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April 23rd, 2015

Train Hard and Work Equally Hard at Getting Back

My training had been going pretty well the last four months. I was starting to feel some speed coming back to my old legs and long runs were feeling pretty easy. All that translated into extra motivation to continue training.

I say “had been” because that was until three weeks ago when on my Tuesday morning workout I felt it: that pain that forced me to changed my running stride.

The experienced athlete in me knew that that particular pain meant an injury. Talk about bad timing; I was signed up to run the 2015 New Jersey Marathon on April 26 as a first fitness test of 2015.

Getting injured, just like training, affects you both mentally and physically and requires you to make adjustments.

First Step: Surround Yourself With Some Good People
Injuries are part of an athlete’s life, some more or less serious than others, but they will happen sooner than later. Just like choosing a good pair of running shoes, a good training program, an experienced coach–my best advice to you is to surround yourself with a good sports doctor and a good physical therapist.

When I say good, I don’t just mean somebody with a diploma from a nice school. Find a professional who cares, has experience treating athletes and understands how important logging miles is to you. Please stay away from those whose first response to any injury is to “stop running!”

Second Step: “Realize, Accept and Deal”
Realize. Getting injured is never fun. Actually it totally sucks, and it’s very frustrating, especially when you don’t know why. Why the pain? “I was just running. I didn’t do anything different.” It is time to realize that if you didn’t have pain and now you do, something is wrong — or at least something is not right.

Accept. If you know something is not right, the true and tricky question is, “What are you going to do about it?” Are you going to continue training, hope it goes away (good luck with that) and possibly screw up your training season? Or are you going to do something about it? What about, maybe, let’s say, getting some professional help?

Deal. Accepting you are injured means “some things will need to change,” such as your training. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stop training—very few injuries require stopping all activities—but it might mean you’ll need to do less of one thing and more of something else (i.e. cross-training, physical therapy, etc).

Queens and Kings of Excuses
Let’s face it: runners are great at excuses (we always seem to have an excuse of why we didn’t perform in races, don’t we?). One of the most “nonsense” excuses we give ourselves when injured is, “I don’t have the time to go to doctor or PT.” Hmmmm … really?

So, we have time to log miles and miles during the week but we don’t have time get treated.

It’s all about prioritizing.

If you are injured, you can’t or shouldn’t run as much — so what else are you doing with that extra free time? Yes, you do have the time!

I personally think that most of us refuse to get help because that’s when the true realization of being injured comes, and that reality somehow makes the injury worse.

“I Train Hard, So I Should Work Harder at Getting Healthy”
Knowing that injuries are part of training, we should approach them just like we approach any other part of our training: work hard, be consistent and do whatever needs to be done, even if it’s not so much fun. It’s kind of like hill training; we don’t necessarily love it, but we know it needs to be done. That’s the road to getting healthy again.

You will need to modify your training calendar with the help of your PT, doctor and coach to include those “work on my injury” days as well as the “visits to my PT.” Approach those days with the same enthusiasm as you would a hill workout, and just know that each day you work on it, it’s one day closer to getting healthy.

Don’t Just Treat the Pain, Treat the Cause
I’ve been a runner for 37 years, and that means I have had my share of injuries. I’m a lucky athlete to have a good friend that happens to be a great PT. I am talking about Michael Conlon, owner of Finish Line Physical Therapy.

I’ve known Michael ‘Skinny’ for 14 years now, and Skinny has treated this old guy and helped me to get healthy on many occasions before. The trust is there.

Michael knows me and knows my training and racing history, which means:

  • He knows me and my old muscles and what my body aches are related to.
  • He is an athlete himself, so he understands how important is for me to be out there and do my crazy.
  • He treats hundreds of athletes every month, so he has the experience in treating others and knows what treatment works best for each injury.
  • Michael is always continuing to educate himself and keeping up with the new and latest treatments.
  • What I like most is the approach that he and all his staff have at treating injuries: treat the Cause, don’t just treat the Pain.

Hard Work Pays Off
Three weeks of frustration, pain, no running days, lots of stretching, lots visits to the gym and some great visits to my good friend Michael ‘Skinny’ Conlon … and it’s all paying off.

It happens like that. Just like training, you work on it, you focus on what to do each day, on what you can do to make it better — and one day things start to feel better. And the next day even better. And better. And then you start to think, I am ready to “test it.”

Test Run
For me, today, 3 weeks and 1 day after the day, it was time to test it. My test run was a 30-minute run in which the goal was to see if the “feeling better” is real, or just the response of my body from the lack of running.

So this morning I went for a run. My approach for the run was to start with a slow warm-up mile, and if things went well, move up to my usual easy running pace. If that felt good, I would pick up the next two miles at a steady, more challenging pace to see how the knee reacted. And of course I was always ready to stop at the first sign of pain.

Test Result
I am happy to report that the test went well. Success! After a four-mile, 29:58 run, I can say that things have definitely improved, and everything is working well.

How well? Well enough for me to line up at the start of the 2015 New Jersey Marathon this coming Sunday.

Note that I say, “to line up at the start,” which I hope will translate to getting to the finish line.

Now the only other question is, have I lost any of my fitness? Stay tuned.

Remember: work hard when training, and work equally hard at getting healthy when injured.

Coach Ramon Bermo has been an athlete for 37 years and a coach for 17. He is currently training for his 60th marathon, and has completed 13 Ironman triathlons and multiple ultra marathons in addition to hundreds of other races varying in distances. Ramon is the founder and coach of Tri2B and currently works as the Senior Director and Head Coach for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation program. Through the years, he has coached thousands of athletes in achieving their athletic dreams through such programs as NYU running club, Niketown, Team in Training, DetermiNation and Tri2B. Without a doubt, his favorite coaching moment was watching his 12-year-old daughter complete her first triathlon.

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