Your First Injury Vs. Your Umpteenth Injury

I’ve had a few running injuries. Most (basically all) have had to do with the soft tissue in my feet.

When I was little (1st/2nd grade) I had Achilles tendonitis so bad that I had to stop running/playing with the other kids at school and around my neighborhood for months. This was around the time I took up skating. Skating boots naturally “compressed” my feet and stabilized the inflamed tendons, allowing them to heal while I continued to be active.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.03.22 PM
Skating Liz

When I started consistently running again (not until my first year of graduate school, age 23) I had a very short bout with Achilles tendonitis, which, fortunately, hasn’t flared since. I have had just about every other conceivable soft tissue issue with my feet, though (peroneal tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, strained lumbrical muscles, tweaks to my plantar plate…)

My first major running injury (peroneal tendonitis after the 2011 Broad Street Run) left me physically and emotionally crippled. I cried a lot. I was a huge pain to be around because all I could talk about was running, and how I was struggling to live without it, and when was I ever going to run again? WHEN?! I think it took me about a month to heal, and then I returned to running (and relative sanity).

Last summer, I got hit with plantar fasciitis HARD after trying an ill-advised pair of shoes that didn’t work for my feet. I was in agony for another month. My arches would cramp up constantly, including during the middle of the night while I was trying to sleep. I had to basically sit through seeing Beck in concert because it hurt even to do my lame girl dance moves. I was miserable, but kept it mostly on the down-low. Running injuries happen. They’re a part of running. If you want to be a runner, you’re going to have to learn how to be an injured runner, which means discovering how to find joy in other areas of life, besides running.

Running used to be my favorite thing in the world. Back then, I was dealing with chronic health issues that made it difficult to enjoy other things I typically really love (reading, writing, film, even music). A lot of people start running because they’re unhappy, sad, grief-stricken, or just plain sick. Running is an extremely positive coping skill, but, eventually, it has to become more than that. In order for running to really “cure” you, it has to be a pathway to becoming a complete person again. In short: running is the best medicine if and only when you don’t absolutely need it.

I feel like I’m finally at that place in my life. So when I get a running injury, it’s just not that big of a big deal to me. I’m still happy. I’m still positive. I resolve to use each physical obstacle to make myself stronger in the long run.

Basically, the difference between your first and second running injury should be like the difference between your first and second kid.

Now, whenever I get a running injury, I don’t mope around the house for weeks before calling a doctor, simply because I can’t handle admitting to myself that I’m injured. I call the doctor first thing and deal with the issue immediately. I diligently foam roll. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’m genuinely happy to see my running friends train/race well even when I can’t. Whenever I can’t run I cross-train at twice the intensity. I’ve actually improved my fitness while injured.

It's always sunny in the gym!
It’s always sunny in the gym!

Most importantly, I don’t harp on injury. I’m able to break the anxiety loop and focus on other things, like the book I’m writing, or books I’m reading, or shows I’m really excited about seeing.

Books I've got going on
Books I’ve got going on

I believe the mind and the body are more closely connected than any of us realize. If you’re just able to see that small setbacks aren’t going to make or break your entire life – if you’re just willing to surrender your stress and anxiety, then your body will heal so much more efficiently. I’ve seen (and felt) it happen.

I had a small setback last Thursday after several really great weeks of training. My left arch cramped about 4 miles into a run. I stopped and it felt fine, so I went about my day running errands and visiting family. Later that evening my heel started to really hurt. Because of yet another snowstorm, I had to wait until Monday to see my sports chiro. I love my sports chiro team. They’re so friendly and attentive and they truly work miracles with the Active Release Technique. I have a mildly inflamed plantar fascia, but it’s already starting to feel so much better after some ART and lots of battery with the foam roller. Today is the first in five days I woke up without pain.

The view from here
The view from here

I also really love my Foot Rubz ball. They’re about 5-10 bucks and you can find them in most sports stores. They’re really great for working out the tension and scar tissue in your feet and calves.

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I’ve been given the okay to run again after 5 days of cross-training. I truly believe that being relaxed and stress-free while taking immediate action will nip this injury in the bud before it becomes a serious/chronic issue.

It’s supposed to be in the 60s tomorrow! I can’t wait to go for a run.

Questions for the Internets:

How do you deal with running injuries?

Have you ever tried Active Release Therapy?

Do you foam roll? How often?

What’s your favorite hobby/activity besides running?

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4 Comments

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  1. I really love this post! I got my first injury last summer, a stress reaction in my heel (cuboid bone). I had to take 7 weeks off running and miss a few races, nothing major like a marathon but 5Ks/10Ks I’d trained for (I was running 35-40 mpw). It was like my world CRASHED! But it really changed me as a runner- I cross trained through and didn’t lose much fitness at all. The time off probably did me some good since it was summer and I wasn’t running in the heat, training in the gym was kinda nice- and I spent a lot of time at the pool (reading and tanning, not cross training).

    Fast forward to recently, my hip was giving me some pain… I went to the ortho. Not injured, they did x-rays and nothing’s broken. Turns out I have a weak glute on that side and have to go to PT to stretch and strengthen, but I can still run. I fought going to the doc last time, but when I went… I kept telling them I just wanted to be proactive with it. I don’t want to get hurt worse! Don’t blame you for going ahead and getting ART, rolling, etc instead of letting that build up into something that would take you out for weeks or months!

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    • I have no idea why I fought going to the doctor’s for so long! Sports doctors are different though – there just seems to be so much more they can DO in terms of working with your body’s mechanics. I had to skip out on a race I was planning to do this weekend too – it’s such a bummer when you have to bail on races because you’re not 100% but some people don’t, and that’s when you run the risk of jeopardizing your running health and fitness permanently. You really CAN maintain a lot of fitness with cross-training alone if you dedicate yourself to it as much as you dedicate yourself to your running. And there’s always reading by the pool; that might be my favorite activity ever. 🙂 That’s great that you’re able to train through the issue with your hip! Good for you for catching it early and getting to PT.

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  2. I love this positive approach to injuries. They happen, and while they suck, life must go on. I LOVE that little rolling ball thing. I got one a couple years ago and you’ve reminded me I need to find it!

    Liked by 1 person

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