God created our bodies to be able to tell us when something is wrong: the little “aches and pains” are His way of telling us that we need to either slow down or stop. Many of us try to mask that pain so that we can continue on in our journey. Medications, tapes, gels, ice packs and heating pads all have their place in recovery, but we need to make sure that we are not just applying a band-aid to the problem so that we can get through “one more rep” or “one more mile”. We need to find a healthy balance and listen to those signs that God is telling us. We need to be in tune with our bodies!
Two years ago I trained for a half-marathon and 25K race. The day after I signed up for the half-marathon we had record snow falls in Michigan of about two feet in one day! If I thought I was insane to sign up for the race at the time of hitting “submit” on my registration tab, the snowfall definitely confirmed it!
My training was going well (even in the bitter cold and crazy snowy roads). However, once I got to about six or seven miles in my training for long runs I started getting IT-band pain which went all the way down my leg and into the knee area. I am a very determined woman, so I decided to push through the pain. I lived off of lots of Ibuprofen, ice packs, stretching, and foam rolling. (On a side note, I later discovered that foam rolling an inflamed IT band is not a good idea and just causes more inflammation). The pain became so bad that I could barely walk down the stairs, I did a side-step to go down the stairs, leaning on the railing the whole time (except at work, I toughed out and tried to “walk normal”).
Because of all of the pain, running was no longer enjoyable, and I (silently) laughed at other runners saying what a great stress-reliever running was. I was miserable, painful, and extremely discouraged. The cut-back week that comes the week before a race seemed to help me pain-wise, and I was actually pretty happy with my time for my first half-marathon (2:20). I had already signed up for the 25K when I signed up for the half since it was run through the same running store and offered a gift card if you did both races. So within a few days of finishing the half-marathon, I jumped right back into training for the 25K. I was getting frustrated because not only was I having pain again, but the IT band pain was turning into left groin and hip pain. A week before the race I went for a 12-mile run with a friend and the groin pain kicked in about 1/4 mile into our run. I didn’t say anything and pushed through. By the time I got home and my friend left I was in so much pain that I could hardly stand or walk. I laid on the couch all day with an ice pack and wondered how I was going to work the next day.
Again, I decided to push through the pain come race day. I figured if I had run 12 miles with this pain, what was another 3.5 miles? (Dumb, I know). I had the “finish what you start” mentality. About two miles into the run my groin and hip area was so painful that I could start to feel it in my back. I told my running partner to go ahead, that I was going to stop and stretch and I knew I would have to run very slowly. I continued on in the race, and a few of the race workers actually asked if I was ok when I had stopped to stretch. I said “yes” but if there had been a stretcher and ice pack close by I might have taken it.
I started getting texts from my husband and a few friends asking if I was ok, and telling me to stay strong and finish. The pain got so bad that whenever I would stop at a water station I could barely start running again, so I decided to skip water for the last few miles and just run slowly. After my husband finished running, he actually ran back to find me and run with me. I had to tell him to SLOW DOWN because he was going way too fast for my injured self.
Amazingly, I did finish the race. One of the pictures that the photographer took of me at the finish caught every ounce of pain that I was feeling. The walk back to the car was horrible. By the time we got home, my leg had stiffened up so badly that I could not put ANY pressure on it. I cried out in pain, it was seriously one of the scariest times I can remember. My husband had to carry me into the house, and my oldest son ran to get an old set of crutches. I could not walk at all.
That night, I had gotten up to go to the bathroom, and next thing I knew I had blacked out and hit my head on the toilet. Jon said that I had actually passed out a few times again when he tried to get me up. I was on crutches for several days and quite dizzy. I ended up getting and MRI to see if I had torn the labrum, but what it showed was severe bruising. Later I read the MRI for myself and it also said that there was a “probable stress fracture” but that it couldn’t be diagnosed for sure without a bone biopsy. I also discovered that I have extra bone on the heads of each femur, which rubs with running. It explained why I would feel a “clicking” when I would use the Roman chair at the gym for leg lifts. I went through six weeks of physical therapy, which did seem to help. After about a month I started doing yoga and PiYo workouts at home, and had to modify the modifier on the DVDs! I was used to going all out and doing all of the advanced movements, so that was a little hurtful to my pride.
Eventually, I healed enough that I had “graduated” from physical therapy and was able to start some of my favorite workout DVDs and walk. I hadn’t been able to do my normal workouts for at least two months, so this was a huge accomplishment! I had actually tried running about six months after my injury (doing a circuit training class at the gym, and the instructor added some running at the end). I had immediate pain, so I knew I was not healed enough to add running into my daily workouts yet. It was a full two years before I was able to run again pain-free, and I only tried a half mile just to see “if I could do it”. I started back very slowly. Going from a half-mile, to one mile, two, three, and finally four. But I think that’s where I’m stopping. At this point, I’m good with four miles. I’m actually a faster runner than I was when I was running all the time, which I credit to strength training and yoga/PiYo. When I was training for the races, I had cut out all other exercises so that I could fit in my runs that were on the running schedule. I now see how important balance is.
God gave us bodies that are so amazing that when something isn’t right our bodies will tell us! Yes, I am a very determined women. I am used to accomplishing whatever I have set my mind to. But I have also discovered that sometimes the way to show I am most determined is to stop and listen to those signs that God has given me! God has taught me to look for exercises that are loving to my body, and that every workout does not have to be totally intense and two hours long. He’s teaching me how to see myself how He sees me.
I will be sharing on recovery, injury prevention, and workout plans soon. After my running injury I thought I would never be able to run again, but through God’s healing all things are possible!
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (New Living Translation).