I mentioned before that I had an IT band injury, or more specifically, I had IT Band Syndrome, which is a pretty common overuse injury in runners. I have been going through physical therapy for the last two and a half months and was able to run very little during that time, but Monday was officially my last day of physical therapy. I’ve been okayed as healed! WOOHOO!
The physical therapist says that my IT band syndrome looks good now, and with his blessing, two weeks ago I began running again, starting with just 1 mile. I’ve been slowly increasing it and am currently at 2.5 miles per run. I plan to increase it to about 4 miles and hold that steady until I feel strong enough to run longer distances. I am deathly afraid of overdoing it, since about halfway through my physical therapy, I made the dumb mistake of doing a 5 miler and two soccer games, all in one weekend, and my leg paid dearly for that stupidity. So I don’t plan on making that mistake again.
Tonight I rode the subway home with a coworker, and he asked me how my physical therapy was going. It turned out that he once had a very serious rock climbing accident, and had to go through extensive physical therapy himself for six months. I told him that I was officially done with PT as of Monday, and he asked me an unexpected question: “Did you feel sad to say goodbye to your physical therapist?”My coworker said that he himself felt sad to say goodbye to his physical therapist, since that person was able to commiserate with him and serve as support during his recovery. I was glad that he asked that question, because I DID feel a little sad about biding my physical therapist farewell, and I was a little embarrassed at the feeling.
There was a point about a month ago when I suddenly felt very depressed about my injury. This is not the first time I’ve had a running-related injury, but this was the most serious and painful injury so far, and for some reason, I took it a lot harder than I expected. I did my best to put on a cheerful face and stay positive, but I felt weak and helpless and as if something precious was taken away from me. I went through the motions of therapy, but only half-heartedly did my exercises and barely cut back on mileage. I was in constant pain because of it, even when not running.
After my stupid two-soccer-games-in-a-row incident, my physical therapist finally banned me from running completely for several weeks. I nearly burst into tears upon hearing the order. He could tell how upset I was and said, “Look, I understand how you feel. But I’m telling you that you have to do something hard during the short term for your long term good. Believe me, I understand how hard it is. I’ve been training for a marathon and have not been able to run for a month due to injury too. But if you do the exercises I give you, you’ll come back stronger than before.” I thought, “Man, if my dinky 20 something mileage was hard to give up, it must have been terrible giving up 50+ miles a week! I really shouldn’t be whining about this.”
It was nice though to have someone understand how sad I felt, and of course, he understood the reality of my physical pain. It wasn’t really something I could voice to my family and friends, since most of them could not understand, even if I tried to explain. At best, the gym rats among them would just say, “Do something else then! Use the elliptical! Do Pilates!” And I’d just think, you don’t understand. It’s not the same. I feel like a loser. At worst, my friends who didn’t exercise at all would think I was just rubbing my exercise routine in their faces. If I complained about how horrible I felt about exercising less, they would see it as a judgment on them. And I didn’t want to be a complainer anyway. So the answer to my coworker’s question was, yes, I did feel sad saying goodbye to the one person who understood and helped me and listened without criticism. I guess it wasn’t such an unusual feeling after all.
But I took my physical therapist’s words to heart and decided to keep staying positive. After all, I essentially had a first world problem: I had so much extra leisure time on my hands, that I could just run around for fun. I didn’t even need to run around to feed my family or for transportation. I just did it because I enjoyed it. And I ran so much that I injured myself! How silly!
I also decided to use the break as a way to get back to basics. I’ve been putting on weight, partially because of not being able to run, but truth be told, mostly because I’ve been eating terribly. My office is filled with junk food everywhere you look, which was something I was unused to before, and I’ve been having trouble saying no to it. But I only have myself to blame — no one has been forcing me to eat it. So I’ve been focused on cleaning up my diet. I’ve also been channeling my energy into getting stronger. In particular, I’m working on improving my deadlift, and I am happy to say that I’ve made some strides in that regard. For conditioning, I’ve been diligently using the elliptical. To be sure, it’s super boring, but hey, I just repeat to myself: It’s a first world problem. It’s a first world problem.
I’m glad about my recovery and glad to be back. I plan to take it easy for now and focus on improving overall health rather than mileage, but boy, and I glad to be running again!