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Injury: The Silver Lining

First of all — if you will allow me to get all cheesy on you for a minute — I owe all of you a tremendous thank you. I know I’m the absolute worst at responding to comments these days, but please believe me when I say that it’s only because I don’t have the right words. I promise I read each and every comment (several times, actually) and your responses touched my heart more than you can know. I want to talk more about this at some point soon, but for now I will just say that writing that post was therapeutic, and it helps to know I’m not the only one who has these feelings.

In fact, there was a post expressing a very similar sentiment on A Practical Wedding yesterday (ummm…yes, I am still subscribed despite the fact that my wedding was two months ago). Worth a read for anyone who finds themselves wrestling with this issue.

Anyway….let’s move on, shall we? Today I actually want to talk about running! More specifically, I want to talk about all the positive things that come from being forced to start all over again because of injury. Yes, I’m aware that sounds crazy. But I promise — as frustrating as it can be to feel out of shape, slow, and like you’re learning how to run all over again, there are some good things too. And focusing on the good things (no matter how small) is what keeps me motivated these days.

So without further ado, let’s go over the Top 10 Best Things About Coming Back From Injury…

Top 10 Best Things About Coming Back from Injury

1.) Everything is new again.

This is sort of obvious, but still important to state. When you go 3 months without running, each time you get to run feels a little exciting. Even if it’s not the easiest or fastest or most carefree run ever, it doesn’t matter. It’s a run, and that’s good enough for now.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that all traces of burnout have officially been erased.

2.) Each run is an important milestone.

IMG 0871

The first time I averaged under 8:00/mile for a run. The first time I went over 5 miles. The first double digit run. All of these were causes for mini-celebrations. In a way, I feel like I’m training for a marathon for the very first time. While I used to think “Oh, just another 10 miles on the schedule today” now I do a victory dance when I make it 10 whole miles. Do I want to get back to the point where I’m able to just go out for an “easy 10?” Of course! But for now, I will revel in my pride for making it so incredibly far.

3.) Progress is more pronounced.

You see this with every training cycle — you start at one place, put in a lot of miles, sweat, and hard work and eventually you start feeling stronger.  But there’s a big difference between starting with a base of 25 – 35 miles per week and starting from 0. So when I find myself starting to get frustrated by where I am with running, I take a step back and remember where I started from. Looking at it that way reminds me how much I have accomplished.  I can literally feel myself get a little bit stronger every day.

4.) I’ve learned to give myself a break.

Similar to the above point, but I’m not as hard on myself as I used to be because of everything that has happened. I’ve never begun a marathon training cycle with a zero mileage base before. Which means I have a lot of catching up to do. In the past, I’ve grown frustrated when I’m not running to a certain level or improving fast enough (based on some arbitrary standard). Right now, it’s easier (and more productive!) to focus on what I can do than stress about what I can’t.

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5.) I stress less about the watch.

In the same way, I also care less about what that watch says on every single run. Yes, I would love to regain my old speed and feel competitive again. And yes, it was difficult at first to accept that my new default pace is much slower than I’m used to. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The priority is to get the miles in, no matter how long it takes me.

You may not realize it, but accepting this is huge. This is the same person who hated seeing any 8:xx pace on her watch so much that she would speed up at the end of the mile, just so that the lap time recorded would be a 7:xx. Crazy, and not really all that productive. As good as it feels to see fast numbers on the watch, I am clearly not at a level where I should be doing every run at a sub 8:00/mile pace. Maybe someday, but for now – I’ve learned to be okay with my pace that’s much (much) slower. And to really go easy on recovery run days.

6.) Goals are smaller and related to miles, not minutes.

For the first time, I am marathon training without a time goal in mind. My goals now are smaller and change each week. This week, my goal is to run to the next town and back (i.e. 14 miles). Last week, it was to see if I could keep picking up the pace on a 7-mile tempo run (with 5 miles tempo). For this training cycle as a whole? It’s to get it done. That is it. I want to stand on that starting line in November and run through the streets of New York City soaking up every single step. If my training cycle goes well and I find my speed starting to come back, great. But either way, I want to run that dang marathon. No more DNS’s this year (please and thank you).

7.) Buying new shoes is a cause for celebration.

Not because I’m excited to fork over the money. But because it means that my old pair have been worn enough to warrant it. And that, my friends, felt like a pretty big step!

IMG 0955

8.) As is being so tired that you forget about your form.

These days, most runs I take feel very calculated. There’s no real “zoning out” when you’re focused on making sure each footfall is correct. But there have been a couple of runs where I’ve been so tired that I simply do not have the energy to focus on my stride. Once I figure out that it’s happening, I immediately shift from being discouraged about how tired I’m to feeling ecstatic. Eventually, a twinge in my knee will remind me to stand up straighter and reign in my stride but in those few moments, I’m on the top of the world.

9) In a way, I am even more determined than before.

Being back in training is still tough. Partially because of the injury (not fully trusting my body, not being used to the load) and partially because of all the other life changes I’m facing. Even though I’m thankful that I can run again, sometimes I have a really hard time getting myself out the door — especially since running doesn’t exactly come easy these days. But when I’m actually out there, it’s a different story altogether. I’m still not running every day, so each and every run that I take is important. Which means that I’m less likely to blow off a run or phone it in if things aren’t going well. There are no junk miles in this training plan. Even if it’s hot or I’m tired and slow, I am going to do whatever it takes to finish that run.

10.) In that magical moment, when I finally find my stride and running feels good again, everything is worth it.

Maybe it’s in a hot, hotel gym that smells like chlorine. Maybe it comes over you out of nowhere, on a morning you woke up feeling groggy and sort of sick, almost skipping your run altogether. Maybe you start running and realize that this run, this moment suddenly feels different. And so you bump up the speed on that treadmill, until you are running fast again. Faster and faster, holding it for 3 glorious miles. So tired that you think you might collapse but all the while grinning like a lunatic because you are finally just running – not thinking about your footfall or your stride length or your posture. Just putting one foot in front of the other in a motion that feels as natural as breathing.

And then, when that run ends, you are reminded why you stick with this crazy, unforgiving, roller coaster of a sport. Even though you go back to cautiously working your way through each run, something just feels better. Because you know those magic moments are out there. They will find you again when you least expect it.

20 Responses to Injury: The Silver Lining

  1. I could not agree more with you. I feel the same way coming back from my hamstring injury and training for the Marine Corp Marathon. Wonderful post.
    Jolene Cannady´s last post ..The Story Of A Sweet Dog

  2. I want to stand on that starting line in November and run through the streets of New York City soaking up every single step…alongside my BFF Ali.

    I think you just forgot that part. It’s OK.

    Love that you’re turning the injury into a positive and highlighting the good stuff that’s come from it. I know it’s been a long, tough road, but you’re getting back on track and I’m proud of you.
    Ali´s last post ..Thankful Things Thursday: It Gets Better

  3. Sounds like you are in a good place. I know how tough it can be coming back from injury. Can’t wait to have you come run the streets of nyc and hopefully get to meet you!
    Celia´s last post ..Don’t Stop Believing: a 2012 San Francisco Marathon Recap

  4. Fantastic! Glad to see you are rounding the bend in the road. Old college prof said to me, “The bend in the road is the end of the road if you fail to make the curve.” You’re making the curve and coming around the other side! Go you!
    Kristin Miller´s last post ..Vega Review and Giveaway! YIPPEE!

  5. Love this- thanks for putting my feelings into a post for me! :) One thing that was HUGE for me was getting to buy new shoes because all the PT fixed something in my bio-mechanics that warranted a change in shoes (enter the Guide 5)!

    So glad you’re running again and remembering to enjoy each step even when they aren’t as fast or fun as you wish they would be! :)

    Happy Trails (and Roads)!!
    Holly´s last post ..Track Tuesday

  6. Great post! Good luck in NYC because I KNOW you will get there!

    How did you decide on a training plan? Make it up yourself? How did you start incorporating speed work again?

    • Thanks Jenn! I made my training plan up myself. I’ve done that for the past several marathons I’ve run and it seems to work out pretty well….plus it gives me more control over everything, which I like :)

      I started incorporating speedwork back into my training pretty slowly because I was starting from 0 and wanted to be careful to avoid increasing mileage and speed at the same time. My first introduction of speed was simply finishing my runs strong – so I’d do the last mile (and then last 2 miles) faster. From there I tried to negative split a few runs and then I finally graduated to a short tempo run. I kept the pace more conservative (at first) and then picked it up for the last couple of miles only because I was feeling good. I’ve actually only done a few tempo runs at this point, but am hoping to continue building on that for the rest of the summer.

      Sorry for that sort of detailed/lengthy explanation. Please feel free to email me if you have more questions!

  7. I love this post. I’m going through something similar (training for a marathon from a base of 0 due to injury) but it’s also my first marathon, so I don’t have the context to compare it to other experiences. I think the thing I relate to most is that every run matters, it has a purpose, and even though I know it won’t feel easy, I want to get it done (way more than I can get myself to the pool or on my bike these days, which I know is bad). Fingers crossed we’re both on marathon starting lines this fall!
    Kimra´s last post ..Berlin Marathon Training: Week Eight

  8. I still subscribe to A Practical Wedding even though my wedding was nearly two years ago!

  9. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been sidelined with an injury for 2 months now and my physical therapist just gave me the go-ahead to start running on and off for a few minutes. Though, lately, I’ve been scared of running because of how difficult it will feel. Thank you for the inspiration to just get back out there even if it turns out I can only do a mile!
    Alexandra´s last post ..Ostrander Lake

    • Good luck! I’m glad to hear you’re able to get back on the road again. Don’t be intimidated. It’s definitely an uphill battle (especially those first few runs) but it DOES get easier. And every time I find myself starting to complain about how slow/out of shape/tired/etc I am, I just think back to the time when I couldn’t run. Any run, no matter how slow, is better than no run at all!

  10. Great post! Good luck with your training!
    Amber Sosa´s last post ..Needing Motivation!

  11. Love this post. It’s hard to see the positives in an injury and I think you’ve got it right! Kudos.

  12. I’ve bookmarked this post to reread in the coming weeks. I’m about to have my first baby, and had to quit running at about 20 weeks. I’ve been going nuts, and am so excited to get back out there once the little guy is finally here. I know it’s going to be frustrating, and an uphill battle for the most part, starting over essentially from scratch. But this is just the inspiration I need to help me remember that everything will fall into place again, and to enjoy the journey and not be so hard on myself. Whether it’s an injury or a pregnancy or something else that sidelines us, just the fact that you’re looking forward to getting going again is pretty awesome. Good luck!

    • Thank you for saying all this Nadia! I’m so glad you can relate. Just keep reminding yourself that it WILL get better. And that it’s worth it in the end. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see that when I’m really struggling on a run, but then other times – when everything comes together and I feel strong and fast, the high I get from running is like nothing else! I just keep reminding myself to take it one day, one run at a time.

      In other news –congratulations and best of luck to you! I hope everything goes well!

  13. as always, another excellent post! and a good reminder to never take running for granted! i’m glad you are back, lauren!
    kristy´s last post ..Just What I Needed

  14. couldn’t agree more! glad you are back!
    Meggie´s last post ..CHO-awesome

  15. It’s funny how excited I get to rerun all my old routes, to see parts of Central Park I haven’t seen in MONTHS…it’s nice how everything is new and exciting again, and I definitely realize how important it is to not take running for granted. I’ve found myself randomly smiling on my runs because I’m just so HAPPY to be out there and not in pain. It’s not all perfect yet and it’s weird that my default pace is so much slower than it was six months ago, but it’s wonderful to just be out there step after step.
    Susan´s last post ..ironman new york, from the sidelines

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