What ever your chosen method may be (physiotherapy, R.I.C.E., denial, cold turkey, etc.), the process of healing an injury and coming back to a sport you love is not an easy one. At first you jump right back in, expecting to be able to handle what you were doing before being struck down by bad luck. You head out and realize that either you’re not as fit, or that your legs can’t handle the same distance. Coming to terms with this isn’t easy. I know I was frustrated initially. Coming off of a twelve week period of no running (in truth I stopped counting after 9…I thought it would make the process easier to not be counting the hours moving by me), I thought I could start doubling up and running long periods during the day. I didn’t really care about the loss of fitness, just as long as I could just jump right in and start back at my goal. Start back and work towards being fast and race healthy again. But that’s not the way it works – obviously. The physiotherapist had warned me, along with many others in my entourage, that I had to prepare for a buffer period…a time during the which I have to been acutely aware of my body and its needs. So after one weekend of pushing too hard I scaled back and decided to take things in strides…to work at it bit by bit. The result so far has been positive. No major relapses (knock on wood), no signs of a return to the disabled list. Though this has meant cutting down on total mileage, workout speed and intensity and on the number of intervals I do – I can honestly say that it is entirely worth the sacrifice. I’m doing what I love to do. Running. Doesn’t have to be fast, doesn’t have to be long, doesn’t have to be the way it was before the injury for the time being…it’s just there to remind me of why I go through it all. Why I waited impatiently for 12 weeks with one thing in mind: to run again.
André Lefort wrote a great blog on doing those little things that brought you out of injury after returning to training. I can’t stress this enough, and as simple as it may sound, I’ve heard of too many runner’s who’ve ignored this ‘in between’ step and have paid for it with relapse, worsening of injuries, etc. The thing is that the injury is not gone entirely as you start running again. I for one still feel tingles in my leg. So I keep doing my elastics, my core work, my stretching and my rolling. And I’ll keep doing it for a while, as an insurance policy that will make it less likely for my leg to reinjure itself. I realize a lot of people stop doing it because they start filling their time with running workouts and mileage. But what we seem to easily forget is that this short series of strengthening exercises (usually no more than 15 minutes…done at any point in a 24 hour day) is what brought us back. We owe it many thanks, but we also owe it the respect of following it to the end. Of not just simply bringing the muscle or tendon back partially, but making it stronger, more durable, and ready to take on the new set of challenges and break downs to come. Maybe this is due to my deep belief in core work, but if I’ve observed anything in my short career as a runner it is that the attention you pay to detail is what will make you succeed at your personal goal. When running, the body uses countless muscles, joints, tendons, etc. in order to perform this incredible physical feat. As runners who do this everyday we think of it as pretty basic stuff – but it’s not. We ask a lot of our bodies. Some of us ask more of it on the inner right side of the calf, or on the heel, or in the knee…so why not give it a hand? Why not do our part in maintaining it by strengthening those little bits and pieces that we know need to be oiled and kept well adjusted? As runner’s we are aptly able to understand the language that is spoken by our body. We read it like a book we know to well, the signs of fatigue or break down, and the signs of growth and progress. But we are also the first to ignore those signs, to let the mind and ambition take over and override the signs coming from the very organs bearing the brunt of the work. So listen to your body. You’d be surprised what it can tell you, what it can warn you against and what it can tell you to reach for…
Having said that, the group at Montreal Endurance and Fleur-de-Lys has had an excellent summer thus far. Although injured, I’ve travelled with the group to various race locations around our parts of the country and seen incredible races, P.B.’s, group achievements, individual prowess, etc. It’s been hard watching from the sidelines, but as many of the videos posted on this website will demonstrate, I’ve had some of the most ecstatic and thrilling moments in recent years watching the likes of Daniel Kramer (The Krämermaster), John Lofranco (Coach), Ryan Noel-Hodge (Hodge Podge / The reason why I started running), Brenna Walsh (Twinkle toes), Kelly Hewitt (Miss recently beat me in a 200m), and many more. It’s been interesting to watch it all unfold from the stands or the infield of a 400m track. To watch everyone race, push beyond their boundaries, surprise themselves and those around them, break down, etc. But what has most impressed me is how much a group can do in helping one go through all of these emotions and achievements. The camaraderie that exists within our group is incredible, and at the end of anyone’s race the competing athlete is faced with a barrage of congratulations, pats on the back, and recorded interviews. We live through those moments together. When Daniel Kramer crossed the line in what I thought was a 3:48 (1500m) in London Ontario last week I pulled at my hair in disbelief. Not because I didn’t think he could do it. But because is part of the group I identify with, part of the team that I meet with everyday to train with. And his accomplishment put a lot of validation in the work that I do everyday. In the work that I’m doing right now in order to get back in shape. I’m not saying that there’s no point in running with out a group. What I want to infer is that running within a group as closely knit as ours (and I recognize signs of these same elements in other clubs across the country) is what makes running that much better – what makes us run faster and further. It’s a mix of competitive behaviour (individual push and betterment) and wanting to succeed for the larger collective (communal goals). I know that in the races I’ve run (and run well), I’ve crossed that finish line and thought about myself…but I’ve also thought about the ensemble, about the group that’s allowed me to get there. They say that running is an individual sport, and I don’t plan on arguing against them…but if you can manage to make it into a community sport by giving back, collaborating, belonging, cheering and being cheered on, and meeting somewhere halfway on a long run and remembering that you belong to something larger…then it really becomes an incredible way of living ones life.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
– Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love (1963)