Posts Tagged by injury

Escape and Restoration

I haven’t quite been myself lately. Maybe you can tell from my posts (or lack thereof), maybe not. But truth be told, these past few weeks have been tough ones personally. It’s nothing major or life-altering…just a few personal and health issues that have been weighing me down.

It makes me feel a little bit like a broken record, and I hate it. These issues alone wouldn’t even be so bad, but unfortunately they’ve been exacerbated by a flare up of foot pain that is eerily similar to the injury that forced me to skip Hyannis last year. The one that signified the beginning of the end of my spring marathon training….only in the opposite foot. I’ve been doing whatever I can to avoid a repeat of last year’s training disaster, which means the past two weeks of running have been a wash. Running has always been my most effective stress reliever. So when I’m not running and under a lot of stress, well…let’s just say you should consider yourself lucky that you’re not married to me.

Anyway all of this crap swirling around has made me more hesitant to get on the internet. I’m a big advocate of not blogging when you have nothing to say, and so I’ve stepped back a bit. Especially because I just don’t feel comfortable blogging about any of this stuff. Not yet, anyway. It’s kind of funny, I guess — when it comes to my running life, I’ll tell you anything. I have no problem talking about the awful runs. Runs I cry through or workouts I can’t complete. And I certainly don’t hesitate admitting when certain embarrassing things happen during races. But when it comes to life outside of all that? Well — there’s a reason I’m a running blogger and not a lifestyle one.

snow covered tree

When I wrote my post about failing better last month, I never truly expected that I would end up going back to it so much. Repeating that phrase over and over like my new mantra. Didn’t expect that my promise to change how I react to situations outside of my control would be so hard to keep. That I would need to remind myself again and again that what matters most is how I react to my circumstances. And whether I allow setbacks and challenges to destroy me…or I use them to make me stronger. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve gone through a period over the past couple of weeks when I crumpled in the face of the hurdles instead of leaping over them.

My point in all of this vague rambling (and I promise, I do have a point) is to say that things finally seem to be on the upswing. Or, at least, my attitude toward them is. One can only have a pity party for so long, you know. And then you start to annoy even yourself.

So instead of being frustrated and stressed that I essentially missed two important weeks of training for Vermont City, I’m choosing to start fresh. Wipe the slate clean. Look forward instead of back. I’m not going to let this setback derail my entire spring. I don’t love the fact that I missed quality runs and will have to adjust my training plan. It’s not ideal that I’m behind in my build up of mileage and long runs. But I can’t change any of that now. The only thing I can do is keep pressing forward with the time that I do have. Keep working harder to make each workout and run count. And start taking better care of my body — allowing myself time to recover, eating right, rolling, icing, and all that other annoying but oh-so necessary prevention stuff that can so easily fall by the wayside.

And to help with this fresh start, I’m getting away. I am very lucky to have had a (very!) last minute, spontaneous opportunity to travel to Florida. After only 15 minutes of searching and securing some ridiculously cheap flights, I booked the trip. I’m trading snowy cold Vermont for palm trees and 80 degrees. And I’m spending the week with the newest (and by far the cutest!) member of #teamwatermelon.

Leah_teamwatermelon_1Rocking her new green Saucony Jazz sneakers – an essential in every baby’s wardrobe (and yeah, I wanted her to match her most favorite* aunt!) *I am currently awaiting confirmation that I am, indeed her favorite. But I’m sure her other 4 aunts won’t mind me claiming the title…

Leah teamwatermelon 2They might be just a little big on her at the moment….

I don’t think it’s possible to stay stressed in the presence of this cutie.

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Plus, I’m counting on my new teammate to keep me motivated as I attempt to dive back into hard training. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the pain in my foot stays away for good.

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My sister and her husband recently bought their first house and are already knee deep in home renovation projects. She has warned me of the likelihood that I’ll be put to work this week, but I’m strangely excited about this. I can’t think of anything more therapeutic than warm air, sunshine, baby time, and a little home renovation.

Plus, despite all the benefits of winter running, I’m more than a little excited to run in shorts and a tank top again. Maybe by the time I come back, all the snow will be melted and spring will have returned to the North. Yeah, I know, wishful thinking. But at least we’ll be one week closer.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Back At Square One

My return to the running world hasn’t been glamorous or easy…but you already knew that. What you may not know is that it goes beyond feeling like a stranger in my own body. For the past month or so, my running mileage has been less than impressive.

First, there was the long honeymoon. While you may have expected that someone who had spent the past 3 months dreaming about being able to run would be out there logging miles every single day the second she was able, that wasn’t the case for me. In fact, I found it much easier to stop stressing about when I would run again once I knew that I could if I really wanted.

But in my defense, if you’ve ever visited the islands of St. Maarten and St. John, you know they aren’t exactly a runner’s paradise. Narrow winding roads up steep mountains, lack of shoulders, crazy drivers, and hot and humid days all dampened my motivation to pound the pavement.

st maarten hillI ran up this hill (and many more before it) once. Despite an awesome view at the top, I never did it again.

Plus, I found that I much preferred spending lazy mornings with my new husband over getting up early and hitting the roads (imagine that!).

Not that it wasn’t an active vacation — it was just more of a walking/hiking, swimming/snorkeling type of trip…and not so much a running one.

saint maarten_beach hike

st maarten_forest hike

Now that I’m home, I find myself struggling a bit to get back into a routine. After all this time away from training, I truly am starting back at square one. I suppose this is only fitting given my current phase in life. These past few months have been full of change. On top of struggling through injury, I’ve lost my job, moved to a new state, and married my best friend. My whole world has basically been turned upside down. I’m learning how to make a new life for myself just as I’m learning how to run again. To say I feel unsettled is an understatement.

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Add to that the fact that I don’t really trust my body yet, and you have one very cautious runner. Don’t get me wrong — I love every run I get to take these days. I love exploring new roads and I love the awesome views that surround me everywhere I turn. Running in Vermont is much tougher than running in Providence, but it’s also more rewarding.

So it’s not that I dread running itself, it’s just that training is tough. I have the New York City Marathon coming up in November, and while I’m still very excited about the race, I am finding it hard to settle into an actual training plan. I find myself wanting to run just for the sake of running. I don’t want to stress about paces or distance or speed work. I have enough on my mind just trying to keep my form intact.

I suppose it doesn’t help that I’m also incredibly out of shape. My legs are heavy and my breathing becomes labored way too quickly. Whereas I used to be able to run for an hour or more without much difficulty, I now find myself being proud of a day’s effort after only 4 – 5 miles. Nothing wrong with that, right? …except if you’re training for a marathon, you need to be able to run just a tad bit further…

I am trying hard to accept this new place. To enjoy the process of learning how to run again, instead of stressing about what I’ve lost. I may not be the runner that I used to be, but who’s to say that someday I won’t come back even stronger? I’m also trying not to get caught up in comparison. I don’t know how some runners are out of commission one day and back doing double digit miles the next. I certainly have not been able to bounce right back. So if I’m missing out on some big training secret, please clue me in.

Anyway, I guess there’s really no point to this post. Except to say:

Running is hard (duh). Getting back into running after a long absence is even harder.

And for those of you who find yourself struggling to get back into shape, you’re not alone. There is no shame in starting off slowly and taking things one step at a time. It’s better to start off small and avoid injury than to jump right back in and cause bigger problems down the road. At least that’s what I’m telling myself…

After all this, there’s still a chance that I might give up on the whole running thing and retire to a Caribbean Island. There are worse ways to spend a lifetime.

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Injury Changes Everything

From the middle of March until early June, every single running step I took was one of caution. Granted, there weren’t really all that many steps being run during that time. But the few times I did try to run weren’t peaceful, relaxing…or even good workouts.

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At first, each step was laced with anxiety. I was simply waiting for the all-too-familiar pain to appear. Even once I finally accepted how stupid and stubborn I was being about my knee injury and started walk/running my way back to health, my steps were still uncertain. Because in the process of learning to walk/run again, I realized that I needed to change my stride. That my awful form had contributed at least in part to the pain I was feeling. And that I would never be able to run without pain again unless I did something drastic.

RnR ProfessionalThis is not exactly what you would call “model running form”

So I switched to a pair of minimalist shoes (the Saucony Mirage 2’s for those that are interested), hoping the 4mm heel-to-toe offset and lack of cushioning (compared to a typical running shoe) would encourage me to land on my midfoot, instead of relying on my heel to take the brunt of my weight. {Note: this is against conventional wisdom for knee injuries but it has worked for me. More about that later}.

Along with my switch in footwear, I changed up my form. I found that with a shorter stride came less pain. Suddenly I realized that I could run pain-free as long as I kept my stride short and my pace slow. Times when I tried to speed up by stretching out my legs were always unsuccessful. I stood up straighter, pumped my arms more efficiently, and focused on giving each footfall a purpose. I gave up listening to music on any of my runs to improve my focus on what exactly I was doing.

In short, my running became mechanical. There was no more zoning out. No more easy, relaxed gliding along. No more feeling the miles tick by like nothing.

BUT – I was running. And if running like a machine was the only way I could successfully run, well then by gosh I was going to take it.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the easy, relaxed way running used to feel. Don’t get me wrong – running was never easy all the time. In fact, running is often hard. But even during the hardest of my runs, I still felt like myself. Now I just felt weird and alien. A stranger in my own body. I was not the same girl who had run close to every day for over half of her life. I was a newcomer, trying to learn how to run all over again.

I began to think that I would never get the old me back. After all, the way I was running was different. I could no longer relax into my stride. So maybe running was just bound to be different from now on.

And then came the morning of June 9th. A day that dawned cool, crisp and sunny. A morning that came too early after a night of tossing and turning in my sleep. A day when I knew my whole life was going to change forever.

I woke up so early that morning – before the sun had even started peeking over the horizon. I lay in bed for awhile, finally dragging myself up a little before 6:00 am. Running was the one thing on my mind…but the last thing my body felt like doing. I was exhausted – sick with nerves and from having barely slept in the past week. My head was spinning, my legs felt like lead, and as soon as I started running I was sure I would throw up.

But it was my wedding day and I was determined to start the day off the best way I knew how. So I stumbled through the run, trying to quiet my screaming legs and my aching head, and ignore my queasy stomach. As I ran, I found myself getting lost in my thoughts. I was alone on a dirt road in my favorite place on earth on the most perfect morning. The solitude was amazing, and just what I needed to calm my nerves.

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I turned a corner. Ran up a long hill with screaming legs and burning lungs. And as I got to the top and saw the green mountain peaks through the morning mist I realized two things: 1.) I was incredibly, indescribably happy. and 2.) I WAS RUNNING. Really running. Not thinking about each stride. Not thinking about how straight I was standing up, or whether I was definitely landing on my midfoot, or if my arms were pumping correctly. I was just putting one foot in front of the other, in a way that felt as natural as breathing.

Somewhere along the way, all the thoughts about how tired I felt and how big this day was helped me forget to think about how to run. I just did it. I finished that run feeling better than I had in a very long time. Truly the perfect start to the most perfect day.

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I wish I could say that the run was a turning point for me. I would love it if every single run since that day had felt so amazing. Unfortunately, that feeling was fleeting. I don’t know if it was the magic of my wedding, or the fact that I truly was too exhausted to stress about how exactly I was running. But ever since that day I have been running in search of that feeling — the feeling of running free without worry.

I know that it hasn’t been that long since I’ve gotten back into training. That I’m very out of shape, and that I just drastically changed how I run. Any change of that magnitude isn’t going to come easy.

The other day while I was running, I caught a glimpse of my shadow. The girl I saw running looked great – technically speaking. Her back was straight, her stride was short and even, she wasn’t landing on her heels. The only problem was, she was someone I didn’t recognize.

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I know that each run is a blessing. I think back to the time between March and June when I couldn’t really run at all, and I’m thankful that things are finally looking up. I am excited about being able to train again, and really hope that this summer will be filled with many amazing runs.

But I feel like a stranger in my own body. A body that I don’t really trust anymore. As thankful as I am for every single run, I am still waiting for that day when I feel like runner Lauren…not injured, out-of-shape, nervous-runner Lauren.

In the meantime, I know I need to keep taking it one run at a time. I will try to be patient, waiting for the day when I can get lost in a run again.

Hopefully that day will come soon.

You Have to Walk Before You Can Run

Originally I had planned a nice little rant for today. In my grumpy, injured state, all I wanted to do was complain about the dumb fitness-related cliches/sayings that people use all the time as motivation — but in reality just make me want to bang my head against the wall.

But then, as luck would have it, something pretty awesome happened yesterday. And I’m sort of still riding the high it created. I also figured that this rarely updated blog of mine was overdue for a positive post. Since the majority of things I’ve posted in the past couple of months have been fairy negative, I think my parents are starting to worry that I’m depressed.

Plus, with my wedding only 16 (!!) days away, I’m starting to feel just a little bit sappy.

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So today, let’s talk about something wonderful.

Yesterday evening, for the first time since March, I had a completely 100% pain-free run. The significance of this event is huge. And after almost 3 long months of struggling with pain, I’m trying very hard to resist the urge to jump right back into full-out training.

Because even though I technically ran for 27 minutes yesterday, it wasn’t all consecutive. I have reluctantly become a run/walker.

Now before I go any further, I feel the need to express how much I hate (hate hate hate) run/walking. I know some runners use this technique regularly to complete long runs and races. Some people even swear that it helps them go faster. If it works for you, that’s great. But unless I’m in the middle of a tough speed workout and am dying for rest between intervals, I do NOT like to walk during a run. For me, the first part of a run is always tough. I’m stiff, my legs are heavy, and it takes me awhile to get in the groove. Stopping to walk mid-run kills all the momentum I worked so hard to gain. Regardless of how tired I feel when I’m running, I always find it much harder to get going again after I take a walk break.

But I’ve finally come to realize that run/walking is the key to success when coming back from an injury. I was way too stubborn to admit it for a long time, and my attempts to run a couple consecutive miles only led to pain and more frustration.

Yesterday EC and I set out with the plan to run for 3 minutes and walk for 2, and see how I felt. I chose a relatively flat dirt road and got running. The first 3 minutes were pure bliss. Even though my legs were heavy and my heart was beating way harder than it should’ve been for the pace we were keeping, it felt so good to be running. That 3 minutes went by way too quickly. As soon as it was up, I reluctantly started to walk. We repeated this cycle a few more times until I figured it would be smart to turn around and head back.

IMG 0585My literal road to recovery

The way back was slightly less blissful. I was running on high-alert, ready for the pain to appear at any minute. No matter what I had done in the past, the pain always got bad a couple of miles into my run. I was fearful that the same thing would happen despite how careful I was trying to be.

Fortunately the pain never came. I finished the workout feeling on top of the world. I don’t think 27 minutes of non-consecutive running has ever made me so happy.

I’m not sure if it was the ratio of running to walking I used, or the fact that I stretched, rolled, and iced like a madwoman before my run OR if it’s the awesome new Saucony Mirage 2s I’m currently sporting….or maybe it’s a combination of everything. Whatever the case, I plan to keep it up. Even though I want nothing more than to head out and run a few miles without stopping, I know that I need to be patient. For now, I’m trying really hard to focus on what I CAN do, instead of what I can’t. And that means that I am going to be thankful for every single minute of running I can get.

saucony mirage_front[I will write more about my decision to switch to a more minimal shoe in the near future. But for now – I will say that I’m hoping my decision to switch to the Mirages (a slightly more supportive version of the popular Saucony Kinvara) will help improve my form and prevent future injury.]

Plans for PRs and long races are currently on hold. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any short-term goals. Or, to be more specific, one very important goal. This new goal is much simpler, and hopefully more obtainable.

I want to be able to run a 5K on my wedding day.

I know running the morning of my wedding may seem silly to many, but I can’t imagine starting the biggest day of my life (so far!) any other way. On the morning of June 9th, I want to wake up with the sun, lace up my Sauconys and go for my last run as a single girl.

16 days to work up to 3.1 miles. Here’s hoping I can do it.

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