Athlete Journal: Andrew Read, Entry 10 – Training With Pain

Anyone who says you should never train with pain has simply never really competed in anything in my eyes. While I never advise my clients to train with pain, sometimes it becomes necessary.

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Journal Entry 10 – Training With Pain

What a difference a week makes.

Last week I was all excited about running and now I’m scared of it again. The week of my last journal entry I had a couple of runs and was fine. At the start of this week I had a great 6km run that was easy and fluid, and I had absolutely zero pain the next day. Perfect.

So you can imagine my surprise when I went out the door two days later and didn’t even get five minutes from home when the calf I tore started tightening up. I slowed down even more than my usual pace and kept on for another block or two to see if it would loosen up. It can be quite common that tears will be kind of sticky in the same area – the scar tissue can bind the muscle to the fascia so that it doesn’t move and contract freely.

However, I realized quickly it wasn’t getting better and so I turned around and came home. I normally run with a mid foot strike which does place more stress on the calves, so on my homeward journey I swapped to a heel strike to save my calf. While this feels like someone is hitting me in the back with a bat over and over again it takes some stress off my lower legs and allowed me to get home.

As I walked in the door I got straight on the phone to Matt Hopkinson at Glenferrie Physiotherapy to get it looked at. That trip was a good news/bad news kind of thing. Calf tears have a twenty-five percent chance of reoccurring and if it was a tear it was going to need another six weeks off to really make sure it was fully healed this time. With time quickly disappearing before Ironman training begins in earnest in October, I don’t have much spare time up my sleeve to get some miles in my legs.

Luckily his diagnosis was that it wasn’t torn, but just a natural protective reaction to the previous injury. After a rub and some ultrasound it was as good as new and has been pain free since. But I haven’t run on it again yet. The decision is to rest it until tomorrow and have a little run on it then.

I remember hearing Randy Couture say once that no one ever steps in the cage at a hundred percent. I’m not comparing what I am doing to letting people punch me in the face, but it does give me some solace. I’m not a big fan of letting my clients train in pain and I do my best not to do it myself. However, there comes a certain point where you decide whether or not you’re going to keep training for your competition and once you’ve made that decision you do whatever you can to get over the line. I’ve won a BJJ tournament on one leg, four days before having my hamstring reattached. I coached a girl through a half Ironman after she couldn’t run for six weeks before. The body is capable of ten times more than you think.

Anyone who says you should never train with pain has simply never really competed in anything in my eyes. When you push for the edge, and sadly for me just jogging around is the edge of my abilities at the moment, sometimes you go too far and fall off. Then you do whatever is necessary to get back on and keep going.

I’ve spent the last few days rolling my calf and feet with my TP Therapy tools and doing eccentric calf work and tons of stretching. When I initially reinjured the calf even turning in the pool was problematic, as the push off the wall would hurt. The last few days have been fine and I’ve done some extra swims to make up the missed run training so I’m hopeful that my short run tomorrow will be positive.

The bottom line is that old guys like me can’t afford to ever let their guard down against their injury prevention work regardless of the activity. Rolling, stretching, mobility, Primal Move, Indian clubs – all necessary tools to keep an older body ticking along and functioning well. So stay focused on the pre-training rituals as well as on the vital warm up and cool down aspects that allow your body to slowly adjust to working at a different speed and intensity. Otherwise you’ll find yourself sitting in the waiting room like I did hoping to hear good news instead of out training like you’re supposed to be.

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