Everything I’ve learnt with my hamstring injury

I wanted to write a post about my hamstring tendinopathy experience.

This might be fully pre-empting things but I feel somewhat confident I can write this post and that I’m mostly out of the woods).

The affected area was the top of my hamstring, right below my bum cheek. It wasn’t sharp or stabbing pain, more like a throbbing, dull ache. At the beginning I could feel this while walking, while lying down and especially when sitting. Sometimes I would feel an ache in my lower back and down my hamstring.

Running made it feel uncomfortable so at first I avoided this to let it calm down. Though I saw a very good physio who I heartily recommend (South Physiotherapy), it didn’t really help. I had acupuncture, massages, ultrasound… I still felt the discomfort.

I wanted to write this post because during my hamstring tendinopathy injury I read a lot online which was very negative and without solutions. I realise the spirit of the Internal and forums for health issues is not like a diary whereby people write about their issues, solve them and then go back to update people. When you’re fixed, you don’t go back. You just carry on with life. But I wanted something to put out there that might be helpful to someone like me. I know I’d have found this helpful.

Here are some sources that were useful though and hugely helped my recovery –> this journal article and this blog post.

Obviously I’ll preface this saying that I’m not a physio, doctor, coach or any sort of professional who has more than half a brain. I’m merely explaining how I overcame my issue. Whether it’s the full-on correct way or if it’s just something that works for me, I don’t know. But if you can take away anything from this post (if you have this injury) is that there is hope!

Though there appears to be minimal research out there for hamstring tendionopathy, what the two sources above agree is having a three step approach. The first step is to let the hamstring settle a bit. You don’t want to be doing hardcore leg strength workouts and you should probably stop running, especially avoid any sort of speedwork or hills which will aggravate the hamstring directly.

The not running part I was really good at. I stopped running completely for seven weeks. In hindsight, I don’t believe I needed to take this much time off had I not aggravating things further with trying to do too much strengthening and rehab at the gym in the early stages. But I read too much online, got carried away and attacked my hamstring with all manners of strengthening, from hamstring curls, Swiss ball bridges, sledge pushes and glute kickbacks. All of which I felt directly in my top hamstring but believed this was it “working” only to find the next few days it was far more niggly and nothing was improving. I also tried to replace running with using the elliptical machine, but this aggravated things too.

What I should have done at the beginning was focused primarily on isometric exercises. These are when you hold your muscle tightly. Nothing moves, but you’re squeezing the muscle. We’re talking static bridge holds. Eventually once I got past my over-enthusiastic gym endeavours and took a step back and focused on the bridge hold, things got calmer. The niggle was still there, but now it wasn’t getting worse or bugging me all the time and the isometric exercises were providing relief.

So, stage one: only do isometric exercises for the hamstring. The best example of this is literally the bridge hold (with a long lever base so it’s your hamstring working not your glute – so push your feet out further from your bum). Increase how long you can hold. Then when you’re solid with that, move to single leg and push the time on that. You can do this just lying on the floor, or you can do (as well as) putting your feet on a raised platform, like a coffee table.

Avoid at all costs: squats, lunges, glute kickbacks, hamstring curls (lying or sitting) and anything that makes the hamstring feel worse the next day. Tendons are a funny thing – it can take 24 hours before you realise you’ve screwed it up. Try and avoid long periods of sitting; get up and move around frequently. DO NOT STRETCH the hamstring. Don’t be tempted. It won’t feel better, it’ll aggravate it. It is literally the worst thing you can do to it.

Stage two is now where you can do a bit more. I found using the lying hamstring curl machine on the affected leg worked wonders. At first I aimed for high reps low weight but actually what really changed the game for me was low reps higher weight SLOWLY (heavy slow resistance).

What you should aim for is a weight that becomes challenging on the 8th rep. Aim for 8-10 reps. Don’t push through pain though! Pain is NOT a good thing. 3/10 discomfort is your marker. Your hamstring should feel tired afterwards but not painful at the time or later.

This is also when you can start to add a bit of running back in (again, no speedwork or hills though). It will still feel uncomfortable but if you have sharp pain, avoid and go back to stage 1. Mild discomfort that doesn’t get worse and that disappears after 24 hours is OK.

During this stage I also focused a lot on improving my adductor strength. I wanted the surrounding muscles to be strong. I used the adductor machine at the gym (that awful machine that people a few years ago used thinking it would zap inner thigh fat). I also laid down, put a medicine ball between my knees and gently straightened my legs out, then drew them back to my chest while all the time SQUEEZING the ball. This is a killer for the adductors and the core.

I still avoided squats and lunges but ramped up my glute work with resistance band walking, clams and heavy hip thrusts. Basically I was gently rehabbing my hamstring while super-powering everything else.

Running was frustrating (for me and everyone around me who had to hear me moan). It was still uncomfortable. Having a physio “re-align” my hips helped unlock me and changing my trainers definitely helped but it was more of a case of being sensible with when I did the rehab and when I ran. And keeping things easy and short – building up gradually. And trusting the process.

So many times after a run I was lost in my negativity and ready to give it all up. I’m very lucky to have such a patient and loving network of support around me. Even my mum, who’s a big supporter of my running but in general doesn’t care for the details, would ask more questions after every run, worrying for me and wanting things to be better. Kyle of course was a pillar of strength for me during this time.

But gradually things got better. My hamstring would niggle less, become uncomfortable later and later during a run. Afterwards it would feel better. I remember when I ran eight miles and that night I felt my hamstring gently throbbing while I laid in bed and I worried and worried. The isometric exercises helped calm things down and acted as a good pain relief. And taking bigger gaps between each run helped. Then long runs stopped bugging me during the night. My body was healing quicker as it adapted.

Stage three is adding back in things like squats and deadlifts. I’m not quite there yet. I think I could add them back in but with Chicago literally round the corner I want to avoid anything that aggrevates my hamstring.

Stage three is adding back in things like squats and deadlifts. I’m not quite there yet. I think I could add them back in but with Chicago literally round the corner I want to avoid anything that aggravates my hamstring. I’ve ramped my long runs up (two 15 milers under my belt) and feel confident I’m heading in the right direction and not putting my hamstring at risk of regression. Obviously 26.2 miles in a few weeks is really going to test things but my plan is to be sensible. Realistically I am terrified and worried of going back to square one. If this wasn’t Chicago I would have canned it.

Basically my advice for this injury is: it will take time to recover. There is no magic pill, no trainers, no massage technique, no amount of icing or medication, no stretching or foam roll battering that will make everything better.

Rest is also not best. During my injury I had friends and family, who were enduring my continual frustrations, saying I should stop everything I was doing. Stop going to the gym. While I will fully admit that there were a number of weeks I shouldn’t have gone quite as ham on the rehab as I did and should not have tried to replicate my running on the elliptical machine, rest would not have solved my issue either. This injury requires rehab which involves strengthening and monitoring. Gently getting into a position where you can actually build your hamstring back up without reaggravating things. It’s a delicate balance.

In terms of cross training, I found the stair machine to be the best thing. Cycling (including spin – which was horrendous for it), the rowing machine and the elliptical machine really didn’t work. But ultimately it’s the strengthening of the hamstring that is the way forward.

Sorry for such a waffle but I wanted to write down my findings for this. If this helps just one other person, then I’m happy.

Good luck!

Game on, Chicago

I really don’t want to jinx things, but it looks like things are definitely getting there with my hamstring.

I obviously need to continue to play things safe and not suddenly be like wheyyyyyy 18 miler booooom. This hamstring injury (hamstring tendinopathy) is one that can easily be triggered again and regress. So I continue to proceed with caution. But *whispers* things are going well.

Daily discomfort is minimal – if it’s even there. Previously when it was at its worst, I’d feel it All. The. Time. I’d feel it walking. I’d feel it lying down. Now it’s rarely ever there. And happily sitting doesn’t trigger it anymore.

Most importantly, running isn’t an awful experience. There were runs at the start (like only a mile or a tester run) where it’d feel so uncomfortable that I’d feel this great stab of fear thinking “I cannot run 26.2 miles like this” and really doubt getting more training done. But now the discomfort is minimal. It’s still there, but every run it gets a bit less.

I ran 12 miles at the weekend and it was a run that gave me great confidence. Yes it did feel uncomfortable towards the end, but not the worst discomfort I’ve felt over this injury.

And the rest of the day it felt fine! Even the next day it felt absolutely fine. My first few runs when I was coming back I’d feel my hamstring discomfort a lot more post-run and that night and the next day, then it would die off again. But now it’s not there anymore.

Running those 12 miles felt like an absolute joy. Listening to a podcast, zoning out, having that time just running for a long time. Yes it was hard (Jesus how did 12 used to feel so easy??) and yes it wasn’t perfect, but it was so much better. I know I’m at that point in the injury lifecycle where it’s going. Every day is better, every run is better.

After speaking with a professional who knows a lot about this injury, he advised upping my hamstring strength routine and planning out my runs in relation to that a bit more sensibly. With the strength I was previously taking the weights very gently on the hamstring curl machine (as to not cause any regressions) and doing about 20 reps at light weight. Now I’ve upped the weight and I do around 10 reps, so it starts to get tough at the last rep. And he gave me a few more exercises to incorporate which focus primarily on my hamstring.

Previously I was very much focused on my glutes. But now I’m focusing on my hamstring (I still work my glutes and the surrounding muscles but the focus of my rehab is most definitely the hamstring now).

Single leg hamstring bridges

Just to be clear though, if you’re suffering from this issue too, you need to have a gentle and gradual build-up. It’s taken me many weeks to get to this point and it was only after talking to this specialist and him checking my strength and mobility that I was given the all clear to fully work the hamstring harder. The first few weeks of this injury you wouldn’t necessarilly do that.

I also asked if he thought me doing Chicago was sensible or if I’d do myself any long term damage. He said as long as I didn’t regress or get worse, Chicago would be fine. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Someone who knows their stuff giving me solid advice. My mind is so much calmer now.

So going forward I’m running three times a week, one of those being a long run. Though realistically I won’t be going that long… probably 16 miles top. And between that I have set hamstring easy and hard days. So far so good! My hamstring is responding well. It’s getting stronger. The discomfort is getting less.

The thing about this injury is that you have to be patient, be sensible and not neglect rehab. It won’t get better on its own with rest. You have to push it and strengthen it. But it’s a very fine balance of not pushing it too hard and knowing when to back off. I think the past 15 or so weeks have evidently shown this for me! I’m going to do a more thorough post later on how I combatted this (though I don’t want to speak too soon because this could all fall down again!!).

I’ve read a lot of forums and I just want to put something positive into the Internet about this injury because so much of it was doom and gloom and never feeling normal again. I’m not quite back to normal, but eventually (all things being well and me not being an idiot) I hope to provide a bit of positivity from what I’ve learnt and experienced. (TOUCH WOOD!!)

Have you ever had a long-term injury?

Do you do regular strength work to keep an injury at bay?

My motivations for the gym

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you probably know two key things about me. One, I see myself as quite the injury-prone runner. And two, I love leggings. Happily I’ve been able to complement these two things into a very productive outcome. Just hear me out…

I’m a big fan of going to the gym. Yes I love running, of course, but I do really enjoy going to the gym as well. It hasn’t always been this way. I saw the gym as the enemy. A place of bewilderment and boredom. I would drag myself there when I was no longer able to run because I was suffering from a sore knee, hip, painful IT band or something along those lines. So I’d go to a Spinning class or use the elliptical machine, grudgingly. But never sort the actual issue out – the root cause.

After numerous of physio appointments it finally got through to me that I needed to actually make strength training part of my weekly routine. Sadly I’m not one of those seemingly superhuman people who can just run and do nothing else.

It was tough though. It took a lot of research, YouTube videos, physio help and guidance to become stronger, confident and actually happy to go to the gym.Where do leggings come into it though? Well, one of the reasons I love the gym is that I can be a bit more exciting with my fitness clothing. I don’t wear leggings when I run because I just prefer to wear shorts… but at the gym, leggings are my staple. What you look like at the gym really doesn’t matter of course, but for me it really helps to be wearing something I feel comfortable and, yes, look good. It helps make me feel good.

I’m quite a boring person with what I wear normally so it’s nice to be a bit more “jazzy” at the gym where anything goes in terms of colours and patterns. One of the sites I love is The Sports Edit. They have a fantastic range of very stylish gym wear – and items that will last, not fast fashion that you will chuck away after a few months.I was sent a pair of leggings and a top from the site to review and I can happily say I’m in love. Now you know I know my leggings. I know what makes a decent pair, what’s flattering and, most importantly what actually works at the gym in terms of comfort and actually exercising. These leggings are GORGEOUS. I’m not really a huge pattern fan but these are subtly different. I love how sparkly they are (they don’t actually feel sparkly and don’t drop glitter everywhere – something I was a bit worried about).
They’re the Alloy Ombre High Waisted Leggings from the brand Beyond Yoga and when I wore them at the gym I got quite a few compliments. One person asked if they were they my “disco leggings” for Christmas. I mean, I guess he’s right, they’re perfect for the Christmas season! But I will be wearing them all year round 🙂 They have a lovely high-waisted fit, are thick enough to be squat proof but not too thick to not be breathable.
The top is the Under Armour Accelerate Tank White 2.0. I love how simple it is but also that the back is open to give a bit of air and also so you can show off your sports bra at the back (I have some quite nice sports bra with some funky strapping which is always a shame to cover up under a t-shirt). I’ll be wearing this top for both the gym and running.In terms of my gym routine, currently I’m at the gym three-four times a week. I tend to do circuit classes which work the entire body, but in a more weights-focused way. Think less cardio, more strength. I also ensure I do at least one legs and glutes focused day. We’re talking squats, lunges, hip thrusts, single leg work and resistance band routines. I’ll do heavy barbel squats and hip thrusts to really target increasing my strength and then higher rep, lighter weight exercises to focus more on the endurance of my muscles. I can happily say I’ve remained uninjured for a good while now and I’m almost certain it’s because of my stronger body.

What keeps you motivated at the gym?

Do you have different clothes for running compared to what you were at the gym?

Do you look for gymwear that will last a long time or whatever is cheapest? For me it’s generally long lasting and quality – but this does tend to be more expensive, but in the long run it works out better!

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and top for free in exchange for a review on my blog. As always these are my own honest opinions!**

parkrun and friends

After having a solid eight days off of running to let my running mojo reignite and my calf chill the hell out, I’m back to running. This was good timing as a few guys from work were heading to Lakeside parkrun (actually located next to where we work) and I was glad not to miss out.

It was Trystan’s first time at parkrun so I was really chuffed for him (being the parkrun nut I am). He’d only recently gotten into running so this was a step in the right direction. My friends Ed and Kyle were also coming so there was a nice bunch of us. It was a warm morning and none of us were planning on any crazy PB attempts but we decided to all just run separately to keep the pressure down and let us all just run however we liked.

I’d had some acupuncture and massage from a really good local physio on Wednesday. I’ve mentioned him before (check out his website HERE – I fully recommend him!) and after that my calf was feeling good. I’d tested it out with a gentle 3.5 mile (a little niggly but much better) and then a 10k run with two guys from work, also fairly easy. So I was confident I would be OK. The calf felt on the mend! Hurrah.I had every ambition of taking parkrun easy. My mistake was wedging myself forward in the start line-up because as we got going I found myself getting carried away with the people around me and running 7 min/miles pace. Slow. Down. Anna. Unfortunately the brain didn’t quite compute that and I continued on. My calf felt even less niggly than previous runs… if it had gotten worse I would have slowed down (I mean, in retrospect, you can really say anything can’t you? I hope I would have slowed down). I saw some familiar faces as I ran and we exchanged cheers and hellos. parkrun is always so friendly and of course this is quite a local one so you see lots of the same people about.

From the Facebook page

With Lakeside, there’s a lovely chunk where you’re running past the lake under the shade of the trees. Though as people were running along the sandy track it was lifting dust into the air which was a little disconcerting to breathe in. Though the annoying part about this parkrun is the final out and back bit where you run out into the sunlight again and then under an underpass – so two mini hills – before heading back the way you came to finish on a long straight. It can be a bit wearisome.

From the Facebook page

Anyway, I managed to gain on the first female and this only made me keep my speedy pace rather than be more sensible and slow down. But I still felt OK.

Kyle wasn’t too far behind me – apparently trying to catch me (spoiler he was just 14 seconds behind – though to be fair to him, he’d started behind loads of people. His watch time was very similar to my watch time). Ed wasn’t far behind either and Trystan smashed it with just over 27 minutes. My time was 21:30 which I was both happy about and annoyed at myself for. I should have taken it easy. But the calf felt OK at the end…fingers crossed.

Trystan’s sprint finish was honestly amazing. I mean look at that determination!
We all had a great run. Trystan was pleased with his first parkrun and seemed keen to do another (yessssss parkrun convertee).It’s just so nice to have a beautiful morning and a great run with lovely people. Can’t beat that on a Saturday morning! I also got to catch up with the ever friendly Paul (check out his parkrun-full blog HERE). He’s a lovely guy and gave me some good parkrun tourism ideas. The guys and I then headed for a nice coffee in the Starbucks nearby. Good start to the weekend!

As for once I had no major plans, I enjoyed a nice dog walk with Alfie in the sunshine and watched the Germany vs. Switzerland match in the evening with my dad. I’ve actually been really loving the World Cup. I don’t usually watch football and know next to nothing about it but I do enjoy the World Cup time. I like how people get involved, talking about it and getting excited. Obviously I’d love England to do well but to be honest it’s just fun to be involved. Luckily at work we have a television which is showing all the matches so we can keep up with the games through the day.

On Sunday I played it safe with going to a Les Mills RPM spin class (currently on 78) which properly kicked my butt. Who knew you could sweat from your elbow creases and shins? Obviously I’d much rather be running but these Les Mills spin classes are actually really good. The “virtual” instructors on the screen are so full of enthusiastic beans and the workouts are so tough you do feel properly worked out. My calf felt OK in the morning but I wanted to give it another day. I’m going to the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp in a week so I wanted to be fighting fit for that. Fingers crossed.

After the gym I had a nice (albeit HOT) walk round Queen Elizabeth Country Park.It was very sunny and the trails around QECP are quite hilly. But it was a good walk nonetheless. A refuel was definitely needed afterwards. That came in the shape of a lamb and feta burger (done on the BBQ) with some very crispy chips at the Hampshire Hog nearby.

Followed by a VERY tasty brownie.The brownie was SO good. It was so gooey, warm and fudgie. It rocked my world.

So a good weekend with a bit of running, a lot of sunshine, good food and fun times.

What did you get up to this weekend?

Have you introduced someone new to parkrun?

Have you tried any of the Les Mills classes before?

Life Lately

So life is pretty good right now. I feel in a very happy place.

My job is something which I’m really pleased about. I look forward to going each day and the challenges I’m given. Now that I’m fully in the grind, as it were, I feel confident and happy. Of course I still have days when i haven’t a clue what I’m doing but everyone is always so helpful and friendly that I never feel stupid. It’s been so long since I’ve felt excited about my career and I hope this continues. Of course it’s nice to work in an industry I’m passionate about as well but it’s not just that. sure the subjects I deal with are to do with cycling and running etc. but the tasks I do could be applied to any ecommerce and digital marketing industry.

And speaking of good stuff at work…As I do a lot of running and people at work know this (I tend to do a lunch time run – runch if you will – twice a week) I occasionally get some freebies to try. Recently I was given some adidas Ultra Boost X’s to test out. I can’t quite work out my feelings about them though. Walking around in them felt very odd and not particularly comfortable as they were quite tight fitting across the tops and heels of my feet. But when running they felt great. Very bouncy and soft, and like they propel you forward. I love the colour of them and the knit look as well. Very in Vogue (like I know what’s in fashion, ha).Along with testing the trainers I was filmed with two other girls from Wiggle not only running in the shoes but also answering questions about how I found them. I’m sure I turned into a bumbling blithering idiot on camera but it was a fun thing to do at work.I was also given a pair of adidas shorts. I love these! They’re great to run in – crucially they rarely ride up and they’re my favourite style. I so much prefer shorts to run in than leggings! Which is funny because we all know how big a leggings fan I am in other areas of life 😉

Speaking of running then… My runs continue to be doing OK. I had a nice social nine miles with Mike last week after work and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mike and I used to do these Thursday night runs all the time and now the evenings are lighter I think we’ll be doing them more. They’re nice easier paced runs where we chew the fat and catch up while getting a slightly longer run in – usually 7-9 miles. I hope to do some more of these 🙂I also did a good progression tempo run on Tuesday. I started around 8min/miles and got down to 7:08min/miles. It was quite windy so I didn’t manage a royal flush negative split but I felt strong and smooth running. I don’t want to do any crazy speed work right now because I’m still paranoid about injury and don’t want to risk the Brighton Marathon. But I feel like my running is naturally just getting stronger. As I always though, fingers crossed. It did feel good though sailing along at some speed rather than questioning every footstep and wondering if the niggle was still there.My gym visits are also going well. I still go around three to four times a week and I’m honestly still loving it. It’s part of my morning routine and gets me going for the day. My routine is usually two strength circuit workouts, one legs/glutes day and one back day. One circuit workout is usually focused on upper body and the other on legs and glutes again. An example for upper body is something like this:

  • Rowing machine (3mins)
  • 20x press ups
  • 12-15 overhead presses (depends on weight for no. of reps)
  • 12-15 upright rows (again, weight dependent)
  • 15-20 front raises
  • 20x Russian wists
  • Plank (1 min)
  • 10x burpees

Repeat x4

Lower body circuit goes something like this:

  • Rowing (3 mins)
  • 15-20 hip thrusts (15w/ barbell, 20w/ resistance band only)
  • 20x kettlebell swings
  • 20x squat jumps
  • Walking lunges (1 min)
  • Wall sit (1 min)
  • 20x leg raises
  • 10x burpees

Repeat x4

I like the circuit workouts as they’re quite go, go, go and keep my heart rate raised while working my muscles. It keeps me entertained! But I still enjoy the pure strength stuff too. It’s just a balance. I try and plan what I’m going to do at the gym the night before. That way I don’t turn up to the gym without a clue and walk round aimlessly. Plus at that time in the morning the less thinking I’m required to do the better!

My only annoyance with the gym was the fact that there was no hot water there on Monday. It was BALTIC. It was lucky I didn’t have the wash my hair and so basically just stood next to the stream of ice water and splashed myself in an attempt to wash.Luckily it was pretty much back to working the next day when I did need to wash my hair. I’m not sure I could have taken the brain freeze otherwise. This is what you get when you pay £18 a month eh! But I love how conveniently my gym is located and the fact that it’s open 24/7. I’d happily have a cold shower no and again for that sort of accessibility and cost.

So yes, life is good. Things are going well. Happy days indeed.

Do you go to the gym?

Do you like to do more cardio or strength workouts at the gym?

Do you like adidas workout gear and trainers?