Running Through Injuries. Into My Zen.November 15, 2012 at 11:51 am | Posted in A Year of Mindfulness, And I ran (I ran so far away), Choosing Happiness. | 6 Comments
Over the past year, I’ve had an education in running through injury.
You didn’t know it was possible, huh? I didn’t either. When I first got tendonitis at the Marine Corps Marathon, I figured I just couldn’t run. That’s what the doctor said.
And then I met with a physical therapist who told me that it was just tendonitis, and once we fixed the underlying problem CAUSING the tendonitis, it would eventually go away. It took me a LONG TIME. I started running again, regularly, in January. In February I ran a half marathon where my IT band started acting up at mile 7, and by mile 13 I was limping and nearly crying in pain and frustration.
But I was back out training not even a week later, once the flare up had gone away. And though it was never that bad ever again, I had nagging hip pain and tightness FOREVER.
I did research and changed up my form; started running toward toes more, in the hopes that whatever was causing the tightness would go away. And it takes time to build the endurance for a new form – there were some long runs where I had to switch back to my old habits because I just couldn’t run on my forefoot any more. My feet were tired a lot.
But slowly, the hip stuff went away. It was a week before my half marathon in September before I realized that I hadn’t had ANY hip pain for a month or so.
And then? I promptly sprained my ankle at the start of the half marathon, and I ran the damn race anyway. And I couldn’t walk for a couple of days.
It’s been 6 weeks since I sprained my ankle. And I took three full weeks off of running. With the D&E I haven’t been allowed to swim – too much risk of infection. So three weeks ago, I decided I needed to get back into running, because I had no other outlet and I needed it.
I started slowly – walk/run intervals. Short distance – 2 – 3 miles. And the ankle hurt. That first week I couldn’t run on my toes; had to use my old habits in order to finish a walk/run.
And sure enough, my IT band started acting up again. And my breathing was HIDEOUS – I lose my cardio fitness so damn easily. So I added cycling to my schedule, 1-2 days a week, where I was pedaling hard and really pushing my breathing but not hurting my ankle.
And the second week I ditched my old shoes and bad habits and started running more on my toes again.
I am starting to see the rewards. Last week, I had my first pain-free run. My ankle was sore for the rest of the week, just a dull ache, but with ice and advil and stretching, and my PT exercises, it was okay. And I’ve been able to run 5 miles for my long runs the past two weeks, nice and slow.
This week? Tuesday’s run felt amazing – light and happy. My ankle twinged a couple of times, but largely I felt GREAT.
Today’s run, I was able to extend the distance by a mile and a quarter, and still only a couple of twinges.
Running when you’re NOT injured is largely about teaching your body how to handle discomfort. Even the slower runs, where you can have a conversation with someone, there’s discomfort as you push the distance and your muscles get tired. The short fast run is about teaching your body to handle the cardiovascular discomfort. Recovery runs are about teaching your body to ACTIVELY recover, getting those muscles to push through the lactic acid and warm up.
And when you run through injury*, the discomfort gets dialed up a bit. There were some days where I ran at a pain level of 7 or 8. That was really hard.
With my ankle, my pain levels running that first week was a 5 or 6. The second week, it was a 3 or 4. And this week, it’s been a 1.
When you’re used to running with pain, and then the pain is gone? It’s a whole new world. Today’s run made me feel AMAZING. Strong. Comfortable.
And on a run like that, the buzz of the voices and responsibilities and my Inner Critic that clutters up my day all melts away. I’m left with nothing but the cadence of the run and my breathing. And in that space, between my breaths, I feel CLEAR. And strong, and happy, and light, and free.
Running is my zen. It connects me to my core, into my soul, away from all the clutter of everyday life. And when I have a run like I did today, when it’s over, I feel renewed and refreshed.
And so very thankful.
*Please note I mean a RUNNABLE injury. Ankle sprains and tendonitis are runnable injuries. Stress fractures and/or fractures are NOT runnable injuries, just as a FYI. Always talk to your doctor or physical therapist before you decide, hey, I’m going to RUN through this stuff.