Hello I’m Cynthia, I blog over at It All Changes and I’m not perfect.
As a kid I loved playing with Barbie because she had no problems. Always able to fit into the perfect pair of high heels (her feet were sloped after all), she had the most amazing wardrobe for any job, party, or sporting event. There were days I really wanted to be Barbie because she seemed to have it all.
But then I grew up and realized Barbie is not human but plastic. As human beings we all struggle with imperfections from time to time. I’m sure you can make a mile long list of things you have struggled with and perhaps you are struggling right now. Me too! It’s comes along with the territory we call life.
By no means naturally athletic, I was the girl in high school who joked I would only run the mile if I was being chased by a pack of wolves. My gym teacher threatened to get some but I kept walking until she produced the rabid beasts to chase me. Instead of sports I played in the band.
But at age 24 I decided I was tired of living like this…
My grandmother took pride in showing off her family in pictures and this one scared the ever living crap out of me. I was unhealthy and miserable. I began the journey to health knowing it would be a long one…I just didn’t know how long.
I lost the weight quickly because changing my diet from junk 24/7 to real food made all the excess weight fall off and run away in fear. I also began exercising from the start, which helped a lot.
Then the problems started. First it was just a twisted ankle from going for a walk in my small town and stepping in a gopher hole; which required an ace bandage and 3 weeks off my foot. Then came minor tweaks of my knee from taking too many step classes, sore shoulders due to improper lifting form, and having trouble with my apartment stairs thanks to my Arnold Schwarzenegger like DVD drill instructor from a DVD encouraging lunge after squat after lunge…trust me he was scary.
None of these were major injuries requiring more than a little rest, some ice and anti-inflammatory medication. I was tough and could handle my fair share since I had inflicted enough minor pain on myself when I weighed almost 300 pounds and had trouble just living day-to-day life.
When you spend the first 25 years of your life with lots of Oreos, no exercise and new, larger-sized pants every few months, your body starts to wear down. However at my new healthier, fitter weight I was feeling invincible. Fit, healthy and strong.
I was trying all sorts of things fitness wise that I would have considered torture in the past. Including the running…this time with no wolves. I did the Couch to 5K plan and loved every second. I ran 4 races that fall and was addicted. I was a runner. Minor aches and pains sure, but I was a real runner.
Then the major injuries happened. Following a 2007 Turkey Trot, I felt a pain in my back that didn’t go away, in fact everyday it worsened. That injury turned out to be 3 herniated discs in my lower back that were degenerating. I had spinal fusion to correct that in the fall of 2008 spending several weeks like this:
My worst nightmare came true in 6 months of physical therapy: NO RUNNING! But I did my exercises and was back running by the following spring at the same speed as before, if not better.
Making a rookie runner mistake, I broke the cardinal rule and increased my speed and distance at the same time. Strike two. I was training for the Tufts 10K in Boston and spent that race week and several after in Physical Therapy to rehabilitate my IT Bands that weren’t supporting my knee. With each step it felt like a sharp ice pick was being jabbed into my hip. Again rehab required 6 weeks with NO RUNNING!
My latest struggle is a calf tear. I did everything right this time. I followed a training plan. I didn’t increase my mileage by more than 10% a week. I trained on similar terrain. I was properly fueled. Yet I still got injured, tearing a calf muscles and landing me back in PT. Sometimes, even with proper training, your body isn’t able to handle the strain of a race.
Four months after the race the tear has healed but because of scar tissue the pain continues; therefore still NO RUNNING! The two most horrible words to hear for a runner. It was such a natural part of my routine its like not breathing. Go to work, come home and cook Hunni dinner, and go run. Like clockwork I would throw on my running tights and shoes and hit the treadmill or trail.
Now life is a different routine. I’m struggling because of my new schedule; full of Physical Therapy appointments, visits to the Sports Medicine doctor to see if he can improve the scar tissue that has formed around the tear as it healed and the dreaded task of finding a new exercise routine so I don’t go nuts in my house and eat all the cookies I just baked for Hunni.
It’s a struggle to not feel like yourself because what you love to do has been taken from you. Trying to redefine yourself in one area, even if it is only a short time, because for now you have to take a break and rest.
There are a few good things I’ve learned during my struggles with injuries, both past and present:
- Rest is not a bad thing. Even elite athletes take rest days. Rest days may be more frequent during the injury but even post injury you have to work in some rest to give your body a break or you will end up back in injury land.
- Exercise is not over when you step off the bike, take off the shoes, or get out of the pool. We’d all love to think that an athlete’s job is done the second they step off the course. But have you ever seen the locker room or athletic trainers’ office at a college gym. There are whirlpools, and massage tables, and bags and bags of ice to be strapped to any and all body parts. Exercise is hard work and your body needs help recouping after the stress you just put it under. If your knees ache, ice them; just sore, ice baths or Epsom salts baths are a marvelous invention; and massage can be one of those things that hurt so good.
- Know the difference between soreness and pain. This is huge. If you are just achy all over but it goes away in a day or two, that’s soreness. It is your body’s way of telling you that you have worked hard and to give it a bit of rest to recuperate and build new muscle. But if you have a pinch, a tweak, a pain in a specific part of your body that is the start of an injury. Don’t just push through with the old adage “No pain, No gain.” Give it a rest for a day or two and if it doesn’t fade get it checked out ASAP. You don’t want to loose 6 weeks of training in the Physical Therapy office.
- Muscles are key. Having good muscle tone is key to any exercise activity you do. When you run your entire core is engaged and if you aren’t training your core you will certainly feel it. You may be a runner but having a balanced upper body will really help since all your muscles weave together to keep you moving. So even if you don’t think you have time for strength training in your already busy schedule…make some. MizFit has some great shorter routines that you can squeeze in at least 2 days a week.
- Try new things. Humans are creatures of habit. We find an exercise we like and stick with it…sometimes for years. Injuries offer a chance to take the kickboxing class you have been thinking about, go biking with the family, or pick up swimming. Many studies suggest one of the best ways to avoid injury is to cross-train instead of concentrating only on a solo sport.
- Don’t forget all you are learning. If you are injured, your Physical Therapist is a wealth of knowledge. They can tell you how your gait affects your run, what exercises you specifically can do to improve in your favorite sport, and how not to end up back in their office. Take a lesson from the experts because that’s what they are there for.
I still have a bit of a way to go before I am cleared to run again. I’m promised if I follow the above I might be ready in time for our local Turkey Trot this Thanksgiving.
It takes a lot of patience to not throw my hands in the air and say maybe I’m not meant to be a runner or in fitness at all.
Just like life there will be potholes and detours along the way and we have to navigate them all.
I can’t sit here and say I don’t want to move forward. What fun would that be?