Friday, November 24, 2017

GUEST POST: Returning to Running by Holly

I have been incredibly fortunate in so that I haven't really had to deal with major running injuries. During my first round of half marathon training (way back in 2012), my IT Band got angry because I was doing zero cross training or strength training (#NewbieProblems), but other than that I've been super lucky. Unfortunately, there have been MANY of you who have had to deal with injury... Today Holly is here to share why she is so thankful to be returning to running.


Returning to Running

Like many of you, I laced up for my community turkey trot yesterday morning for Thanksgiving. I’ve got an extra dose of gratitude this year because I have not been able to participate since 2014. Like some of you, I’ve been injured.

In 2014 I experienced a devastating disc herniation in my lower back. It immediately affected my ability to move my foot. After attempting several non-surgical options and meeting numerous neurosurgeons, I finally opted for a spinal fusion.

Eventually I was given the “Ok to run as tolerated” so rushed to the gym triumphantly and brandished the note at my coach (who's also a physical therapist). He smiled slowly, because I had no idea what it was going to take to return me to regular running. There's a reason the recovery portion of all those heroic sports stories is a musical montage. Recovery can be a long and boring process. Once you’ve gotten to the point where you’re able to run again, things can get even trickier. For me, the key to a happier return to running has been getting guidance and managing expectations.

Don’t expect to return at the same level of fitness you left at. For me, my base was ZERO, I was essentially a new runner. In my mind, however, I was still at marathoner level fitness! I eventually chose a mindset of discovery - trying each day to discover what I could do, rather than worry about what I used to do. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to complete a full marathon again, but I’m excited to see how far I get!

Expect that your running social group will change. While I’m still friends with everyone, my distance and pace aren’t where they used to be, and other’s goals and paces have also changed. I’ve joined a local run group designed for all levels, and made more running friends. Who doesn’t want more running friends?

Did I mention I joined a local running group?
Our group coach is a certified coach with the USATF. He tightens up our form, watches for gait problems and gives great advice and encouragement. Having someone keep an eye on you as you return to running is a great way to nip further problems in the bud. You might prefer some one on one sessions, but for me the group is perfect. We don’t all run the exact same workout, but we are all struggling together on track days. We always say we are “better together!” If you aren’t sure where to find a group, investigate your local running store or gym. Most have some sort of group running programs available.

Choose your return race carefully! (But do return! So much fun!) I recommend something fun and low key, like Ragnar Relay. In June, I completed Ragnar Wasatch Back with a group of old and new friends of mixed running ability. 

We all had challenges with the legs we were assigned, but we did it together. I didn’t perform very well, but the experience encouraged me so much that after the event, I was inspired to work much harder to regain my fitness. I’m now getting ready for Ragnar Del Sol with the same group of folks, and any time I feel discouraged, I’m reminded that I can’t wait to show the team how much improvement I’ve had. Overnight relays may not be for you, maybe you want to look into other low stress/low pressure events such as novelty or fun-runs, just be careful not to re-injure yourself!

I’m still on my journey back to 100%. Some days it's incredibly frustrating or downright scary, but most days I’m discovering and developing new mental and physical skills. I hope you're as thankful to run as I am this Thanksgiving!

Not only am I thankful for the ability to lace up my running shoes and get out to run, but I'm also thankful that Holly was willing to share a snippet of her story. If you want to continue following her journey, find her on Facebook and Twitter!

Have you ever suffered a running related injury?

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