What do elite athletes do when they’re injured?

Charlotte Purdue has been injured, a frustrating time for any runner but for a full-time athlete, that’s doubly hard…

“After the World Half Marathon championships in Valenica, myself and my training partner Steve headed up to Font Romeu (about 6 hours by road) for 4 weeks of altitude training prior to the London Marathon. Unfortunately during our first week out there I was forced to stop during an easy run…

I have since November had a pain in my quad. Being an elite runner, I am always feeling niggles around my legs and so after having 5 days off in November the pain in my quad seemed to disappear. It then started to come back in January and I would feel it in random runs – but I was still able to run 120 miles some weeks and I ran 1.10 and a big PB at the Big Half in March, so it couldn’t be that bad right? When you are constantly pushing yourself to the limits and training hard everyday you expect your body to complain every now and again and it was becoming clear that this was serious. A test or 2 later and it was confimed i had a stress reaction (not a fracture but it was heading in that direction) in my femur . I have been very fortunate that for the past 2 years I have not had to have any time off due to injury. So although I was gutted to have to withdraw from this year’s London Marathon, I know that it is all part of the process and I will have plenty more opportunities to run in London.

During my time off running (4 weeks) – I decided to stay up in Font Romeu and do some altitude cross training! I had a few days of doing no exercise to let the injury settle and then I started my cross training program. For the first 2 weeks I did a pool session every morning, which would consist of 15mins swimming warm up, 35mins of aqua jogging and then 15mins swimming cool down. I would then every evening do about 45mins of cycling which would be followed by my gym work 3 times a week. For the last 2 weeks I was able to incorporate some cross trainer instead of swimming and I did some bike sessions instead of swimming.

I am now beginning the return to running process which is gradual so I will continue to cross train for the next 3 weeks to enhance my fitness. I will also be using the Alter-G treadmill which basically defies gravity and reduces body weight, with the idea that I can run for longer than I would outside as there will be less load on my leg. I have been selected for the European Championships marathon in August which is great as it always helps to have a goal when returning from a set back – something to make you want to work hard every day, even if its not doing what you love (running!). ”

It’s interesting to note how Charlotte suggests that being an elite runner means she frequently has to deal with aches and pains. That’s true for us all isn’t it? There is always something going on inside our bodies – rarely are we totally free from a niggle. It’s also interesting that rather than getting despondent, Charlotte is able to pick herself up and find alternative ways of maintaining her fitness – anti-gravity treadmills and aqua jogging may not be available or appropriate for all of us, but there are plenty of things we can do so that we feel more in control of the situation AND maintain fitness while we recover. It’s going to be fun seeing how Charlotte progresses from here towards the European Championships in Berlin in August.

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