One of the most amazing things about writing here is that I come into contact with all these people who are trying to change their lives. They’re embarking on running programs for the first time at age 35. They’re re-discovering the joys of biking with their kids. They’re off the couch, and excited about doing it, and there is no WAY, once they’ve made that decision, that ANYTHING is going to stop them.
Like, for instance, an injury. Or, clothes that don’t fit. Or, people who say “you shouldn’t do that so soon”. These people, my people, (if I may be so bold as to call you “my people”, since I pretty much share the same exercise DNA with y’all)…anyway, we people have hearts of gold but damn, we are T-I-R-E-D of people thinking we do nothing but eat bonbons and watch Jersey Shore.
So when we decide to get moving, we move with some purpose. We set out a plan. We stick to that plan. And sometimes, we forget that what took us 2, 5, or 10 years to create can’t be un-done in a day. Or even in 60 days. We forget that our bodies are living, breathing things, that are not exactly following the plan our hearts and minds have set out. So the body, it protests. It complains. And sometimes, it breaks.
I thought of this all last week as I was offiically discharged from a few months of physical therapy as a result of a running injury years in the making. Dr. Chin and the awesome folks at The Running Institute of Chicago (I know, you’ve heard me talk about them, but I have to give them props) and the amazing Joel Nourie at Accelerated Rehabilitation Center’s West Loop location did their best to cure me. They gave me good PT for the Plantar Fasciitis. They diagnosed a problematic nerve in the ankle and eventually helped it calm down with some cortisone. And they gave me a realistic Return to Running program, which I gleefully kicked off about 4 weeks ago.
My problem (if you can call it that) is that I had my heart set on doing the Chicago Triathlon this coming weekend. You know, the one with the mile swim, 26 mile bike, and 10k run at the end? Yeah, that one. Only, as I approached Dr. Chin’s office on Thursday to be “discharged”, I knew that I hadn’t done enough distance to be able to say – without fear of re-injury- that I could do the whole 10k – without injury. I was only up to about 3 miles of run/walking – and the jump to 6, which woudln’t have bothered me two years ago – was just too big now.
Not surprisingly, he agreed. He, and Joel, and pretty much anyone who’s watched me rehab would probably have had the same answer. Why risk it? Why risk the run, increasing by almost 100% the amount you’re running in one day – only to get injured and delay for another 6 months something you’ve worked so hard to fix?
And here’s where 10 years of running and racing kicked in: I agree with them. Why WOULD I risk it? Why would I risk NEVER running again to run this week? Why would I risk having that level of pain again when, with some patience and a little bit more work, I could run next month? There’s just no reason. But I know I’m not alone in weighing the decision carefully – in saying “hey, I’ve trained all summer for this race – and if I drop it, what have I spent all that time on? What do I have to show for it?” I know right now, in doctor’s offices and PT facilities all across Chicago (and heck, across the country), there are many people who, new to running or new to activity, are feeling the effects of too much, too soon – or too much, too often – and are being met with angry diagnoses of stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and a variety of other things that are killing their fall race calendar.
So what do you do, if you’re one of those people? Do you risk it? Do you find some way – ANY way, to keep going? And if you quit now, what do you have to show for all that work?
If you find yourself asking that question – and really wondering what it was all for – allow me to give you an answer: You have months – MONTHS – of hard work and training to show for it. You have the knowledge that you did your long runs, or your core work, or your half marathon or marathon training program – with a dedication and commitment that maybe, just maybe, you never had before. Maybe you have stronger friendships, or healthier relationships, or less stress over the past few months. Perhaps you have tighter abs, and sexier hammies, and a blonder ponytail. (I’m just saying.) Or maybe you just have some awesome nights where you slept like a log because you were so gloriously, awesomely tired, that you just fell into bed, and woke rested and happy.
No matter what you spent your time training for this season, you’ve gotten something else out of it – other than a medal or a race.
So if you happen to be one of those people who is breaking – right now – just stop. Stop hurting yourself and your body. Take a breath. Shed those tears when the doc tells you you’re hurt – you’ve earned those. But do the work you must NOW do to recover. There are a lot of you out there right now, and you must not lose sight of what you’ve done this summer. It’s not about the Chicago Marathon, or New York, or that upcoming triathlon. It’s about building a healthier body – which will help you exercise for life.
As for me, I’ll be there Sunday, doing the Chicago Triathlon. I’ll swim my mile, and bike my 26. But when it comes time to do the 10k run, I’ll take advantage of paying my $150 race fee, and I’ll run/walk my short little 5k. And at Mile 1.5, I’ll turn around, and head home, shorting the run. Yeah, it might hurt a little to do it – but last year at this time, I wondered if I’d ever run again. So I’ll take 3 miles. And I’ll come in smiling.
See you on the path.