Runners fast forward healing | DOC

#135 Runners fast forward healing

Runners fast-forward healing, today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.

Faster means “faster.” It means making decisions quicker. And forward means you and your doctor are making decisions more frequently so you can shorten the recovery time and move forward towards running and your next marathon, your next iron man, next trail run, whatever it is, faster.

So how does that really work? Think about this. You go to the doctor, they say, “Okay, you have a stress fracture, you have tendonitis, you have some issue and you need to rest.” Okay. Well, I understand that you might need to rest for some period of time, but then how long do you need to rest? Is it the same of everybody else, or is it different for you? And when your doctor tells you to come back two weeks, four weeks, six weeks. Does that really make sense to you?

I mean, think about it. When you’re training, when you’re out on a run, how often do you measure your heart rate? If you think about this, if you run with a heart-rate monitor, look at it. How often does it actually check your heart rate? Is it doing it every hour, every mile? No, it’s doing it every couple of seconds, right? It’s actually changing those adjustments in heart rate as they happen, so you need to know in real-time what’s going on when you’re training, and you need to know real-time what’s going on when you see your doctor and you’re actually healing an over-training injury.

Because let’s face it, an over-training injury is about the worst possible thing that can happen to a runner. Your fitness is going to get decimated if you just sit there, waiting and waiting and waiting to heal. And every extra week matters. If you spend one week on crutches in a fracture walking boot or a cast, you get a 17% reduction in the muscle diameter size of the fibers in that leg. So a week, matters, right? 17% reduction. If you think about that in reverse, if you think, “Well, 17 doesn’t sound that bad.”

If you went to your coach today and you said, “I want 17% bigger calves this year, how soon can you make that happen?” They would say, “Maybe by 2020.” Right? It would take an enormous amount of time to get that back. So that’s why it’s so crucial, that’s why you should not wait for four weeks or six weeks or anything else. Think about, how often do you measure your perceived exertion or your lactic threshold? Once every ten years? No way. You’re going to want to know season-to-season, or even phases of training, how you’re doing. You want to really know, does your perceived exertion seem to go down as compared to what it was a few months ago? You want to make those adjustments during the big training blocks so you can see whether or not you’re actually making progress.

I mean, really, how often does your coach measure your progress? You check into you coach, what, weekly? Sometimes daily? It just depends. But you certainly don’t check in in January and June and that’s it, that wouldn’t make any sense at all. So if you get injured and it’s January, would it make any sense that your coach wouldn’t talk to you, or your doctor wouldn’t talk to you, for four to six weeks? That’s absurd, unless you’ve thrown in the towel and you’ve decided you’re abandoning all of your running goals, you’re going to switch, you’re going to take this year off, you’re not going to do anything else.

Make sense to me then, but if you have a timeline, if you have a race that you want to do, if you want to heal and then start training for that race so you can show up on that day, at the start time, and make it to the goal in your finish time, then you really don’t have any time to waste, and you certainly shouldn’t waste it based on some arbitrary timeline a doctor gave you. So, you need to talk to your coach, you need to talk to you doctor. And when your doctor throws out some time of when you’re going to check in, and maybe increase your activity, maybe give you some range of motion exercises, maybe let you out of the fracture walking boot, maybe take you off crutches.

You need to ask them, “Do I really have to wait that long to re-asses?” And say, “I’m talking to my coach every day, why do I have to wait three weeks to talk to you? Can’t we do that in a week? Couldn’t something change in a week?” Try to pin the doctor down, ask them specific questions regarding what you can do to heal faster. Because you really have to think about this. It’s not your doctor’s job to make it to your goal race on time. That’s your job. It’s your doctor’s job to try to heal your injury, at least that’s what they think. The doctor’s job, really, is to try to help you achieve your goals. But if you’re not crystal clear on your goals and you’re not communicating that to your doctor, it’s going to get lost. And then you get on the slow track, not the fast track.

So runners really can fast-forward their healing process, but that requires you doing all the right stuff, not just the stuff the doctor tells you to do. But it sometimes actually requires you to question the doctor a little bit in terms of these timelines that seem really long to you. So when a doctor tells you, “Oh yeah, this is going to take six weeks to heal.” And it takes your breath away and you want to throw up because you’re like, “Oh my gosh, six weeks of not running?” Then just stop for a second, take a breath, and think about that. And ask the doctor, “How can we reassess more frequently so I can stay on track and heal as fast as possible?” Just tell them, say, “Look, I really want to try to figure out how to fast-forward my healing because I’m a runner.” And if you communicate as effectively with your doctor as you do with your coach, you really can 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. And then make sure you join me in the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast.