Working Through Injury - Lauren Penney
As 2014 turned into 2015, I faced one of my bigger challenges. After experiencing some pain in my foot, I was heading to get an MRI thinking I would be told there's nothing there: "I'm just a little sore and I need to toughen up." I've been fortunate enough to avoid serious injuries through my running career, but that also means that when something hurts, I struggle deciding whether it's more serious or I'm being a wimp. About a week after I ran the Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving, I knew I needed to get my foot checked out. Looking back on that race I am still thrilled that I ran Manchester. I knew I was in great shape.
My fall was spent building up mileage and intense workouts, but I didn't feel great the week before the race. I went into it without pressure, and confirmed that the effort I had been putting in all fall was working. However, the week following I ran 4.7 miles on pavement up and down some steep hills in racing flats and I think that increased the plantar pain that I thought was okay all fall. The MRI showed that my plantar pulling on my heel bone had caused a stress reaction. It was overwhelming to hear that I had no timeline for when I could run again.
I tried remembering what I had to be thankful for in the situation: It wasn't a fracture, I had been relatively healthy for the last five years, I could still cross train like crazy, and I already had a great base built up through the fall. It was time to hit the gym twice a day, sharing my time with the pool and the spin bike. I've gone through phases in my mind through the injury and the cross training. At first I convinced myself this would be over soon and I would lose no fitness. I was at the gym before and after work and things were going well. Then it started to get old. I needed to shake it up, so I started going to spin classes at the gym to pass the time and learn workouts that would get my heart rate up. But as time passed and my foot didn't seem to be getting better, I was getting discouraged. It took a lot to work up motivation to pack for two trips to the gym and shower stuff for work every time I left the house when part of what I love about running is my ability to walk out my front door and go.
One of the best decisions I made was to buy a spin bike to re-motivate myself. I was able to set it up in my basement and, though I still go to the gym to mix it up and swim, I can spin while I watch Netflix marathons and hang out with my roommates. Also, it fits in my car when I take the handle bars off, so when I was traveling for the holidays and there was no gym I could use, my cross training continued. At the same time, I started seeing a doctor for shockwave treatments, which felt like having someone find where it hurt the most and then using a small jack hammer on that exact spot. It hurt each day I went but it was something I could do besides just waiting.
It's difficult to know if it was a result of the treatments, time off, or both, but six weeks after this ordeal began, a second MRI showed progress! I was cleared to start running, but with a cautious build up and continued stretching and strengthening. Last week, I ran 10 minutes for two days, took a day off, then ran 15 minutes for two days and took a day off. For the time being, I will continue like this, and I'm keeping up with just as much cross training. Another great thing about owning the spin bike is that I know I'll be better about continuing to cross train long after I'm able to run full time again and I'll be fit again before I know it. The light at the end of the tunnel is bright!