Barely running – journey back to running and to finding patience

Last year running would have been theain focus of my life. I lived for my days of training that included a run of any type – aerobic, intensity, hills. If it was running, I’d be excited for it.

Last week at physiotherapy when I was told I could start doing some outdoor running again, I was so excited initially. But then I was hit with a sense of fear and anxiety. What if my hip hurts? What I tear my labrum again (whether same hip or the other)? What if running isn’t good for me? What if I only ever hurt and exercise never feels good again?

But on Saturday last week, I layered up and said “runnies?” to my best friend and 4 legged running partner – a word she hasn’t heard since March 4, 2018. And we set off. It wasn’t easy but I enjoyed the 3k we did even with the run/walk intervals I have had to go back to.

The problem with my hip labral tear is that we don’t fully know the reason why I had it. The surgeon had thought it may have been a hip joint issue – that there was something on the hip joint that caused the tear. But when he did the surgery, nothing was wrong with the hip joint itself. So did the tear happen during the many hours of shovelling had done during a snowstorm? That’s when hip began to hurt. But I’ve been told shovelling isn’t a typical movement that would cause a hip labrum tear. Possible though. Or was it something that had already been happening due to running? Hip labral tears are a common (even if not well known) running injury.

I don’t talk about it much but I want a reason for this. I want to know what caused it so I can avoid it. I want to know the whys and the how’s. And even now, almost 5 months post op – it still haunts me.

Especially as I’m told it’s ok to start running again. But is it?

Each week I feel like I’m getting better, something else is bugging me. A few weeks ago, it was my knee. It hurts like heck – typically not during an activity but after and during just normal day walking around the house and such. Last week it’s the front of my shin. It has a sharp pain. My physiotherapist is amazing. She takes all my concerns seriously and I’ve learned that any small isn’t a small thing but important to share. I usually hate to complain. I don’t like to express how I feel or if I’m hurting. I hate admitting when I’m not doing well. But I’ve learned how to this past year. I still struggle admitting pain or when I can’t do something – but I am able to do even with a deep internal mental battle where I’m trying to convince myself I can.

My physiotherapist has always been compassionate, sympathetic, concerned, and patient in any small or big issue I have had. She works with me on it – gives me tools to help it. I often want an immediate fix but sometimes there is none. It just means time. I spent 4 months bedridden in pain before we were able to get the MRI to confirm the diagnosis that both physiotherapist and surgeon believed was a hip labral tear. After surgery, I was on crutches and mostly in bed for another 4 weeks, before progressing to 1 crutch for 2 weeks but still resting a lot in bed. My whole body, not just my left hip, has been through the wringer this year. My mind too. There is a lot of work to put back in to get me back to just functioning as pain free as possible. It’ll take that much more work to get me back to where I was athletic wise before this injury happened.

On Thursday, I went to my Conviction Fitness workout and was so excited to see kettlebell snatches in the daily WOD. The first 3 rounds felt amazing – I didn’t know if I’d even remember the movement but it came back like riding a bike. In the 4th round, something in my hip stabbed. I’ve been learning how to listen to my body – and to not let all pains freeze me into stopping what I’m doing. So I stopped, shook my hip out to loosen it up. Thought it felt ok. Positioned myself to try again, and one snatch in – same pain returned to my hip. So I stopped and asked my coach if I could do another movement instead. He asked “what’s wrong?” And I explained and he said “I say just stop. You don’t have to jump back into everything all at once. Sometimes it’s ok to just do what you can and stop.”

Again. Patience. I want to hit the ground running, push through the pain and just be who I was athletically before this. But that’s not what’s going to get me back to where I was. In fact, it’ll do the opposite.

After my Saturday run, I was sore so I didn’t jump immediately into a run on Sunday. I also got hit with a flu early hours of Monday morning. So I didn’t force it. On Wednesday, I felt way better and excitedly prepared for another run – thinking I’d do a 5k. I had a terrible run. Every step felt like I was fighting to move. My calves were angry. It’s now winter in Saskatchewan and winter running is not easy. I wore my grip tractions over my running shoes and that was great from my house to the park on the snow covered roads. Once I hit the park, the running paths were actually clear and the metal of the grips on asphalt seemed to jar my hip and my body more than it ever has in the 4 years of winter running I’ve done. It never bothered me before and made more sense to wear them for the sections that needed them than to not wear them and slip when I hit a bad section. Especially this year – I can’t risk a fall!

Throughout the whole run I wanted to cry. Something I used to enjoy seemed to have lost its spark. I slowly also became angry. Angry that this injury happened. Angry that everything seems to be a challenge. Angry that when it seems it’s getting better, something happens that reminds me it isn’t all easy. Angry that I can enthusiastically agree to do every event or activity presented to me. Angry that the cold winter hurts me more than it ever as. Angry that my calves were hurting. Angry that this took so long to get back to running.

I returned home angry.

I think under the surface for most of this week, I was angry. But after hearing my coach on Thursday and his comment “you don’t have to jump into everything fully right away” and hearing physio on Friday say similar things “you’re doing amazing but you have to give yourself time and patience”.

I am a giving person – except to myself. But I have to learn to be. I may be barely running right now but by learning to allow myself time and that it’s ok that I can’t do it all right now – I will be running again and loving it. I will be able to do more events with my Conviction Fitness team. I will be able to find a race (or 2) that I can do to fall in love (again) with the athletic person I’ve become.

Barely running.

For now.

That’s ok.

One day, I’ll be running again and I’ll be reminding myself that once I was barely running. And I’ll make sure to pause, breathe, and ask myself what am I doing each day to make sure I remember this new patience with myself I’m learning so that barely running isn’t forced due to injury but just a choice I make when my body needs to rest.

I used to love that quote that “a bad run is better than no run at all”. I don’t love this quote anymore. Forcing a bad run means you’re not listening to your body. Perhaps when your body is telling you not to run it’s time for a rest day or perhaps another aerobic activity you enjoy ( I like walking, swimming, the stationary bike and rucking).

This I do know now. Barely running is better than no running. And if I push it, I could find myself back to the point where running wasn’t even an option. I won’t take this gift of running and of learning patience that I’ve been given again.

Tomorrow is Sunday. What I used to diligently refer to and practice as long run Sunday. Perhaps I’ll wake up and my body will have no pain in the calves, knee or hip. Maybe I’ll lace up the running shoes and try a run. Or maybe I’ll wake up and feel just a twinge and decide to go for a ruck or walk instead. I’m learning that it doesn’t matter what the activity is I do. What matters is I’m getting up every day and I’m doing something active to strengthen myself that I feel capable of being able to do. That is patience. And that is what will get me from barely running to running again.