A couple years ago I moved to Seattle to pursue professional running. Unfortunately, a couple weeks after I arrived, I tore the labrum in my hip while sprinting uphill in practice. I ran on my injury for eight months before getting the proper diagnosis. It took another three months to schedule surgery and another three months after surgery before I could begin running.
I was frustrated, impatient, and insecure coming back from surgery. I was fortunate surgery had been successful, but I knew I had a very long way to go before I could get back to chasing my dreams, including the 2016 Olympics. In July of 2015, seven months back from running, I ran the Olympic standard in the steeplechase. Now that I am qualified for the Olympics, I am focusing on finishing in the top three at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July, so I am able to represent the United States in Rio.
1. Practice Patience
When I was cleared to start running after surgery, I wanted to get my body going as quickly as possible. However, I knew my body had undergone a big trauma, and I had to come back slowly. I started running three times a week on an Alter-g treadmill, increasing the duration for three weeks. I followed with a gradual progression of land running.
2. Have a Good Medical Support Team
Coming back from a serious injury can be tricky because you can develop new injuries as a result of weaknesses and imbalances from your previous injury. I’ve had many friends come back from surgery or significant time off only to deal with a new problem. Investing in quality care from providers like Inhealth is essential to full recovery and prevention of more injuries because they can find weaknesses you aren’t aware of and address them.
3. Spend Time Each Day on Rehab
Physical therapy exercises, stretching, rolling out are examples of rehabilitative steps you can take. Even after I was back on the track and racing pain-free, mobility in my hip was limited. I spent a lot of time on my own doing all the things my medical support team told me I should do at home.
4. Be Okay with Weight Changes
As a professional athlete, I have to balance having enough body fat to keep me healthy without having an excess that will slow me down. When I was injured, I had to let go of my usual expectations about weight in order to give my body what it needed. If you are at a healthy weight before an injury, keep giving your body quality sources of calories, but don’t be surprised if your body composition changes. Your body is smart. If you treat it well, it will do what it needs in order to heal.
5. Listen to Your Body
I ran so long on my torn labrum because I wasn’t listening closely enough to what my body was telling me. As I came back from surgery, I vowed to do a better job. I keep a training journal, and I have added a section to reflect on how my body felt each day. If the message is “slow down” or “rest,” I do a better job of listening.