Right around June 24th my worst runner nightmare became reality - I suffered an injury. There was no herolike story to accompany my limp, just that I had walked 6.5 miles at work in shoes that were far too worn out. I had completed a round of P90X plyometrics attempting to get ready to start training for the Chicago Marathon. I stood up from the couch one evening while watching tv and felt a sharp pain in my foot. I thought I needed to stretch but as the next few days unfolded I came to find that my pain was increasing the more time I spent on my foot.
I wanted to list some words of wisdom in hindsight for anyone who wants to continue being injury free, or for those who are going through a first time injury experience (like I was) to give some guidance on what worked and didn't work for me.
1. Always wear supportive shoes, for whatever you may be doing on your feet.
These were the shoes I continued to wear for far too long. I kept waiting to make a little bit more money at work before investing in a new pair. Instead of just paying up for a good pair of new shoes, I had to buy new shoes AND pay a $75 copay at the doctors visit I eventually had to go to (not to mention the days of work I missed from not being able to be on my feet). Also, heels are not a friend of feet. Be wary of too much time in them, and find ones that put as little pressure on your feet as possible.
I swear by Altras for running, so I committed to them for my new work shoes as well. The support they give is incredible. I'm waiting for the day they design a high heel that is runner approved. And yes, I will absolutely buy them when they do.
2. Go to the doctor as soon as possible.
I kept telling myself that my injury probably wasn't that serious, I figured I had just strained a muscle or had a case of tendinitis. It got to the point when I couldn't walk or stand without excruciating pain. I made an appointment to see a physical therapist through my local running store. That visit ended with a false diagnosis of tendon strain and being told a second metatarsal stress fracture is extremely rare. PSA: second metatarsal stress fractures cover about half of all diagnosed stress fractures in runners. I wasn't able to get to a doctors office for another two weeks because of plans to visit family in New Jersey the following week.
3. Listen to your body.
I finally made it to the walk in clinic on August 28th, more than a month after the occurrence. I waited to hear back from the radiologist who said there was nothing on the x-ray and I was clear. Sadly, this was also a false diagnosis. Because a stress fracture is not a full fracture, noticing one on an X-ray is nearly impossible within the first few weeks. However, I was on week five at this point. On the point of pain which was felt on the top of my foot, you can see a periosteal reaction on the X-ray, which often means a place where bone has healed from some type of injury. I find it too coincidental to say that this was not the exact pain I was feeling. I think doctors are fantastic resources for helping us runners get back on our feet, but if you are unable to afford an orthopedic surgeon visit or podiatrist visit like me, I think it's best to use your head and notice the pain you feel and what those symptoms may suggest.
4. Do not try to "run through it." There's no such thing.
Running through a stress fracture just means aiming to have a full on fracture. Give your body the time to heal and miss a few weeks or try to run on it and miss a few months. I'm not really sure how anyone could run through the pain my foot was causing me, but just don't do it. Let your body heal and come back stronger than ever. After all, bone repairs thicker than it originally was so giving it time to heal just means you'll be a stronger person. I know it's sad to have to defer a race you really wanted to run or forfeit the money you spent on training, but it's even sadder to have to be out of the game for much longer because you decided that you just couldn't refrain from that race.
5. Find what exercise works for you in injured condition.
I was fortunate for a few weeks and had access to my apartment pool. Sadly, I moved from my apartment a few weeks into my recovery and I didn't continue to carry out swim workouts, but I swear they were making me stronger. Swimming is very different from running and it's challenging in its own way. Maybe your injury allows you to do yoga, or cycling. Find what works for you but don't put too much stress on yourself or your injury.
6. Don't be hard on yourself.
You didn't want this, you didn't purposefully cause this, and beating yourself up will only make recovery worse. Be wary of your mood and note that you may lose those endorphins without proper exercise. It's sad enough to not be able to exercise the way you want, but it's a whole other level to then have to deal with the mental downfall. Take time to do the things that do make you happy. Talk to a friend, bake cookies, listen to good music, drink a good cup of coffee. Take the time to treat yourself and give yourself the self love you need. It matters now more than ever.
7. Come back slowly and again, don't be hard on yourself.
I ran 7 miles in my first week back starting last week following nine weeks of rest aside from the swimming and some cycling. I was slow. I am still slow a week later. I am running on the grass to help alleviate too much stress right off the bat. But I am pain free. To me, I know that I should be running a 20 miler this Saturday. But instead of dwelling on what I can't do I am choosing to find the victory in the things I can do. I have created a new game plan of trying the Galloway Method for the Chicago marathon in less than a month and I will earn my medal being proud of whatever I can accomplish with such a crapshoot of a training season.
Life is hrd, and running injuries make it harder. Be nice to yourself, get angry, then get over it and come up with a game plan for your comeback. Taylor has surely been helping pump me up for my comeback. What do you think about her new music?? Newly added to the playlist, ...ready for it? And Look What You Made Me Do. Boom.