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INJURY CHRONICLES

At the beginning of April, I was feeling pretty invincible - I had been running consistently for about 6 months with the help of my coach and physical therapist Renee Hodges, and was totally ready to increase my mileage. I also started hiking and riding my bike more - I was feeling great and ready to push myself even further. I started to notice some soreness on the outside of my right lower leg the weekend after a lower mileage week, and really didn’t think anything of it. Felt just like some muscle soreness after you roll your ankle, ya know? I figured it’d go away after a few days.

That Tuesday I set out to do a faster interval run and noticed some sharper pain with each step about halfway through the workout. It didn’t change my gait (I wasn’t having to limp) and it didn’t worsen as I continued - so I decided to finish all the intervals. Immediately after, I felt ok, but about 2 hours later I could hardly walk.

Does any of that sound like something you’ve experienced?

The past four weeks have been interesting for me, trying to wear my physical therapist hat to reason through it and help myself, while also wearing my stubborn runner hat and worrying about losing all the gains I’ve made over the past 6 months. I think this might be the first time out of all my previous injuries where I’ve actually reflected on some of my thoughts and realizations through this period of healing - and I want to share them with you, in case you’ve felt some of the same things. I’d also like to offer some re-framing and rebuttals to help you, and selfishly, for me to come back to the next time I’m sidelined (if we’re pushing ourselves, it’s reasonable to expect some pushback now and again - that doesn’t mean we or our training is failing or flawed).

 

Uncensored Injury Thoughts

  • “All of my training the past 6 months is now worthless”

    • Rebuttal: Um, ok, worthless is a bit dramatic. What did you gain from the training leading up to the current injury? For me, the biggest thing was confidence that I could even get back to racing without hip pain after a labral injury. I also gained knowledge about how my body responds to training, and how I can impact that response by prioritizing sleep and fuel. Not to mention the improvements in heart, bone and tendon health that may not be directly measurable but occurred as a result of consistent running.

  • “My body is so weak; it just can’t handle the things I want to do”

    • Rebuttal: Running requires an insane amount of muscle coordination, control, and work. And you don’t even have to think about it - your system contracts, relaxes, stabilizes, and coordinates movement without conscious control. So, no, your body is not weak. Remind yourself of all the incredible things your body has done and recovered from up to this point. Personally, I reminded myself that 1 year ago, I was still in the midst of a 6-month running hiatus after a hip injury. Your body can handle it - it just needs a little extra attention right now.

  • “I’m going to gain weight and get completely out of shape”​

    • Rebuttal: Neither of those are true. It is possible to gain weight when injured as your activity levels change, but it’s not guaranteed. Though you may be expending less energy during exercise, your body also needs energy to remodel and heal - so it’s important not to restrict your diet. Even if you do gain a few pounds, that does not equate to getting “completely out of shape” (whatever that means). Yes, you will experience declines in your fitness, particularly if you are sidelined more than 4 weeks. And that is OKAY. The focus during an injury should not be on maintaining fitness - it should be on healing and getting back to tolerating running, initially at a slow speed.

  • *Disclaimer: With an eating disorder history, this still comes up for me & can be a source of anxiety. With or without disordered eating, however, I think it can be a common concern among runners.*

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Lessons

  1. Always ask for help. I am SO lucky to have not only my coach & physical therapist Renee with Foundation Physical Therapy & Endurance Coaching, but also a number of other knowledgeable clinicians to guide me. We truly see things differently when looking at ourselves, so it’s important to get input and views from other parties to see the entire picture and check yourself & your biases.

  2. Let yourself grieve. Sure, there are worse things - I don’t mean to downplay other tragedies or negative life events. But a running injury can create a major shift in your day-to-day life and how you feel about yourself. Your schedule changes since you’re not putting in miles, your sleep is affected, socializing with friends at running groups may be postponed for awhile, you just feel ‘blah’ physically without your training, uncertainty is high and motivation is low. You are allowed to be sad about that.

  3. Focus on what you CAN do. Yes, it’s easy to look out your window and sigh at all the runners jogging by, wondering when you’ll be back out there. But that’s not all that helpful. Can you walk? Learn to enjoy walking! Can you ride your bike, or swim? Find ways to make those more fun. None of the above? Let’s do some push-ups. In every setback there is opportunity - we just have to look for it (I’ve actually gotten a lot better at handstands this past month - not sure when or if those will ever come in handy, but it’s been a fun challenge).

As runners, we’re the kind of people who like challenges, enjoy pushing the limits, and are constantly looking to improve. Sometimes that leads to injuries - but know that your body is resilient and capable of healing. If you’re looking for guidance on a current injury or training to mitigate injuries, reach out to me through the button below!