The first time I injured myself — like, really injured myself — was last summer. It was 2 months before my first half marathon, and I freaked out completely. How will I ever properly train in time for 13.1 miles, I thought to myself. But at the end of the day, recurring piriformis syndrome in both sides of my body could only result in greater injury further on down the road, and so I knew that I’d have to give myself ample time to rest.
The first time I injured myself, I took a full 4 weeks off from running. To date, that is the longest period of time I have ever gone without it, and while I hope to never get to that point again (even if running 3 days a week feels like not running at all), as a runner, well, you simply never know.
This time around, from the many moments in which I’ve experienced the brief return of piriformis syndrome to the last month, in which I’ve discovered a whole new world of strange, achey discomfort, this time in my leg, I’ve learned an important virtue: patience.
1. The last few weeks could have been miserable. Instead, they were frustrating, but tolerable.
When I realized that the pain in my leg could be indicative of a more serious problem than I had previously thought, I decided to take a solid 2 weeks off before reassessing the situation. Never in my life did I think I’d listen to my body without needing a physician with a medical degree and a white coat to tell me to do so.
Last time, I required the advice of a physical therapist who compared my body to a car and said it needed time in the shop. (Editor’s Note: I did not like comparing my body to a motor vehicle nor thinking that it required mechanical equipment to heal.) This time, I stopped running on my own.
2. I could still be injured. Instead, I’m not perfect, but I’m on the mend.
At least, I like to think I’m on the mend. That’s the weird thing about injuries though; they tend to make you so incredibly hyperaware of your body — every twinge, ache and pain — that you forget what it’s like not to think about it. Will I ever get better? Will this ever go away?
(Really hoping you’re familiar with this video, or this photo is going to seem really inappropriate and confusing.)
My best run so far was in the suburbs this past Saturday, when a couple of friends came along for the ride.
Having company totally diverted my attention from each time my foot struck the ground, and so rather than analyzing my every move, I lost myself in that hour of running and chatting and, I believe, came out of it stronger than before.
Naturally, during Monday’s 3-mile run around the neighborhood, I returned to that hyperaware state of mind. The truth is, who knows? Maybe those little pangs of whatever could mean that I’m not fully healed. And maybe they’re all in my head. In all fairness, that’s why I haven’t canceled my appointment with a sports medicine doctor for September 7th. If I really feel that my leg has not fully recovered in the coming weeks, I’ll take it from there. The way I see it, there’s no reason to jump to conclusions — yet. That’s what patience is all about.
3. I wouldn’t have created an every-other-day training plan. Instead, I’ve been smarter than ever before by giving my body a day to recover in between runs.
This is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of my recover-and-run-the-Philly-Half-training-program. My fingers and toes are crossed that it works.
I’m by no means a professional or a coach, and so in some ways, maybe this isn’t the smartest of training plans. But at the same time, I don’t quite have the time or funds to go hiring anyone to be my running guru. Reading all I can from other, seasoned runners and generally trying to simply use my noggin will hopefully get me through this. (And like I said, if it doesn’t, I’ll at least have a doctor to consult with in a few weeks.)
The every-other-day training plan has so far been successful. If my leg is uncomfortable the day that I run or the day after, any existing discomfort usually subsides with ice and Advil within 48 hours, at which point I can hit the pavement again.
4. I’d be running so much more in preparation for my race. Instead, I’m taking it slow and trusting my gut.
A telling part of this training plan will come on Thursday morning when, because I will not be in New York or in any condition to run long this weekend (heading to Miami with my old roommates, see evidence of shenanigans below), I’d like to get my “training” run out of the way beforehand.
Of course, if I were actually training for the Philly Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon as I had planned, I’d be running at least 8 miles, if not 10, this weekend. But in being honest and patient with this whole “recovery” thing, I know that even 7 miles may be pushing it, and that I’m going to have to trust that I can cross the finish line in September without the distance and based on experience alone. This is my fourth half marathon, so by now, I somewhat know the drill. It may just be a different drill than I’m used to. And if nothing else, I’ll at least have some seriously uglier than ever race pictures to show for it.
- What will you run for this week?
- What tactics do you usually take when coming back from an injury?
- Support the cause and submit your ugliest race photos to firstname.lastname@example.org!