Injury: The Silver Lining
|August 9, 2012||Posted by Lauren under Running|
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.
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.
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!
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.