Can you really go from chronically injured to healthy and pain free? This is my story

by Jason Fitzgerald

Earlier this month I got an email from Todd. He told me:

Love your blog! Lots of useful tips for us mere mortals ;-)

I laughed and thanked him for the compliment. But it got me thinking – does Todd (and maybe you) think I’m not a mere mortal too?

Running Image

Todd’s comment implies that I’m not a mere mortal – that somehow I can run high mileage with fast workouts and suffer no overuse injuries.

Nothing could be further from the truth. For years, my running was a disaster. Not only was I constantly injured but I made so many bad choices with my training that I stayed locked in the injury cycle.

I remember being so clueless that I blamed too much running on the roads for all my problems. I thought, if only I could clear the winter snow off the trails I’d finally be healthy! 

That line of thinking is adorable, don’t you think? In hindsight, I made a lot of high level blunders.

But today I want to go into more detail than I ever have before so you can see my personal experience with injuries.

Hitting Bottom (but bouncing back)

In 2008, my injury history from the previous seven years was damn impressive. It felt like every time I solved one injury problem, another would pop up.

2002: left arch strain and plantar fasciitis

2003: Achilles tendinopathy, IT band syndrome

2004: plantar fasciitis, sacroiliac joint misalignment

2005: left arch strain

2006: Achilles tendinopathy

2007: severe low back pain (undiagnosed)

2008: Achilles tendinopathy, quad strains in both legs, severe IT band syndrome

And these are only the injuries that I can remember off the top of my head!

The final case of ITBS was when I hit rock bottom: it hurt to walk and I could barely bend my leg. I didn’t run for six months, instead choosing to sit on my couch after work and feel sorry for myself. I ate too many Oreos and watched too many episodes of House.

I considered never running again. Hard workouts, long runs, and the pain of racing didn’t seem worth it. Besides, it would take the better part of a year to get back into shape. All those Oreos weren’t helping either…

Finally, something snapped. I realized that if I kept doing what I was doing, I’d keep getting what I was getting. There needed to be a change so I could get back to doing what I loved: running every day.

I swallowed my pride and asked for help, spending hundreds of dollars to see four different physical therapists. My passion was worth the investment.

After some trial and error and a laser focused strategy, I started seeing some progress. My IT band didn’t throb on a daily basis and my PT encouraged me to try a short, easy run.

The next day I ran 20 minutes, probably covering an inch over two miles. It wasn’t pretty, but I had to start somewhere.

The Journey to Healthy Running

Over the next six months, I patiently executed my comeback plan. Weekly volume gradually increased and my first workout – a 5 minute steady state effort – was a lot harder than I imagined it should be.

But my outlook remained positive. Each week I ran a little more and a little faster.

Even more encouraging was that I had no trace of other injuries. My Achilles tendon felt great and there was no sign of my recurring problems with plantar fasciitis. My new training methods included a strong focus on injury prevention and they were working.

Slowly, my fitness came back. I started to run more than ever before, setting an annual mileage record in 2010 (and beating that again in 2012).

I’ve since improved my marathon time to 2:39:32 – over 5 minutes faster than my previous best. I’ve won a Warrior Dash, a small marathon, and a host of other races. I even just set a monthly mileage record of 354 miles for July!

My goal with telling you this is to show you that you can go from chronically injured to consistently injury-free. Going from one extreme to another is possible and if I can do it, you can too.

My journey actually inspired me to start this blog – and coach hundreds of runners to injury-free, healthy running. Now it blows me away at some of the results that my runners have earned from training smarter and staying healthy.

And it makes my day when I get feedback like this:

“I am amazed at how much stronger, healthier and faster I am….I had some “nagging” plantar fasciitis issues when I first started your plan 5 weeks ago, and within the first 7-10 days of starting the plan, those symptoms are GONE permanently! That is HUGE! I truly am loving being able to run 6 days a week without injury… it’s just awesome. Regardless of how I perform in Chicago I am truly a stronger, faster, and better runner because of your coaching!” – Dana

“I’ve been successful with rebuilding my mileage for training since taking on your training plan. It is such a relief to be able to train normally again since being injured. A big thank you again for that! ” – Allison

I have definitely learned a ton from you. I have a lot more endurance, a little more speed, and a ton more knowledge. But mainly, I don’t feel like I’m going to break any minute. I almost never feel injury-prone. It’s all helped tremendously. You are more than worth your going rate and I think more like $250/mo.” – Deb

Injury Feedback_Twitter

Just picture me smiling from ear to ear right now – that’s how I feel on a daily basis because I get to help runners achieve what I’ve been able to achieve.

It is truly a dream come true.

Taking the Next Step

Recently I’ve devoted an enormous amount of time to injury prevention because it’s what I believe separates consistent, successful runners from those who constantly wonder “Why does this keep happening? What am I doing wrong?

I just released a video presentation addressing several misconceptions about injuries and answering four of the top questions I received about staying healthy (those who haven’t seen it can sign up here and I’ll email it to you).

There’s another Q&A presentation as well to answer even more of your questions. I’m having a blast creating these resources for you and I want to keep doing it.

I’ll also send the next Q&A presentation after you’ve watched the first one. If you want in, just get on the list here. Be in touch soon!

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Jim H

Here’s one thing I’ve learned (tho’ it’s only peripherally about running): when your sacral joint is out of whack, go see an Osteopath, particularly one who specializes in manipulation. Some are gentle, some more chiropractic and PT-like. Notwithstanding, their knowledge base and therapeutic bag of tricks is immensely vaster than those of the latter two practitioner types. When I’ve injured mine—lifting and twisting, usually, but also from horseback riding and baseball—my Osteopath is the first and last person I see. And it usually only takes one visit! That’s the key.

Jason Fitzgerald

This is interesting Jim. You said it only takes one visit but you’ve also hurt it numerous times. Maybe the underlying reason why it’s getting misaligned should be your new focus.

Jon son

thanks for writing

my outlook remained positive. Each week I ran a little more and a little faster.

Cheryl Turpin

You mentioned Laser Therapy for your IT band. I have IT band issues that will not clear up…perhaps I should be looking at that venue for healing as I have tried, massage, ART, PT and actually have gone through 3 PTs as no one seems to clear up the issue. I use my roller, I do the heat, ice all the strengthening exercises. Now as a triathlete this is an important part of the tri sport and right now I am faced with giving up my Ironman pursuits as I cannot get a hold of this problem. Any suggestions.

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