Tag Archives: injuries

Progress

I keep going back and forth on subjects to blog about. One day, I’ll be convinced I’m never going to run fast again and then want to vent all my boo-hoo frustrations to the internet. Other days, I’m so gracious to have (most of) my health back and to be capable of running at all that I want to shout tear-filled gratitude from the rooftops.

Basically, I’m in a state of limbo; wavering between discouragement and encouragement, frustration and optimism.

However, no matter what mood I may fall into on a certain day, there is one thing that’s undeniable when it comes to both my fitness and my health: there’s progress being made.

I got a good slap-in-the-face of reality the other day. After a very slow, very not-enjoyable short run, I felt completely out of sorts. How was I ever going to break free from my out-of-shape shackles? As I was throwing this pity party, it suddenly dawned on me that it had been one month since I started running again. One little tiny month.

Get it together Robyn!

One month ago, I was slogging out 2 miles on Christmas Eve, after just starting to feel better from my horrible flare up. Just over month ago, I couldn’t even muster up the energy to get off the couch, let alone exercise at all.

Needless to say, I was a little humbled that I had the audacity to call into question my current fitness level. Of course it’s hard, of course it’s slow. There’s really no reason it shouldn’t be. But, the mere fact that I am out there and am able to jot something in my log book is a bit of a miracle.

I admit, nothing motivates me more than speed gains, so it’s tough for me to go from running a PR in the half marathon to running slower than I ever have in my life. But that’s the way running (and life) work sometimes; we progress and we regress. And after too much regression over the past few months, ultimately I’m going to try and be glad for any progress that comes my way.

Here is some running progress that’s happened since I disclosed my plan for getting to the Boston starting line:

-I’ve been running 3-ish times a week, and I’ve done two “long runs” in the past two weeks. They weren’t pretty or effortless, but they’re stepping stones to getting my head back into regular running mode. I’m going to try another long run this weekend, and hopefully by the time I’ll need to log some big miles, my endurance will have returned some.

-I haven’t been wearing a watch or a Garmin at all, which is very very intentional. I wore a stopwatch for a little while when I first started back up, but I’m too hard on myself when it comes to speed that I realized the surest way to make my runs a little more enjoyable was to ditch the numbers. I have a pretty good sense of pace, so I know I’m slow (for me), but the other day a glimpse of running magic happened:

I was out on a run in the early morning and I saw BF coming my way on the other side of the street, on his own run. He was about the turn around, so on the way back I started to see him coming out of the corner of my eye. He was still on the other side of the street, so there wasn’t any communication, but with about a 1/2 mile til home — we both started to pick up the pace. No eye contact, no gestures, we both just channeled our mutual competitive natures. I kept picking up speed, as I was certain he was going to jet by me at any moment. But we stayed neck-in-neck, and somehow I was able to keep going faster and faster. I was able to outstride him as we got to the front door, and despite feeling completely winded, I was elated. It was the first time I experienced speed of any kind in so long, and it felt positively wonderful. BF, who was using his phone to track the run, said that our little non-race/race at the end had clocked in at a 7:05 pace, which made me smile for the rest of the day.

I’ve come nowhere near that speed since, but the memory of the feeling and the knowledge that the potential is out there gives me a lot of comfort.

-I’m doing any and all kinds of recovery tricks, and they seem to be working. I stopped going to PT when I was really sick, but I’ve tried to keep doing the rehab exercises I learned to help continue to heal my janky IT band. It’s not 100%, but with each strengthening session it’s feeling better and better. I also got a sports massage last week which was incredibly helpful. It hurt, and I was bruised afterwards, but I could definitely feel the effects of having someone really dig into my tough spots.  It was so good that I’m going back again tomorrow, and hopefully after one or two more sessions my lingering tightness will subside. The gal I go to can do 1/2 hour sessions, which is really nice for time management and my wallet.

So in terms of running—progress is definitely being made. I can feel the muscle memory coming back, and it’s encouraging to know that while I might not feel my best right now, running is a routine my body is ultimately very familiar with. The best metaphor I can come up with is that I feel like Forrest Gump when he has the leg braces on his legs and he’s trying to run away; the braces are there for a purpose, but eventually he’s able to outgrow and break free of them. So here’s hoping I’ll be breaking free of my current struggles sooner rather than later.

(I am not, in any way, trying to equate being out-of-shape to having actual disabilities. Please do not read that metaphor literally at all.)

Finally, the biggest progress that’s happened has been the return of my health. I’ve made some leaps and bounds in the last month, and I’m so very grateful that my body has bounced back so well. I went to my GI doctor for the first time since I was sick this week so she could look at my labs that were, you might remember, “terrible” when she last checked them. The morning after I got the bloodwork done, I had an email from her that said:

“Your labs all look perfect. This is a dramatic improvement.”

I was ecstatic—and doing way too many imaginary first bumps in my head while sitting at work. While physically I feel so much better, it was so reassuring to know that the science behind it all was showing the same thing. Again, I’m not 100%, but compared to how I felt before, I might as well be. My doctor is confident that the medication I’m on will continue to have bettering effects over the next few weeks.

So despite my occasional belly-aching about being slow and my actual belly-aching from Crohn’s, progress is definitely being made. I am ultimately so thankful to be sitting in a different place than I was just one short month ago, and I can only hope things continue this way. Admittedly, after injury and illness, it’s hard not to be scared of another road block popping up. Which it might. But until then, I’m going to do everything I can to keep getting stronger and pressing forward.

Progress feels good, and no matter how long it may take, it feels like I’m moving in the right direction.

More Leg Talk + Diagnosis

I’m not super inclined to continue publishing posts with the “injury” tag on them, but as is typical when I’m off the roads, I spend an excessive amount of time thinking about my current circumstance. Too  much thinking results in excess brain fatigue, and without the outlet of a good, therapeutic run, I wind up depending on word vomit as my refuge.

In other words: I apologize for these dribbling, pathetic posts, but I need to get it all out in order to keep the toxic thoughts from burning my insides.

A lot has happened, though, which has all been constructive, daunting, and marginally encouraging.

I had my first ever PT appointment last Friday night. I know—somehow through four injuries, two of which were quite serious, I had yet to venture into an expert’s office. Relying on Google and general docs had worked before, but I wanted to take a more proactive approach this time.

In order to get as much bang for my buck, I gave the guy I saw A LOT of detail. I’ve heard they appreciate this, so I felt like a good rookie. He did lots of mini strength tests, flexibility things, and took me through a series of ART exercises. And just for good measure, an “into” to Graston—as he put it. Since there was a lot I took out of this, here’s some easier-to-read bullet points:

  • ART is awesome. The tweaking and stretching and adjusting he did to my legs felt great, and even if they don’t have lasting effects, it all felt very necessary in the moment.
  • Graston wasn’t as bad as I expected. Sure it was definitely an “intro,” so I may be eating my words later on, but I sort of liked it. It felt somewhat pins-and-needles-y, which escalated the longer he did it, but I liked that I could actually feel the progress happening. He explained that he was essentially scraping the scar tissue off of my lower IT band (the spot he chose to work on), and I felt like I could actually picture it happening. My best metaphor is that is felt a little like getting a tattoo.
  • My ankles, quads, feet, and glutes are all misaligned and/or messed up. I took this all with a grain of salt, given that of course the PT wants to fix every little thing he possibly can. But according to him, there’s a number of things wrong with me, which lead to the current decrepit state of my IT band. Things like: My quads have shortened on both sides which is throwing off my gait (subsequent foot pain, which I’ve had for months), my glutes are weak and aren’t firing in the correct way when I run, my ankles are unstable, I overpronate, and I lack the hip flexibility necessary for proper kinetic fluidity. Lost? Me too. It was all so much to take in, and I kind of felt like a failure of a runner/person after hearing all that. Like I was the bad kid in class, and the teacher was reprimanding me in front of everyone. Again, I wanted to assert some discretion, so I’m choosing to focus on the greatest takeaways: basic weaknesses cause my IT band to lock up, so I need to work on those.
  • Perhaps the most important lesson I learned while I was there was what’s actually wrong with me: My IT band is really inflamed/tight/unhappy, which is causing Greater Trochanteric Bursitis. So, ITBS + hip bursitis. The good news, those are both treatable, manageable things. The bad news, I’ve been trying to remedy these problem for the past two weeks, and I’m not seeing a lot of progress.

I was glad to feel like I learned so much from this appointment, and I’m 90% certain his diagnosis is spot on. All the symptoms I’m experiencing match the textbook definitions of these things, and it’s relieving to give a name to the face of the enemy I’ve been jousting with. But, at the same time, I felt really overwhelmed upon leaving his office: Do I need to change the way I run completely? How long will that take? How deeply rooted is this issue? What do I need to fix? How long will that take?

You can probably sense the theme in those unanswerable questions above. I can’t help but look down the proverbial road at how long my sideline stay will last. The uber-faint siren sound of “Boston Marathon Training” seems to get louder with every day that passes, and I have a hard time shutting out the internal clocks and calculators that start to assemble scary deadlines.

Ultimately, I know there’s still time, and I feel like I’ve run enough marathons at this point that a shorter training schedule won’t be the worst thing, if it comes to that. But, there’s still the quiet fear that keeps ringing in my head. My attempts at silencing it for the time being will involve more PT visits (so long as I think it’s helping), all the standard RICE/rolling/cross train prescriptions, NSAIDS, and stretching. More than anything though, I’m going to try and keep my mind focused on the {positive} future. I decided to fake it a little yesterday and started to write a very preliminary, lose training program. It didn’t necessarily have dates or paces or workouts on it, but just seeing the numbers, and knowing that I will (fingers crossed) be running them at some point, pulled me out of the darkness. At least for a little.

So that’s where I’m at. Another pissy bursa sac and a maxed out IT band. Having dealt with bursitis once before  when I was training for the Tacoma Marathon, I know that a cortisone shot could be an option. Still deliberating on that one. But, for now, I’m going to continue to hope for the best and keep my mind focused on those future miles which will ultimately lead me to the start line on April 21. It’s hard to imagine when I physically can’t run at all right now, but I need to remember that injuries aren’t a permanent state of being.

My short term goal is going to be to be running (however slow or short) by Christmas. I can guarantee this will result in my dedicating all Christmas songs to running (namely, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”) but that’s a conversation for another day.

Please do this winter-running lover a favor and enjoy every crisp, cold miles you get to spend outside. Running is a privilege, and I’m thankful (teeth somewhat gritted) for the tough-love reminder of that.

A Year Without Injuries

This is potentially the most jinx-filled post I’ll ever write. But since I’m not a huge believer in that type of thing, I’ll just go ahead and write it.

(Knock on wood, knock on wood…)

As of this past weekend (Saturday to be specific) it has been one year since I’ve been injured. One year, you guys!

On Saturday, September 8, 2012, I was forced to cut short a 20 mile Chicago Marathon training run because my ankle blew up to the point of not being able to walk. It was heart-breaking, and although I ultimately was able to run the race and had a great time doing so, the injury was still a wake-up call of sorts.

And since then, I haven’t had to take a day off of running for anything other than basic aches, pains, and soreness. Kind of hard to believe! And if any of you are thinking, “It’s just a year Robyn, what’s the big deal?” let me recap some things for you:

In 2012 I was hurt three separate times, all of which were the result of improper (too much) training and general bodily negligence.

– In April, I got horrible knee bursitis which completely threw off my Tacoma Marathon training. It took a cortisone shot and a lot of Aleve to weasel my way out of that one in time for the race.

-In May/June, the evil IT Band Syndrome got me good, and I was limping with knee pain for nearly two months. No running whatsoever.

-In September (as previously mentioned) my ankle tendonitis nearly eliminated my chance to run the Chicago Marathon. It was a little miraculous that I actually made it to and finished the race, and it wasn’t without a lot of luck and prescription anti-inflammatories.

I was actually very fortunate in my year of injuries. While they definitely were the result of over-training, none of them were very permanent and could mostly be quick-fixed with rest and drugs. I definitely consider myself lucky in that regard, but I still knew that my luck wouldn’t hold up if I didn’t make some changes.

It’s one of those “Fool me once, fool me twice…” scenarios. But in this case, I was certainly the one to be shamed, and I knew that these running injuries were going to keep happening if my habits stayed the same.

Nothing changes if nothing changes, and it was time for me to change.

And here I am…a year later, and (okay fine, lots of knocking on wood) I’m healthy and running happily. I will be the first to admit that a lot of this is luck; running and injuries sometimes just go hand-in-hand, no matter how careful you are. For some reason, I’ve been able to avoid the inevitable injuries that can knock us out.

However, I have definitely made changes that I’m certain have played a role in eliminating overuse injuries. Here’s a few things that I think have made the biggest difference:

1 rest day per week. No matter what. I used to take a rest day once every 2 (sometimes 3) weeks, and now I don’t know how that was even possible. I start to crave my rest days, which I also think means that I’m working harder during the other days.

Foot strike. I know this is a debated topic, but between last year and this year, I have fully transitioned to a more minimal shoe and have completely changed from a heavy heel-striker to a mid-foot striker. It could be a coincidence, but I’m guessing that this has a lot to do with the lessened impact.

Added walking. I walk every day between the water taxi and my office building (~.7 miles each way) and often times this is right after I’ve run and showered. I could be wrong, but I think the prolonged striding and extra “shake out” that walking provides has helped my legs recover more from my running.

Strength. This is potentially number one. Up until last August or so, I never did any kind of leg strength training. I always wanted my legs to be fresh for running, so I never bothered with squats or lunges or anything like that. I kind of cringe to think about this now, given that I’ve done a 180 in that regard. Currently, about twice a week, I do all kinds of strengthening, flexibility, and balance (<–super helpful!) work thanks to the lifting class I found. Not only do we work the big running muscles (hammies, quads, and glutes) but also the smaller, less obvious muscles that ultimately make a big impact on both performance and injury-proneness (not really a word, but I think you understand). In a nutshell, I think I had it wrong before; cross-training for running should actually be more about strength and less about other types of cardio. This might not be the same for everyone, but I’m convinced that adding strength training and dropping spinning has been perhaps the number one injury prevention technique.

Here’s the kicker to all this: I’m actually running more days per week and more miles than I was last year when I kept getting hurt. I have built up to this in a totally safe way, no doubt, but I think it’s interesting to look at how I’ve actually been able to do more since I’ve made the above changes.

And let it be known: more running wasn’t even the intention when I decided I needed to reevaluate my habits; in fact, it was actually more the opposite of that. But along the way, I think I found that with the added balance and the added rest, running was granted to me more freely. Some weeks are better than others, and some weeks require more rest and less miles. Ultimately, though, I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on the balancing act of the sport. Much like any relationship, it’s very give and take; the more you nurture your running with things like rest days, stretching, rolling, and nutrition, the more it will give back—in the form of more pain-free and happy miles.

I’m constantly reminded of how much like life running is, and how much it can teach us about other aspects of our lives. This past year has really solidified my belief that nothing changes if nothing changes, but also that we are in control. I think for all of last year, I felt as if running owned me; like it was an abusive relationship, and running had all the power. Of course this was wrong, but it was hard to see things otherwise when the sport I loved so very much kept disappointing me.

Now, I realize I had the power all along, and in fact I was the one who was abusing it. Today, I feel infinitely more control over my training and my running, which is an incredibly empowering and comforting feeling. As a result, I feel like I’ve become both stronger and faster—and perhaps most importantly, more conscious of both my limitations and potential within the sport. So long as I continue to give and take, I have a feeling that that potential will continue to turn into results.

As evidenced also by this past year of three different PRs, it’s safe to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit safer.

Take care of your bodies everyone. We all love to run as much as we can, but sometimes our running, just like us, needs extra TLC.

And if you are hurt right now…here’s one of the most wonderful things I discovered last year after sitting on multiple sidelines: running isn’t going anywhere. It will be right there to take off with you whenever you’re ready again.

Eugene Marathon Training Week #6

And just like that, we’re halfway through this training cycle already. Just crazy. I hadn’t really realized how fast approaching race day really is until Sarah posted a “42 days left” countdown yesterday. Yipes.

But! This weekend was a big confidence builder, which makes me more excited than nervous about the dwindling time frame.

So with that, here’s how week #6 shook out:

M: 12 miles- no watch, blissful + lifting

T: 5 miles + spin

W: 5 miles + Maximum Sculpt

T: 10 miles with 5 x 1,000 meters @ 5kp

F: REST

S: 20 miles total. 7 miles in ~61 minutes, then 13.1 miles at St. Paddy’s Day Run Half Marathon in 1:40.

S: Spin + 30 min stair-stepper + lifting

Total= 52 miles

Monday’s run was the kind of run you always want to have. Perfect temperatures, perfect setting, and the feeling like your floating. I didn’t wear a watch but I did see the time I started and the time I ended—essentially dead on 8 minute miles, all of which felt great.

I already wrote about the horror of Thursday’s workout, which made me slightly nervous for not only 20 miles on Saturday, but trying to maintain marathon goal-pace for 13.1 of those miles. Luckily (thanks to the Irish?) the outcome of Saturday’s running was exactly what I’d hoped for—if not better. But that’s a post for tomorrow 🙂

I think what I’m most pleased about is how my body has been feeling so far. I’ve had a few paranoia-fueled aches and pains, but overall I feel great. Nothing lingering, nothing worrisome (here’s where we all knock on wood in unison…ready, go), and generally I just feel strong. Now that this weekend is behind me, I can come out and say that for the past two years I have been unable to run on St. Paddy’s weekend because of injury. Not this year! I’m hoping this healthy trend continues through race day, as I really would like to have a fondness for spring racing.

Generally, I’m just feeling really excited. I’ve had some hard, not-so-awesome runs and workouts, but I’m trying to be of the mindset that it’s the tough ones that are going to be the most helpful tools come race day. Learning how to push through and trek on isn’t as easy as learning to play it safe, but it certainly has a better pay-off in the end. I know for a fact that running a BQ time on April 28 isn’t going to be easy or necessarily all enjoyable, so I’d rather practice the painful feelings now than let them scare me away come race day.

That’s all for now folks. Congrats to everyone who raced this weekend! It felt like the spring race season really kicked off these past two days, and from what I’ve seen so far—there were some huge milestones reached and PRs achieved. So fun to see!

Did you race this weekend? Did you spectate this weekend? Did you drink green beer this weekend?

It’s Here!

That’s right folks. Marathon training officially BEGUN! I feel psyched, ready, and admittedly a little nervous.

I kicked off my official training plan this morning with 8 miles, including 10 x 100 meter strides. I didn’t  wear a watch, so both my effort and distance on the strides were all by guess-timation, but they were actually fairly enjoyable! I liked the switch-up in turnover rate. I feel like I have a decent gauge of what 100 meters looks/feels like from my track days, so essentially I just picked objects in the distance and sprinted to them. A little fartlek-y. Ugh, talk about making a gross word grosser. But you get the point. It was a good run.

I really liked doing weekly recaps when I was training for Chicago, so I’ll do my best to get my training weeks up here on Mondays. Some of you might find them boring, so I apologize, but they really help me a lot—so, yea…sorry?

I’m very much equal parts excited and nervous for this marathon training kick-off to begin. Excited  because, as I’ve said before, I’ve never quite had the base like I do now. I’m anxious to apply the  running I’ve been doing these past 3 or so months into a very structured training schedule. My miles won’t end up being all that much higher than what I’ve already been doing, however they will be much more strategic and organized than what I’ve done in the past. I’m releasing the reigns, in other words, and I love it. Letting the expertise of others feels like the right approach this time around, and hopefully the results will reflect that decision.

However, I’m a little ball of worry about this spring as well. Historically, spring has not been good for me training-wise. Two years ago, after a half-marathon and way too much over-training/stupidity, I tore my hip flexor and was out until the beginning of July. I’m not really worried about something that extreme happening again (read: I like to think I am a much smarter/safer runner nowadays), but it’s more the haunting memories that get to me.

Also, last year I got sidelined with bad knee bursitis while training for this very same marathon. Luckily, due to some rest, cortisone, and rearranging, I was still able to run a Spring marathon (though not Eugene)….only to be struck down (literally) by a bad race and a heaping side of IT band syndrome.

In other words, spring has historically not been my strongest months. Which sucks, because the idea of spring running is always appealing to me. More sun! Flowers! Birds! Birthday month!

It’s time to reverse the cycle though. While I definitely don’t like the feeling that bad luck is waiting for me every time the calendar turns to March, I also know that prevention is the best weapon against almost all running-related plagues.

I’ll be switching up just about everything regarding this training schedule, and I’ll therefore also be switching up my dedication to injury prevention. It has always been easy for me to say that I’ll hold off if something hurts, and that I’ll stretch more, roll more, and ice anything that feels “off.” Doing these things is a whole other thing—and if there’s one thing I’ve learned through my bouts of training/recovering, it’s that training for a marathon requires much more than the miles.

So, you can consider this my oath to train both on and off the roads. I will not be brought down by another spring monster, in fact—I refuse it, and I’m trying to internalize the fact that I am actually in complete control of my training.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

And speaking of such, I decided not to run the 25k race yesterday. After receiving the opinions from you lovely people, as well as a scary-tough-love opinion from my dear mother, I realized something: It wasn’t the distance that was an issue, it was the fact that it was a race.

Yes, no matter if it’s a months-in-the-making goal race, or a haphazard, low-key neighborhood run that happens to include bibs, I have a very hard time not racing a race. Even when I decide to “take it easy” or “promise I’m not going to race,” I will always run faster than I would have on a normal long run, and—should the opportunity be available—I will try to perform well. Last year, I won the 25k, and even though I would have vowed to not take this race seriously—I can guarantee I would have tried to win again.

Maybe I’m just a huge asshole. Maybe I’m just too competitive. Either way, I know myself well enough to know that “racing” 15.2 miles the day before marathon training is supposed to start wouldn’t go along with the theme of keeping myself healthy. It probably would have been fine, I probably would have had a great time, but even that ounce of possibility that it would have takne away from my planned training program wasn’t worth the risk.

So instead, I still ran long. I waved at people racing along the way, and although I was a little sad I wasn’t there with them—I was glad that I went against my instincts this time. Again, nothing changes if nothing changes—and if the decisions I’ve made in the past have lead me into injury-ridden corners of sadness, well, I’ll be steering clear of them.

And on one final, somewhat unrelated note, I give you a photo from the weekend:

photo

 

I cannot tell you how fun it was to spend a weekend day not running, sitting on the couch, shopping at Target, or running around trying to do every errand possible. Those things are good sometimes, but sometimes it’s better to switch it up by spending a day outside in the mountains.

My shins still hurt from my boots and my back still hurts from my bad posture, but Saturday was one of the best days I’ve had in a while. I can completely understand how people abandon all other weekend activities during the winter in favor of heading for the slopes and the snow.

And in a completely apbrupt, non-transitional ending to this post, have a good week everyone!

 

Changes, My PSA, and an Epiphany

I had a bit of an “a-ha!” moment recently, and while it may seem trivial and a little like, “No shit, Sherlock” to most people…it’s kind of done a 180 on how I approach both my training and my running.

It all started when I first heard my new favorite quote/life mantra:

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

(First heard from this girl, originally coined by this guy.)

Simplistic and to-the-point. But when you think about this idea a little more closely, it starts to highlight some of the things in our lives we’d rather hide away from.

It got me to thinking about the things I always wish would change. Obviously, I eventually landed on one of my favorite parts of life: running.

“What do I wish would change about running?”

Well, a lot. I’m constantly thinking about the things I want out of running. I want to BQ, I want to be faster, I want to stop getting injured, etc. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: What have I changed to make these things happen?

The answer? Not much.

Let’s take the “stop getting injured” thing for instance. The last four injuries I’ve had were all due to overuse. They were injuries caused simply by wear and tear over time, and all of them were—in that regard—completely preventable. So why, then, did I keep getting hurt after my first 4-month of no running due to an overuse injury?

Well, because I was stuck in the habit of working my body too hard.

When I get hurt,  I convince myself that I’ve learned my lesson…I’ll never overtrain again, I’ll stop working out so much, and I’ll start taking more rest days.

4 injuries later, and that lesson hadn’t sunk in. And it’s because I, by habit, overtrain. I wasn’t changing any of my habits, so why should my body stop responding in a deconstructive way?

Let’s take a look at my most recent injuries (knee bursitis, IT band syndrome, and ankle tendonitis—yep, all this year). What was similar about all three instances?

1) I was marathon training

2) I was over 50 miles per week

3) I was running 5+ days a week

The body is an incredible thing, and it can teach us a lot. Clearly, my body had been trying to teach me something about how it handles the above factors…and it only took me 3 different overuse injuries to figure it out. It seems so simple, so logical, however for me—and I’m sure for many runners—hindsight is always much more crystal clear than foresight.

Because running is a habit. We develop habits, and we stick to them—because they’re familiar. They’re comforting. Because we know we can do them and they satisfy us.

Running and exercising excessively became habits of mine…and unlike picking split ends or biting nails, the addictive nature of endorphins make these habits a lot harder to let go of. And why let go? These things are good for us, they make us happy. What’s the harm in continuing the habit of excess exercise?

Well, a lot actually. And it’s not just the tangible problems (injuries), either.

Now that I’ve kind of figured myself out, and I’ve recognized that injuries aren’t going to change if I don’t change, I’m realizing all the other problems that resulted from always wanting high mileage and high intensity workouts. Burnout, anxiety, chronically tired, isolated, etc.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

As someone who is constantly striving for the betterment of my own life and the lives of those around me, I’m all about constructive changes.

Constructive changes in the form of listening to my body instead of pushing it, taking rest days at least once a week, and realizing that there’s a lot of goodness out there that doesn’t come in the form of sweating for hours on end.

(And seriously…rest days have become the best days. Ever. How did it take so long?)

It’s a work in progress, and obviously I still and will always love me a good hard workout, but I’m feeling much better than I have in a long time thanks to this recent influx of “moderation.”

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I had two significant PRs recently in conjunction with the extra rest and breathing room I’ve allowed myself. My body seems to be responding appreciatively to the changes I’ve made…and as a result, I’m reaching new levels that I didn’t really think were possible before.

Because I truly believe when you become proactive  in making real change happen, the things you always hoped would happen seem to follow closely behind.

I love running so much that I want to do it as much ans as long as possible. I would so much rather choose to not run an extra mile or an extra day for the sake of safety rather than let my body choose for me in the form of a disabling injury.

My body’s been choosing my breaking point for me for too long, and I’m deciding to regain control over the situation.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

And on that note, here is my PSA for the day:

Runners, take rest days. As someone who went weeks, sometimes even a whole month, without resting once, I really do know what I’m talking about here. I get it—you crave a workout, you love your workouts, you don’t feel right without them.

But guess what? You’re a human and an athlete—and your muscles and bones eventually will not tolerate incessant beating. Exercise necessitates rest…and you are undoing all the work you’ve put in by not letting your body recover. No progress can be made with continual wear and tear, so ask yourself why you’re really avoiding rest if your intent is to be fitter and stronger.

I was that type of runner and exerciser for so long, and while I’m still working out all the kinks, I’m recognizing just how much more harm I was doing than good.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of your bodies. I know so many runners in real life and through blogging who are constantly complaining of fatigue and lack of improvement, and I cannot emphasize enough how much rest and letting yourself of the “I must always exercise” hook will better your running and your life.

And to sum up this somewhat nonsensical ramble of a post, here’s another quote to chew on, which does a much better job of getting to the point than I do.

“Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”
– Julie Isphording

How I Got to Chicago and Finished the Race

…I took a bunch of steroids.

No, that’s not true.

First things first: some stolen race photos, because heaven knows I will never buy these.

Put me in coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gloves are off…I think I can, I think I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

getting closer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh wait, this is hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love everyone and everything!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were a number of others, all pretty ugly typical race photos—but the theme is really that I’m smiling in almost all of them. Call me a photo whore, but truthfully I didn’t see most of the cameras along the way. I just had that fan-effing-tastic of a race.

Moving on.

I want to talk a bit about the steps I took in order to both a) get myself to the race and b) finish it. I consider myself lucky that I was able to race after a month of injury, and I do think that some good fortune fell into play in regard to my run-ability. (That, and some very powerful wishful thinking/begging the run gods for a break).

However, there were some very deliberate things I did both pre- and during taper to ensure that I would be able to make it to the finish line last Sunday.

Going into taper was really tricky. I’d only been running a week since taking two full weeks off from running—and now I was supposed to cut down as much as possible. As much as I wanted to run to build my confidence to get through the race—I knew that there were no physical benefits that could come from too much running during taper, so I played it safe. In essence, I did exactly what I would have in a regular taper schedule. Here’s how it looked:

Taper Schedule (Sunday-Saturday):

S: 75 minute yoga

M: 5 m slow run

T: 60 min swim

W: 4 m slow run

T: 60 m swim

F: REST

S: 2.5 m shake out with 3, 30-min strides.

This schedule worked perfectly for me. It was enough activity to keep me from feeling too restless, but it lacked a lot of impact—which is exactly what my legs and ankle needed before taking on a marathon.

In addition to the workouts, I rolled my legs essentially every night—like painful rolling. After Thursday night, I stuck to gentler stretching, but I wanted to make sure that all week I worked out any lingering knots.

I also iced my ankle 2-ish times a day, no matter what. When an injury doesn’t hurt (as my ankle didn’t during taper week), it’s really easy to neglect recovery efforts—but I made sure to keep icing even though there wasn’t any noticeable pain.

I also wore my compression socks around the house whenever possible, and wore them on the plane en route to Chicago.

These things, I believe, all really helped in having a successful race—but perhaps the bigger factors were the way I ran the race and the time I took off when I got hurt.

Having a marathon in sight helped me to buckle down in terms of not pushing it with my injury. Like other runners, I’m prone to working out through an injury (which more often than not makes it worse). Of course, I should never do this—but I think that having a race on the horizon forced me to recognize that R&R were the only means of getting to Chicago. So rest I did, and look at that—I finished, PR’ed, and had the best time—without any ankle pain.

This injury was obviously less serious than others, certainly, which helped with recovering in time for the race—but I’m really trying to take a hint from this experience: if there is one thing that heals an injury, it’s rest.

I hope other runners can see this as a case study of sorts on how rest is a big part of getting you toward your running goals.

It’s not just about the perfect tempos, the multiple 20 milers, or the weekly yoga.

Let’s take a look back: My last 20 miler before Chicago was on August 25, 6 weeks before Chicago. I completely took off 2 weeks of running during what should have been “peak” weeks, and I didn’t run over 12 miles in the month before the race. In other words, the odds were not stacked in my favor.

I’ll stop soon I promise, but I’m reiterating these points to remind everyone that a missed workout, missed mile, or a missed pace goal during marathon training is not the big deal we make it out to be. Sure, it’s not advisable to miss too many workouts or long runs, but I’m realizing there’s way too much stress put on the day-to-day specifics.

It’s just running. When we remove all the accessories that distract us from the simplicity of this sport (gels, garmins, BQs, Yasso 800s, fartleks, rollers, barefoot, not-barefoot, Dean Karnasez, etc.) all of a sudden it becomes a lot more manageableAll those extra things are important, but they are really just details. Kara Goucher has a great quote that puts it in perspective:

“Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running.”

This is how I approached Chicago. All I cared about was feeling the run—enjoying it for the simple act it is, an act I love so very much.

By ridding myself of the stress of perfect training and specific goals, my ankle decided to cooperate with the “go with the flow” mentality and lasted all 26.2 miles in fine condition.

It took me a while to get to this place, have no doubt. I had a lot of anxiety the week before the race about finishing, getting re-injured, etc. It was also very, very hard for me to let go of goals for this race. Admittedly, I know I could have gone sub 3:35 without the training malfunctions—which stings a little. But honestly, I don’t know if a BQ would have felt as good as this “no-goal” race did. By running for the fun of it and instead of obsessing over splits, I remembered just how magical the simple act of running can be.

So am I suddenly a goal-less, no Garmin, hippie runner? Absolutely not. In fact, I have goals that I’m itching to get started on. More on Monday 🙂

However, I’ve realized that running for the love of it can sometimes get you to the finish line just as easily as a flawless 22 miler. Okay, maybe I am turning into more of a hippie, but I truly hope that in a sport that’s full of specifics and details—the basics of putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying the ride isn’t lost on you.

Perhaps my favorite race tee yet.

If you couldn’t already tell, a lot of what I write on this blog is as much for myself as for my readers. So I appreciate you reading my somewhat stream-of-consciousness style of blogging.

Maybe someday I’ll have an agenda or a means of drafting my posts. But for now, these self-therapy sessions will have to do. Thanks for sticking around 🙂

Happy Friday!