a 20-mile run, half of it at marathon pace, I’m excited. That’s awesome.

Not having anybody else there is incredible internal motivation. I have days where I wake up and I don’t necessarily want to get out the door.

I’m tired and maybe I try to push it back and I try different strategies to not think too much in the morning and get after it.

What I like to do when this strategy works, I link up with other people in my area and we set times of the week (in which I know I’m not going to particularly feel well for example, after a workout that maybe went good or maybe even went bad.

I know that next day that it’s going to be a slow run and I’m going to want to have a conversation to make it go by a little bit quicker, so I schedule my runs with some of my friends or my local running groups throughout the week) so that it takes a little bit of stress off of me and that run goes so much faster and I enjoy it so much more.

I think we should all take advantage of running with other people because it makes us better. If we can feed off and work with each other, it develops a characteristic in our training that we can’t always get by ourselves.

I suggest you probably consider that if you don’t already run with other people.

Remain patient and keep your eyes focused on the long-term development. Do as much as you can now to ensure that your training continues to go as well as possible later down the road.

I believe I may have left you with a bit of a cliffhanger, but I also believe I’ve given you a way to start and visualize how you’re going to approach your plan these next few months of training or your training cycle.

Again, sometimes we should adjust our mindset and our approach to training when obstacles coming our way.

It’s this approach that makes us great. Even if it takes time, there is pride in the time, work, and the determination.

It takes a certain kind of person to overcome these obstacles that are thrown in our way. Keep grinding and keep your head up because with the right mindset and the right procedure, you will be able to make the most of this.

When you do, you’ll appreciate everything you did to get there. Thank you so much for your question. It certainly sparks some interesting thoughts. Thank you all for tuning in today.

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