Running is such an amazing feeling. As I've shared, I've taken up running in the past few years. I was slow to start, but I've made great progress over time. I had set backs with my 2 pregnancies over the years as well as minor injuries. Recently, I was sidelined with a running injury. Since it is not wise to continue running with an injury, I was advised to take 8 weeks off.
8 weeks of not feeling the pavement fly beneath my feet.
8 weeks of not conquering hills and feeling the freedom of flat ground.
8 weeks of not lacing up my shoes, preparing my iPod and starting the stopwatch
8 weeks is nothing short of an eternity for runners, people.
But, I knew if I wanted to run again, it was best to nurse the injury and take care to heal properly. Otherwise, I'd be left re-injuring myself over and over, leading to an end to running all together. So I got my mind around the mantra that short term difficulties leads to long term rewards. In the short term, I was not running for a few weeks. But those few weeks of healing would lead to (hopefully) many months and years of more running.
I'd say that's worth it.
I didn't love it, but I was motivated to heal so I could continue running.
During the first few weeks of being "benched," I thought the injury would never get better. I had done something to inflame the tendons in my left foot. So even the simple act of walking from the family room to the kitchen was painful. I didn't have access to swimming, which meant that any and all exercise was off limits. I followed the doctor's orders: wear a compression sleeve on my foot and rub a special apothecary anti-inflammatory ointment on my foot twice a day. Yet I felt very little progress.
Healing happens when you aren't paying attention. I kept at my prescribed protocol and tried not to think too much about it. One day my foot hurt a little less. Soon I found that I was able to wear certain shoes again without pain. And a month-and-a-half into my recovery, I felt hardly any pain or discomfort at all. I was making progress!
After a follow up appointment at the 7-week mark, the doctor gave me some physical therapy exercises I could do at home (tracing the alphabet with my foot, flexing my foot and stretching it in certain ways). I decided to give myself 2 more weeks of these exercises along with the compression sleeve and ointment before I would tackle learning how to start running after injury.
With some consultation, I started back up running again. And although it's been a slow journey, it's been safe and successful. I'm almost back to where I was before I injured my foot. And let me tell you: IT FEELS GOOD!
Important tips on running after injury
(Please note: I am not a doctor. This is advice given to me that I have followed.)
Consult your doctor firstIf my doctor was the least bit hesitant about having me start running again, I would have postponed it. Yes, it would have driven me crazy. Like my second visit around Week 4 of recovery, when I was hoping to get the green light, and he told me it be at least another month. I cried. But I listened. And that extra month made a huge difference. I went to a orthopedic specialist who had a bit of knowledge about sports medicine. If I was only seeing an orthopedic, I would have also made an appointment with a sports medicine specialist to get a better training plan in place.
Re-evaluate your running gearBefore your injury, were your shoes starting to get old and unsupportive? Does your doctor recommend an insert or compression socks? Check our your gear and get recommendations on any gear your should purchase before starting on your new running regime. Bad gear = injuries. Believe me. I KNOW.
Take it slowThis can be a bit of a downer, but important. You were training before the injury. So whatever progress you'd made before injury did not come over night. It came with time and work. Don't expect to go out on your first run after weeks of no activity and try to run 10 miles. Or 5. Or 3. No, start with 1 mile. Or, 10 minutes of easy running. Avoid hills. Avoid pavement if you can help it. Start small and easy. It may seem like a "baby step," but you need that baby step to rebuild your muscles, lungs and stamina. Starting off too fast and too hard is the best way to land yourself in Injury Land. Like. Immediately. Add 10% every few runs to ensure you are making progress safely.
Listen to your bodyYou've probably become very aware of your body during this recovery process. I was paying a lot of attention to my foot, hoping to see progress and questioning every little ache. During your first few runs, continue to stay in tune with your body, particularly the injured parts. Is there discomfort? Tension? Pain? If so, stop immediately. Head home, call your doctor and get a consult. He or she may tell you it's normal and to try again after a day or so of rest. They may have advice on what you can be doing differently. Or they may tell you that you are not ready to start running and to wait another week or 2 before attempting another run (they may even want to see you in the office). You also have let your other muscles atrophy while you were healing. So you may more easily find yourself with shin splints, knee pain or achilles tendonitis if you are not careful to go slow and stretch well after runs.
Again, I'm not a doctor, but this was the medical advice I was given. I found it pretty darn sound! Since I am not looking to injure myself again anytime soon, I'm following it as closely as possible. I may try to make an appointment with a sports medicine specialist for a better training plan. But until then, I will continue to listen to my body, take it as slow as my body needs, and ENJOY THE WIND RUSHING THROUGH MY HAIR!
What running/exercise injuries have you endured?
How did you overcome them to start running/exercising again?
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