What would you do?

Hello all. Now I’m pretty sure I know what many answers are going to be here but I’ll ask the question anyway.
I’ve been a runner for roughly 35 years - I’m just over 50 btw. So I sort of know what I’m talking about (ish) and know to be sensible with training.
For many years, I’ve ‘fancied the idea’ of doing an iron man (or similar event).
Rather sensibly, in my opinion, I thought I’d give a sprint or Olympic distance a go first.
Whilst training, I developed a bit of a sore back. Now that could very easily have been caused by a very very long week sat hunched at my desk (I’m a desk jockey by day).
That ‘sore back’ developed in to full blown sciatica. If you’ve never had it properly, you’re lucky!
Within a few months, I went from training 3-4 times per week (swimming, cycling, running - all sensible type times/distances) to hobbling around like a 90yr old using a stick (honestly, it’s the most debilitating condition!)
Long story short, I had surgery to repair a herniated disc…
Now that’s the second time I’ve had the same surgery (on the same disc). The first was around 7 years ago.
In my head, I’m thinking the damage was caused by the running or possibly cycling. There’s absolutely no evidence either activity will cause this but, let’s face it, road running isn’t exactly great for your joints etc.
I’m thinking about hanging up my running shoes.
What would you all do?


what has the surgeon suggested? in most scenarios they are likely to tell you to be careful and not go running too quickly (if at all) as this is the 2nd surgery on the same disc.

but that call to run again is yours.

I suspect the damage will be more running related than biking as it’s more impactful on the body than biking ever is so stick with biking for the time being.

you don’t “have’ to do a triathlon - aquabikes (swim, bike - no run) are becoming more common and are now held at World Champs level up to Long Distance so maybe something to consider if you do stop running.


The surgeon does triathlon too and is really good (explains stuff well etc) - I saw him for my first surgery too.
His opinion is similar i.e. there’s no evidence running causes this; I’m possibly unlucky; it’s my decision.
The recovery to ‘fully back to normal’ is 12 weeks.
Of course, is my decision though :slightly_smiling_face:
That’s a good idea about the different event though, cheers!

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Hmm - given that this is your 2nd op on the same area, I would push that date out further and get back to it a lot more slowly. 12 weeks seems a bit short imho to “back to normal”.

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Oh yes! Definitely being cautious!!
The initial recovery is 4-6 weeks but then 12 weeks to ‘heavy lifting and exercise’ - that’s 3 months!! :frowning::frowning:
I’m willing to take as long as needed though.
It’s a tough call with not a lot of evidence either way so that’s why I’m getting opinions :slightly_smiling_face:

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Mrs FB had a microdiscectomy many years ago to cure her back problem. Her recovery was going very well and she was feeling good but then overloaded the leg press at the gym and blew most of her spinal muscles as they weren’t ready for the load. Took her another 6 months of recovery from that so nearly 12 months in total.

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I think I’ve probably had more spine surgeries than anyone here?:man_shrugging:t2: I’ve had 6 and one 11hr op that involved a team from the US.
I have no devices in there now but have been opened up twice since. I was active before this and most of these were over 10yrs ago.

The answer is, it depends. I had two surgeons that understood my aspirations but it was an incredibly slow journey back which included9mths of hydrotherapy to walk again.

Since all that I’ve done multiple IMs ( DNFd one with a relapse). A few slow marathons, some cycling and the last 4 yrs concentrating on ultras.

The reason I say it depends is that in any given year or part of a year I can feel ok or pretty bad. I can also start a race ok and dramatically slow part way through.
I’m also currently experiencing the most prolonged period of pain than I have in years. It’s been since a race I did in Jan. thankfully no ‘throw you in the floor spasms’ yet but they e been close.
It’s the LD training that does the damage for me, the back to back long runs and lack of recovery.

So much f you want to do it, pick your goals wisely, consider the training and the terrain and most of all, consider the effect on family that your long term mobility or lack of, might have.

Try some stuff, go very steady and be prepared to change tack.
make friends with the pool and not just for swimming.

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Cheers all - great food for thought :slightly_smiling_face:

Time to hit the pool? Isn’t the reason pools exist to stop triathletes spontaneously combusting when they’re injured?

Hope things sort themselves out for you

hanging up the the running shoes forever sounds quite drastic if you still enjoy it. But on the other hand after 35 years, you don’t owe the road anything I guess


Lol, yeah, it’s dull time - sorry, pool time.
I’ve actually invested in an MP3 player for the pool.

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Oh dear God no :wink:

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Obviously take the advice of your surgeon over that of random people on the internet, but in terms of training causing or aggravating your back problems:

  1. Have you had a bike fit? Can imagine poor bike position will not help your back, especially if you are planning on going longer.
  2. How old are your run shoes? I certainly know it’s time to change my shoes when I start picking up niggles.
  3. Swimming might help. Will not only help your swimming but should help with your back in general. See also yoga, pilates, S&C etc.
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Oh yes, definitely re the advice!
Re the bike fit, not had one but do have a good idea so it’s not s going to be a million miles out.
Re the trainers, yep, they’re usually replaced around every 500 miles (and we’re recently replaced by a nice cushioned pair of gel nimbus - they’re like running in really cushioned slippers, lovely!)
Yep, it’s pool time. I’ve never been much of a swimmer - always ‘been able to swim’ but not far. So when I decided to do a tri, I started up at the pool and sucked it up (the boredom, not the pool :grin:).
I did find that focusing on technique does help alleviate there boredom a little…


I am touching wood, while crossing fingers as I have never had any back issues. I recently had some hamstring issues, everytime my hammie would feel better, after a couple of runs, with zero pain, it would suddenly pop without warning. I started to look for why this would be happening, and it dawned on me that every time I was running in the same shoes - Nike Tempo Next%, which I use as my primary training shoe. My hamstring never popped in Parkrun, where I used an old pair of Alpha flys or on my treadmil, where is use a really old pair of vapor flys. So having had 2 weeks with no running I put on my pair of Alfa flys and have run 50km in the past week with zero issues, I was even confident enough to attend an intervals session at on the track last night.

This is not the first time, a few years ago I had shin splints, when I started to use my Vapor Flys for all runs they cleared up, same happened 4 years ago when I had piriformis syndrom (sciatic nerve compressed by an injured piriformis muscle).

My Alpha Flys are wrecked, they have done close to 1000km, they have lost most of their high performance edge, however, the foam continues to provide much better shock absorbance than normal training shoes.

If you can get a pair of used Alpha Flys on ebay, give them a go - lots of people sell them on after a couple of hundred kms as they lose some of their pace, but I find that they help recovery from injuy better than any other shoe. New they are stupid price, second hand they are a bargain. I would imaging the the Alpha Fly 2 would be even better


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Better off with Form goggles.

Or masters swim club.


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A few of us have discovered the barbell and enjoyed it - check out the ‘strength’ threads.


that’d help them to air and be ready for going out again tomorrow…

There’s four options here;

  1. never run again and never know what you might have done
  2. run again and discover that the problem wasn’t caused by running in the first place
  3. run again and discover it was, remembering to book yourself in for your third op
  4. learn to run well to compensate for any limitations and reduce the risk of further injury

Still running in the pair of alphas I bought in 2021, used them for every race since and plenty of faster training runs. They still seem to be in reasonable shape, surprisingly.