My hamstring injury

Not running right now definitely sucks.

A few weeks of it was alright – I probably needed the break. But then another week and another week and I’m getting grumpy about it. It’s not do with losing fitness (though that is quite annoying of course), but more to do with missing being outside in the fresh air and my having my usual routine.

I also like to keep the gym to mostly strength based training. So now incorporating cross training (with the likes of the elipitical machine, the step machine and walking backwards on the treadmill – more on that later) it seems I’m spending a lot of the time in the gym just doing the cardio stuff I find ever so dull.

So my injury is do with my “high” hamstring, where it connects to my bum basically. I’ve had a bit of a long-standing issue with this since the Boston Marathon but it’s been manageable. Basically I can only just start to feel it if I’ve run a long way or I’ve been sat down for hours.

It became a lot worse after sitting for four hours on the train straight after the Manchester 10k . I got off the train my hamstring and completely seized up. But I just thought it was something that would be fine once I got moving and I continued to run and then I blasted out the Romsey Beer Race (knowing it would make it worse). And here I am.

It’s a tricky injury because of its position; not much blood gets to it and I have to do a lot of sitting for my job, which isn’t great for its recovery. It’s not painful but it is a constant discomfort. When I run it sort of feels like it’s tugging at it and becomes more uncomfortable. So I haven’t run at all.

Just casually staring at the floor

What I have done is a lot of rehabbing at the gym. It’s hard to know exactly what is good and what is bad. I’ve seen my physio a few times and he’s been great with helping it and giving me advice. I’ve looked online (I KNOW I KNOW, terrible idea).

What I’ve gauged from online is that there’s very little research on this area into what’s best. What I have gleamed are the best exercises to do and what to avoid.

I’ll obviously preface this with: I am clearly not a physio, doctor or have any real scooby about any other body but my body (and I’m on a thin line with that at best). Please take care.

Best exercises for high hamstring tendinopathy:

  • Glute bridge: I begun by doing two legged bridges, then focused on single leg (lifting one leg).
  • Hip thrusts: I also do weighted hip thrusts (either low rep with a high weight, or high rep with a lower weight).
  • Glute kickbacks: I use the cable machine in the gym and the foot attachment and then gently kick my leg back without bending my body. I focus on using my glutes and hamstring and prevent my back helping. I do the movement gently but used weight that I found tough to go over 15-20 reps.
  • Eccentric box jumps: the idea behind eccentric box jumps (jumping off a box) is that it’s less of an aggravation than jumping onto the box. It’s a controlled impact to strengthen your hamstring, but to be used wisely.
  • Lying single hamstring curls
  • Retro walking: this is a fancy term for walking backwards on the treadmill. I put the incline up to the highest it can go and have the speed setting on to a fairly fast walk (but I did build up to this because it’s quite scary at first!). This is a great way to get some cardio in without stressing the hamstring out. You look like a weirdo but it works.
Glute kickback

Things to avoid:

  • Basically anything that causes compressive load on the hamstring at the beginning. So exercises like deadlifts (which I rarely ever do now since the injury after Boston because I know it flares it up), squats, seated hamstring curls or lunges. I’m avoiding them completely until the discomfort has gone as I don’t want it to flare up again.
  • Sitting for long periods isn’t great (but understandably unavoidable for those who like me.
  • Cycling (I did spin and this did not help matters!)

The exercises that I do I let my discomfort guide me. I never let my hamstring feel pain above a three but I do push it to work hard. The idea is strengthening it by stressing it to build it back up stronger, but not weakening it by damaging it further. It’s a fine balance… one I’m trying to get to grips with.

I do think I should probably try running soon. I’m just nervous. Nervous about how it’ll feel and nervous it’ll make it worse and lengthen my recovery and nervous. Obviously I won’t go for a 10k run, it’ll be a gradual thing. I just need to work out when.

Chicago Marathon isn’t that far away (15 weeks) and if I think too much about it and what’s at stake I start to panic and fall into a dark well of fear and sadness. Having a plan is what’s holding me together. I just need to make sure this plan is moving forwards not backwards.

Have you ever had hamstring issues?

Do you have any advice?

7 thoughts on “My hamstring injury

  1. Hi Anna,

    I’ve been dealing with chronic high hamstring tendinopathy for the past 9 months or so. Thankfully it hasn’t been so bad as to stop me running (I’ve been running at a reduced mileage for the past 3 months or so but still around 2/3rds of my normal weekly mileage), but I can sympathise with your feelings of constant discomfort! I think you’re suggestions are great (the retro walking idea sounds fun, I might have to give that a go!) – I have a other few tips that have really helped me:

    – Improving your glute and hamstring timing – one of the causes of my issue was my glute not firing until late in my running stride. This was putting a lot of strain on my hamstrings, they were having to do more work than they should. To improve this I do single leg raises on all fours, but with a bent leg – effectively tucking your heel to your bum and then lifting your leg backwards. This means the hamstring can’t do the work and your glute has to fire.

    – Once your confident with your glute bridges and hamstring curls, try doing them on an exercise ball. This really adds difficulty and is a great core and balance workout. After a month or so of doing this ball work I’ve seen a good increase in muscle bulk in my hamstrings and glutes, which has taken the pressure off my high hamstring a fair bit.

    – If you can, see you can get a standing desk in work. I got my physio to write a letter saying that I needed one, and have been using one of the fancy electronic ones that moves up and down for the past month or so. It’s really made a big difference! Plus, I think it helps stop the post lunch lull that I used to get after sitting down at my desk with a full stomach.

    – Remember that tendons love being loaded, so running can be good for it! Obviously listen to your physio and your own body though.

    Hope that’s all useful! And good luck getting back on the road to running 🙂

    • Ahh this is super interesting to hear! Thanks for the tips as well. I used to have a standing desk at myold job and that hugely helped but now I’m stuck at my desk. I have asked for one but was turned down… you’d think working for Wiggle (a sports focused company) would be inclined to do these sorts of things, eh!!
      Glad to hear your injury is getting better.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…My hamstring injuryMy Profile

  2. Hey ! I am actually nearly done rehabbing this same exercise. I understand the frustration and the time it takes to recover.

    if you want I could email you a screen shot of my home exercises? clearly I built up to the level where I am. Also my physio did a lot of focus on single leg work and balance

  3. Seeing a physio is very sensible so do what he/she says. The fine balance must be so hard to know where the line is- making it stronger vs resting it and letting it heal.
    Also, with Chicago, it’s ages away, and if the worst happens, do they have a nice long cut off so that you could speed walk the whole thing? If that would be easier than running on it?
    I do love that backwards walking has its own name though!
    Maria @ Maria Runs recently posted…Limping around RHS Wisley and seeing RocketmanMy Profile

    • Yeah I’ll defnitely be doing Chicago – this injury won’t stop me there and you’re right it IS ages away. I know I can do the distance it’ll just be hardwork and probably a lot trickier a recovery but it’s all paid for now so!

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