Keep Calm and Carry On - Tales of a Frustrated RunnerAll runners fear an injury that spells time out on the injury bench. Men's Running blogger Chris shares his recent injury woes.
Wednesday 30 January 2013
For the past three weeks, my list of logged runs has remained unchanged, my dearly-beloved Saucony Kinvaras have sat on a shelf untouched and my ever-reliable Garmin Forerunner has been slowly collecting dust on my bedside table. The situation has become so dire that I’ve started receiving those faux-concern emails from Daily Mile claiming that my friends miss my training.
Instead of pounding the pavements around Central Park, or haring down the footpath along Hudson River I have been ‘cycling’ and ‘rowing’. I have chosen to employ inverted commas as I don’t want anyone to think I have been on a real bike, or in a real boat. No, I have been penned inside a poorly-air conditioned gym, sat on static substitutes for the real thing, trying very hard to make the best out of a bad situation.
The bad situation in question is that I am currently having to endure what seems to have become a now-annual injury. Last January it was ITBS, this time around it’s...well it’s something calf-related. Calf-pain. Side-calf pain. Pain that despite 3 years studying journalism I can only adequately describe by pointing to the area that hurts and pulling an anguished face.
As a result of my inability to accurately describe my ‘side-of-calf’ and ‘occasionally ankle-related’ ‘throbby-sharp-ish’ pain, all that Google suggests is phantom limb syndrome, and I’m pretty sure I can safely rule that one out. All I know is that it was one of those pains that I felt a few weeks earlier and felt I could get rid of it by stretching rather than resting. As it turns out, that was somewhat foolish.
If the temporary inability to run isn’t bad enough, to make things infinitely more frustrating I was six weeks deep into marathon training when the problem began, having booked the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in Washington DC on March 16th as the marathon I was aiming to reach my sub-3:30 target.
To add to this frustration, issues with my HR department and medical insurance mean that within these three run-less weeks, I’ve yet to see a physiotherapist. I’m still learning the ropes when it comes to the American healthcare system and it has become obvious from the various horror stories I’ve heard that insurance plans vary greatly by company. Thankfully, it would seem that my own is above-average and I’m pleased to say that I have finally been able to book an appointment to see a physiotherapist tomorrow morning.
While it would be very easy to simply bemoan my luck, I quickly established that, unlike my ITBS, this injury only seems to become apparent when making impact with the ground. As a result, I found a local gym and identified that the bike, rower and cross-trainer can act as a stop-gap until I’m able to run again.
To be quite frank, the experience has been little more than bearable. The problem I find with gyms in general is that everything feels like it’s there for one reason. I find running multi-purpose - a way to relieve stress, stay fit, feel stronger, survey the neighbourhood and take in the city - whereas gym equipment feels single-purpose - stay fit, repeat until end.
To me, the gym feels the equivalent of a battery chicken cage, where running would be a free-range farm. Running outside offers freedom, the gym feels restricted, emphasising a feeling that exercise is simply a chore that must be done.
In contrast to my steadily-building contempt for the gym, I have developed a new-found respect for gym-goers. I find the mental discipline required to complete a task on an exercise machine is far greater than is required to complete a run. When I run, I set myself a defined route and I always know that whatever distance I run, I have to run the same distance back. Whereas if I set myself the task of rowing 10 kilometres, every repetition is accompanied by the temptation to make it the last. I know for a fact that I could stop at any moment and I would still be the same distance from a hot shower as I would if I were to complete the task. The further I get into the 45 minutes required to reach 10km, the greater the temptation gets - and resisting that temptation is, in itself, good training.
Regardless of how much (or how little) I enjoy it, the gym has been a life-saver and has enabled me to get in a regular and fairly decent workout without aggravating my calf pain. Last year, when I developed ITBS (a common running injury that often causes non-runners to think you are being very open about bowel movements, or lack thereof), I found it to be far more prohibitive and spent six weeks unable to engage in any lower-body at all.
While I’m in no doubt that my sessions haven’t made up for the lack of running, at the very least I feel like I’m able to retain some level of fitness: like I’m treading water with my marathon training plan rather than slowly sinking.
I will find out more at my physio appointment tomorrow but I’m beginning to accept that, taking time constraints and recovery time into consideration, a sub-3:30 for the DC marathon may be a little optimistic. It feels particularly rough writing this, as I booked the DC marathon with that one goal in mind, but if I am given bad news in terms of how long it will be before I can resume full training, I think I need sit down and work out what I want from this marathon.
I’m confident I’m capable of running sub-3:30 at some point in the future, but to do so I may have to listen to my body a little closer.