Don't have high hopes for healing with downhill habits | DOC

#134 Don’t have high hopes for healing if you have downhill habits

Today on the Doc On The Run podcast, we’re talking about how you shouldn’t have high hopes for healing if you have downhill habits. Don’t have high hopes for healing if you have downhill habits. Look, when you learn something’s changed, you have to adjust as quickly as you can. This is true of everything, right? Like, if you know that your stock is tanking, do you really want to ride that all the way to the bottom? Probably not. If you know that your car is going sideways in the rain, do you really want to just see what happens? Probably not. You have to make an adjustment. You have to change course. You have to do something differently to avert disaster.

If you know the treatment plan that you were given isn’t really working anymore, you need to adjust the plan. How do you tell? Because you don’t notice anything different. If you start to improve and your pain goes away, you’re already at a new phase of recovery. When you start walking and it feels uncomfortable and then suddenly it doesn’t feel uncomfortable anymore, you’re in a new phase of recovery. The thing is, is that you’ve got to really realize what can help you, what’s helping you, and what’s holding you back as well. That’s what I mean by downhill habits.

What happens a lot of times is that when we’re in training we’re really religious and diligent about maintaining good habits. We protect our sleep. We make sure we get enough sleep. We go to bed earlier. We hydrate. We’re eating all the right foods. We’re protecting our nutrition, our health, and the recovery process. Then when we get injured, a lot of that changes. A lot of times, you know, we watch more television, our sleep starts to kind of slack off due to the blue light and due to just staying up later watching shows because we’re kind of bummed out. We’re not really sleeping as well because we’re not exercising, we’re not burning all that energy during the day, so we may have some sleep changes that are negatively affecting our recovery.

Many times also, I see athletes, I will go see people during a house call, I’ll do Skype consultations with them, I am talking to them, I’m talking on them on a webcam, on the phone, and they’re telling me, “Well, you know, I’m not really training right now, so I’m not really as diligent about my diet.” I’ll say, “What did you eat?” They say, “Well, yesterday I went out with some friends and I had beer and pizza.” Okay, is that really going to help you heal the stress fracture? Is that really going to help you heal an achilles tendon issues? Probably not, right? Those are downhill habits. You’re basically putting yourself on a slippery slope where it’s going to delay your healing.

You have to really pay attention to this stuff, and again, if you aren’t really healing a week or two into your injury, you realize that you aren’t on track and you have to do something, you have to adjust. You’ve really got to pay attention to what is going on in your own body when you’re recovering from a running injury. You have to take action and you have to change course when needed. That can mean lots of different things.

One thing is that you have to take action. Right? What does that mean? Well, if you can identify some downhill habits, things that are messing you up, if you know you’re not really sleeping appropriately, you know you’re not really on track with your nutrition, you can fix that. The other thing is, is that if you have one of these other phases where you know something’s changed like it no longer hurts or you can walk on it without pain and you were having a lot of discomfort initially when you started walking, when your doctor told you it was okay to walk. Well, you’re at a new phase of recovery.

What that implies to me as somebody that treats runners all the time, that implies you could do a lot more in terms of activity. If your doctor gives you this plan where you’re supposed to just sit still, you’re supposed to walk on it, you’re not supposed to run. You’re not supposed to put any stress on it or whatever, but it changes and it doesn’t hurt anymore, you need to reevaluate. That may mean that you just need to call your doctor and see if you can get an appointment sooner and not wait for another couple of weeks.

As doctors, unfortunately, we’re really guilty of giving you these arbitrary timelines that we think fit with most healing injuries, and they’re not catered to runners. They’re catered to the general population. We may tell you, “Okay, we’re going to see you in two weeks, four weeks, six weeks.” Sometimes doctors will just say, “We’ll see you in six weeks.” Sometimes they’ll say, “We’ll see you in four weeks.” If something’s changed at two weeks, you don’t want to wait for that next arbitrary time point, so call your doctor, see if you can get in to get some change in your plan, because at that point your plan may not be working and you might need to shift gears and you might need to speed up your healing a little bit.

You just can’t afford to stall your healing. You can’t afford to stall your healing because you’re just waiting. That’s a bad habit. Waiting is not really a plan for healing an injury. Activity, feeding it with nutrition, doing things to strengthen that injured part around there, you know, the thing that has been injured. All of those things are positive and they’re going to help you, but waiting passively is not really a great plan. I mean, let’s face it. If you’re training for a marathon, would you just wait until the marathon and see what happens? That don’t make any sense.

That’s the big thing here. You need to try to think about this. Try to identify any downhill habits, anything that you’re doing that could be impeding your recovery. If that confuses you just because you’re thinking recovery as opposed to getting over your last workout, think of it that way. Don’t think about it as healing a running injury or healing a stress fracture or healing achilles tendonitis or healing an over-training injury, per se. Try to think about it instead of, if you just yesterday did mile repeats or if you just yesterday did hill repeats or you were doing speed work or you were doing a hard tempo run or you were doing a long run, if you were recovering from that workout today, would you be doing what you’re actually doing today?

If not, I bet there are some downhill habits that you can identify in your routine today, and if you remove those, it’s going to unhitch the trailer from the race car. You have to figure out how you can remove those anchors that are slowing you down, and the downhill habits do exactly that. Look for the habits that you’re doing today that can help speed up your recovery if you would just eliminate them. Find one today and then look for a different one tomorrow, and you’ll get back to running sooner.

If you have a question that you would like answered as a future edition of the Doc On The Run podcast, send it to me. Then make sure you join me in the next edition in the Don on the Run podcast. Thanks again for listening.