Well, I'm happy to say that my injury is almost gone. YIPPE for being smart. What was likely about to develop into a really bad case of plantar fasciitis was minimized by icing, Alleve (since I rarely take anti-inflammatories, maybe 10 or less a year, they work when I need them to work), foam rolling, ball rolling and stretching. Realizing that I can still bike and swim, I did not "test" the injury at all with any running after my calf became extremely tight on Wednesday afternoon. Every day I am feeling better and better and I am more and more thankful that I acted before and did not react after the fact. No race but I'm likely back to running in less than 2 weeks. I'll take it!
I would say that I am 90% healed so I will wait until I can go a full day without feeling anything in my foot/calf and then I will wait 2 more days before I resume running. As a recommendation to others who are injured, do not neglect the other side of your body when you are injured. The same focus I give on stretching and rolling (especially my ITB and piriformis which is a daily routine twice a day) is being given to my left foot.
Thankfully, I have learned that prevention is cheaper than medicine. But I can't hesitate to tell you that if you are someone who experiences ongoing or painful injuries, please get it checked out as you will waste more time and energy google-ing and trying to treat yourself. Visit a sport physician and then see a physical therapist. They know their stuff and they will give you practical advice and help you out to move in the right direction. Be sure to find one that specializes in your sport so that they are very familiar with your daily exercise routine and goals.
I am working on a few presentations for January and February in which I will be talking with running groups and triathlon groups on training smarter to train harder. As age group athletes, I feel there is a lot of confusion out there as to how we can reach performance goals or personal athletic goals and not feel overwhelmed in the process. One thing I am seeing a lot of right now is athletes who are eager to start "training" again and are jumping right back into structured training with all the intensity and volume added in like it was just yesterday that they were peaking for their A race. Or, the athlete has not taken a break (only to "recover" from the last race) and is going hard again.
I am noticing athletes with a lot of energy in the beginning of a training plan (especially at the beginning of the New Year) so any free time is being taken up with "exercise" - AKA "junk".
For many of my athletes, they are in an unstructured structured phase of training. The progression to structured training can be hard for any athlete because you never know how the body will respond and with short term goals in mind during every workout, it's easy to want to do too much too soon because you feel good.
The transition phase to more structured training should be around three to four weeks depending on how long you took yourself out from structured training. It's good to take a break but what we need to avoid is losing fitness. We need a break for the mind and body and the first priorities when we get back into a routine is strength training, flexibility work, focusing on the daily diet (prior to working on "sport nutrition) and weaknesses. Keep in mind that as an athlete, you are training for adaptations to the physiology of the body.
If you are just "exercising" you are focused on achieving x-miles or x-amount of time.
When you are training, your body is under stress. Thus, the workout has a plan and a purpose. Changes in stroke volume, cardiac output, oxygen uptake, hemoglobin levels, lung capacity, resting heart rate, VO2, an increased size in slow and fast twitch muscle fibers and muscle hypertrophy are all adaptations that occur when you train smart.
Although I am all about balance in life and with sport, I constantly remind my athletes that it will get harder. For now, they can thank me now for periodized training and making consistent gains that will pay off by race day.
When you have a training plan from a coach or put together your own plan, avoid doing too much too soon. Be ok with having a lot of energy at first because you don't want to waste energy on the first month of training only to find yourself burnout and injured 7, 8 or 9 months down the road. I encourage you to think about your training in training blocks - perhaps 1 month at a time with goals that you want to accomplish in each month. Consider the other variables in your life such as diet, sleep, flexibility and stress management that will also play an impact on your progression in fitness.
Here are two really great reads that I came across to help you develop a healthier relationship with exercise/training and to help you train smarter. Any questions, send me an email or comment on my blog. I enjoy responding to comments personally via email (or phone call if needed).
The art of recovery - By Matt Dixon
Common Mistakes made by triathletes - By Wayne Goldsmith