Ouch: Recovering from a Running Injuryby caroline
I don’t know about y’all, but I had another great weekend! There was lots of graduation celebrating and time spent with family, and a spur-of-the-moment 5K to top it off.
But before I get started with a recap, a few blog housekeeping notes:
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Now, that those things are out of the way, let’s get down to business. As I mentioned early on in the weekend, my brother, Luke, graduated from high school last week, — go, Luke! — so much of the weekend was devoted to celebrating his achievement. And, in the true style of my family, one of those “celebrations” included a 5K race yesterday morning in Pittsburgh, The Greenfield Glide.
My sister, Amanda, Luke, my dad and I entered the race at the last minute, thinking it would be a fun way to cap off Luke’s special weekend. The Greenfield Glide course is a nice one — about 2 miles downhill and flat, and then the last mile is almost entirely uphill — and one I know well. The race is in Schenley Park and includes a nice chunk of the trails I love so much, and the course runs what my sister and I have dubbed “the easy way” because it is the opposite of the direction we usually run it, which is the much hillier option of the two. Then again, that last mile uphill in the Glide’s course is a doozy, so it depends on how you look at it!
I haven’t raced a 5K in a bit, but I was feeling good about this race, seeing as how I am familiar enough with the trails and I was sure there would be no surprises other than the to-be-expected pain that comes with pushing yourself through a race. When the gun sounded, we took off and I was A-OK. My sister was right next to me as we took the downhill fairly fast. But as we rounded the bend to enter the trails, I felt this extremely painful pull in my lower left leg and then … ow, ow, ow!
What the heck?! I couldn’t believe we were only at the .4-mile mark and THIS was happening. I shrugged it off as a muscle cramp and tried to run through it, but my calf just wouldn’t let up. Now, understand this: My ego is one of the most stubborn and determined ones there is, so stopping in a race is just not an option that appears available to me. In my (sick-o) head, someone better run me over first — and even then I might still just try to dust myself off.
Yeah, we crazy like that, fool.
Anyway, the pain was so bad that my head had nothing to do with proceeding or not — my leg wouldn’t let me. My sister tried to wait a bit for me (as did my dad — Luke was at the front of the pack and long gone), but I told them to go. It was stupid for them to miss achieving a good race time because of me. I stopped for a minute and tried to massage my calf in between jogging. Nothing. It just wouldn’t let up.
So, naturally, I just started to run again. Makes sense, right?
I’m not saying it was easy, but I ran through the pain, basically keeping my run on my toes for the entire race. (If I leaned back in my heels, then it was even more painful.) The thought of not finishing was just too much for me to handle.
I finished with a time of 25:00 minutes flat and was so happy to just cross the finish line. I was super disappointed that I didn’t get to finish the race in the time I wanted to, but I would have been even more upset if I had just walked it the rest of the way in. I’m not saying there aren’t days where throwing in the towel is necessary — because sometimes you just have to. Yesterday just wasn’t my day to do that.
(As a side note, I was super proud of my sister because she finished third in our age group! Woot!)
So, now, I’m dealing with the depressive reality of an injury, and doing a lot of this today:
In addition to ice and elevation, I will also be leaning on my good friends Biofreeze and a few tools, including this one:
Apparently, Cooper likes the smell of my feet … eww, right?
This first tool actually came in a foot massage kit that my grandma gave me years ago. I use it to roll out my feet and any other muscle that might need it. Sooner than later I am just going to take the plunge and by The Stick that I have been wanting for quite some time, but this will do the trick for now. I just hold it either end and roll it along my calf muscle to work out all of the little kinks.
The second tool is my foam roller that I bought a couple of years ago after a particularly difficult Pilates session where my instructor pointed out some serious problems in my body that are a result of my tight hip flexors and other leg muscles (because of running).
Let me tell you: This tool is invaluable for any athlete who wants to increase flexibility and get a mini massage at home. It’s especially great for what I call the hurt-so-good kinda pain; it really gets in there and presses on all of those sore spots! The exercise I am doing above is specifically for my calves, but there are a bunch of different ways to use the foam roller. Check out these ones (and instructions for the one I am doing above) from RunnersWorld.com:
The good news is that I think this is an injury I will be able to work through fairly quickly; the bad news is that healing injuries takes time and this will definitely put a dent in my running time. I am trying to look at the positives, like that a minor setback like this will help me to focus on the things I need to improve in order to help my running performance. Two things I am severely lacking is a proper stretching plan after running and a strength/rehab plan to help my scoliosis. I think the problem could be related to some of the knee and hip pain I was already feeling in my left leg as a result of my uneven hips, so now is as good a time as ever to wipe that problem off of the map. In the past, stretching, Pilates and increased strength training for my legs has helped to keep these problems in line, so here’s hoping! (Remember: I’m not a fitness expert. With the help of a doctor and physical therapist, I have found these are just the techniques that work for me. If you need help, then consult the docs!)
I’m off to do a bit more massage on this leg and finish up an article I have due, but coming up later are recipes for sunflower seed nut butter and homemade iced green tea.
So how about you? What are your tried-and-true techniques for nursing an injury?