Jen Rulon

After the Ironman World Championship, I was on cloud 9. I felt AMAZING and felt like I could have done anything and everything. As time was moving on from October 14th, I started working out again but I wasn’t doing your typical swim, bike and run. I went to The Tribe in San Antonio, along with going to Inferno Pilates at the Union, eating extra cookies and gaining a little bit of weight. You know doing the things that you should be doing off season. It was AWESOME.

I started noticing my lower back was bothering me, which it has off and on for years.

Our Christmas Vacation to Florida was a success but coming home (December 29th), I decided to twist and lift my luggage. #notrecommended. 

Let’s look at the timeline:

December 29th: I laid down that day for a bit, took some Aleve and fell asleep. I woke up. I was in pain and I couldn’t move.

January 2nd, 4th, 9th and 11th: Went to Stratton Sports and was hurting. Bad.

January 8th: I tried to swim but I felt this pain in my back to my neck. That isn’t right. January 9th: I woke up crying. It hurt so bad. I had a business to run. I had to drive up to Austin that day. AWFUL!

January 10th: Doctor’s appointment with Dr. Saenz at San Antonio Sports Medicine Associates

January 12th: Three Bulging Discs…dose of steroids and three months of PT! 


What was I going to do? I signed up for Ironman 70.3 Oceanside! I won’t be ready. I want to cry. I had to cancel the Oceanside trip. Chris decided to Ironman 70.3 Texas and I spectated.

Of course, I had SO many questions in my head about my back injury:

  • How am I going to get back into triathlon shape?
  • Heck, how I am going to get into shape?
  • Will I be able to race again?
  • How will my mental stamina be?
  • OH MY WORD…will I ever get to do a triathlon again?

Last but not least…”Will I die?”

You know what I am talking about. When you get an injury, you think your world is CRASHING down! Trust me…I get it!

Over the last five months, I kept some little “Life Lessons” in my back pocket but I really wanted to share them with you to see if 1) they actually worked and 2) needed to knock out my first real race of the 2018 triathlon season. Here you go, “4 Steps to Racing After an Injury!”

1.Figure out what you CAN do vs. what you CAN’T do! 

I think this is what you and the doctor really need to discuss. When I was told that I couldn’t work out for a while and that I was dealing with spine degeneration, I was heartbroken but I had to ask questions first before I FREAKED out!

  • What does your injury tell you that you CAN’T do? For example:
    • You can’t apply pressure on the foot.
    • You can’t go into flexion with your back.
    • You can’t bring your arm overhead.
  • What does your injury tell you that you CAN do? For example:
    • You can work the lower body but can’t put pressure on the foot
    • You can use your legs but not in flexion (No, deadlifts for you!)
    • You can use the lower body.
  • Here are some examples:
    • You can’t apply pressure on the foot, so running is out but you can swim, bike and upper body lifting.
    • You have a back injury, so any type of flexion is really going to cause some pain. Maybe you truly need to listen to your doc and rest.
    • You have a shoulder injury, so swimming is out, upper body lifting is out but you could bike on the trainer, run and lower body/core work.

2. Be consistent with your injury exercises, icing or heat, and LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTORS!

My hubby, Chris was SO good with his PT when he got hit by a car. He was up at 6am every day to do them, rarely skipping and quite honestly, still does them without really thinking about it. (He got T-boned by a car on his bike. He and bike were going at least 25 mph, car was trying to head into Starbucks. Chris lost😳)

  • If you are on meds to bring the inflammation down, finish them!
  • You are going to PT or Stratton Sport and Spine. These specialist gives you guidelines, exercises and advice. DO THEM! This will ONLY help your recovery.
  • Ice. Ice. Baby. Get that ice on there ASAP. A former athlete of mine, who is a DC, told me about these CyroCups. Pure ice on the injury site. I try to do it at least 2 x’s a day.

3. Start back LATER than you think.

This is the HARDEST. I know. Don’t rush the process. The body knows what to do and how to heal itself. Listen to your body!

  • I have seen so many athletes rush back into training that they have never fully recovered or heal. I have also see people rush back and then something else is happened on that same area.
  • An Ironman will ALWAYS be there, along with a 5k or another race. You will be fine!

4. Get back to RACING sooner than you think.

“What you talkin’ about, Coach Jen? You just said in #3 to start back later than you think.” Let me explain something that just happen. Ironically, five month today (as I am writing this), was my back injury. On Monday, May 28th was my first “real” race of the season, Lifetime CapTex Triathlon in Austin, TX. I did do “The Rookie Tri” on May 6th but I felt SO out of sorts.

I went into the race with so much SELF-DOUBT, I was asking myself these questions:

  1. Did I have the mental toughness?
  2. Did I have physical toughness?
  3. Could I push myself the way I did at my qualification race in Mont Tremblant? (Different racing but it still hurt!)
  4. Will I be OK with not placing?
  5. Am I ready to race again?

I wasn’t going to do this race because of these question and to be honest with you, I didn’t want to fail. Why did I decided to toe the starting line on Monday?

I am doing Ironman 70.3 Lubbock in one month. Can you imagine how I would feel ONE MONTH from now, toeing the start line to a Half Ironman? Probably worse!

As you can see after doing triathlons for many years, with injuries along the way, I am still learning about myself as an athlete but how that can apply to me being a coach!

On Monday, May 28th, I did exactly what I came to do:

I came. I saw. I conquered. Clocked a 2:31:37. I placed 1st in my age group. Pushed my limits to see where I was at and all along, I had a smile to show :)





AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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