Don’t let your niggles linger – Ryno Griesel
01 January 1970
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual app, which is available here.
You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. I’m Brad Brown and pretty excited to share our next podcast with you. Because I think it’s a chat that every single runner who has ever picked up a niggle at some stage in their running career and let’s be honest, that’s each and every one of us. If it hasn’t happened yet, it is going to happen at some stage in your running career. It’s frustrating to say the least.
I wanted to chat to our next guest today because he’s had a pretty rough year when it comes to injuries. We’ll touch on what’s been happening and what he’s been doing about it. But also what’s caused it and some of the mental aspects to dealing with it. It’s a great pleasure to welcome onto the podcast today Ryno Griesel. Ryno welcome, nice to touch base again, are you well?
Ryno Griesel: Morning Brad, doing very well thank you, thanks for having me.
BB: As well as can be expected, you’ve had a really frustrating year from an injury perspective, most of the year you’ve been man down.
An ongoing hamstring niggle
RG: Yes Brad, I did the 100 Miler end of February. I’ve had a niggle, to be honest, for many years, since about 2007/08, I’ve had a niggle in my left hamstring. The one thing about endurance running is that you’ve got a strong head.
To be honest, one of my biggest strengths of being able to push through difficult situations, has ended up being one of my biggest downfalls because I’ve ignored that niggle. It’s basically come to an abrupt end in the Addo 100 Miler in February where I realise I’ve got a big problem.
BB: Ryno, that’s so typical of endurance runners, as you say. One of your strengths is being able to push through and let’s be honest, it does hurt when you do those long ones. That’s one of the things that I think attract us to it. But pushing through the pain is not necessarily the best way to go about it. How long have you been struggling with this troublesome hammie?
RG: I used to do those Cape Odyssey’s, despite their runs and that was in 2007/08 and I picked up a hamstring niggle. It’s been coming on and off over the years, but it’s never really gone away. I’ve been running with a hamstring heel for about eight years.
BB: That’s a long time, and a lot of it is probably just managing it. How much of that would you say has been from an over-use perspective? You do some really long stuff and crazy distances that most of us will think is just unbelievable. Do you think it’s purely an overuse injury?
RG: I would definitely say it’s an overuse injury, but on that point, I think as frustrating as the last five months has been, it’s possibly been the best five months in my running career ever. Because I was forced to look at things differently.
I learnt so much, built amazing relationships. I’ve basically come across My Health, Sport and Orthopedic Centre in Centurion. I’ve met Carel Viljoen, my physio. We’ve literally relooked at things and we went into an intense rehab programme. One of the things I’ve learnt is that for endurance running, all I did in the past is I just ran.
I just ran crazy distances because I really just loved running, it was never about the racing, that was really just a side line. I just did crazy distances and what I’ve learnt is that I never really had a functional conditioning programme to be able to help my body to adapt to and handle the distances.
Yes, it’s an overuse injury, but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s the lack of an additional functional sport specific training programme to be able to help my body to handle those distances. I just kept on pounding the same thing over and over again and never really looked at strength, dynamic. All the things that Carel will definitely explain a little bit better.
Getting down to the bottom of it
BB: Awesome, let’s just touch on that too, one of the reasons this talk came about is you heard a podcast that we did on a different platform with one of the guys that does some work for us here at Old Mutual Live, David Katz. It was an interview with Dr Jon Patricios who is based at the Sports Science Clinic at Morningside. It was on dealing with injuries and getting the correct diagnosis.
For you, you listened to that podcast recently, it was a podcast we did a while ago, and that just really drove the message home. Funnily enough, you’ve been working with Jon Patricios as well and that’s how your relationship with Carel came about. Tell us about the going to actually seek help and make sure that you’re getting the right prognosis and in turn, getting the right treatment.
RG: Definitely Brad, when I listened to the podcast it was like, flip, this is exactly what I’ve been going through and what Dr Jon Patricios said there is 100% correct. The first thing he said is make sure you get a proper diagnosis. Make sure that if you have a niggle, get professional help. Get somebody that is qualified in diagnosis of the specific sport injury. But also somebody that understands your sport.
So that’s the first thing. I had to learn, don’t ignore that niggle, eight years is way overdue. Get help as quick as possible. Because obviously that will enable you to shorten the rehab programme and the chances of you getting back into running is so much quicker.
When I listened to that podcast I just realised that we all hear it, but until the point you actually go through it, you realise that it’s terrible. There’s no sugar-coating of a serious injury, it is serious, there’s no guarantees. But the reality is, we don’t do anything about, you are guaranteed that you will eventually stop running. Face the facts, get a proper diagnosis and then get a medical team.
What I’ve learnt is, it’s not an individual sport, there’s a whole medical team. I met Carel, Carel went with me to Dr Jon Patricios. We did an ultrasound, we diagnosed it as a proximal hamstring tendinopathy injury. Carel said to me: This is serious. Let’s face the facts, this is a long term injury, but this is the plan, this is how we’re going to go about it.
One of the very first things I’ve learnt is to face the injury and then secondly, there’s no quick fix. Don’t self-diagnose, don’t Google, don’t try to fix yourself. Get your head out of this, let’s get better as quick as possible. Get people that’s passionate about what you do and that understand the injury. Then they work out a plan with you and help you monitor that.
The mental side of dealing with an injury
BB: Ryno, I’m going to get Carel on another podcast and we can talk about the actual process and working with an athlete and working with a team. But for you, and this is, anybody who has suffered an injury or illness at some stage and hasn’t been able to run. As we record this I’m sitting in a bit of a stretch of three weeks where I’m just overcoming bronchitis. I haven’t been able to run and I’m feeling proper grumpy! It’s almost even more a mental thing than a physical thing. The not being able to do something you love so much is really hard to deal with.
RG: Definitely Brad, one of the things I’ve learnt through the last five months is that I absolutely love running. The other side of that coin is, when you don’t run, you get grumpy and it’s such a big part of my life. Racing is not that big a part of my life, but running is so much.
To try to stay sane during this process is something that you’ve literally got to go pin down on paper and work logically through it. For me, the first thing was, I’m not in charge, I’m not in control, I’ve got people that understand it. I’m going to trust them.
Secondly, if I get a rehab programme, I have to stick to it 100%, that’s my best chance to get through this. One thing that I had to do is, I had to forget about racing. I had to forget about, yes, the ultimate goal is to get back into running. But if I woke up every morning thinking, flip, how am I feeling, am I going to get back into running soon, it just drove me crazy.
I had to re-address my whole focus to, this is your programme, do what you have to do today. Just focus on today, focus on the mini goals. I had to break it down and Carel will explain to us in the next podcast, the various phases that you go through in terms of the actual rehab programme. But for me, Carel gave me a programme, this is what you do today and that’s my goal. If I can get through that, great.
I had to learn to also celebrate those mini goals because the injury is so long that you can’t stay focused on the end goal. I had to literally shut down my head. I had to say, you will probably never run again, make peace with it. Now you focus on the programme.
Now that I’m reaching the end of my rehab programme, I slowly, and it’s almost difficult to get myself back into, hey, remember, you were an athlete at some stage. I know it’s only five months, but it feels like a lifetime. I had to literally, to stay sane, shut down the running part and focus on the rehab. That’s easier said than done.
I think the medical guys are more qualified on the psychology side of things than they are actually on the rehab side. Because I would phone Carel in the morning or in the evening and say: Listen, this is how I feel, this sucks, what do I do. I had to be really honest about my feelings during the whole process.
BB: It’s not fun having to go through something like that Ryno. I’ve never been out for that long, I’ve had a couple of injuries. But gee, I can sympathise and I think a lot of runners listening to this can as well. What’s been the biggest thing that surprised you in this five months of you not being able to run. Going through this, something you’ve learnt about yourself in this process?
What down time teaches you
RG: I learnt about running in general. That running is not just about running, It’s a much bigger platform of, to be able to run, I’ve got to look at the other areas. Of firstly my training programme, like strengthening etc. But also that I have to really look after my head. I’ve learnt that running is such a big part of what I do. In the past I often thought that, listen, just go and run. If you’re in a bad head space, just go and run and you’ll feel better.
What I’ve learnt over the last five months is that make sure you’re in a good space so that when you run, you run properly and when you run you enjoy it. I had to learn that my head is so strong and it’s always been focused on getting to the finish line as quick as possible. Where if I was to be the best possible runner, I’ve got to take a more holistic approach and make sure that my life in general. That I just live in the moment I just enjoy it.
Over the last five months I couldn’t run, I asked Carel, if I can’t run, can I cycle or can I swim? He said no, you’ve got to literally, for this period, you’ve got to do nothing. That’s quite a difficult pill to swallow and it’s like, okay, what’s left.
What the five months has taught me about rehab has been great, but what it’s taught me about myself is like, live in the moment. I know we always get negative and say running can be taken away any day. It’s not about that, we’re always so focused on the next race and on the next goal.
But I forget to enjoy just the training run I’m doing this morning. Now that I’m slowly getting back into running, to be honest, I’m not a Comrades runner and I’ve never really enjoyed running on the road, it’s really hard for me. Now I love, even if it’s just 5km on the road with the sun coming up, I’ve learnt to live in the moment, which has been great the last five months.
BB: Isn’t it amazing how when you almost lose something, you then really appreciate it after the fact. It’s almost sad that that’s the way it works, but yes, it’s an amazing thing that.
RG: For sure and I’ve also learnt to just be honest, honest with myself. It’s much easier to be honest with other people but to be honest with myself. I wake up in the morning and say okay cool, deal with this, it sucks, this is your programme. Get over yourself, do it. Don’t, it’s not so bad, or everything happens for a reason, something things just happen. But how we react to it, that makes a difference.
I had to be honest with Carel, saying: Carel, today is tough, but I also had to be honest with myself and say: I want to get back into running. I don’t know when it’s going to be, this isn’t nice, but deal with it. I literally got to know my body a lot better, but I think I got to know my head even better in the last five months.
When your mind says go but your body says no
BB: One of the things too when you’re bouncing back and having to almost start from scratch is, especially after a long layoff. When you have lost a lot of fitness is mentally you’re probably in the place where you think you can go a lot longer and a lot harder than what you physically can. Has that been a struggle for you, to really hold yourself back and go, I’ve got to do this at this pace and exactly this today, I can’t do anymore?
RG: Brad, that’s been the biggest challenge. I did a run this morning and you feel like you can go further cause now my head, it’s almost like beginner’s luck. Now that I can run a little bit again, you feel like you can do double the distance. I know from the last rehab programme, I’ve learnt how sensitive our bodies are to gradually building up.
So to keep myself back and not trying to prove to myself that hey, I’m not that bad. I still have a strong head, is extremely difficult. It really comes down to trust, where at the beginning of the rehab programme I detached myself from being in control. I trusted people that are giving me instructions. If the programme says 5km, I’m sticking to 5km.
BB: That’s such an important thing to do and that’s not just a rehab thing and I’m going to just put it out there as well. So often people are training for a race, whether it be the Old Mutual Two Ocean’s Marathon or Comrades. They’ll pick up a training programme and they feel that they should be doing more. So they almost go and look for second opinions and add it to their training programme.
Those programmes and whether it’s a programme or a rehab programme, are worked out for specific reasons and do things at specific times. If you do go and second guess those things, you’re not going to get the results. So I think that’s great advice across the board.
Whether it be rehab or following training programmes, whether it’s Norrie William’s training programmes on Do Great Things or Coach Lindsey Parry from the Comrades website, just stick to it. Find one person that you can, like Ryno says, trust and believe in. Just sell out to that one person and you’re going to get the results, that’s what it boils down to.
Ryno, thank you so much for your time once again here on Old Mutual Live, much appreciated. I’m looking forward to getting you back on. We’ll get Carel on as well to talk a little bit about the actual medical side of things and the process and what that entails. But we’ll save that for another day, thanks for your time today.
RG: Great, thanks so much Brad.