In ultra and long-distance running, injuries are all too familiar. They are an inherent part of the sport, underscoring the significance of attentive self-care, mindful body awareness, and effective recovery strategies to minimize their occurrence.
Diana Wikblom, a Finnish long-distance runner and Aonach athlete, has encountered numerous leg-related injuries throughout her career. We sat down with her to explore the recovery methods and practices she employs to mitigate the likelihood of future physical setbacks.
What injury early warning signs do you watch for?
It’s always an internal conversation: ‘Should I take this seriously? Will it go away?’ It’s tough to know. I ignore it if it hurts when I start running, but it disappears after three kilometers. If it gets worse, then I stop. It is a rule that I’ve learned the hard way because I’m that person who will commit to completing my goal no matter what. I now try to be wiser.
When I identify a problem area, I attempt to address it independently for several days. If the issue persists, I consult a specialist who employs electrophysiology techniques, utilizing needle-like instruments like acupuncture.
What strategies do you use for injury prevention after a race or training session?
Foam rolling has become an integral part of my daily routine. I use a firm ball beneath my feet, another for my hips and upper back, and another for my legs and neck—it resembles a massage. When I feel fatigued, I prioritize rolling over the areas that ache the most. The beauty of foam rolling lies in its ability to reveal hidden problem areas that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The Bio Electro Magnetic Energy Regulation system is another remarkable tool that has been part of my routine for the past decade. It works by stimulating microcirculation throughout the entire body. Each day, I dedicate eight minutes in the morning before starting my day and in the evening before bed, laying down on a mat designed for this purpose. It allows me to utilize it as a pre-training warm-up. This year, I upgraded to a new model operating on batteries.
Could you provide some insights into your experience with TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)?
A friend introduced me to TENS via the Paingone Plus device a few months ago, but I was highly skeptical. However, my initial experience completely changed my perspective. You hold the pen-like device against your skin, push the button for 30 seconds, and a low-voltage electrical current is delivered to stimulate the nerves, causing the pain to disappear—when I use it on the lower leg, I can feel it in my toes.
I've made it a daily routine because it offers pain relief and muscle stimulation and facilitates my recovery; it doesn't cure anything. Unlike foam rolling, which requires active participation, Paingone is a convenient and effortless experience—I'm even using it now. Whether you have a few spare seconds or prefer a longer session while watching TV, you can effortlessly target different areas of your body.
Whether you're an athlete or not, this affordable and invaluable tool deserves a place in every household because everyone encounters occasional discomfort.
Learn more about the many benefits of TENS in sports injury rehabilitation here.
What do you do to stay fit when injured?
When running is not an option, I always find alternative ways to stay active. I have a cross-trainer at home that comes in handy when dealing with a foot injury. Additionally, I engage in water running, cycling, and strength training at the gym.
Even if endurance training is temporarily off the table, I prioritize upper-body exercises in the gym. Strength training is a consistent part of my routine, which I typically engage 2-4 times a week. If I go for several days without it, my body feels like everything is falling apart!
How do you maintain a positive mindset when your body lets you down?
When I get injured and can’t run, I always get angry and sad for a few days. I then think about how to make the best of it, so I focus on something to make me a better runner, like strengthening my core.
What role does sleep play in the process of recovering from injuries?
Sleep is crucial, especially with the same daily pattern—the body thrives on rhythm. When I have a strenuous workout, I take a half-an-hour nap in the afternoon and wake up like a new person.
How does diet play a part in the injury-recovery process?
When you’re young and train a lot, you can eat anything. The older you get, the more critical your diet becomes, so you must consider quality nutrition. Recovery works better when you eat correctly.
How have your injuries led you to modify your training over the years?
I used to plan my training week in my head, feeling obligated to complete it regardless of how my body felt. This often led to injuries and setbacks. However, I've learned that my body isn't a machine. Factors like work and home life affect my well-being and training capacity. Now, I adjust my training accordingly.
What advice would you give your past self before starting your long-distance running career?
Listen more to your body. I still struggle with that now, but I am learning.
To start your TENS recovery journey, visit our Paingone page.