There was an article recently in Runners World about how many runners get injured and then injured again. It was quite scary. Well, despite everything, I just became one of that statistic. Yes, I have an injury, a running injury and I can't run.
Now of course I'm fed up. Today has been beautiful; glorious sunshine. I've been here knowing I should have had one of those wonderful long sunny runs today. I can see that run in my mind's eye and I sort of wish it was snowing so I don't have to think about it. But apart from mild frustration, I've been fine; this is nothing like how I felt last December when I tore that calf muscle - a lot has happened since then.
It looks like I have a compartment injury in a tiny muscle just above my inner ankle. It's caused by repetitive strain and I guess that poor little muscle just couldn't cope when I upped my mileage and was up to 4 runs a week - without a niggle. A gradual increase in using minimalist shoes and more trail running all added up. I'd got some sore muscles but nothing that worried me. The I got a niggle. At first it was just sore and went away as soon as I slowed down. It came back the next run, but pain wasn't too bad at all and only came on at about 5 miles. I could have quite happily run through it, but there was something about it that wasn't right. My instinct was to cut the runs down and see what happened. After a week's rest it came back a little bit stronger at 4 miles. I walked home.
My physio Pam had a good look at me, and it seems the problem is in my feet. Since my injury last year, I have to say my feet just haven't felt the same. They'd lost some spring and mobility but I never really paid attention, I thought it would just come back naturally. As a result, those little tootsies weren't absorbing the impact of running properly and it was going up my leg irritating that teeny tiny muscle. Apparently some people just have this weakness and I'm one of them. Looking at my feet with new eyes, I can see the arches are flatter and I now have an explanation of why my trainers felt smaller. Yes, hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.
So, no running, but I feel fine about it. In fact I'd been thinking of taking a couple of months off and do more cross training. Well be careful what you wish for! The big difference this time is I can move, I just have to avoid impact. I can cycle, use the elliptical trainer, lift weights and of course do Pilates and Yoga. I can keep up my exercise plan and do some serious cardio stuff til my quads scream. After last year's enforced immobility, I thank my lucky stars that I stopped running before I did myself some damage.
One of the high points of recovery from injury is when you can get off your butt and start doing things again. Luckily I only have to stop running, so I'm already on it, doing some serious work on my feet. The golf ball is in regular use on the old plantar, the roller on the ITB and good old Jillian Reynolds is back on the DVD player. Yes, my life is full of pain and it feels good!
I'm not quite sure how long this will take, but the next step is to see the podiatrist to get a more detailed analysis of my feet and to keep doing my exercises, giving the leg time to recover. I may be able to correct the problem, if not I will need an operation to split the fascia. But I'll worry about that later - no point in meeting trouble half way on this one.
Despite all this, my spirits are high. I am sorting out a weak spot and I've a good chance of doing so because I picked the problem up early on, went with my instinct and stopped running. We all know that running is about our heads as well as our legs and it was my head that got me into trouble in the past. But Chi Running has helped me think differently. I didn't just run through the pain; I listened hard and made sense of what it was telling me. Sports massage and physio have helped me interpret the messages and take action. As a result I've the chance to nip what could have have been a nasty problem in the bud.
It's by pushing our limits that we discover our weak spots and they tell us how we can get even stronger. So I see my injury not as a weakness, but as a strength - it's evidence that I'm pushing myself to my limits and a bit beyond. Weakness would be to ignore the messages, to keep on doing what I'm doing when I have clear evidence it's not working; to ride roughshod over my poor old feet. This is helping me feel positive about my not running; I'm taking control, re-creating the balance and getting better and stronger. When the next weak spot emerges I'll be ready for it, and I'll tackle the next one and the next until I get as far as I can go.
So, no runs this week, but 3 hard gym sessions, lots of yoga and Pilates and I've done my physio exercises with true devotion. Those of you who have used the golf ball and roller will know that this is not a pain free path. But this is pain I'm happy to work through, knowing that it won't kill me; it will make me stronger.
Have a great week. Take good care.