Earlier this year, I began running for the second time.
I had started running back in 2014 and kept it up for a good couple of years on a regular basis. Even through the 10 months of Hannah’s chemo treatments. Not only was it good exercise, but it was badly needed stress relief as well.
After a winter spent treadmill running, in early 2016 I stopped. Not for any particular reason, and I didn’t plan to take a break from it. I simply – stopped. I can partially blame the fact that I completely fell apart in general after Hannah’s treaments finished. In retrospect, I probably needed to run more than ever at that point, but well… Like much else did at that point, running fell by the wayside.
I’ve spent 2017 pulling myself out of the funk. Not quite there yet all the way, but definitely am doing a better job of taking care of myself. And in late April, I started running again.
It was frustrating to go from being able to run 3+ miles with little to no trouble to barely able to run for a minute without being winded and exhausted. But I knew I was essentially starting from scratch. So I did start exactly the same way I did the first time – with a Couch to 5K app. I completed the first several weeks, doing each workout twice to give myself a nice slow and easy start.
At that point, I felt good and ready to push myself more. My close friend and running buddy, Kristi, was well ahead of me now, having not taken any long breaks like I did. And I love running with her, so it’s likely that I may have pushed a little too hard. It’s also likely that I just ignored the warning signs of injury when they started occurring.
A few weeks ago, I finally went in to the local sports medicine clinic to get checked out. It was a double whammy of left Achilles pain and right thigh pain. I had the feeling that one issue was causing/exacerbating the other and the doctor agreed. His recommendations were to wear a night splint on the left foot, take a break from running/walking, and do a few weeks of physical therapy.
Physical therapy has been rather eye-opening. First of all, the left leg pain isn’t really an Achilles injury – but rather a calf muscle one that’s straining the Achilles as well. Strengthening the calf and other leg muscles will help avoid that issue again in the future. The right thigh is likely not a stress fracture (as the doctor suspected) but very tight muscles, probably caused by gait changes from the left side issue.
After 2 weeks of PT now, I feel more able to take better control of my running. I’ve learned a lot, including that doctors’ advice isn’t always the best. I’d been told after an injury a couple of year ago, to stretch before running as well as after since I have tight muscles in general. But, this isn’t a good idea, as stretching ‘cold’ muscles (static stretching) can actually weaken the tendons and cause injury. Whoops.
Warming up by doing dynamic stretches, like walking lunges, high step marching in place or jogging in place with butt kicks are recommended instead. Static stretching comes after the run, making sure to hold each stretch for at least a full 30 seconds. Something else I was never very good about before, but will definitely do now.
Today I ran (slowly) on a treadmill for a few short minutes, for the first time in weeks. I could tell that things aren’t completely healed yet, as I could still feel a strain in my left Achilles and calf. Those muscles are stubborn about healing! I have a regimen of exercises and stretches to do twice a day to not only help strengthen the calf muscles, but all of my leg muscles as well.
It’s frustrating to be missing out on training, especially during these cool fall days. I’m not looking forward to winter running, although Kristi loves it and having someone to train with makes such a huge difference. I miss our runs together and catching up on each others’ lives – we are both so busy otherwise that we never seem able to connect except to run.
But I know that when I start running again – this time, I’ll be smarter about it. I’ll know how to push myself without injury. I’ll find a way to cross train so I’m not overusing my running muscles. And I know that I’ll meet my goal of completing a at least one 10K next spring. Hopefully more.
I am overweight. I am nowhere near fast. I don’t plan to ever run a marathon.
But… I am working to make my body healthier and stronger. Slow and steady wins the day just as much as being fast. And maybe not a marathon – but someday in the future, maybe a half-marathon might be do-able. It’s on the bucket list.
One step at a time.