Then and Now

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where I was last year around this time.

As I’ve mentioned before, last spring I spent three months completely unable to run. I had a torn hip flexor, and I could barely walk without being in pain—and running was not only out of the question, it was physically impossible.

I don’t want to continue bringing the subject up, but it’s feeling particularly relevant right now—especially because it was exactly one year ago that everything came crashing down for me, or so I thought.

One year ago, I was devastated, panicked, and felt completely and totally lost. I had lost myself in running, and when it was taken away I didn’t know in what direction to turn. I was also, frankly, pissed at running. I had given it everything I had, and it turned around and kicked my feet out from under me.

Again, or so I thought.

Looking back, I can really tell how my mentality in regards to running and being “a runner” has changed. As I sit out these next few days, nursing a mystery knee pain, I know I’ll be thinking a lot back to where I was last year, and how it’s affected where I am now.

So while I’m definitely not thrilled about this (hopefully) small set back, it is encouraging to think back on where I was a year ago, and where I am now. And yes, I do think it’s ironic that “injury” would strike at the exact same time, to the week, both last year and this year—but hey, when the universe offers up some time for reflection, why not take a gander eh?

Last year, before I even got hurt, I honestly wasn’t running anymore because I loved it. I had become so obsessive about it, and addicted to it, that I wasn’t doing it because I wanted to—but because I needed to. I had whittled my interests down so much that the only way I could achieve a momentary sense of accomplishment was by running, far, every day.

And, as is the nature of the running beast, it fought back. It saw my recklessness and my lack of respect for it, and it broke me down. It sidelined me and forced me to reevaluate my priorities and my reasons for running.

Now, looking back, I can honestly say that despite all my frustration and sadness, I am thankful for this eye-opening experience of being completely unable to run. It helped me to understand that our bodies aren’t indestructible, and in order to do the things we love we need to give ourselves TLC, and that means things like resting, stretching, cross-training, and maintaining balance. These were all things that I never did; I thought running as far as I could as often as I could was the means to being the best, the most disciplined.

Since then, I’ve found that it’s quite the opposite.

Being a good athlete is not all about having physical and mental fortitude, it’s about having humility and understanding of how to take care of ourselves. Respecting our bodies includes knowing when to back off, and that’s something I hadn’t figured out back then. I’ll admit, it’s still hard for me to not want to go hard most every day—but I feel so much more complete and satisfied with my ability to embrace balance.

And all the while, amidst learning how to take better care of myself, I reestablished my love for running. My respect for the sport has reached a whole new level, and at the same time my love for it and my confidence in my own abilities has increased as well.

Which brings me to today, one year after having a complete mental breakdown over being hurt.

Instead of fighting through the pain, and ignoring this pang in my knee, I am deciding to relax this week and wait until Friday to run. Even if running isn’t the culprit for this annoying knee ache, I want to make sure that it doesn’t irritate it any more. I’m thankful that I’m far enough along in my training that a few days off really isn’t going to hinder my progression, and I’m hopeful that the whole “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” adage is true in this case.

And truthfully, with all this training that’s been happening, I think a few days off could really help reinforce my dedication to my runs and the enjoyment I get out of them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, friends.

So, one year ago, I was beaten both mentally and physically. As cheesy/strange as it might sound, running had broken my heart, and it took a good long time to realize that it was actually the kind of tough love I really needed.

One year later, I’m listening to my body, I’m being cautious, and I’m not letting my animalistic must-run-now instincts keep me from being smart.

In retrospect, I’m grateful that being sidelined forced me to reconstruct my relationship with running, and I’m happy to have been given the opportunity to put those lessons into practice.

Sure, part of me is all, “You hear that universe? I’m seeing the error in my ways and acting upon it…so can my knee feel better now?” But, I know that time is what’s necessary to ensure proper TLC sets in, as well as sleeping in and loading up on ibuprofen.

 

What are some running lessons you’ve learned? When do you know it’s time to back off?

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4 thoughts on “Then and Now

  1. Ali

    This is such a great post with wonderful reflection. Isn’t it insane what can change in a year? It’s funny though, and a little scary, because I look back at where you were a year ago, and I see a little bit of myself in that. Running, and running long or hard, daily brings me satisfaction that I don’t get from a lot of other things. And I worry incessantly about how I will feel if I can’t run.

    So even though it’s completely different and not at all comparable to what you went through, when I got super sick last week and couldn’t run, I was surprisingly un-sad. I thought I’d be devastated, and all my friends were like, “Is it killing you not to run?” And it really wasn’t. As sick as I was, and as much as it sucked to be totally bedridden, my body AND mind seemed to welcome the break. NOT the same as a hip flexor tear, but a break, even a slight one, can bring so much perspective.

    Really loved this post! Thanks for sharing and keep taking good care of yourself. I’m sure the knee stuff will go away and I’ll see you blaze by me in Eugene!

    Reply
    1. runbirdierun Post author

      I know exactly what you mean about it being scary, because I still feel that way all the time. A big part of me still thinks that running is the only way to ensure I’ll have a good day—which is fine, but just like you said…what if I can’t run? I think what I learned the most from being on injury hiatus was that running will still be there, no matter how long we’re away from it, and in the mean time there are other activity substitutes that will ultimately make us better runners.

      Reply
  2. Lauren

    I think injuries are often a good way to step back and look at what you’re doing. A lot of runners are very type-A about their training (though I am high-strung in other areas of my life, I am definitely not in this one). An injury is a good reminder that it’s maybe not a good idea to be asking so much of your body.

    I was injured last year, too — same area but not nearly as severe. I was forced to take time off, in a time of my life when I really needed to be able to run. I was that much more grateful for it when I was healthy again.

    Reply
  3. Ricole Runs (@RicoleRuns)

    This is a fabulous post and one that I always need to remind myself of as well. You are being so smart to take some time off and being very proactive and preventative about your knee, and that is FABULOUS. A little over a year ago I was out with severe ITB issues as well, and begging the doctor to give me predinsone just to fix it, That was STUPID. It got better on its own!

    Reply

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