Injury is something that happens even to the best of runners. Too much work, too little rest, overexertion, weaknesses in your kinetic chain – any number of factors can be attributed to why an injury occurs. (Or all of the above)
I’d like to say that I’m “fortunate” in my previous injuries – they’ve been relatively far and few between:
- IT band – right leg – typical ITB issues in the right leg. Cured with foam rolling and Graston – I’d say out of action less than 2 weeks. (Back up and fully running again with no issues)
- Achilles – right leg – had some minor issues with weakness in my Achilles from running in Vibrams. Needless to say, I did not do the smart thing in transitioning to Vibrams. I count myself lucky I didn’t have anything worse, like a torn Achilles occur.
- IT band – left leg – more severe version of what occurred in the right leg. Took a cortisone shot and some ART over the course of a month to get healed up. Also did a lot of hip strengthening exercises to alleviate the root cause for both issues.
- Posterior tibial tendonitis/flexor digitorum longus strain – left leg. Started to occur about a month after the NYC Marathon. Despite multiple sessions of ART, icing, rolling out – still lingered. Only after taking 3 weeks off (2 cross training, 1 off completely from cardio) did it heal up completely. Out of running approximately 2 months.
- Posterior tibial tendonitis/flexor digitorum longus strain – right leg. Started in late July/early August, and issue still exists 6 months later.
Never in my head did I ever think this issue would be lingering for 6 months. It started after a track workout one day, made worse during a 18 mile long run. Took a week off, then decided to go out for a 6 mile run anyway – it hurt 3 miles into it and continued, as I stupidly ran through the pain. Woke up the next day and couldn’t take a step without searing pain, which, subsided after stretching/getting some bloodflow into that area.
Didn’t attempt to run on it for a month. Even putting on running shoes and taking a single step running caused pain. Tried ART, which offered some relief/help for the issue, but I probably underestimated the severity of the issue. (IE, it wouldn’t help if it wasn’t healed up yet)
I iced, took NSAIDs, and finally after a month and a half – went to the doc, got some meds and got authorized for physical therapy.
Long story short – PT did nothing to help it. It was less PT being the issue and more the actual therapist not doing a good job even diagnosing the issue, muchless treating it. He is a very well respected therapist in the DFW area, but took zero time to try to figure out the issue. My frustration there is another story for a different day.
I took his advice and ran on it, even though it didn’t feel “normal”. His advice – run on it until it hurts, then stop if it does. I tried running for a few weeks, took a few weeks off to cross train and let it heal, and repeated that process. That process continued up until before Christmas, when I was out for an easy 3 miler and felt some sharp pain. Needless to say, I haven’t tried to run since.
My cross training routine consisted of what I thought was low impact, safe cardio in lieu of running – cycling, stairmaster, rowing, and walking. Only lately did I find out that my cross training, notably the stairmaster and heavy resistance/standing during cycling, actually probably hurt the situation more than it helped. (Caused more impact/stress than I had initially thought)
At one point, I thought it’d be easier to just become Oscar Pistorius and to chop it off, but that was a fleeting moment. The thought of surgery scares me, but if that’s what it takes to get it fully healed, that’s what I’ll do.
I have since seen an orthopedic surgeon, who pinpointed my issue at more of a stress fracture and/or inflammation of the bone lining than posterior tib. He said no load bearing exercise (like the stairs/heavy cycling) and told me to head to physical therapy again. I opted for a different PT at the recommendation of a good friend and athletic trainer. Haven’t done any load bearing exercises in about 3 weeks at this point.
This time – PT was a world of difference. He spent 30 minutes alone asking questions, performing tests, and doing manual therapy to try to pinpoint the issue. At the end of it all, he disagreed with the doc and thought it to be more flexor digitorum longus than stress fracture. Introduced me to dry needling (not as bad as it sounds), and found some kinetic chain issues with the rotation of my right hip.
As of now, it’s been 3 weeks since starting PT. I’m noticing some results, but still feel a certain tightness in that general area. He noted some knots in that general area during the first few rounds of needling. I’m anxious not to get back to running, but to get back to feeling normal. I guess I’m frustrated that I’m not feeling back to normal again, but understanding that whatever therapy we are doing isn’t a magic bullet to fix things.
I long for the day where I can throw on a pair of shoes and just go out for a run, rather than resorting to having to drive to the gym to sit my ass on a bike/rowing machine to work up a sweat. Even then, it’s just not the same feeling as going out for a run.
Not being able to run gave me a greater appreciation for other things in life, like alternate forms of working out, like the sanity of having a normal life again, like being able to spend more time with family. I enjoy the benefits of running and the thrill of racing, but at some point, how much do you let running run your life? Missing spending time with family or friends because you have a run early in the morning, or a race to prep for, or a certain kind of meal you have to eat. The sacrifices we make to do what we love – where does it end?
The obvious answer is finding the right balance between everything. I went to the extreme and put everything I had – every last free minute training, preparing to train, exercising, watching my diet, and ignored the other important parts of my life, most notably, family and friends.
I realized how much I enjoyed and missed the other facets and aspects of life during my “time off”. It was rather enlightening and a real eye opener for me. I need to learn to find better balance in my life, whether it’s work, play, RDB, family, friends, etc.
The irony of having said that is, both Stacey and I decided to book a trip to Chicago during marathon weekend in October. She is committed to running it. Me – I have two weeks to figure that out, dependent upon how much progress is made with my bum leg. (Registration starts on February 19th) If I do commit to doing it, I’ll need to remember to find that careful balance again.
So the moral of the story is:
A) I have far too much to say, and far too much time on my hands
B) Even something as nagging and drawn out as this injury is has become a blessing in disguise. I’ve re-aligned myself and my priorities in life.
So…should I commit to doing Chicago, or just enjoy Chicago for all that it is?