A running injury feels like the 7 stages of grief. Hear me out.
While it was several months ago that I noticed the pain in my lateral hamstring, I was shocked that I was feeling a tightness and brushed it off as overuse, since I was training for a marathon. I figured that the 4-6 weeks that I backed off of running after that marathon would do the trick. Then, I started training for Boston this spring and while I was able to ward off the intensity of the pain, I could still feel the strain on my left leg, especially on my highest mileage weeks or my toughest speed days. I saw a massage therapist a few weeks before Boston and she confirmed that the 6 deep external hip rotator muscles were all in a cluster. She worked them out a smidge, but I ran that hot mess of a marathon anyway. Afterwards, I continued my (1) state of denial and switched up my training to primarily trails. I cut back on long runs and any sort of training plan. I wanted to run when I felt like it and however I felt at the time. I foam rolled, tennis balled, and iced as I normally would. When the pain began to intensify, I started to feel (2) guilty for not doing more to address the issue. So I began a series of hip conditioning exercises that a PT would typically give someone like me for rehab. After a few weeks, I really did start to feel better! There were many runs where I had little to no pain! Yes! I was beating this! Then, I ran those back-to-back races. Two races that weren’t exactly easy. That’s when I knew.
Even though I cut back significantly after that weekend and I resumed my hip exercises, it seemed that every run was such an effort. I could feel my form change significantly after just a few miles into a run. And I would wince in pain every time I stretched. I got (3) angry and started bargaining with myself. If you keep up with the exercises, you’ll be fine. If you see that chiropractor, you’ll be fine. If you stick to trails, it’s less impact, you’ll be fine. But when I saw my chiro, felt good for about two days (sans running), then felt the pain come back, I knew this was a bigger problem than something I could just “run through” and brush off. I wouldn’t dare mention the I word.
I know it’s not a good hurt when I decide to put myself on running restrictions, without the prompting of my doctor. I’ve (4) pouted a lot in those weeks. Running is my addiction. My drug. When I’ve had a bad day, I’m only one run away from a good mood. When I’ve had a great day, a run only enhances the feeling. I connect to my dearest friends when running. A run becomes my therapy session, and those friends my therapists. I was already feeling so lonely and left out, after only a few days!
I reached an (5) upward turn, though, when I started working. I’m a 3rd grade teacher, and the beginning of the school year always requires me to put in extra hours. By throwing myself back into work, I was able to focus my attention on something else. After a few weeks, I could see some changes. I was able to move my leg in positions that used to hurt. I could put my foot on the edge of the tub and shave my legs without pain! Little things. Maybe this “time off” thing wasn’t so bad.
When I began running again several weeks ago, I was nervous. After taking 6 weeks off, I wanted to notice a difference. And although those first few runs weren’t pain free, they was significantly less strain than I had felt before. This was/is my (6) reconstruction and working through it stage. As I gradually add more mileage each week, I don’t want to overdo it with speed and distance. I want to come back healthy and strong.
I think the final stage, (7) acceptance and hope, is coupled with the previous stage. They have seemed to go hand in hand for me, as I see my hip holding up on each run. And in each run, there seems to be less and less pain. While my left side feels weak and tender, there is no distinct pain! This feels good! I want to continue to be diligent with my before and after exercises, see my massage therapist more regularly, and take great precautions as I build up again.
Of course it’s when I’m on restriction that I have a strong desire to train and race! It didn’t help that I gave in to some race shopping a few weeks ago. Just perusing, though. At least I know where my heart lies and what I want to accomplish once I’m feeling healthy again.
I’ll be working on gradual build-up through the next few months. I am hoping for a Turkey Trot and a holiday race in December. And then, big dreams for 2013!!