Runner's Footprints

Runner's Footprints

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How To Train Coming Back From An Injury

Dropping My Marathon Time From 3:37 to 3:25 in 5 weeks without Running

I swim hard 2x/wk
I cycle hard 2x/wk
I do CrossFit hard 2x/wk
I do non-impact cardio 5x/wk

Yes, this is all around my work, family, and life responsibilities. I do not earn a salary as an athlete. I have product sponsors who support me, but I work for a living to pay my bills just as everyone else has home, car, and living expenses. It continues to surprise me when someone asks me: do you still work? Why else did I earn my Bachelor's, Master's, and teaching credential all from UCLA by age 20. I recognize my intelligence. I recognize my work ethic. I also recognize my weaknesses and try to work on them daily. Therefore, I take care of my responsibilities first then train. I do make it a priority in my life to be healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually so this means being very keen on my time management. 

This past week has been the first time in almost 3 months that I've returned to easy trail running. Easy in the sense I am not pushing the pace or climbing hard like I normally do. Due to an overuse injury in January (my only 3rd overuse injury in 17 years as an athlete) caused by doing "too much too soon too fast", I had to stop run training completely after my 50-mile race in February. Yes, I did stop running and skipped participating in several races because of it. Note: Ultra-running does NOT cause injuries just like running does NOT cause bad knees. Breaking the rule of doing "too much too soon too fast" does. Doesn't matter what distance you race, doesn't matter what sport you play that rule holds. So yes, I did run LA and Boston marathons as I was healing my injury only because I was getting therapy every two weeks, getting sports massages by Rich every week, and continued to train at a high intensity only on non-impact movements. I dropped several other races from my race schedule between Antelope and Boston losing about $900 in registration fees. Yes it sucks to lose the money, but learn to not race with an injury. You're only digging yourself deeper in a hole and the money isn't worth it if being physically active is significant to you. I didn't skip LA because I have ran it 17 years in a row and was willing to walk it to the finish. I didn't skip Boston because well it's Boston. Everything else for three months, I dropped. I have done zero run speed work since December (January I was only focusing on climbing), but my speed training is coming from my swim, bike, and CrossFit. This has not been my fastest run year [yet] due to the fact I am not run training. Any competitive fast athlete knows you have to run fast in training in order to tap into the full potential of your speed in racing. However, with my outcome of Boston, I am very, very optimistic that I can see some great gains in a few months. I have learned to be tremendously consistent and patient as it is known those traits yield the greatest dividends. 

Fortunately, even though this year hasn't been my fastest run year so far, it definitely has been a very strong build. I'm feeling stronger every week that I lift with CrossFit Ganbatte and I was able to run a 3:25 negative split at Boston without zero run training due to the dedicated regimen above. I have now ran Boston six consecutive times where 3:25 was my second fastest time out of six. Given I had not ran and was able to push faster in the second half with all the Newton Hills, I have grown very much more focused. My marathon time dropped from 3:37 to 3:25 in 5 weeks not by running but by: 1) starting CrossFit and being very dedicated to go every single week twice never missing a practice, 2) being very consistent with all my therapy and sports massages weekly, and 3) being diligent with all non impact high training I created for myself in order to not lose fitness. By doing these three things, I ended up running faster in 5 weeks. Let's face it: when we are plagued with injury, we feel like the "world is over." So to keep my sanity through life, I had to restructure all my training to not lose any fitness base and then aim to get faster as best as I could. Speed work is very necessary to get faster. You just have to choose how you do it. Every training session has a purpose and it always has with me. I am NOT lucky to be fast. I hate the word lucky. I work for it and everything I have in my life. 

Everything happens for a reason so we just need to learn how to cope with the outcomes of our actions.... this really goes for anything in life. I've earned some great experiences and rewards in my life due to all the hard work and sacrifice I've had to put up front. However, I've also lost some very important things in my life due to again the choices I make. Not running in training for almost 3 months has had me skip so many races, has been costly financially, and even made it difficult to cope with things going on with my life. But life goes on when we allow it to go on. We learn from our mistakes or else you will be bound to repeat them again. 

Here are some tips to remind yourself if you have an ache sneaking up on you or have an injury:

1) If you're having any joint pain anywhere, STOP running. Get it checked out by your doctor. There is no such thing as hoping this pain will go away if you keep running through it. Don't pretend like the joint pain isn't there.

2) STOP with the "oh woah is me I'm hurt and I can't deal without running." We all love running. Now is the time to learn from your mistake, focus on other areas, and remain proactive on your recovery. Complaining about it is not going to get you better. Being proactive is. 

3) START physical therapy immediately. That includes with your physical therapist, chiropractor, sports massage therapist, acupuncturist, etc. I did all the above and yes it's costly but it's the price you have to pay for the mistake you made. My sports massage therapist, Rich, has been key and I see him every week. Feel free to contact him as he serves all athletes in the LA area: 310-200-4348. Plus the more dedicated you are to your physical therapy the faster you'll heal. 

4) START any non impact exercises as long as you have no pain at the point of injury. Always check with your doctor first. Beginning a training plan that helps you focus on how to still get faster without aggravating your injury takes key planning. Feel free to email me if you're interested in online coaching and/or customized training plans at

5) START being positive about your outlook on healing, recovery, and life. Running is a large part of my life and helps me tremendously to cope with certain struggles I go through. However, when you lose something, it teaches you to value it more. Research studies show time and time again that the body does physiologically respond to healing faster when the patient is positive and has faith (faith is personal and can mean whatever you want it to mean). I am far from perfect and am not happy all the time, but I try as much as possible to be as positive as I can. I recognize this is my life and I want it to be worth living for me in every way I can. I have some very key races in August from running across the Colorado Rockies, running across the Swiss Alps, and Ironman Lake Tahoe so I am remaining very focused on those 3 key events. This focus and power is within all of us. All we have to do is start believing.


  1. Great write up!
    I love the "Note" about running not being the cause of injury, overuse is. Early this year I was feeling great in my training, unstoppable...until an overuse injury occurred. Fortunately I was able to determine it was an overuse injury and it was minor and most importantly I didn't ignore it and was able to recover in time for LA. Your thoughts about being lucky also resonated with me; one of my favorite youtube videos, is a Nike video, Rise and Shine, in it, there’s a part that says, “Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe that winning can happen by accident. Sweat on the other hand is for those who know it’s a choice.” It’s all about the effort you put in.
    Great advice on how to come back from injury.
    One question I have for you is about doctors and when to believe them. Where can runners find doctors that support our sport and lifestyle of running? I’ve found that while most doctors encourage cardio exercise, when the topic of a marathon is brought up, they’re less than supportive and when asked what to do with a running injury they often tell their patients to find another sport. Walk, instead of run. Swim or cycle instead of run. They very rarely tell you what you need to do to get back to running. When I had my first overuse injury 2 months before the 2010 LA Marathon, I couldn’t run, I tried, but it was painful. My doctor told me I shouldn’t run, which is good immediate advice. When I asked him when I could try running again, all he said was to rest and take it easy and only run when it didn’t hurt anymore. When I told them that I was training to run a marathon, he told me that it could lead to problems with my knees and that I should try something less extreme. I didn’t change my mind about training for a marathon but I did change my goal. I ditched my time goal and said I just want to be able to complete the race and also be a tourist along the course enjoying the sights and taking pictures. I recovered with yoga and strength training and eventually cardio in the form of elliptical machines and eventually running. I didn’t complete a long run further than 6 miles. I crossed the finish line and as expected my legs and feet were tired but I did not make my injury worse, in fact, I felt stronger. It was this experience that taught me the importance of cross training, and especially the importance of core work and flexibility.
    I have one more question. What are the poker chips for when “flying” like Superman?
    Thanks for writing about your running experiences, both good and bad.

    1. Thank you for the feedback! When it comes to finding the right doctor, I can understand that it can be difficult. Remember if you are unhappy with one then get a second and third opinion. For an active athlete, it is best to go with a doctor who is active themselves so they can be more understanding and suggest the right therapy for you. Also open yourself to seeing other specialists such as chiropractors, sports therapists, and/or acupuncturists. You have to search and find what the best combo is for you. I try and do all the above because I want to maximize my healing. It's more costly so it just depends what is within your budget.

      The poker chips are used to count our rounds. In CrossFit, we do high intensity shorter cycles so we count our rounds with chips so we don't lose count. Usually these cycles are about 8-10min long and that is long enough because all of us just usually collapse after each round. It's all about pushing yourself very hard for shorter amounts of time.

  2. These are all true. The trick is to not let yourself be dragged down and bummed out too much by your injuries. Instead, focus on what you can do to recover quickly, and learning what you did wrong and how you can avoid it in the future. Anyway, it’s nice that you’ve figured these things out, and have found a way to pursue your passion without pushing yourself past the breaking point. Good luck, and have fun!

    Emmett Fletcher @ CK Physio

  3. Yes, always check with your doctor. This couldn't be stressed enough. These routines are all okay, but if your injuries still linger or hasn't stayed healed for a length of time, then it’s best to go to a doctor first than the gym. It's a cliché, but it's best to be safe than sorry.

    Agnes Lawson @ Pain Relief Experts

  4. I ignored the pain in my left heel and ended up with a bad case of plantar fasciitis. My heel was constantly hurting, especially in the morning, and it started to affect how I walked and ran. My doctor said I should have stopped running as soon as the pain started and sought out treatment - live and learn.

    Tyron Tanaka @ Low And Canata

  5. Do you want how to prevent your knees from injuries? If so, read this article - it can be found at! Secondly, if you train a lot, always check with your doctor!