Tag Archives: injury

Injured But Happy

Injured but happy. Those words are total opposites in running. How on earth can being injured and being happy co-exist?

About a month ago training was going really well. I had a place in the Reading Half Marathon and I was really excited to get back into road races. All my runs had been going well. I had kept my long runs at a conservative pace without going mad. Shorter, faster runs were feeling more like my old self again and I was feeling quite chilled out about it all. And then one morning I got up and there was a sharp pain in my shin when I walked down stairs. That pain was also there a bit when I walked. After a couple of days rest and some stretching and foam rolling I went out for an 8 mile run. Not even half way in I turned back. There was a pressure in my leg that was building and wouldn’t ease off. I didn’t feel distraught but wasn’t feeling overly confident.

I left my decision right until the last minute as to whether to sack it off. The day before Reading I tried a jog. Every step on my left leg brought on a searing pain on the inside of my shin. The decision had been made. No half marathon for me.

I didn’t cry, I didn’t get overly frustrated. I didn’t come to my blog straight away to moan or blub about it as I might have done previously (Note: nothing wrong with that, just highlighting a change in me here). Instead I carried on about my business, took some ibruprofen and shrugged my shoulders. The only thing that bothered me about it was that I would be unable to take my beginners running group as effectively and I hated letting them down. But shit happens.

The difference in me compared to a few years ago when I was injured is this: running is no longer my emotional crutch. I am happy in other areas of my life and I think it is because I have decided to unapologetically be me. I stopped holding back on the person I wanted to be. I enrolled on my MSc. I have set up my own physio clinic. I went after a volunteer job to be physio for a national squad and I got it. I stopped hiding myself in running. Instead running is something that I do alongside everything else in life. I stopped looking inward, stopped thinking about luck and bad omens, stopped overthinking running and stopped paying attention to social media. Yes it sucks to be injured but I accepted it and moved on. I did what I could do about it and then got on with my life while waiting for my injury to heal.

Four weeks post injury and I managed a pain free run today. I don’t even think I’ve been particularly patient but it hasn’t felt like that long since I had to rest. After I ran I was of course happy but I think I would have felt like that anyway. It’s weird to feel that I am happy. I went for a long time feeling so anxious and stressed that I never thought I would feel like this. I have the excitement of the new clinic and the work with Cricket Wales and it’s a really good feeling. Hopefully the leg has settled and I will be able to run again on the weekend but I’m being mindful about it instead of overthinking it. Plus there are other things right now helping to fill the place in my head that I had expected running to fill for so long.

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New Shoes

As Paulo Nutini, that great Scottish bard sang ‘I put some new shoes on and suddenly everything is right’. He wasn’t wrong.

Despite being a physio of fair experience, a physio who often reminds clients about the importance of changing your trainers at the appropriate intervals, I appeared to have dropped the bollock on that myself. And the only thing I can put it down to is not writing down all my training runs and totally underestimating how much running I had actually been doing.

Last year I replaced my Saucony with an identical Saucony. I was focussing on the London Triathlon so in my mind my training had mainly been cycling and swimming, my two weak points. Running when it happened didn’t seem to be as important in the training diary that I kept. It was all about water and wheels. After the triathlon my regimented diary keeping seemed to tail off and again in my head so had my running.

About a week ago I started to have severe pain in my left foot, right under the big toe. I could hardly put my foot to the floor. I mentioned it to my other half, and when I suggested I needed new trainers he laughed and said ‘Nah, you’ve only just got those’. I felt like that too (although I’m sure he’s trying to stop me shopping) but the foot pain was telling me something wasn’t right. I looked at the tread and they didn’t seem overly worn. I did the squish test and they still seemed fairly robust. I then put my hand inside the left shoe and found a huge dent that was the size of my big toe, not just a little put of wear but almost worn through the trainer. How the ‘eff had I missed that?

I then went back through my training diary again up until I had stopped recording runs. I scrolled through Strava and discovered a fair few runs that I had completely forgotten about. But I had managed to convince myself I wasn’t doing that much running, because many of the runs had been so short that I had taken them for granted perhaps? So note to self…..

ALL RUNS COUNT. ALL RUNS ARE WEAR ON YOUR TRAINERS KAT, WHETHER THEY ARE THREE MILES OF THIRTEEN MILES.

When I totted it all up I had about 300 miles on paper (good old pen and paper). That’s not including runs that have completely left my memory altogether. I must completely switch off for some of those runs and I really believe that. The Sauconys went in the bin and I found myself some neutral Asics at an outlet store (Macarthur Glen Asics store in Bridgend, what a discovery!). First couple of runs and all the weird aches and pains in my feet and calves have eased off. Funny that *head butts desk at own stupidity*

So the moral of the story? Keep your training diary up to date. It all counts. Slow, fast, long or short, those runs all contribute to improving you and wearing out your shoes. If I make a resolution to keep my diary and a note of the date I start running in new shoes I might avoid total shoe disaster next time. And in new shoes the Reading Half Marathon might actually be alright.

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Passion: Obsession or Harmony

As part of my Sports Physiotherapy studies I recently had to write an assignment on the factors that contributed to injury within a given sport. These factors could be bio mechanical, physiological and psychological. What I love about life long learning is the chance to read and discover new ways of looking at things. As I researched my assignment, which I decided to do on running (obviously) I found myself drawn into the psychology of injury and how certain personality traits and behaviours can make an individual more susceptible. I also became aware that after a few years of experiencing overuse injuries I started to recognize my own behaviours in the literature. But first I want to talk about passion.

An author called Vallerand and his colleagues described passion as a strong inclination for an activity that you like or love, find important and that you invest time and energy. Your passion for that activity might even mean that you internalize it into your identity. So right there, when you say loud and proud that you are a runner, you are demonstrating your passion for running. Turns out though passion can be split into two types: harmonious and obsessive.

Harmonious passion is where the individual internalizes the activity but in a really positive way. When they engage in the activity it is totally voluntary, there is no compulsion to do it. The activity, such as running, is in harmony with the rest of that person’s life. Running doesn’t take up unnecessary space in their life or in their identity. Didn’t run? That’s okay I’ll run tomorrow. Missed a training session? Can’t do anything about it now, I’ll be at the next one. Injured or unwell? It’s safer not to run. Bit slower today? Not to worry, it still felt great! The over riding effects of having harmonious passion are positive.

Then there’s obsessive passion. This is where I started to recognise myself and some of my traits, which I still think are linked into the stress and anxiety I was experiencing for a long time. Running had become internalized as part of my identity, but in a controlling way. This had come about because of internal pressures I had put on myself and on my self worth. Running was a thing to do for my self esteem. If I ran well then I got a buzz and a sense of excitement. If I didn’t run well then the whole world was about to come crashing down around me. Everything was about times on a watch or how I did in a race or at Parkrun. I love running but I was also compelled and had felt internal pressure to run, even when I knew I shouldn’t. If I ran and I had pain I would feel guilty and stupid. If I didn’t run I would also feel guilty. It was a constant spiral of guilt perpetuated by my obsessive passion which was probably in hindsight driven by anxiety. But because running had become so internalised as part of my identity I persisted in a ridiculously rigid way. Kept running and became more injured, became more frustrated and guilty and kept running. I was a hamster on a wheel.

Last year after I went through my mindfulness training and counselling for anxiety I made a conscious decision to stop running. At the time I told myself it was because I needed to rehab my Achilles tendon. But at the same time I think I just wanted to stop the ride and get off. I needed to reset myself again, break the grip that running had over me. It had become a weird imaginary, abusive relationship where I was the only one getting hurt.

Since December I have been running more again but I’m doing it tentatively. And I’m doing it for fun. I look for new routes and places where I can see things. I no longer run continuously all the time. If I see a lovely view or something pretty I will stop and take a picture. That would never have happened last year, I would never ever have stopped. The guilt would have been over powering. On Saturday I made the effort to run on a pretty beach. And today I drove from work to Penarth Barrage so I could experience the views of Cardiff across the water as I ran in freezing wind to the Bay. I had no watch, I had no idea of distance. I just know that I felt contentment.

I have booked some challenges in over the next few months which I will be blogging about, like Velothon Wales and the London Triathlon with Team Tricurious. But they are things that I have chosen to do. I do not feel compelled to do them. I feel like I have broken the obsessive hold running had over me and I am ready for a more harmonious, symbiotic relationship. I am by no means implying that the psychology of sport or even running is as simple as this. I just recognised myself and in a way it was nice to have an explanation for my bizarre, ‘running myself into the ground’ behaviour. Today and on Saturday I enjoyed running again and it was blissful to feel like that again. I felt running and I were in harmony, with my feet hitting the ground and the beautiful world all around for me to see.

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Slow Down

I have completely lost the ability to pace myself. A couple of years of injury has totally wiped my inner speedometer. Maybe I hadn’t realised that one of the benefits of a GPS watch is that your body can start to naturally assume a certain pace. This was something that definitely happened during my first marathon in Edinburgh. And definitely did NOT happen during last year’s London Marathon. I stopped using my GPS when I was injured because it seemed a bit pointless. However I am wondering if I played down the benefits of using it.

My problem is that I just want to run too fast. I think it’s my many years as a middle distance track runner where a great deal of my training involved fast reps and intervals. Even racing meant a sprint from the gun before settling into the pack. Long distance running was a massive learning curve for me when I first started because I wanted to do everything too quickly and too soon.

As I continue to get back to running after being injured for so long, I feel that I am back to square one where my pace is concerned. I am in such a rush to get back to where I was that I think I’m in danger of injuring myself again. I need to get over the frustrations I have with my running ability and suck it up. I am rebuilding virtually from scratch. So I might have to dig out the GPS watch and make a conscious effort to slow down, re-wire my inner speedo and build my baseline again.

Slow and Crap

Slow and Crap is how I feel about my running right now. I don’t feel anywhere like the runner I was in 2012. I don’t recognise myself as the 42 minute 10km/20 minute 5km runner that I was. Right now I can’t imagine being anywhere near as good at running as I was when I ran Edinburgh in 2012. Injury has caused me to see that runner as being someone in the past.

As I run along the pavements I occasionally catch a glance of myself in the reflection of the window of a parked car or a shop. The runner I see is hunched over, her form all over the place as she tries desperately to catch up to where she once was.

I know this is the hardest part, getting the running fitness back and feeling at ease with running again. I just think I’d forgotten how hard it was and it’s so difficult not to turn round and say ‘ahh fuck it, I give up’.

I won’t though. I just won’t.

EDIT 6/1/15: I just want to say that I wrote this literally as soon as I came in from the run above. It wasn’t a plea for sympathy, I know it’s going to be hard. I just needed to get this off my chest. I was typing the emotions I felt , in that moment.

Getting Over It

After months of months of no running and feeling like my injury woes were never ending, I seem to have had a rather lovely surprise for Christmas. Over the last two weeks my Achilles on one side and my calf on the other seem to be very gradually settling and allowing me to get out on some tentative runs. I think I refused to believe it the first few times. Up until maybe two or three weeks ago I was still ready to concede defeat and forget about running. But after the last couple of runs I am really starting to believe I might be winning this battle against my own body.

After the London Marathon there was very little I could do without my Achilles flaring up and being really painful. And then when I would think that I could manage a small ten minute run my other calf would tighten up and cause me to limp. At one point even getting on the turbo trainer was enough to flare both sides up. When things were like that I was almost distraught. I know distraught is a total hyperbole to describe it but for someone who has been battling anxiety for the past year that is how I was when I felt like running was done for good.

Somewhere along the line I made a decision to stop running and rest. Somehow I developed the patience to not force myself out running and make myself worse. And back in September I made myself set two key goals and somehow I decided to stick with them:

No running until after Christmas or even into the New Year.

Get rehabilitating properly (I’d fart arsed around it but I hadn’t rehabbed properly and given it a chance to work).

I spoke to Physiotherapy colleagues and did my own research via journal articles and books. And then I embarked on the strictest regime of rehabilitation that I could handle.

It hasn’t been easy. There were more flare ups. There were days I didn’t believe anything was going to work and feeling like it was all futile. There were times I wondered if running was even worth all this effort. And then I would remember that I love running and that I have been a runner since I was 11 years old and 34 is far to young to throw in the towel. I took inspiration from all sorts of places: Jo Pavey, the Twitter running community, my Physiotherapy colleagues and patients who I had successfully helped in returning them to their hobbies. And I don’t know when the transition from feeling too injured to run to feeling able to have a little jog occurred but I’m now on my fourth or fifth run of thirty minutes. This would have been inconceivable back in September but looking back at my goals my timing has almost been spot on.

I’m still hedging my bets about things. I am leaving a day between runs and I continue to cross train to enable me to get in some strength work and some longer cardio sessions. I am incredibly fearful that I will relapse and won’t be able to run again. The fear of failure is still rather strong. I won’t book in any races or join a club yet because I want to be running consistently and they might be long term goals for 2015. But with some hope, and a little bit of light beckoning me towards the end of the tunnel, I feel like I could be getting somewhere. And hopefully in the New Year I’ll be able to do more of this:

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Cheating On Two Legs With Two Wheels

So, I have given in. I have decided to see what this bike lark is all about. I swore that i would be a runner only until the end, but a combination of injury and boredom of run/walk led me to the deep corners of ebay and the discovery of my new bike. I dithered over whether to buy it for a couple of weeks, secretly sabotaging myself with the wait, telling myself I was being daft. And then, last week I clicked on add to basket and took a leap of faith via my credit card and the added trust of buyer ratings. It was done.

Within two days I had my bike (thanks Parkers of Bolton). It was rather stereotypically ‘girly’ in colour for me (white with a dash of lilac) but beggars and mothers of two kids who only do part time work can’t be choosers, and this bike was a bargain. Don’t worry, I had done some research i.e asking friends and neighbours who are into bikes. It was all going to be fine. As long as I hadn’t done any sneaky growing since I was last properly measured aged about eleven (I haven’t).

When the box arrived via a very prompt Yodel delivery (bravo Yodel, who knew eh?) my 6 year old was straight in there, assuming the bike was for him. Cheek! He did the hard work of unwrapping all the corrugated cardboard and tape for me while I had a cuppa. Who says kids can’t be helpful? He realised that the bike wasn’t for him and immediately tried to negotiate a road bike from Father Christmas for himself. Then the bike sat in my back room while I waited for my husband to come home. Yes, this is most unfeminist of me but if you’ve seen the garage where the tools are, and where my husband does his wood turning, you would know it was safer for me to just wait.

I was wondering whether it would be a five minute wonder. I wondered whether I would back out in fear and return it. I have to admit I am terrified of riding the roads on a bike and having it sat there meant put up or shut up. I had to face a fear I’ve held on to for a very long time.

The first ride I did I happened to be chaperoned by my 6 year old who has NO FEAR OF ANYTHING (life really does change when you get ‘the fear’). We stuck to safe paths and he chattered while I wobbled like Bambi on wheels.

The next day I scarpered for a longer ride before he could sense that there was an impending bike ride on the horizon (seriously that kid loves a bike ride). I got my balance (and my courage) and bit the cycling bullet. And I think I’m now hooked.

I have never felt so invincible and yet so vulnerable at the same time. Tell a lie, I did have a similar feeling to that when I was pregnant. Maybe it’s the knowledge that your body is doing something rather amazing that makes you, well me, feel that way. A combination of what for me was the unknown combined with the excitement of my body doing something utterly different. It was exhilarating to hear the orchestra of wind around my ears building to a crescendo as I descended a hill with the air swirling around me.

It was simply amazing and I didn’t fall or get scared by cars (ok maybe I did for the first 10 minutes). I was out for an hour and I came home wobbly legged and deliriously happy, a feeling that I haven’t been able to get from running because of all my niggles. It was the most satisfying hour of exercise I have had in months. It was an absolute dream.

I’m not giving up on running but I really needed something to give me the endurance and training base that I’ve been lacking through being injured. Now that I have my cheapo bike ‘Paula’  (don’t ask, the name occurred to me on first sight) I can do that while gradually building the running back up. Plus after only a few rides I’m actually looking forward to going out and riding ‘her’ *add canned laughter here*. But don’t worry running, this is just something I need to do so I can come back to you with open arms.