7 Miles on Recovery Road: The Pros and Cons of Injury
Posted Aug 30 2012 1:18pm
Thursday morning brought with it a make or break kind of run. I’d been anticipating a 7-mile run since establishing my post-injury routine. 7 miles would be the longest I’d have run in a month and, with the Philly Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon only a couple of weeks away, it’d be extremely telling of what my future holds.
I felt great after my last “long” run on Saturday. But after 5 miles of pain-free running , the achy feeling returned. Sticking with the game plan, I completed 3 miles on Monday, and then opted out of running until Thursday morning to rest my body and my leg as much as humanly possible. Instead, I went to Jivamukti yoga. I even took the subway to work yesterday to avoid the mile-and-a-half walk to the office. For those of you who don’t know me well, I never take the subway. You’re welcome, body.
With the windows cracked open in my bedroom, I knew that Thursday would be the kind of morning that running was made for from the moment I opened my eyes. It may still be August here in New York City, but the air has been much more reminiscent of fall as of late, an environmental element that’s made me endlessly content despite the condition of my leg.
What I didn’t expect, as I put on my favorite shorts (a jet-black Nike mesh pair with a retro feel) and a very, very old t-shirt with a garbage truck appliqué and holes from right sleeve to left, was fear. That’s right—I was nervous as I gathered my thoughts and stuffed my feet into a still-new pair of running sneakers.
I tried to stop the butterflies from fluttering in my gut, but to no avail. The dread of what if continued to loom over me as I paced around my apartment, and I knew that the only way to silence any nagging voices would be to answer that question. What if? I had to get out there and put my body – physical, mental and emotional – to the test.
I’m trying. I’m really, really trying to keep my head held high with this whole tentative injury, possible recovery thing, but it feels like every day, every hour, every 10 minutes, I fluctuate between feelings of health and pain, feelings of comfort and discomfort, feelings of certainty and uncertainty, feelings of optimism and dread. The pendulum hasn’t stopped swinging since this unlabeled leg pain first set in, and while, sure, I’m tired of not knowing what the heck to label it, I’m equally tired of being so not in control of my emotions.
(It’s a look of confusion. Just go with it.)
In moments like these, there is no better way to hash out your feelings than by writing (or typing) them out into an age-old pro and con list. So here it goes: The pros and cons of an undetermined injury.
Pro: Patience. I mentioned this yesterday ; I’ve never been so incredibly, acutely aware of how I feel when running or of why I choose to run on certain days. I just do it because I don’t know any differently. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been forced to reassess a lot about my daily excursions which, I suppose, I can carry over once this episode is behind me. While there’s nothing I love more than my morning 5-milers through Central Park, moderation may be calling my name. Maybe.
(I miss this, but maybe need less of it and more of other ways to be fit and happy.)
Con: Pain. So this one’s kind of obvious. But to be more specific, it’s not the aches or twinges that bother me. If they were consistent, I’d at least know what to expect. Instead, it’s the inconsistency of it all that has made me so miserable over the last few weeks. Today’s awesome, painless run turns in to tomorrow’s what’s-that-weird-throbbing-while-I’m-just-sitting-at-my-desk?
Pro: New and exciting workouts. At the risk of losing my running body before my trip to Miami this weekend (kidding, I really haven’t thought about that at all; evidence is the near-empty bag of peanut M&M’s in my freezer), I’ve been running (not literally) all over this city in search of new and exciting ways to move my body. As I’ve made clear many times on this blog, I don’t run for the physical appearance of my body; although, as many a runner will admit, this sport has its perks. I run because of how it makes me feel, and if I can’t run, then I at least needed to fill my mornings with some sort of sweat-like substitute.
Since scaling back on running, I’ve been checking out a lot of yoga studios that took a back seat to Mother Nature for quite some time now – Strala Yoga, Yoga Vida and Jivamukti among them. On top of that, I even tried out Physique 57 and, since that experience, have begun to incorporate some of the famed class’ arm-work into my morning living room routines .
Con: Injuries are expensive! Let’s remember that this is coming from the girl who refuses to buy a gym membership, purchase full-price sneakers or concede to a wallet-draining spin class (yet). Since I’ve been unable to run as much, I’ve upped the in-studio yoga frequencies (which, at my studios, run $12 to $15 a pop), bought new sneakers (because it’d be robbery not to purchase the ones I liked after Jack Rabbit’s employees were so helpful and kind), and made an appointment with a seriously pricey sports medicine doctor on Manhattan’s Upper West Side (I’m still debating whether this one’s worth it or not).
(I’m also still debating whether these new Brooks Ghosts will cure me.)
Pro: Ab definition. Especially during my long running streaks, I tend to forget about any other kind of working out that, you know, isn’t running. Crunches? Hogwash. All I want to do is run, run, run! But in the absence of running, and the presence of my need to break a sweat once a day, I’ve turned to a little thing called strength training. 8-pound weights may not be anything to write home about, but they’re a whole lot more than I’ve lifted in the last 6 years. The result: a teeny, tiny bit of muscle definition that didn’t exist before. And you know what? I’ll take it.
Con: Saturday mornings just aren’t the same. I used to look forward to my Saturday morning run like I do John Snow on Sunday night.
There is nothing – nothing – like the feeling of waking up on a Saturday morning, winter, spring, summer or fall, and getting out of bed slowly (as opposed to weekdays, when it’s sneakers-on-and-out-the-door), lacing up, heading out, enjoying Central Park’s many winding paths, and ending at Starbucks, where I routinely purchase a skinny vanilla latte. Last Saturday was the first time I was able to wake up and somewhat engage in this routine, and it was glorious – even if I wasn’t in the city and I didn’t wind up at a Starbucks.
Pro: Physical awareness. I’ve screwed myself over many times before by not listening to my body. Like that time I got piriformis syndrome, an issue that should be treatable within a couple of days or a week, that lasted for all of a month. Not long ago, I mentioned that runners – at least, the uninformed or particularly stubborn runner – can be somewhat masochistic . Pain? No problem, as long as I get my pavement fix. In a bout of desperation, I’ve promised the Running Gods that I will never – never – ignore what my body is telling me again, if only I can heal and return to the activity I love so much on a consistent and pain-free basis.
Con: Emotional awareness. That’s the thing about running; it can mend any problem, mask any woe. Problem at work? Run it off. Issues with a friend? Run it off! As any avid runner can tell you, there isn’t much a solid run can’t fix, which becomes a problem when your biggest problem is running — and you can’t.
Pro: New-found appreciation. When I first launched Will Run For Glitter, I began to explore this notion of gratefulness . What I found was that, after running for 6+ years, my morning jogs had become just another part of my day, like brushing my teeth or making my ice coffee; writing about it enlightened me to the meaning behind each of those runs. Still, even when writing about miles, speed, distance and whatever new piece of gear I’m obsessed with, it can be easy to forget about all that talk of appreciation. But let me tell you; gratefulness takes on a whole new meaning when all you’ve got scheduled is a 1-mile loop around the neighborhood.
Con: Disbelief and doubt. I think that’s been one of the most difficult aspects of this entire ordeal; even when something good happens, I tend to think it’s a fluke or make up some lingering phantom pain or problem in my head. I know I have it in me – somewhere – to believe in myself. It’s simply a matter of finding my confidence again. The more I think about it, perhaps that’s been one of the biggest setbacks of the last few weeks.
Pro: The feeling of triumph. This whole ordeal has been an incredibly eye-opening experience, but the process is slow, the progress steady. On Thursday morning, I finished the first 7-mile run I have in more than a month, completing 2 laps around the lower loop of Central Park like the true fighter that I so badly want to be. From start to finish, I was conscious of my body, my legs, my breath, my mentality. I felt very little pain during the run, stuck to flat surfaces as much as possible, and tried as best I could to be happy that I was back on my favorite running route for the first time in so long.
To be honest, it wasn’t the welcomed feeling I was expecting; being in Central Park felt strange and not as natural as I’d have liked. But like I’ve said more times than I can count since this journey began, this is all – every second of it – a learning process. There are pros and cons, ups and downs. There always will be too. At the end of the day though, it’s a lot like a race or a long training run. You can prepare and prepare and prepare yourself to pieces, but ultimately, it’s not about what the day throws at you but how you handle it.