Confessions of an Injured Runner

January 22, 2018

Confessions of an Injured Runner

Any runner who says they have never been injured is either 1. #blessed or 2. a dirty liar. Even those who have never been injured have probably had to take a few days off due to illness or just life happening when you least expect it.

Unfortunately, any of these can wreak havoc on a runner’s training plan. If you are lucky, the disruption is fairly minor and only results in a few days off. In other circumstances, you lose weeks, months or even a year.

I faced my own disrupted training earlier this year when at the peak of marathon training I ran straight into my coffee table and broke my pinky toe. Who would have thought that such a little thing could make such a big impact! My doctor prescribed me 6-8 weeks of NO RUNNING and little weight bearing activity for four weeks. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried in her office. However, once I gathered myself, I decided to make the best of my situation.

First, I had to be kind to myself and my body and let the marathon go. It was hard. It was really hard. This was a bucket list race (Berlin) and a real chance for an awesome PR. But training on my toe was definitely not an option. All parts of your body are connected and while running on a broken toe was technically possible it would no doubt lead to ankle issues, hip issues, knee issues and who knows what else. It would also seriously delay the time it took for the bone to come back together. I want to be a runner for the rest of my life and if I had to take off two months and miss a race so that I healed properly, it was worth it.

Second, I looked into alternatives. Running can be time and energy consuming. So consuming that I let many other things fall to the wayside. Not being able to run allowed me to replace that activity with other things I wanted to try out: I bought a road bike and explored the local bike trails. I joined a women’s triathlon training group and met new people. I took muscle conditioning and spin classes at the gym (I joined a gym!). I went to the pool more and found out that it’s pretty empty at 8:30pm on Mondays! I missed running outside in the beautiful fall weather but I certainly didn’t feel lazy.

Finally, I worked on being a better runner. We all know we should do more strength conditioning but between early morning runs and getting to the 9-5 every day, doing squats and lifting weights is often cut from the schedule. So I took some of that time I would have been running and build a dedicated, regular strength training plan. I also found videos addressing running form and did what I could from those. I actually did everything you’re told to do in all those advice columns but don’t because, seriously, who has the time?

Finally, I slept in more. I met friends for dinner and drank wine on Friday nights because I didn’t have any long runs scheduled on Saturday morning. I gained seven pounds because I ate foods that I usually avoid when I’m training. My nagging plantar fasciitis eased, my calves loosened up. My arms gained muscle tone. I didn’t spend time looking over mile splits or track times or comparing segments on Strava. I missed running a lot but now that I’m coming back to it, I feel more relaxed. The world didn’t end in the eight weeks I took off. What’s more, my fitness didn’t evaporate. I don’t want to say that I’ve come back at the same level of running 60 miles a week but a few miles a day is still pretty easy.

Injuries suck. They just do. But the world keeps turning and there is always more to life than just running. Be kind to yourself through whatever throws a wrench into your plans and you will make it through to run again.

Please please PLEASE take your doctor’s advice regarding how you should approach illness or injury. I recommend finding yourself a good sports doctor and seeing them regularly so they become familiar with you training style and fitness.

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