Monday, June 9, 2008

Thoughts on Injuries...

When I was fourteen, I joined the high school portion of our club team. We had a great coach, and I was very excited to be part of the "big people" group--with even bigger workouts. I was a butterflier at that point-- lots of shoulder work. I wanted to work hard for my coach, and felt that a hard worker didn't complain--so when my shoulder started hurting, I didn't say anything for three days. On the third day, I approached Mike and told him that my shoulder hurt. He asked how long it had been hurting, and when I said three days, he got mad at me, which of course made me burst into tears. He explained clearly that he wasn't mad for my shoulder hurting--he was mad for me not telling him so that we could make sure my shoulder got better. It was a great lesson in what kind of pain I needed to stop at-- and it left a big impression on me. I cut back a little, did some strengthening work and was fine for the rest of my swimming career. Aches and pains and occasional minor overuse injuries associated with sports weren't a big deal-- they just came with the territory of working your body really hard and pushing the limits of what you could do.

I have realized lately that I had completely forgotten this lesson in terms of running. This is probably the third time that my knee has surfaced as an issue (it tends to do that when I up the mileage). The past two times I have gotten freaked out (Am I just not meant for long-distance running? Will I have to stop running? Are my knees dying?) and cut way back until my knee felt better--but not really dealt with the underlying problem (i.e., is this a muscle thing? Tight hips?). No physical therapy, no doctor, no research-- just a bunch of fear. This time, (partially thanks to reading a whole bunch of blogs and the RW forums) I feel much calmer about things. Sure, my knee needs some attention--but it's normal. Again, going back to George Leonard's Mastery, "If your path is a physical one, and if you're like most of us, you'll probably encounter injuries somewhere along the way. Minor ones come with the territory." 

Right... forgot about that. 

Running can be a really solitary pursuit--I think running with community support (even if it's a cyber-community) helps to keep out the "What ifs?" and remember that my trail isn't that much different than other runners-- we are all experiencing training bumps and detours and figuring out how to navigate back to the course. (Excuse the overly extended metaphor.)  To end with Leonard (yes, it's one of my favorite books right now): "The best way of achieving a goal is to be fully present. Surpassing previous limits involves negotiating with your body, not ignoring or overriding its messages. Negotiation involves awareness. Avoiding serious injury is less a matter of being cautious than of being conscious."

As of today, my knee and I have entered into negotiations...

1 comment:

rgamlin said...

I appreciate the link.

Your knee pain sounds quite a lot like mine when I first tried to ramp my volume up: better at high speeds.

My (obvious) response was to run fast all the time! Well, soon enough I couldn't outrun the pain and found myself sidelined for about 12 months, waiting out an ITB strain.

I learned the hard way that cross training and stretching are not optional for those of us just not naturally built for lots of running - and that's 99% of the population. Once I got behind a strength training, cross training, and yoga/stretching regimen, I was able to do three to four times the volume with no pain.

Good luck with recovery, and see you on the trails.