Becki winning the Akron Marathon in 2016
BY: BECKI SPELLMAN
Chasing dreams and goals can come with some pretty high highs, and heartbreakingly low lows. Training hard to reach a goal only to end up injured and sidelined on race day can feel like a bad break-up. In 22 years of running, I have had my fair share of heartbreak due to injury. My laundry list includes; a partially torn hip flexor, and partially torn achilles tendon, a sacral stress fracture, five (you read that right, effing 5 all in the same metatarsal too) metatarsal stress fractures - 2 complete breaks, and numerous little bouts of tendonitis. If I told you I gracefully swept through these injuries, my pants would be on fire, because I would be a big liar. I cried, threw fits, took it out on people around me, over indulged, and eventually, strong emphasis on eventually, realized that losing my shit wasn’t helping anything. Some of the injuries were avoidable, others were a part of the process.
My hip flexor tear was a trauma injury, I slipped, fell, and had a long 8 weeks back to just being able to walk. The metatarsal fractures might be a result of a defect or my running form. I do not have a clear answer yet, but I am currently dealing with one and waiting for an MRI.
During my come back after having my twins, I was plagued by a sacral stress fracture. It was more than likely avoidable. After 6 months off from running while pregnant, then having a C-section, I gave my body a whopping 18 days to recover before I started running. Dumb. By 5 weeks post C-section, I was at the track doing workouts. Dumber. I didn’t see a PT and I let my excitement cloud my better judgement. Dumbest. In a situation like this seeking outside help, and taking the time to work on the little things instead of trying to come back as quickly as possible, would have been a better option. Three weeks out from the 2016 Olympic Trials I was trying to figure out what was wrong with my back/glute area and make sure I could get to the start line. I did get to the start line... but suffered a long slow day. None the less, good came of it. I learned that my transverse abdominus was not firing, and I poured myself into PT exercises and dreaded cross training on the elliptical to get stronger over the time I was laid up. My hard work paid off 7 months later with a 2016 Akron Marathon win and a 5K road PR.
Becki running the Akron Marathon in 2017, having to stop at the halfway point due to another metatarsal fracture
Injuries fricken suck. But with hard work, you can come back stronger, with a new fanned flame of passion, ready to tackle your goals. I have come back from seven large injuries, and I know I will be back stronger than ever after my 8th.
As a seasoned pro at coming back from injury - here are my 7 tips on how to become a comeback queen:
- Throwing a fit doesn’t help the injury, but it can make you feel better… so cry to a friend, let it out, and then start working on steps to heal and rehab. Mourning the loss of an opportunity to reach a goal is part of the process in getting yourself ready to chase it again.
- If you can cross train, you will be very thankful you did the day you can start running again! I do not like working out for the sake of working out. I run because I love to race, so being on an elliptical, or swimming, or biking is not something I enjoy. But I know that I will enjoy running so much more if I do it. So, I try to get in 30-90 mins a day of cross training. Most doctors or coaches will suggest using cross training in addition to running as you build back up to training as well.
- Work on the little things. Talk to your Physical Therapist. Make a plan and stick with it. These exercises are boring and tedious. But keeping them in your routine can keep weak areas strong and keep you running healthy in the future. Don’t skimp on this one!
- Rest and nutrition are still key. We need sleep and nutrients to heal just like we do while running. So while you might give yourself a little grace, and allow a smidge more in your diet or lifestyle, be sure to take care of your body in a way that promotes healing.
- Have some fun. Do something you would usually shy away from. Plan a weekend, enjoy some time with friends. If you can hike and there is a trail you have been meaning to get to, go! Camping fills your heart, but you don’t sleep great and avoid it during high training? Get out there and toast some marshmallows! I went to Chicago to watch the marathon, it was good for my soul to watch others achieve their goals. I was worried I would feel jealousy. I felt nothing but joy while I was there. During my drive home, however, I started to think about my own shot at the Olympic Trials standard. I did feel some jealousy, but mostly excited for my chance to chase that goal. **Don’t do this every night! Lol! All things in moderation! Sleep and recovery are a very important part of the healing process.
- Reassess your goals. Write them down again, look at the road back, if you have a coach or a running partner to chat with, talk with them, make a plan for the comeback. Know that rushing back most of the time will not lead to the achievement of your goals, and patience (as terrible as it is) is your Ace card during this time. Having a plan can add excitement and make the comeback trail much less daunting.
- Dream big! Never stop believing in the goals you have. Achieving them might be a little further down the road than you had once envisioned. But the good news is our legs will carry us to them, even if we have a detour every once in a while.
All the best,