NK Active’s Exercise Rehabilitation Instructor (and uber triathlete), Natalie Green shared her injury journey with our newsletter subscribers in the July edition; and we thought it would be a good read for anyone who is training, in recovery, going for injury rehabilitation or on an injury journey themselves!
My injury journey by Natalie Green.
“After a great season of running I finally found myself getting the times and fitness to where I wanted them, through the help of Mike from Running With Us. Pb after pb and I couldn’t have been happier. My mileage wasn’t increasing drastically, and I didn’t feel anything unusual the entire time, until the 14th of December 2019 when everything came crashing down.
After gearing myself up for a few weeks to complete a 5km running time trial (I was so ready), the race started off well and I felt good; however, at 2.32km (I remember it very well) I had this immense pain in my foot. I tried to carry on and felt myself limp running towards the end and I did manage to finish. As soon as I crossed the finish line I couldn’t weight bear at all, which is when I knew something was not right!
I ended up using crutches for the next two days until I went into work to speak to Nick. As soon as he listened to what had happened, my symptoms and how specific my pain was (I could almost point exactly to it) he referred me straight for an MRI. While I was waiting for the appointment (3 days) and then the results (8 days) he placed me in a boot just so I could be more mobile in walking around, but also to start protecting the injury straight away.
Tuesday the 24th of December, the day it was confirmed as a stress fracture of the navicular. My heart absolutely sank. All I remember is crying a lot and thinking how on earth has this happened? I think denial would be the right words to use, I didn’t want it to be true because I knew at that moment that this injury had just become pretty nasty. After talking to Nick and Charlie I calmed down a bit and it all started to sink in. They reassured me that they would be with me the whole way through and would get me back out running as soon as I could.
After being on the other side of the fence, being the one talking to others about helping them with their own injuries, it felt amazing to experience the determination of Nick and Charlie. They didn’t put a time frame on how quickly or slowly I would get back to running because this injury does vary in individuals and there isn’t a text book answer, it was more how I felt and how my body dealt with the injury.
Carrying on with my sport
Ok, by now I knew that I would be spending a minimum of 6-8 weeks in the boot, so I had to try and make it work around my fitness goals. I am a true believer that just because you can’t exercise the way you used to, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop altogether, so I upped my swimming sessions per week (tumble turning off of one leg), took up aqua jogging and continued doing as much strength and conditioning as I possibly could.
Being able to do other forms of exercise I think helped me a huge amount to get my head around not being able to run and I was also concerned that I would lose a hell of a lot of fitness, so being able to replace running with aqua jogging did help. I didn’t realise how much aqua jogging is actually used in the world of athletes, I will keep it up even when I’m back to full running, it honestly is great!
As I said earlier, I upped my swimming sessions and I’m pleased to say that it has all paid off so far, my swimming has never been as good as it is now, and that is something that I don’t think I would have worked on if it wasn’t for this injury.
Throughout the 8 weeks in my boot I managed through all three forms of exercise, but then it was time to start back up on the bike. I can’t lie, I was very nervous, especially as it was the first time putting weight through that foot, but it was all fine. All cycling was completed on the turbo, twice a week and all pain free.
Back to running
10 weeks passed, and I was then given the all clear (from the consultant Mr Dan Marsland and Nick, after my CT scan results came back showing that my bone was healing) to start back to running…. SLOWLY!
I signed myself up for 8 sessions on the anti-gravity treadmill over at Southampton Solent university, and Nick had a plan in place for me, so off I went!!! “I’m back running” is all I remember saying to my mum the whole time I was on the treadmill.
Ok so I wasn’t fully back weight bearing, I started at 30% of my own body weight, but I was still running!! I got through the first week, then the second, third and fourth week, all pain free increasing my body weight by 10% nearly every week. Alongside this I continued with the aqua jogging, swimming and a lot of strength and conditioning!
Lockdown… what can I say, an interesting time? After the world had been put on hold everything was different. Although I couldn’t continue my last few anti- gravity treadmill sessions, Nick decided that I was in fact ready to start back full body weight running.
After sneakily getting myself a second hand treadmill just before we went into lockdown, this was my absolute saviour and I took my time, increasing slowly. Alongside this, because all the gyms had closed down, I found myself in a sticky situation regarding weights for S+C…. but in times like these you have to adapt to your environment… and so that’s what I did.
I used flower pots as weights, slowly increasing the size of plant. I then had my boyfriend sat across my legs so I could use him as weight and then used other household objects to challenge myself throughout the weeks. Boy did they work!! I was back out running on the roads in no time at all, PAIN FREE!!!
Each week I have been increasing my time running starting with once a week… to twice a week and I am now at three times a week, managing my load appropriately and going on how I feel week to week. Some weeks I felt tired, so I reduced the time on runs, but other weeks I felt good and continued to progress accordingly.
In times of such uncertainty around the world I knew that one thing was certain and that was that I was back to full running completely pain free!
I have found a new level of motivation throughout these challenging times and I am so glad that I continued with my triathlon journey.
I hope that you can relate to such challenging times in your own sport and know that you are not alone.
Be patient and persistent and everything will fall into place… despite the rocky times (which I know happens to all of us at some point). I am excited to carry on building my running back up and preparing for a whole lot of races next year.”