Injury to 5k - Running Stronger after a Bad Back

On Sunday, for the first time in 6 years, I ran a competitive 5k without stopping and at a respectable pace. And I've gone on about it a bit on social media. You see, I know lots of you run regularly and 5k isn't that much really - it only takes about half an hour! But if you'd asked me even as little as a year ago, I'd have said that my running days were over. Several bouts of disc impingement issues that had me literally on my back for weeks on end, had put paid to my running days.

But about a year ago, I attended a physio who made me think about things differently. It was probably my 4th or 5th physio in as many years and I chose her as my mother in law highly recommended the practice. I went with lower back pain but what made this girl different is that she didn't focus on my back at all - she looked at my whole body and gave me a great bit of advice - get strong all over and stop obsessing about the back (not her exact words...but that was the gist).

It turned out, I'd spent 5 years focussing on my back - on core exercises, on bending right, not lifting too much weight etc etc...and that's all very well. But in that time, my overall strength and fitness had declined due to a lack of vigorous exercise. That in turn put my back under even greater strain as it had to cope with a weaker body overall.

So I abandoned (with some trepidation) my pilates classes and invested the money instead in a gym membership where I initially struggled a bit as it had been so long since I'd been in a gym but eventually, I got a little routine going and by September, felt strong enough to start some weights classes.

People, body pump has changed my life! I have some abs (a 2 pack!), I have proper guns, I have buns of steel.....ok, well maybe not the last one. But it sounds good :) Today at the class, I was dead lifting 12.5k at speed - perhaps 50 or 60 reps over a 4 or 5 minute track.

The reality is that the fact that I am stronger all over has taken pressure off my back and allowed me about 6 months where I've been largely pain free. My back still aches now and again - usually when I don't stretch properly but I never get that scary pain that stops you in your tracks...you'll know it if you suffer with your back.

I don't know how long this will last. I have a history of disc issues...I'm of a certain age...there's family history, etc. But all I can do is keep doing what I'm doing because it's working. And I'm going to keep celebrating the 5k's I manage to do. Running is not the best exercise for me but being stronger all over allows me to enjoy it again and I'll keep monitoring the effects as I attempt to do one 5k run per week. I'm not going to be foolish about it - there will be no half marathon here. I'm going to listen to my body and see how it goes week by week.

Meanwhile, I'll share a couple of pictures from Sunday - because if I share what I wore, it seems like a less off-topic blog post?!
Top - ASICS 
Gilet - North Face (I'm always really cold so this is essential kit)
Running leggings - Nike
Trainers - ASICS (custom selected following gait analysis)

Apart from the North Face gilet, my entire outfit is from Sportique in Magherafelt, where I went last week to have my gait analysed before investing in some new trainers. I'll share the gait analysis experience with you in a separate post as it was really interesting to see how important trainer selection is - especially when you're carrying an old injury.

To finish, I have to say a big thank you to all of you who supported and encouraged me with amazing comments and messages after Sunday's race. Especially my sister who runs 5k a few times a week and never boasts about it on Facebook. You'd expect your sister to set you straight about showing off medals and celebrating on social media. But to credit her, she didn't. Instead, she challenged me to run with her next time I'm in Tipperary. The pressure!


The physio I attended is Caroline at Advance Physiotherapy in Lisburn. Even if you're not local, they have a great Facebook page that always has really interesting articles about back pain/running/exercise etc., the gym I attend is Gymco in Finaghy and finally, none of the content in this post is sponsored!


  1. Well done you. 😀😃😄😊.

  2. Well done Avril! Brilliant achievement and you are very inspirational. I have a dodgy back myself and have in the past few weeks been going to body pump and am embarking on my first run tonight! I've been going to pilates for 7 years and you've got me thinking whether I should give it up for another gym class?! Have often wondered if pilates once a week is actually doing anything! xx

    1. Sorry so slow replying to your comment Heidi. Thank you for your kind words and welcome to the dodgy back club lol. It's a hard one re the pilates. I think that if you can (time and money) afford to keep it all up, there is no doubt that pilates is amazing. But yes, I do think you need to do it twice a week and practice at home too. Because I was doing nothing else and attending an intermediate class, I was actually suffering with a bad back the day after my class. I think it works best if you're active in another way outside of your class. The body pump was so good for me so I hope it will be for you too. It really strengthens the back and butt/legs, all so important for supporting your body.
      I hope your run went well and that you keep getting stronger. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Keep in touch! Ax

  3. Avail that's a fantastic achievement! Getting fit after injury is really daunting, I had a frozen shoulder 4 years ago and I'm still getting it stronger and put more mobility into it. I've used a combination of massage therapy, weight training and Pilates and it works for me, I won't be running anytime soon, it's not for me. Hope you continue to gain strength, it's great when you see muscles appear!! Xx

    1. Oh Sue - I have a friend who suffers with frozen shoulder and I had no idea how debilitating it is before meeting her. It's all about finding what works for you I think when we get older and these injuries kick in. I don't think running will be a long term thing for me, nor will I be going further than 5/7k but it was a real psychological barrier to do a run again. Especially after being told I never would by various physios and doctors over the years.
      Hope you keep getting better Sue and thanks for taking the time to comment. Ax

  4. I'm so pleased for you Avril, well done on both the marathon and fitness - I've noticed a real difference in you (was gonna say in your body but that sounds all kinds of wrong!). Your story has encouraged me to find a way to exercise again, as you know I've been reluctant due to carpal tunnel... I just need to find the right thing for me.

    Nic x

    1. I meant 5k, not marathon!

    2. Thank you so much Nic - like I said to Sue above, it's all about finding the right thing for each injury tendency. Can often involve lots of trial and error but it is great for the mind as well as the body - especially as we tend to work at home alone lots and are sitting in front of a PC too much each day!
      And lol at the body comment :) Ax

  5. That's fantastic!! I thought you had lost Some weight and we're looking very trim recently! Now we know why!! Good for you!!

    1. Thank you Muireann - yes, it's been good for shifting a few lb.'s for sure....they have a habit of sneaking on I find now I'm in my 40's - sob! Ax

  6. Good on you, Avril! As others have said, it can be very daunting coming back to exercise after injury, but it does often seem that just having someone look at things differently can make a world of difference. I need to get some serious miles under my belt the next few weeks, as I have a half coming up at the end of May, but I think my days of distance running will be over once that's out of the way. I never thought I'd be saying that, but I've found that mixing things up has really benefited me. How addictive is weight training??! xx

  7. That's a fantastic achievement Avril, I think you went to my physio, in Lisburn . I'm so glad you are fit and well again. Good luck with your running and again well done X

  8. Hey there, I admire the courage you've showed after getting recovered from back injury. Running is a very effective solution to cure back, leg, and other physical pain.

    physiotherapy macquarie park


I love reading your comments and will reply as soon as I can if you have a specific question. If for any reason, you are unable to leave a comment, just drop me an email at avril@alifetostyle.com or leave a comment on the A Life to Style Facebook Page! Thank you xx

© A Life To Style | All rights reserved.
Blog Layout Created by pipdig