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Injury has been the theme of my running career, almost as if it came with puberty. I could have walked away from the sport countless of times, and probably should have back in my sophomore year of high school when my shin showed no signs of healing. Every time I would try to get back into the swing of things my left shin would flare up. I’d cry, it felt like my life was crumbling before me. After months of resting and no improvement, my coach gave me two options; I could walk away from the sport, or I could accept this hotspot and get on with my training. I have a high pain tolerance, so obviously I kept moving forward. There was really no time for taking care of them, aside from icing diligently and adding calf raises to my daily routine, I had to focus on being recruited. Being taped up at races was almost my trademark, I never even thought about how that would look or even how I would get away with taping in college.
Luckily, going to SMU protected me from scrutiny of my heated shins. Not only was I the top runner and needed, but we also just didn’t have the resources to easily see a doctor. I didn’t think much of it, the last thing I wanted was for someone to get between me and my running. Our way of taking care of my shins was getting me new orthotics and tweaking them if I didn’t see an improvement. There was never much of an improvement especially when we came around to track season, but as long a they weren’t getting noticeably worse I didn’t mind the pain. Unfortunately, I did not have access to being taped or taping myself when I got into college. For some reason no one seemed to believe in the positive effects of it. That’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to overcome when coming to college- the removal of your own beliefs to coincide with those of our athletic trainers and coaches. To them, taping up is a phenomenon of the placebo effect; to me, that’s good enough.
As I’ve mentioned before, UCLA is extremely conservative when it comes to pain management. They have been on my case about my shin since they first found the hotspot during first season in their uniform. I understand they want me to be healthy and pain-free, but I’ve accepted that it is something that will forever be apart of my running career. At one point, after my left shin healed temporarily, I began to agree with their methods, but the pain came back once I was in a full running routine. Last fall, I hurt my right shin, which was out of the ordinary. I turned to them for help since I knew something was wrong, and I was right; that was the worst they’ve seen of my shin injuries. I did all the things necessary to heal it- the same things I’ve done for my left shin- and it healed. That only further proved to myself that my stubborn left shin is a part of me that I must accept.
Im not saying I’ve never considered quitting. There has been countless times where I couldn’t even run a mile or a run where I felt miserable the whole time and would walk home crying and telling my family I never want to run again. But come the next day I’m back on the road- or at least giving it another try before ending up in a boot or crutches. My athletic trainers and peers have also talked to me about medically retiring. I considered it as I watched teammates take that route, but it has never seemed to be the right route for me (plus, it wouldn’t really matter since I’m not on scholarship).
Running is a part of me, it is in my DNA, it is the most consistent thing in my life. I’ve mentioned how much running means to me in my earlier posts, but I’m not sure if that explanation did justice. Running is my passion. Without it I feel lost, incomplete. Being injured has taken multiple tolls on me in a multitude of ways. The most consistent feeling that overcomes me when a serious injury takes over is depression; I’m not only lost but I’m broken. After several experiences, I’ve slowly learned how to cope with it.
My first few times of being injured I over-did it. I spent hours in the gym, on the bike, or in the pool. I did what I believed was whatever it took to be stronger and healthier. Only recently did I learn that not only hinders the healing process, but is also obsessive and unhealthy. I’ve learned it’s best to take some time completely off, allow your body to rest and use the energy it needs to actually heal. This is a hard part for many runners to accept, especially because resting often comes with injury weight-gain. It is definitely hard to cope with, especially when you are in a sport where the slightest weight gain could potentially mean so much, but sometimes that is what your body needs to heal.
I’ve had a hard time coping with that. I’ve gone from the best shape of my life to the worst in the matter of months. Of course that doesn’t always happen, but it could if you let the injury get the best of you; sadly, I have. In order to forget about my loss I would search for other ways to cope and those ways weren’t the best. I got caught up in the college life or ate my feelings away, even in the latest hours of the night. Those moments were fun while they lasted, but they weren’t fulfilling; I was just filling a void. I’d catch myself down for no reason or unconsciously sabotaging myself. This is where the danger of allowing running to be your identity comes in. I’ve had a hard time finding other hobbies. I love reading, but I get restless and can’t always find the time. I’m very outdoorsy, but when you’re in a boot or crutches that’s pretty much off the list. Injuries, for me has been the worst times to find myself.
My greatest wake up call was when I broke my wrist last winter. That has been something that’s stuck with me and is a major reminder of my recklessness. At the time, it pushed back my progression a ton. The day after I broke it, I was supposed to be cleared to run, but then I was unable to continue the progression because of the injury and pain meds I was on. I couldn’t do any training at all, even stationary biking was difficult with one hand. Nine months later I’m still dealing with the repercussions. Push ups were my favorite, I used to be able to bust out 50 casually, now I can barely do 3 without my wrist giving out. Today I finally found a way to do push ups without my wrist hurting, which was what inspired me to write this post. I was over the pain and frustration of my wrist and realized I could do push up on my knuckles. It will still take me some time to get back to where I was, but even that small change made a major difference to me.
Injury is hard to cope with, and unfortunately it is a part of high impact sports. would be lying if I said my shins do not bother me, but I do not let them stop me. I have found so much peace and happiness with running that the aches and pains are worth it. I don’t really know what running is without the pain, I just know it is something I always need to be on top of and managing. The joy that fills me during each run is greater than the nagging pain in the background. I love the feeling of pushing my body to its greatest point and overcoming challenges during each run. Running is the greatest peace I could find and I couldn’t imagine my life without such joy. I do hope they find an answer to my mysterious hotspot, but whether they do or do not will not change my love for the sport. The best advice I could give for coping with any sort of injury is to remain positive and do not let it get the best of you. I strongly believe in the power of your mind and truly believe positivity and reducing stress are the best cures for any injury or illness. Find gateways that help you forget about the pain both of the injury and of being unable to train; do not lose hope and most of all believe it is not the end!
Just Keep Running XOXO
P.S. If you have any questions or comments feel free to shoot me an email at: email@example.com
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