Recovering from injury – on the cheap, is it possible?

During the past few years I have suffered a range of running related injuries. IT band issues, shin splints, calf issues (grade 2 tear – twice… which fucking well hurt), blisters (oh the tears) and so forth and so on. It’s put me off running at times, but, like most runners, I keep coming back.

However, when I got hip problems I couldn’t afford the sports physiotherapy I’d had previously for my calf injury and I didn’t want to wait the 6 months for the NHS appointment (I exaggerate), but with a race coming up I needed a quicker solution. So I was a bit stumped. Was I destined to miss the race as I didn’t have a spare £200+?

I’d always been led to believe that running was cheap, almost free even. Running is supposed to be one of those activities that rich and poor alike can enjoy. Just slap on a pair of trainers and away you go, feel the wind in your hair and be free!

Yes, those trainers might be purchased from a running shop who charges you to test your gait and then want £120 on top for the actual trainers which are the “perfect fit” (just make sure you change them every 500 miles remember). Then you need the specially designed leggings which direct sweat away from your hot areas to your cool areas (if someone can tell me how my leggings know the difference between my crotch and my knees that’d be great), the specially designed socks that don’t rub and have some kind of bamboo in them to do whatever bamboo does, the technical t-shirt with no seams so it doesn’t rub, is wicking to take sweat away, has a pocket for keys and a specially designed hole for your ipod with the expensive logo on the front so everyone knows just how much you spent on it, a sports bra which cements your boobs in place while still looking sexy enough to be seen, but not sexy enough to be, well, sexy and the iphone you need to run the app to track you round the 5k course which is synced to the watch that tells you when you move, eat, fart and sleep. Other than all that running is cheap, right?!

Is running cheap? Well, yes. You do just need some trainers or, if you are really adventurous, want to behave “like our ancestors”, and/or are a bit of a hippy or just like the added risk of glass in your feet, you can go barefoot running. Let’s be honest, you can get a pair of trainers from Aldi for £10. In fact, you could kit yourself out in trainers, jacket, leggings, socks, technical t-shirt and flashing lights for around £47 from Aldi (I know, I’ve done just that), but social media has led me to believe that I am doing my body and my running a disservice by not investing hundreds of £’s in the right gear (or is it “right gear”). Is it the same for recovery and dealing with injuries? Do I need to invest hundreds to get me fit and healthy again or can I achieve recovery cheaply? As I had some time on my hand I thought I’d find out if dealing with injury can be done on the cheap.

Here’s what I did:

Step 1 – I asked people for help/used the internet. The internet is free if you go to a library, sit outside a coffee shop, go to work etc etc etc…. I went on running forums, I went on running websites, I used Google like the world was ending. I pulled up endless articles on hip pain, running hip pain, injury recovery, cute cats, core strength, gait analysis, if trainers can cause hip pain, if Donald Trump can cause hip pain and I came to the conclusion that the internet is full of really helpful advice – with some really unhelpful and patronising advice thrown in. The good stuff was amazing though and it was FREE! Within an hour I not only knew the issue was my hip, but I knew it was likely to be due to weak glutes’ as I sit down for a lot of the day.

I was able to name the muscles, tendons and ligaments involved.   I spoke to people on forums who’d had the same injury and got hold of their recovery plans. I got diagrams of the body with detailed explanations of what I had hurt, how and why. I got helpful videos on stretching, strength training and the right food to eat.

I found tons of PDF’s to download with detailed recovery plans and got directed to physio websites with detailed videos explaining how to perform each exercise and stretch. I had hours of videos of the exercises I needed to do from professionals or at least from people dressed like professionals (only one of whom had a name badge with Milgram on).

Step 2 was to devise a recovery plan. Next came my one and only expense in all of this – a Thera-band or, rather, an exercise band which looks an awful lot like a Thera-band. I spent a whole £4.99 at Aldi (can you tell I live near am Aldi……………). As I had no swelling or tenderness I had 6 different resistance exercises to perform every day and, when the sharp pain had stopped, other exercises to add in to build muscle and flexibility. I got a piece of paper and a pen (also free, from work) and drew myself out a plan. It had resistance exercises, strength training exercises, stretches and some easy weight lifting to incorporate. Weights!? What did you use for weights, you ask smugly. Well, for the squats I used a box which contains my snow chains as they fitted nicely into my arms, but I also had water bottles filled with water (1 litre of water equals 1kg) and shopping bags with bags of rice in. However, I could have used anything. The aim, after all, was to add weight. The weights didn’t need to be designed by Davina McCall and sold by Marks and Spencer they just needed to add weight to me.

Step 3 – injury prevention. Now that I was recovering or mostly recovered I could start running again, but I wanted to make sure that the injury didn’t flare up again. How could I build relevant muscles without joining a gym? Well I’ll tell you! I have two flights of stairs leading to my home and on these I could perform double steps, heel raises and a variety of other ass and leg strengthening exercise. I also own a rucksack which I can add weight to to perform bigger squats or to really punish myself when going up and down the stairs. I was also back to the internet looking for videos – YouTube was my saviour.

After 8 weeks I was not only recovered, but getting stronger than pre-injury. Yes, it had taken some self-discipline which I am sure a fixed appointment with a professional sports physio would have meant wasn’t as necessary. Yes, it took some imagination and some rather amused looks from my neighbours – luckily they are fairly used to seeing me as I go out for a run dressed like a Van Gough painting on acid so they seemed to take it in their stride when they found me with a rucksack on running up and down stairs. It took me being dedicated to sifting out the good advice from the crap advice and doing my research on what was actually going on in my body rather than just listening to the first bit of advice I was given.

So, does doing it on the cheap beat doing it with loads of cash? Mmmmmmmmmmmmm not so easy to answer if I am honest. I’m lucky that I have a pretty sound basic knowledge of the human body. I also know the difference between what I call my body moaning pain and my body telling me something is wrong pain. I can read and interpret information relating to the muscles, tendons and ligaments without too much fuss due to having an interest in it and I have the knowledge to be able to devise recovery programs due to having undergone physiotherapy before. To be honest, if I’d had the cash I’d have probably gone to a sports phsyio just to get their professional opinion and then had two appointments spaced throughout my recovery to check everything was going ok. However, listening to my body, doing some research and not buying into the whole “spend hundreds on this product or you WILL DIE” is how I’d do it next time round, but with the added eye of a fully qualified and paid professional to monitor.

So yes, you can recover from injury for free or for £4.99, but it’s not as easy as having loads of cash.

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