As we're finishing up our third mother runner book, we're going green this summer and recycling some of our blog posts. This post originally appeared on our site on October 25, 2010
So I'm officially out of the boot--just minutes before my left side permanently shifted an inch downward, I'm certain--but am still in no shape to run. My right foot, the supposedly healed one, is super crampy and tender. Dang it. And my already angry left glutehing (combo of butt, hip and hamstring, of course) is downright pissed from being such a supporting player for over a month. Insert expletive here.
That's the bad news. The good news? I have quite a bit of wisdom I've gleaned from this and my numerous other injuries, and, as always, I'm willing to share. But before I spill the beans, one caveat: as SBS and I have said before, we're not doctors, nor do we play them on t.v., so take this as the free, unsolicited advice it is.
1. If the body part hurts while you're walking, sitting, standing, it's unlikely that running will make it feel better. Unbelievably--and against what all of us wish to be true--you can't run through a real injury. You can run through minor aches and pains, but shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and IT band issues aren't solved on mile 4 of a six-miler. Sorry.
2. How do you know if it's a minor or major ache? I wrote this in RLAM but it bears repeating some of the best advice I've ever heard was from Bob Wilder, a real MD, at the University of Virginia Center for Endurance Sport. If the pain you're feeling when you're running ranks a 3 or lower on a scale of 1 (hardly feel it) to 10 (where's the stretcher?), you can keep going. Higher than that? Take it down a notch until it doesn't hurt as much or call it a day. I have run past three too many times in my life. No more.
3a. If that major ache doesn't go away with rest and ice after a few days, seek out professional help: a doctor, a physical therapist, a masseuse. Find somebody who is sympathetic to and really knows runners, so your concerns aren't whooshed away with a curt, "You probably shouldn't run anymore." How to find such a person? Call a local running store, e-mail the president of a running group (even if you don't belong to it), ask for recommendations from sporty friends.
3b. Once you're in the appointment, ask as many questions as you want and be sure you're clear on what is wrong with you. I've nodded my head so many times, afraid to look ignorant, as somebody mentions piriformis and tensor fasciae latae and other muscles I know about but am not entirely sure of how they function. I don't do that anymore. The doctor I saw last week was probably like, "What was up with that demanding woman?" after I left, but I'm sick of paying a whopping co-pay and leaving after a 3-minute appointment just as confused as when I went in.
4. Sweat helps ease your pain and clear your head. If you can--and that means, if your injury doesn't hurt at all from one of these activities--ride a bike, if you can, or swim (although no cleansing sweat--just eau de chlorine), or go to a warmish yoga class to get your yayas out. Deep water run if you can handle it. I can't. It helps me to set a goal for the week: 3 workouts or 2 hours of sweat or whatever sounds good in the moment. I meant to write a "training" schedule for my booted weeks, but never got around to it: a little to ambitious and anal, even for me.
5. So soak those temples if you can, but also let yourself rest. I slept in way more mornings than I thought I would've--in my mind, I was swimming or biking 5 days a week, when in reality, I probably biked twice weekly--but I tried to be o.k. with the ultra-groggy mornings and the days that weren't as driven. Cue the Byrds: A time to work, a time to heal.
6. You will feel bloated, even if you haven't gained a pound. Especially in your calves. Do not study your calves.
7. You will have to be proactive about recovery. In my experience--again, no MD after my name--there are very few running injuries that heal simply with time. You may need to stretch, foam roll, strengthen, wear a torturous sock, get stuck with needles, ice, pray. As much as I dread anything that involves lying on a Lego-covered rug in our basement, I have become downright aggressive with stretching, moderately better at foam rolling and pretty good at praying.
8. If you're knocked out for a while, the first week is the hardest. Running is my drug of choice, and that first 7 days is the withdrawal period, minus the shakes and crazy sweating. The middle stretch can be bearable (see #4 above), but once an appointment, which might give you the o.k. to take another mileage hit, is five or so days away, the impatience and jitters set in all over again.
9. You will notice runners everywhere, even if they're not in their running garb. Something about the speed of their walk, the glow in their cheeks, the lemony perspective with which they approach the world. Do your best not to stare--or hate them.
10. If your injury is visible--i.e. a boot, crutches, a really compromised gait--and a stranger asks you how it happened, you will inevitably hear something along the lines of how running really is bad for you. If you have a crutch, do your best not to whap the "helpful" person in the knee.
Once you're able to start out again, you'll entertain notions of running as easily and as far as you were able to, pre-injury. Don't be fooled. As Dr. Wilder says, a one-minute walk, one-minute jog pattern is best for at least a week until you feel like you've gotten your groove back.
Fingers crossed, I'll have my maiden voyage later this week, so there's still time to pile on more advice. What are your rules for running injuries? (Or, if you're in the blessed group who has never been out, how do stay that way?)