“Running” when injury keeps you from running! How can that be, right? 2 years ago today; 1/25/14 I was out on an early cold winter morning shake out run gearing up to run the Manhattan Half the next day! I was feeling great about my upcoming race! I was about a half mile into my easy paced run when out of nowhere I felt this excruciating, sharp pain through the top of my left foot near my toes. It stopped in dead in my tracks; hands down one of the worst pains I have ever felt. I stretched and attempted to run a few more steps. OUCH! There was no way I could go any further! What now? How would I get back home? Hubby isn’t home and nowhere near; how am I going to get back home? I managed to hobble back home in pain; putting minimal pressure on my left foot. I got in the house; immediately grabbed my coat, called my hubby in tears and headed off to the ER. When I got to the hospital I explained what happened. After being checked and having x-rays taken; I was told is was a sprain. That night I went to sleep with painful throbbing in my foot that kept me awake all night. When Monday arrived I saw an Orthopedic Surgeon who told me to stay off my foot and sent me for an MRI. The rests came back and it was exactly what I thought from the beginning; every runners worst nightmare – a stress reaction / fracture. I was told I could NOT run and I could do no weight bearing activities at all for 6-8 weeks! I had to wear a boot and be on crutches to take pressure off of my foot and allow for healing.
Of course the first thing I said to the doctor was “When can I run again?” “I’m training for my 7th marathon; will I be able to run it?” “What about my Spring races?” He repeated you need to be off your foot for 6-8 weeks then you can slowly work your way back to running! I felt the tears starting to fill my eyes, but before they could I remembered a moment in my life that helped me realize; I can get through this. I was no stranger to injuries being a soccer player in the middle and high school years. As a freshman in high school; I was on a breakaway to score a goal when suddenly I collided with another runner. I fell to the ground; breaking my tibia and fibula bones in my left leg.
I was placed on home schooling; as I could not walk through the busy hallways on crutches. While I was injured all I could think about was getting back out there the following year and trying out for the high school team. I stayed positive; I believed and that following year.. I made the team! Here I was 18 years later and there was no reason I couldn’t be that determined, ambitious girl I was when I was 15! I wiped the tears from my eyes; I walked down the hallway where I was given my walking boot and my crutches and I left the office with only positive thoughts in my mind! I was determined to get through this and come back a stronger runner than I was before! I researched workouts that I could do! I realized that swimming would be one of the only types of cardio I could do at this point. I never swam before, but I knew getting in the pool was the only way I could learn so that is exactly what I did. I headed to the local YMCA and signed up.
I got and the pool and thought; now what? I got to chatting to a nice guy working at the pool. I told him about my injury and he told me how beneficial swimming was for runners! It was time to start my swim; I said to myself.. “you’ve got this!” At first it was tough to get my breathing right, my shoulders felt tense but soon I was feeling more comfortable.
I remembered hearing ALOT about “Pool Running” and although I never tried it before I was curious! I heard there were many benefits to it and it helped to keep injured runners strong! I researched it online and decided I was going to give it a try! Luckily the YMCA that I went to had Aqua Belts so I did not need to purchase one. (I have been asked by many runners over the last couple years about “pool running” which is why I decided to write this blog!) Below is all I need to get in the pool and pool run.
I put my Aqua Belt around my waist, put on the swim cap and goggles; got in the pool and went for it. The aqua belt kept me floating in the water; where my shoulders were above water but the rest of my body in the water. I kept my back straight as I moved my arms and legs mimicking the running motion as I moved across the pool! It felt great! I thought “I think I could handle this for a bit!” So I continued with it! Every morning I would get to the pool at 5am; do some pool running followed by some laps in the pool! Being a distance runner; I was all about numbers so I needed a way to make my time in the pool a little more exciting! I needed way to translate my time in the pool into “miles”! Being in the midst of marathon training; I was used to 2 – 3 hour runs on weekends! I thought how can I make my hours logged in the pool into miles? I got it!! So here is what I did! If on my marathon plan it said 13.1 miles; which would take me approximately 1:45 to do – I decided to pool run for 1:45! If my training plan said 15 miles; I would pool run for 2 hours etc. This helped me to still feel like I was logging miles and kept me motivated and staying positive through the cold winter months and through this injury itself!
I stayed positive and I kept on swimming! I also incorporated strength training into my workouts 3-4 days a week; doing all I could without putting weight on my left foot! 6 weeks later I saw my doctor for another follow up visit and he gave me the OK to start using the Eliptical machine and start biking. Within a couple weeks I was given the ok to use my road bike! Woohoo! I could finally get outside and enjoy this beautiful March weather! So Hubby and I took our bikes to one of my favorite trails!
A few weeks later I returned to the doctor for a follow up and the doctor said to me “Do you want to run?” My reply, “OMG, can I run!?” He said yes, but very slow and only 20 minutes max every other day for a few weeks! I walked out of the office feeling excited, but scared at the same time! “Will it hurt to run?” “What if my foot breaks?” “Can I remember how to run?” The next day I went to the gym; took a treadmill next to my sister and took my first step! I started with 13:00/mile and within a few steps I was at 11:30/mile feeling a bit scared and being cautious. I did about 1.5 miles and it was the most amazing run of my life; it felt so great to feel the ground beneath my feet!
A few days later; I asked my favorite running buddy (my sister) to join me on the trails for a run! My 1st outside run in over two months and I was scared. I knew with my sister there beside me; it would be OK and it was! We chatted, we laughed; I felt a little tightness in my foot but no pain. I was so thankful to be able to run again and so thankful to have my best friend running beside me (I miss her so much everyday, but I will never forget our runs together, the big heart she had and all the times she was there for me through the toughest of days. She took this beautiful photo that day.)
I decided I would run my first post injury race 2 months later. It was a 5k by the beach IN May 14′. I had no idea what to expect but I knew just being able to race again would be AMAZING! I had been running for two months now with my longest run about 6 miles.
I started slow then picked up the pace a bit without pushing myself. I finished the race at 8:19/mile a mile and I was so proud! Not the 6:24/mile PR that I ran in the past, but definitely a step in the right direction! I truly believe that all the pool running and swimming kept me strong through my injury. All the swimming even inspired me to complete another Triathlon in September 2014′; just in time for my 34th Birthday!
Converting time spent pool running to “miles” helped me to stay positive and motivated through my injury! If there is one lesson that I learned through this it is to take care of your body and your body will take care of you! If you are feeling fatigued; take that extra rest day! This is your journey and your journey alone; don’t compare your journey with anyone else because no one’s journey is the same! Today, when I need a rest day I take one! I have learned to incorporate more easy run days into my training and focus on getting more sleep when I need it. I am currently training for my 10th marathon and chasing my 4th BQ.
Have you ever tried pool running? What has helped to keep you motivated through injury? Thoughts? Please share! 🙂