January 17, 2017

Injury Update #2: Stress Fracture Recovery Begins

In case you missed it, I was diagnosed with a 4th metatarsal stress fracture at the very end of October/beginning of November and survived almost 4 weeks in an Aircast boot doing pretty much zero exercise of any type. Yup, I did pretty much nothing besides a few workouts during my time recovering. 


What I'm Doing

Physical Therapy
Das boot came off in December after an X-Ray and getting the okay from my orthopedist. I wore an ortho sandal for 2 weeks after the boot to still offer some protection, but could at least get around better. Luckily I was not having any pain in my foot. 

The second week of December I began to see a physical therapist once a week as recommended by my orthopedist. A gait analysis was completed and the body mechanics of muscles involved in running were analyzed.  Not so shocking, but I found out I have weak hips (main problem) and weak glutes. ::whomp::whomp::

But really though. Happy Gilmore, anyone?

To help strengthen these muscles I was prescribed weekly exercises to do at therapy and at home daily during with a Theraband. Lots of variations on clamshells, squats, step-ups, lunges, and fire hydrants. This article from Runner's Connect has a nice set of exercises which includes some that I have been doing. These will continue to be a staple in my life to help prevent any injuries in the future. 

Theraband exercises are why PT is short for Pure Torture, right? Just hitting you with some rehabilitation professional jokes. 

Working on My Running Form
I'm always sweating and doing hard work when I'm at physical therapy. As a future occupational therapist and science nerd, getting my gait analyzed has been really awesome. It's also been a little depressing because I want to have this great running form and then look at the recording all slowed down of me on the treadmill and am like GEEZ, THAT LOOKS TERRIBLE.

I have been working on transitioning from a heel striker to a midfoot striker as well as trying to keep my feet underneath me during my stride instead of reaching out with my legs and overstriding. Overstriding increases the force put through my foot and increases injury potential so that's not good. 

This graphic I found makes it easier to visualize. {Source}

Fixing my overstriding will in turn increase my cadence a bit-according to most your average cadence should be around 180 steps per minute. Pretty typical running form improvement suggestions. 

Secondarily I have been working on engaging my glutes and increasing my knee flexion and hip extension when I kick my legs out behind me in my stride. I do this weird thing where to keep my legs from hitting each other underneath me, I am rotating my hips and feet in and out instead of pulling my leg through straight from under me when I am running. 

Return to Running Program
My PT gave me a very conservative 6-week 'return to running' program broken down into 4 stages. I started with my first walk/run on Christmas Day, a.k.a. the best present ever, even if it was mostly walking with just a few minutes of running thrown in. 

I've been following the plan the past two weeks and am finally am at stage 2 where I can jog 15 to 20 minutes every other day starting this week. I've did most of the walk/run intervals on the treadmill because it was easier plus was nice to focus on my form on the treadmill while watching Netflix on my phone. 

How I Feel

My foot has been feeling okay except for some soreness I had last week which is apparently normal. I'm pretty paranoid about any twinge I feel which is going to take time for me to feel less anxious about.  I also had really intense calf pain most likely from all the calf raises at physical therapy plus running and working them after not doing so in over 2 months. My physical therapist tries to massage out where my calfs attach by the tendon near my heel on my right side because that area has been particularly tight. 

Emotionally and mentally I'm feeling pretty freaking discouraged. I came off of finally racing faster and my best marathon ever to not running for 2+ months and now huffing and puffing when I try to run 10 minutes at 9:00 min/mile and slower paces (which was an easy pace for me previously, for perspective). I know it hasn't been that long so this is to be expected, but in the moment it is a crappy feeling to have running suck in this way, when I'm just trying to go easy.  It's quite humbling. 

I'm trying to remain positive because getting to walk/run at all is truly a gift, particularly when you are in the rehabilitation field and see people less fortunate every day. 

What's Next
I have one more physical therapy appointment and then another follow-up with my orthopedist. The plan right now is to keep doing my hip exercises and keep on trucking with the return to running plan and hopefully feel less terrible the more I run. I know I'll come back stronger, but it will just take some time. I also REALLY need to consistently warm-up before runs and stretch after runs from now on. 

Have you ever been side-lined from running for an injury? What is your favorite stretch or warm-up?


  1. I've been sidelined many times. I always tell myself that it is just temporary and if I can make through it, I'll come back stronger (which I normally do).

    I have been looking for some good hip exercises, thanks for sharing.

  2. I think the mental part of coming back from an injury can sometimes be harder than the physical part. Just remember that you're asking your body to do things it hasn't done in quite some time, so twinges and such are normal--just like you'd probably have twinges if you altered your training program when you aren't injured. You will get through this! Hang in there!

    1. Thanks for your support-luckily everything is progressing smoothly!

  3. I'm sorry to hear about your stress fracture, but that's great that you're doing exercises to strengthen everything up + I'm glad you get to start moving again! I can definitely relate (sigh). Right around the time where I finally had a gym again and could start lifting, dancing at the studio I used to go to, learning jiu-jitsu...I broke my hand. :[ So much for that. I feel ya on kinda being hesitant to get back to your regular state again (I was really paranoid about re-injury). I hope you have a speedy recovery!

    1. I am paranoid about re-injury too-especially as I start to increase my mileage. Thanks for your support :)