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!

How to Nail the Morning Routine

I have another colloborative post for you guys today, all about a morning routine. I am a HUGE routine-based person. I literally have my morning’s down to the minute… clothes laid out, gym bag ready, all my food sorted. Literally most work day mornings are identical. I mean it’s quite anal I’ll give you that, but I love how much time it saves me and how much less mental energy I have to exert when it’s half past stupid in the morning… hope you enjoy the article 🙂

There’s no point in hiding from the truth: mornings can truly suck, if not always, then at least often. Our alarms go off, and all we want to do is spend a little extra time in bed, but nope, we can’t — there’s that annoying old thing called life calling, and we have to rush around getting ready and then take ourselves off to work. But what if we could change the way we think about the mornings? What if we could — oh god — actually begin to enjoy them? Well, perhaps we can, if we make some small changes. Below, we take a look at a few ways you can make your mornings work for you.

Pexels – CC0 Licence

Sleep Well

First thing’s first: make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep. There’s a big difference in our moods in the mornings following a splendid night of rest, and one where we barely got a few hours under our belt. If you’re consistently finding it difficult to hit the land of Nod, then look at changing your pre-sleep routine. Avoiding screen time, and taking the time to calm down your mind (be it through meditation, taking a bath, or reading) will do wonders.

Be Prepared

We might normally be able to take things in our stride, but first thing in the morning? Nope, at that time of day, even small things can knock us off stride. So make sure that you’re prepared for your mornings — it’ll make everything much smoother. First, keep things simple — an easy to make, healthy breakfast will get your day off to a good start. Second, keep the essentials in stock. If you’re a coffee lover (and who isn’t?), then set a subscription to TwoChimpsCoffee.com — you’ll get a regular delivery, so you never have that “oh no, I’m out of coffee” moment first thing in the morning.

A Spot of Exercise

One of the problems many people have first thing in the morning is that, oh, they’re so tired, all they want to do is stay in bed. To get around this torturous moment, it’s recommended that you put as much distance between you and your sleeping self as possible. Exercise is a terrific way to do this. Don’t overthink it — just get up and go for a short run. Even ten minutes will be enough to get the blood pumping. Once you get back, a cold shower will burst you into life — you will be ready to face the day. People hate the idea of cold showers, but there’s nothing like stepping out, feeling completely refreshed. Give it a go!

Calm and Relaxed

Everything is going to suck if you feel rushed, so why not slow down the time? By getting up earlier, you’ll have a chance to have a calm and relaxing morning. Spend some time nursing a cup of coffee, reading, enjoying the silence. It’ll make the day feel longer, and give you more time to enjoy for yourself — people who get up later have work on their mind all day! 

Do you exercise in the morning?

Do you have a set routine that you stick to?

What are your morning tips?

What I’m Loving Lately – August

August has come and gone. I’ve realised that I’m totally ready to say goodbye to hot weather. I much prefer cooler weather. So bring on autumn!

This “what I’m loving” post is going to be heavily food-related but hey they’re the best right?

Have you seen the new White Giant Buttons from Cadbury?? They only sell them at Asda so when my dad was there the other day I panic text him to buy me some.

They are SO good. Do you remember how tasty the Milky Bar was before it changed its recipe? Well it’s like that. Creamy, slightly custardy and so moreish. I could easily eat an entire packet.

They also sell the white chocolate bar but I haven’t found it yet (apparently it’s even better than the old school Dream was).

And following that, I’m also loving the Tony’s Chocolonely.

I tried the pretzel caramel dark chocolate bar, but there are a few others I’m keen to try too. It’s so thick!

You feel a bit like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory eating it. And money from the sales go towards ending slavery. So you can feel good about gobbling it up.

Moving on to more savoury things. I’m still on a big carvery love right now. I think I just love that you can pile your plate high with vegetables, stuffing and gravy.

I’m a big fan of cauliflower cheese and roasted parsnips too. Yum! We had a carvery when we saw my friends in Bristol last weekend.

The cake selection was incredible too. And despite being fairly full, I couldn’t say no to a slice slab of chocolate fudge cake.

Heated up with ice cream. Omg it was DIVINE.

Last food-related item… The Good Cookie cookies. I literally ADORE these cookies. Vegan and refined sugar free, but you would never know.

So soft!! I need more of these in my life. Thank you to my lovely friend Emma for introducing them to me and then gifting me a pack. What a friend!

Now on to more things fitness. I’ve been really enjoying the stair machine. It’s better for my hamstring than the elliptical machine and I’ve become a pro at just grinding away and supplementing my running fitness with this.

I love watching the new series of Peaky Blinders while mindless stepping. Don’t get me started on Tommy Shelby… *sighs*.

I was also recently sent a pair of the OOFOS sandals to try out. As I’m back into running again these came at a perfect time.

They are so fricking soft! My feet feel so comfortable and like they’re walking on clouds in them. After a run I love slipping them on and just enjoying the bliss.

They have a footbed designed to absorb impact, cradle your arches and allow your body to move naturally (check out some science-y bits HERE). They’re apparently supposed to reduce stress and enable a more natural motion of walking. And you can really feel it. These bad boys will be joining me in Chicago for after the marathon (*touch wood* I make it to both the start and finish line!).

And that’s all folks!

How do you look after your feet post-run?

What’s your favourite part of a roast dinner?

What’s your favourite chocolate?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the OOFOS recovery sandals for free to test for my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Being more eco friendly

To my friends and family I’ve become a little bit insufferable in my quest to be more eco-friendly.

I’m trying hard not to be *that* person who always makes a comment about plastic or judges anyone when they throw something perfectly recyclable into the regular bin rather than the non-recycle bin, but sometimes I can’t help it. I genuinely feel very concerned for our planet – or at least how we live on the planet. Because let’s be clear, we won’t destroy the planet in that it won’t exist anymore. We’ll just destroy our own species and way of life that we’ve become so accustomed to.

I try to make better choices when I go shopping. Loose vegetables and fruit rather than wrapped in plastic. Taking my metal straw to the cinema. Always having my bag of life with me. Choosing cans over bottles. Re-using and recycling like a pro.

But realistically it feels so hard. Like not just “this is a lot of effort” hard to constantly be thinking and making good choices, but like Current Life makes it very difficult to choose the right choices when the choices aren’t available. Races using plastic bottles. Shops only selling certain things in plastic. Restaurants, bars, workplaces… Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all and like no one cares.

Obviously I can only do so much, short of giving everything up and living in a hut in the wilderness or devoting my life to protesting for Big Changes. That’s not quite me. What I can do is little stuff and trying to educate those around me who aren’t as clued up (without sounding like a pretentious annoying knob that no one wants to talk to anymore).

[Yes of course being vegan would be the way forward but honestly, after trying it, that lifestyle is not for me. I have reduced my meat and dairy consumption during the week though].

One thing that has really been a gamechanger for me is the concept of eco bricks. I found THIS article. In a nutshell, you have a clean plastic bottle and you fill it with non-recyclable plastic. You literally fill it to the brim. I use a a sturdy stick (used to be a chopstick) and then you just push it all down.

It’s a great concept! You then take it to your nearest eco brick drop-off point (which you can find online) and they can then use it for sustainable projects. I’ve made about four already. It is timeconsuming and hard plastic is really tough as you have to cut it all up but I try and do a little every day (we have a basket where we put our clean plastic now).

It’s incredible how much plastic we use in a week though. It is a never ending task. And I’m not perfect, if the plastic is really contaminated from food I don’t use it because the length of time washing and then drying the plastic makes the process so much harder.

My parents are really getting on board with it all now too. They used to be terrible. But after excessively nagging them they try a lot better. They even went so far as to buy eco friendly washing up liquid, cleaning products and detergant for washing. I’m so proud!

It’s easy to feel helpless and get consumed with the idea that one person can’t make a change, but you really can. If everyone did something than that would be huge. Just educating yourself about what you can recycle and what you can reuse or avoid buying.

Little changes like not buying plastic covered fruit and veg. Aim for the loose variety, or shop locally in a fruit and veg shop. Buy cans instead of bottles. Use a composter for food waste. Meatless days (I currently have a lot of those days during the week). Avoid fast fashion companies. Give unwanted items to charity. Recycle your trainers (some running shops take them or use clothing banks). You can even think about carbon offsetting (here’s a good overview of sites that do this).

Basically just try and do something. Anything is better than nothing.

Are you eco friendly?

What are your top tips?

What I’ve been loving lately (July)

July has flown by, it is CRAZY.

So some cool stuff has been happening round here.

I’ve been eating some very tasty food as of late. As you should well know by now I’m a big believer in eating for your body and for your soul. Kyle and I went to the newly opening Greenwich pub which is home to the Nice Slice. They sell RIDICULOUS pizzas (20 inches!), burgers, chicken and lots of vegan options. We went with work friends for a random Thursday dinner and it was GOOD.

I had the double chicken burger (the Mickey Burger) with buffalo sauce and pickles with a side of chicken wings (obvs).

Kyle had a 20 inch (!) meaty pizza. I did have a cheeky slice 😉

The burger and wings were fairly spicy. I should have ordered the other chicken burger I think, that didn’t have buffalo sauce because two lots of buffalo was quite a bit to contend with! It was very tasty though. We’ll definitely go back!

Over the last year or so I’ve become a big M&M fan. I don’t know quite how this has happened but it’s happened. I’m actually not a big fan of the traditional chocolate ones, but all the others are a big yes for me (I could literally eat a giant bag of the peanut ones…god so good).

Anyway, I recently spotted in Tesco that they’d brought out an M&M chocolate bar – in several different flavours. I’m not a hazlenut fan (urgh Nutella…) so I avoided that one, but I bought the others. LEMME TELL YOU, they are INCREDIBLE.

It’s speckled with mini M&M’s and the peanut one has peanuts throughout. Very yummy!

I’ve also heard on the grapevine that there are now salted caramel M&M’s as well. They currently do the caramel ones, but they’re crunchy rather than soft like the American version (I love both to be honest). I will be grabbing some as soon as I can.

On a perhaps more health-focused note, I was recently sent some supplements from Wicked Gummy Co.

They’re almost like sweets, I kid you not. I was sent the full line-up: Happy Tummy, Hair, Skin & Nails, Multi Vitamin, Peaceful Zzzzz and Vitamin D Sunshine. A solid list of good stuff.

They are very much like gummy sweet and are tasty to eat. They’re also vegan friendly. They do contain glucose though, so be wary on that front if you’re popping all the supplement at once. That’s a fair amount of sugar!

The Multi Vitamin contains vitamin C, A, B6, E, selenium and biotin. This is all good for bone health, the immune system, vision and brain. The Peaceful Zzzzz contains valerian root extract (which has been argued to help with sleep, though I think conclusive scientific evidence isn’t there yet) and 5-HTP (again, similar to valerian).

The Hair, Skin & Nails contains similar ingredients to the multi vitamin but with zinc and folate. Happy Tummy contains Lactobacillus cultures, which are supposed to help promote good bacteria in your gut.

Now I can’t say for certain if my hair has suddenly become shinier, or my bones stronger, or I’ve caught less colds BUT they taste really nice and are easier to take than “proper” tablets. If you want to up your vitamins but hate tablets or don’t think your diet is good enough then these might be a good shout. To be honest, I just quite enjoy having a couple after my breakfast for a nice sweet treat 🙂

Do you take any supplements?

What’s your favourite kind of M&M?

Do go out for dinner with work people?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the supplements from Wicked Gummy Co for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**