I am a firm believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason. There is a lesson to be learned in every situation, the key is opening our eyes and finding the teachable moment, and allowing ourselves to be students and learn from the events that took place.
I have been an athlete my entire life, and honestly I’m not sure how I’ve gone without suffering more injuries. But with each sidelining I have learned something about myself, or it has opened a new opportunity for me.
When I completely tore my ACL in half (and strained my MCL, and had tears in my cartilage and meniscus) as a freshman in high school, my world came to a screeching halt. Basketball was my life and this injury ripped it away from me! I was chosen to play on the varsity basketball team due to working my butt off for all the years leading up to that point. The second game of the season I injured my knee to the point that it required surgeries. Not one, but two. As well as six months of physical therapy and a giant knee brace wrapped around my knee for another year after that. This sidelining injury also affected my other sport: volleyball. Now I wasn’t head over heels for volleyball, but I did enjoy being on the team and I wasn’t half bad, but feeling like bionic woman with my giant knee brace really affected how aggressive I was on the volleyball court. I was beyond freaked out that I would for sure go diving for a dig and land on my knee and shatter my knee cap. Hey I was 15, this was a legitimate fear. After the volleyball season was over I saw a flier hanging up about a quick after school meeting regarding the cross country team. All of my siblings dabbled in cross country when they were in high school, and the coach was my favorite teacher, so I decided to go to the meeting to check it out.
It didn’t take much convincing for me to pack away the knee pads and exchange them for running shoes the following fall. I thought it would be the perfect way to get in stellar shape for the following basketball season. Little did I know how much I was going to fall in love with the sport of long distance running. So without the major knee injury I may have never chosen to run cross country. That knee injury was meant to happen.
Fast forward to post-graduation domination. I was in the midst of training for the 2008 Columbus Marathon, and I was convinced that this year was going to be my opportunity to finally conquer the 26.2 distance and get my elusive BQ. During a speed workout on the treadmill I felt a tinge in my left knee area. This turned out to be a nightmare of an IT Band injury. This situation opened my eyes that if you aren’t 100% confident or comfortable with a doctor and their diagnosis, get a second opinion as soon as possible. It taught me the value of being an informed consumer, especially when it comes to our health. This situation sidelined me for almost an entire year. I was able to do every single other physical activity besides running. There was zero running for me. I survived the less than ideal circumstances and came back stronger than ever, eventually obtaining my BQ! I became completely aware of how important running is to me, for my soul. Also I realized that if I want something bad enough I need only have patience and the determination to work my tush off and I will be rewarded with accomplishing my goal.
This brings us to the past 24 hours. I tweaked my hamstring in yesterday’s 5K. During the end of the race up until 5:00pm last night the pain was very apparent in my right hammy. I did the whole RICE routine, I soaked in a bathtub of therapeutic epsom salts, I rubbed on some Biofreeze, I ingested some NSAIDs, I stretched a bit. I laid on the couch for more hours yesterday alone than I do in an entire month combined. Seriously, there are not many things I hate more than lying on the couch all day. I woke up this morning feeling MUCH better. But I am not one who ever shy away from medical advice. I am extremely fortunate enough to have solid health insurance and have no problem whipping out that card when the smallest part of me doesn’t feel quite right. I scored big with a light day at work and an opening with my Sports Medicine Doctor this afternoon!!!
So what is the lesson to be learned by this situation? So far I believe it to be that it is a major reminder that if I want to be that 80 something year old woman with long gray hair running her favorite routes through greater Columbus, albeit at a slower pace, then I need to be sure to treat my body better.
Things I need to work on:
- More rest days: I admit sometimes I get caught up in the excitement and run with friends or even myself on days I probably should be instituting a rest day. One rest day a week will happen from here on out.
- More cross-training days: I would much rather run four solid workouts a week and incorporate two solid days of cross training if it means preventing injury.
- Flexibility. It is lacking. Majorly. If I had a dollar every time a sports med doc, physical therapist, massage therapist or yoga instructor told me I had the tightest hamstrings and calves they have ever seen, I would be able to retire tomorrow. This is a problem and it needs more attention from me.
- Sign-up for less races. I love to race, I really, really do. But I have demanded a LOT from my body this year. I have run nine 5K’s, one 10K, six half-marathons and three marathons this year, yes, all in the year of 2011. I have set new PR’s in the 5K, 10K, and marathon distances. This year I actually ran my three fastest marathons to date. If I want to continue to improve and score that sub-3:20 marathon, I need to focus more on quality over quantity.
Hopefully today’s appointment will go well and validate what I just voiced that I need to work on. I have had multiple sports med docs tell me that we runners are going to put them out of a job because we all know our bodies so well and are fully aware of what our injuries are and what we need to do to fix them. They think eventually we won’t need our doctors anymore. How funny yet awesome is that? Kudos to my fellow runners, we are a special group indeed.
I am prepared to be told to take some time off from running as well as be prescribed some physical therapy. Bring it! I actually love going to physical therapy, my PT is a total rock star and I trust her whole-heartedly. She is a runner too and she gets me. I clearly could use some help in the flexibility and strengthening department, especially when it comes to my hamstrings and I know she will give me solid advice on what to do. I’m not worried or scared that this is going to sideline me as long as that pesky IT Band, and I am hopeful for the day in the near future where I can lace up my running kicks and head out on a run.
Have you ever been injured? What has it taught you?