In February last year, I developed a stress fracture on my hip, which led to me having to go three months unable to even walk properly and without pain let alone jogging or running. *gasp*
Being on my semester abroad, I kind of went a bit mental with trying – then gorging- on French food. (I made the most of the croissants-and-hot-chocolate-every-morning-culture!)
This eventually contributed to an eleven pound weight gain and loss of muscle mass in my legs within three months, shredding only the minuscule amount of self confidence I left Scotland with. Put basically, my host mum (who was 6 months pregnant) was a smaller size than me.
It wasn’t until September last year that I was able to start going for light runs, and even then sometimes I’d have to end a slow 5K with gritted teeth and tears in my eyes from being in pain. Running eventually had to be substituted with other forms of exercise that I don’t enjoy nearly as much, and it was truly heartbreaking.
So, I had to start my running journey again- slowly building up speed and distance, to try and get even close to the level I was at before. You can imagine then, when I started feeling pain in my knee when I was walking and squatting, that the panic set in pretty quickly. I refused to believe that I was about to be struck with another injury that would hinder my running life.
So, I did what other runners are definitely guilty of but really shouldn’t do. I ran through it. I grinned pretended I was loving it, when in reality, my knee and my hip both began to work against me and I ended up being woken in the middle of the night from the throbbing pain.
Point is, I shouldn’t have run through the pain. It was a stupid thing to do. It obviously did not encourage recovery in my legs, and to be honest, it made me dread doing something I absolutely adore doing. The only good thing that came with it, and this sounds crazy, is that the actual running still allowed me to disconnect from the anxieties and worries that still plagued me every day. I was able to stop thinking about uni, friendships, relationships, family… everything that all comes together in one big mess and hangs above you on a daily basis. Running was the only way I knew how to literally run away from my problems.
But running away from my mental and personal problems meant my physical health was at risk. The final straw was when I was working and physically could not bend down to pick something up because my leg hurt so much. I felt like an old lady trapped in a young person’s body, and the dread of having to go through months of walking in pain was crippling.
So I rested. Well. As much as I could justify myself to. I used the cross-trainer… something I have never been a fan of. I went swimming, even though the water makes my skin break out and I lessened the weights I was squatting and dead-lifting with, trying to talk myself into the mindset that I wasn’t failing, it would be better for me in the long run.
After weeks of having to force myself to avoid the treadmill, the pavement and the leg press, I tentatively put my running shoes on last week and went for a light jog, not giving myself any pressure for a certain amount of time or distance, just seeing where my feet would take me, and promising that I would stop and walk home if I started to hurt.
It felt incredible! Having given my legs time off from high impact sport, I actually gave them time to heal properly and could feel the benefits. I actually cried when I finally got back to my own street and started the cool down walk back to my flat. I cried. In the street. With happiness.
This experience, painful as it has been – which made it even more of a valuable lesson I reckon – has taught me you can’t force your body into doing things it doesn’t want to do. Pain is the brain’s signal that you’re doing something wrong.
At the time it felt horrible, but now I can get back into what I do best, and (within reason so as not to break myself again) I can go back to using running as my go to solution for shaking off the bad vibes of the day.
Because running things off is acceptable. No matter what Taylor Swift says, shaking it off in the middle of the street would be weird.