The Slow (oh, so slow) Return to Running

Soon my lovelies, soon!  When runners are injured they often go one of two ways: 1) They can’t run, so therefore they try to put running totally out of their mind. They do other stuff, see some non-running friends, and generally just try to pretend they aren’t totally devastated by not being able to participate in their favorite sport. Or 2) Despite their best efforts, their brains can only seem to think about running. So they read everything they can about running, they plot their return-to-running schedule out with military precision, they live vicariously through others who are racing their fall marathons, and they may or may not purchase a few (okay, more than a few) pieces of running attire to cheer themselves up and ensure they are properly outfitted when they FINALLY get back on the roads.


Lots of fun stuff to read!

I’ve been both of those injured runners before, but I’ll give you one guess as to which camp I fell into this time.   While I am SLOWLY, SLOWLY returning to running, I can’t seem to stop the urge to remain immersed in the running culture while I’m forced to take a break.   From watching the live broadcast of the Chicago marathon to stalking some of my favorite bloggers for training updates and race recaps (Shout out to RunnerUnderPressureMsFitRunnerKrisLawrence, and JenChosesJoy!), I’ve definitely found myself with running on the brain.

This week I’m in the run/walk phase of my comeback - and I’m only running a total of 30-35 minutes at a time. It’s slow going and while my heart, legs and lungs are burning with the desire to just RUN already, I’m trying hard to be smart and ease back into it safely.   Here’s what the last week looked like:

Monday: 30 minutes of 3 min run, 1 min walk + Core class

Tuesday: Body Pump + Spin class – I was in charge of teaching the little spin “class” with my parents this week. It was so fun!

Wednesday: 30 minutes of 5 min run, 1 min walk + Core class

Thursday: Body Pump

Friday: 30 minutes of 7 min run, 1 min walk + Spin class

Saturday: 35 minutes of 7 min run, 1 min walk + elliptical

Sunday: Body Pump

The leg is feeling…okay.   A day after I posted about my awesome bone stimulator it started malfunctioning – so now it’s just me and my hopes and prayers that the leg is healed.   I was hoping to have the bone stimulator as insurance – I’d planned to use it once a day or so for a few more weeks for an extra boost of healing power. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m hoping that it’s a sign from above that this thing is healed and that I won’t need a bone stimulator again.   Let’s just go with that theory, shall we?

The running has been GREAT, but also a bit anxiety-filled. With each step I’m hyper-aware of the leg and every little twinge has me wondering, “Is it okay? Is that just the soft tissue adjusting? Should I stop? Keep running?”   I know that with stress fractures you can have phantom pains as the soft tissue and area around the fracture adjusts, but MAN, it is tough not to panic at each twinge.   Other than that, I’m feeling good, but SLOW.   I know it’ll take me a while to build back my pace and endurance.  With all of the marathons this weekend I’m been chomping at the bit to get back out there. I’ve seen some super fast times thrown down by some speedy ladies and I’m so anxious to get back into training so that I can put in the work towards a goal of my own. It’s been so inspiring to see everyone run so well, but as an injured runner I can feel a bit disheartened at times when I think about how far I have to go to claw my way back to where I was. But I am just so happy to be back on the comeback road! I know it will take quite a while to rebuild my fitness, but I’m grateful to be able to get back to something I love.   I know I’ll get there. I just have to be patient and trust in the journey.

For now I’ll just focus on enjoying the beautiful fall weather and be thankful for each pain-free step that I’m able to run!

How was your week? Which camp of injured runner do you fall into? 

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Stress Fracture Rehab – A Bone Stimulator + Cross Training

Our music choices for spin class make it impossible not to smile!  It’s been three weeks since the bone scan where I found out that I had a stress fracture in my tibia. Thankfully we caught the fracture early enough that I wasn’t put in a boot. I’ve been able to walk around pain-free from the very start and I’ve been spending these last few weeks doing some cross training and strength training to keep my body strong and (more importantly) to keep my sanity.

To not be running each morning (especially on these perfect fall weather days) feels so alien to me. I miss my morning routine of getting up and greeting the sunrise while out on the roads, then having a few moments to myself post-run to stretch and make my post-run smoothie before my little ones wake up to start the craziness of the day.   But since I haven’t been able to run, I’ve had to find other ways to keep sane while not putting too much pressure on my leg. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the past few weeks:

Monday – I’ll hop on the elliptical for 30-40 minutes and then take my core work class. My parents live in town, so I've talked them into meeting me at the gym for the core class.  It’s been so fun to have them in class with me!

Tuesday – Body Pump and spin class. Since I haven’t been taxing my leg muscles with running, I’ve been going heavier with my weights in Body Pump for the squat and lunge tracks. It’s not running, but at least my legs feel sufficiently fatigued afterwards!   Later in the afternoon my parents meet me at the gym where we take turns “teaching” our own spin class! Since the room at the gym isn’t in use, they let us use it for our workout. It’s a blast and we have a good time trying to one-up each other with our crazy music choices!

Wednesday – Core class and either walking on the treadmill or elliptical

Thursday – Body Pump

Friday – Spin class

Saturday – Spin class and walking

Sunday – Body Pump

I’ve also been making sure I’m getting calcium and vitamin D each day – through both my diet and a supplement – and prioritizing good sleep and nutrition in an effort to give my body everything it needs to heal my leg.

My bone stimulator.  (Don't mind the bright pink compression sock)

After doing some research and reading this great post, I opted to purchase a bone stimulator off of Ebay. I’ve been using that on my leg twice a day for the last few weeks and I’m hoping that it’s giving my bone a little boost to heal more quickly.   It’s a painless treatment of 20 minutes at a time, and according to research can heal the bone 33% faster. For an injury like mine with a healing time measured in weeks, that can cut a significant amount of time off!

I head back to the sports doc next Friday (10/17) and hopefully my follow up will show that the bone is healing nicely. For now, I’ve been cleared to start adding in a tiny bit of walk/running (intervals of 3 min running, 1 min walking for 30 minutes). I got to do my first “run” back on Saturday and the 30 minutes flew by! I was so happy to be running again. I’m being extra cautious and won’t try a consecutive run until a week or two from now. Even though I know I have a long way to go to build up my mileage to anywhere near where it was, it’s a step in the right direction.   Here’s hoping the comeback will continue to proceed smoothly!

Stress Fractures in Disguise

The lovely bone scan machine What do you do when a stress fracture doesn’t ACT like a stress fracture? When I last updated this blog, I was pondering the “injury question mark”.   With my personality I tend to have the toughest time when things are up in the air. My mind tends to spin on questions that I have no way of answering (“Will this get better in a week or two? Can I get back into training without sacrificing too much fitness? Will I have to sit out the entire fall season??”). My leg was still hurting, but felt like it might be getting a tiny bit better since I’d been giving it some TLC and days off.   I was able to run on it, but not very well and not without discomfort.

As I mentioned in my last post, most of my symptoms were consistent with muscular injuries (sprains/strains/tears) and the area I was feeling the pain was deep in the calf. I could hop without pain, and I was still able to run.   My compression sleeve seemed to help.   It even seemed to warm up during the run and actually felt the best towards the end of the run. My running friends (and the sports doc herself) were almost positive it was muscular in nature and I’d be getting a negative result on the bone scan I’d requested.   But, as the title of the post suggests, that was not the case.

I agonized over having the bone scan – I even called and canceled it, and then had to reschedule! I hesitated in part because it was so expensive (thanks to a high deductible), and in part because I rationalized that it MUST be muscle since all of my symptoms were pointing towards a strained/slightly torn calf or posterior tibialis. The sports doc had diagnosed an irritated posterior tibialis several weeks ago. Plus, almost every runner I spoke to agreed with the “it’s muscle” diagnosis.

And yet….something still nagged at me that it may be more than just muscle. When I didn’t heal as quickly as I thought it should given the days off I’d taken and the cross training days, I decided to act on my gut and scheduled the scan.   I’m very glad I did.

See that white spot on my left leg?  Yeah...that's not a good thing.

Tibial Stress fracture/reaction. Ugh. During the bone scan I could see the screen and saw the area light up on my tibia. At that point I knew I wouldn’t be getting good news.   I went down to radiology after the scan and requested copies of my images. Sure enough, I could see the spot on my left leg with the increased uptake. I immediately started doing the math in my head for when I’d be able to run again (October best case, November worst case), and signed up for a cycle class the following day. Time to jump on the cross-training bandwagon!

I had to wait until I saw the sports doc on Thursday to get the official results. And when I did, I was pleasantly surprised. I’d been preparing for the usual stress fracture party line of “6-8 weeks no running” but my doc said that since I had listened to my gut and we caught this thing so early, I’d only need 3-4 weeks off before I could start easing back into running. While 3-4 weeks without running is still no picnic, it was SO MUCH BETTER than I had anticipated so I was (relatively) happy.

The marathon is still out of course, but I’m happy that I’ll be able to get back into training with enough time to build up a solid base before starting my training block for the spring marathon (Tobacco Road on March 15).   I am not going to go crazy on the cross training, but will try to do something (core work, Body Pump, cycle, walking) every day. I’m already counting the days until I can run again, and I’m most bummed about missing this wonderful fall weather we are starting to get. Those are some of my favorite days to run.  I’ve been keeping myself busy with studying my texts for my ACE group fitness instructor exam and trying to enjoy sleeping in a bit in the mornings.   I’d rather be running, but since I can’t, I’m trying to make the most of it!

I’m glad that I went ahead and got the scan and didn’t try to push through.   Most likely I would have rested for a week, run a bit, felt pain again, rested for another week, etc. – and limped along on it for another month or two before finally landing back in the sports doc’s office.   I could have set my recovery back by several months.

The moral of the story? If you have something that your gut tells you is wrong, or warrants further investigation, listen to it. Even though it can act like muscle, walk like muscle, and talk like muscle…..sometimes it’s not muscle.   You are the person that knows your body best. Trust your gut. We are all an experiment of one.

I’ll update soon on some of the cross-training I’ve been doing, as well as my own attempt at a root-cause analysis as to why this stress fracture happened in the first place (spoiler alert – I don’t really know and am frustrated).