Anyone who’s even remotely acquainted with me has heard about my left shin splint by now. Guys, it’s bad. As in I-probably-should-have-rested-it-several-weeks-ago-and-now-it’s-trying-to-kill-me bad. Last time I trained for a half-marathon I developed an overuse injury in my right knee around when I increased to 9 miles. The doctor told me to take a prescription-strength NSAID and rest for two weeks to give my body time to heal…which sucked enough as a crazy goal-oriented runner with a race coming up. But this time I have a whole different set of disordered thought patterns which made it really hard to listen to my body’s “YOU NEED TO REST” signals.
I’ve been treating symptoms and pain as it happens (normally after long runs) with ice baths, ibuprofen, and foam-rolling…but unfortunately shin splints also need ample rest if you really want to treat the cause and not just the symptoms. This past week, walking became something that was uncomfortable and I finally decided that, rather than risk tearing/breaking/straining/irreparably damaging something, I should probably bite the bullet and actually rest. I enlisted Boyfriend as my accountability buddy because I know myself too well to think I can make it through the week without at least fantasizing about lacing up my Brooks and going for a “short four miles.”
But when your legs look like this before every run (and you’re STILL feeling slight pains in your leg), it’s probably an indication that your body is past its limits:
In an effort to lighten things up a bit since I’ve been talking a lot about mental health struggles and just heavy stuff in general (and also a bid to keep myself accountable…and keep myself from going nuts), I’m going to document my Week Without Running. Here are the conditions I set for myself:
- The only exercise allowed is yoga, 3 days MAX – and this is not allowed if it causes pain.
- Wrap and ice shin/knee – yes at work, YES even though it’s awkward.
- Consistent ibuprofen – start with two pills, only use max strength if necessary.
- Only swimming on the weekend – NO RUNNING. No, not even a short one.
- NO RUNNING. I mean it.
- What if I have an indulgent day or worse, go on a binge? NO RUNNING. I MEAN IT.
Monday wasn’t too difficult because it’s normally my rest day anyway. I decided after getting to work to add the icing condition, so I couldn’t start icing until Tuesday because I didn’t have a wrap bandage to keep an ice pack in place. For the most part, it felt like any other rest day (except for the looming realization that tomorrow was another rest day).
Tuesday was a hard day for me. I woke up and felt strange not preparing to go out and run, and felt kind of lethargic and generally unfocused because my routine was different. I did my best to ice my shin, but it was difficult to find a good way to keep the ice packs in place (especially since I’m up and down a lot throughout the day). My bags of ice also seemed to be especially prone to breaking under the pressure from the bandage, so I spent most of the day with ice water dripping down my leg.
Boyfriend and I were originally thinking of doing bar trivia, but decided against it because he was so out of it after a late night at work. We ended up going to a local bar near home for dinner anyway, and I made a series of poor dining decisions that led to a binge. I spent the rest of the night trying to pretend I wasn’t in a funk and already thinking about how I could “make up” for it the next day since I couldn’t run.
I felt so frustrated (especially since it was only Tuesday) but I definitely noticed less pain in my leg at rest which at least reassured me I was doing the right thing. I contemplated asking Boyfriend to hide my running shoes, but decided against it because I wanted to prove to myself I could prioritize my health over my disordered thoughts.
Wednesday was somehow more of a challenge than Tuesday – mostly because I woke up carrying the frustration and baggage of the night before. I couldn’t run to recenter myself like I normally would, and actually ended up sleeping through my alarm so I didn’t have time for a yoga flow either. I had trouble focusing the entire day between the guilt of not being able to work out, anxiety over failing to prevent disordered thoughts from becoming actions, and the overwhelming desire to restrict and “balance out” the previous day since I couldn’t run. Unfortunately, I did end up restricting for most of the day but felt a little more on track come dinner time. Boyfriend tried to play-chase me around the kitchen island, and when I put pressure on my left leg as if to “run,” I got some really sharp pains and had to ice.
Ugh, is this going to get any better?
I waited until close to the end of the (work) day to post because I wanted to see how things went. Overall, I’m feeling so sluggish and bloated! I don’t know how much of my unfocused-ness and tiredness has to do with staying largely sedentary this week and how much has to do with just generally feeling tired and unfocused, but it sucks. Regular ibuprofen hasn’t been doing much for me today (in fact, the pain actually feels worse and my whole leg is just grumpy and stiff), so I took a prescription-grade dose after lunch and I feel awful. High dose pain medication has never played nice with my system.
I kind of feel like running in the morning is something that helps kickstart my energy for the day – you don’t realize how much you’ll miss a piece of your routine until it’s gone! I didn’t realize how much more confident and sexy I feel when I have time to exercise. It’s not even about the calorie burn (most days), it’s more about the sense of accomplishment and strength I feel when I complete a really good run or finish a challenging yoga flow. Even yoga has made me nervous because stretching at my desk has hurt, so I’ve completely backed off from even low-impact exercise. Boyfriend suggested a bath yesterday and to be honest I’m in such a body-negative place I couldn’t even deal with the thought of laying in my naked body for more than about 30 seconds.
This week has shown me a lot of the places in which I can employ greater compassion toward my body (even in times when it needs to rest for several days). I haven’t done well in honoring my body beyond (trying to) care for my injury, and it’s definitely manifested in my overall mentality. Luckily, the week isn’t over! I’m hoping I’ll feel comfortable enough to at least try a short yoga flow tonight, and maybe a longer one tomorrow. From here I’m going to try to modify my mental approach to this (very necessary) challenge and focus on the following:
- Focus on the healthy decisions I can make (like nourishing meals, getting enough sleep, practicing effective self-care), rather than the ones I can’t (like exercising)
- Understand that there’s no right way to have a body, and they’re pretty malleable things (so feeling bloated and more aware of the physical space my body takes up is most likely a temporary phenomenon – and even if it’s not, that’s okay too)
- Appreciate my body for what it can do instead of being frustrated at its limitations while I’m healing
- Remember that in the long run this will help me exercise smarter and more effectively (which is important for a sustainable practice)
- Be okay with feeling frustrated and address it in a productive way instead of falling into harmful coping techniques (like Tuesday’s binge)
I will be back on Sunday to share my final thoughts on my Week Without Running!