Hi! Hello. It’s been a hot second since I’ve been around. Up until three weeks ago it was because all my spare time was taken up by half marathon training. I don’t really have an excuse for the last two weeks, since I’ve just been eating my feelings and trying to stay upbeat in light of my – yep, you guessed it – recent injury.
So let’s take a second to talk about this. Because I think it’s important to note.
Never in a million years did I think I’d ever get an athletic injury. (I still don’t see myself as an athlete, despite being told otherwise.) Even until the point I broke myself, I thought I was doing okay. I was in the best shape of my life, had conquered so many health obstacles, and was churning out miles in preparation for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco later this year.
About three weeks ago I was visiting a friend in Princeton and needed to clock in a 6 mile run. I felt fine during, but as soon as I got back to the house, I couldn’t get up. I had shooting pain in my back and down my right leg. After hobbling home, I immediately called the doctor (something I’ve never been want to do do). The next morning they told me I had a herniated disc, and an MRI later that week confirmed that I had not one, but two.
With one week of PT down (and at least 11 more to go), I felt the need to say something here, because I know I’m not the only one who’s done this. According to my physical therapist, I had one herniated disc for a while. I’d just thought it was regular ol’ back pain associated with the amount of working out I was doing. The six mile run was what ruptured the second disc. I asked her if she saw a lot of runners with the same problem (because Google told me it was a fairly common runner’s injury), and her response really took me back. She told me that most of the young people she sees with herniated discs are caused because they’ve pushed themselves too hard.
I’ve had a lot of time to sit around and think about this the last few weeks. First off, I know she’s right. I knew I was overdoing it months ago. But results are addicting, I’m stubborn, and I have a high pain threshold, so I just kept going. Doing back-to-back spin classes, then an hour of circuit training followed by a run wasn’t uncommon. If a friend wanted to try out a new studio, I inevitably went with. Someone in the office was afraid to work out alone? Count me in. It wasn’t until I really started to get into the half marathon training that I took my coach’s advice and started taking rest days. And by days, I mean day. And that made Friday the most challenging day of the week, because I’m really bad at sitting around.
But the damage had already been done. While most of me was in great shape, my core wasn’t, and that became the root of the problem. Now I’m relegated to spinning (with major adjustments) and swimming. I don’t plan on hopping in the East River any time soon, so swimming’s out, but my beloved Flywheel is still part of my life. Granted, it’s frustrating to have to sit the entire class and know I’m not allowed to push for those power scores I’m used to, but I’m adjusting. Because that’s it. That’s all I can do right now. And you know what? It’s better than nothing. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I wasn’t allowed to work out at all.
I’ll admit, there were definitely tears shed over having to change all my plans. I cancelled my flights, called Nike about my entry, and took down my countdown calendar. I ate a pint of ice cream for dinner a few nights in a row. I could barely walk, let alone get to the grocery store, so Seamless became my new best friend. I wasn’t making great decisions for my body, but I was struggling to come to terms with the damage I’d done in the midst of trying to better myself. We all have weak points in our lives, it’s inevitable. It’s how we handle them that matters.
Knowing pity party time was over, I came home this past Friday and purged my pantry of all the junk I’d purchased since injuring myself. I restocked my fridge with fruit and vegetables, prepped healthy snacks, and promised myself no more ordering out. The nice thing about falling off the bandwagon for a few weeks is that it’s always there for you to get back on. I’m not working out the way I used to, so I’m obviously burning fewer calories. If anything, I need to be eating even better than I was before to compensate.
As I stand here, just having crossed the starting line of a marathon recovery, I’m feeling optimistic. My eating habits are back on track, and I’m going to PT twice a week while doing the recommended stretching three times a day at home. People had warned me how tough PT would be, but I didn’t really understand until it was actually underway. Still, I have a lot of people holding me accountable, from my coach to my spin instructors to my friends and family. There’s no way I’ll slip up because a) I don’t want to disappoint them and 2) I don’t want to disappoint myself. This is where the stubbornness comes in handy. I’m constantly having to remind myself to step back and take it easy, and I think that’s a learning process, but it’s working. I can walk without stumbling around like a drunk, and I’m needing my pain medication less and less. And it’s only been a few weeks since I scaled back! Imagine how I’ll feel once I’m officially cleared to return to a regular fitness regimen!
Another thing keeping me going as I work through this recovery is the knowledge that by the time I run my first half marathon next year, I’ll be in great shape, and in better control of my body. My coach has an entire year to get me ready versus a few short months. I’ll be able to ease back into training and avoid any more injuries — fingers crossed!
If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that you need to take care of the body you were given. It took me 27 years to find what worked for me, and once I figured it out, I got addicted to the results. But I also learned how far I can safely push myself before doing physical harm. Sammy 2.0 now has a better understanding of her limits and knows to listen to her body. If I’m tired, I’ll take a day off. I won’t take three classes in a day. I’ll be vigilant about stretching before and after I workout. These all may seem like common sense, but I know I’m not the only one who’s screwed it up because otherwise physical therapists and doctors would be out of a job.
So if you’re reading this and find yourself saying, “Hmm… I’m totally the person who pushes themselves way too hard, but I’m terrible at saying ‘no,'” here’s a word of advice: listen to your body. It’s hard, but in the end it’s worth it.