You want me to do what?

frying pan

Taking time off running is never an easy thing to do, but sometimes it is a necessary thing to do. I have never been good at taking time off. I struggle with rest weeks every four weeks and a rest day each week. So when my doctor says, Nicole, you’re going to need to take a few weeks off of running.

It hits me like a frying pan in the face.

Anger, frustration, disappointment, and heartbroken, I felt them all wash over me. Running is my outlet and my balance.

Why do I have to take time off? A stress fracture in my forefoot.

I’ve never had a stress fracture before and it has always been my greatest fear as a runner because I know it takes you out for an extended period of time.

So now what? I don’t want to lose any more fitness than is necessary, and I want to be able to run the Buffalo 100 at the end of March.

The best way to maintain running fitness when you are injured is through pool running. Running in the pool is not fun. It is monotonous. To run in a pool, you use a flotation belt. You are not supposed to be able to reach the bottom of the pool nor do you move very quickly. The faster you move the more out of running position you are. You can sprint all you want, you’re still not going to go any faster. Running in the pool allows you to continue to work your running muscles without the impact, which will aggravate your injury, whatever it may be.

Other things you can do to maintain at least aerobic fitness are cycling and swimming. Depending on the type of injury you have, weight lifting is also a good option. Take advantage of the downtime by working on things you, “don’t have time for,” because running takes up all of your spare time.

Forced rest depression is something all injured athletes have to be aware of and constantly assess themselves for. Exercise floods your body with endorphins that make you feel good and when you lose those, you can fall into a bad place emotionally. It’s easy to do when you are already feeling heartbroken.

The fastest way back to running is by following your doctor’s advice (I’ll admit, I am not very good at this). If you don’t, you will likely make the injury worse or heal much more slowly. You also run the risk of making a soft tissue injury turn into something chronic that will flare up on a regular basis at the most inopportune times.

A stress fracture heals much faster than a full fracture of the bone. No promises here, but I’m committed to being mostly good and to follow my doctor’s advice.

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6 thoughts on “You want me to do what?

  1. ET December 2, 2015 at 12:25 am Reply

    Dang it. No wonder your foot hurt. 😦 Glad you got a medical opinion and know what you need to do. I’ll help come up with a list of things to do in your “free time”.

    • Nicole Lowe December 2, 2015 at 12:27 am Reply

      Yes please provide a list! I’m going to go stir crazy.

  2. So... December 2, 2015 at 12:50 am Reply

    Wish you a speedy recovery.

  3. tandemtrekking December 15, 2015 at 5:44 pm Reply

    Ah, I know how hard this is. At least you have some other options for staying in shape, I am sure you will heal quickly and be back out there in no time!

  4. Losing it? | ultrarunningmom August 3, 2017 at 3:02 pm Reply

    […] One of the most frustrating things that happens when you take time off running is you lose your hard earned fitness and have to work your ass off to get it back. We all know the longer you have to take off of running the more you lose. This is definitely something I have struggled with as I’ve been coming back from two rolled ankles and a strained hamstring. Anyone who has been forced to take time off running due to an injury knows you go through the whole grief cycle, which I’ve written about and you can find it here. There are two aspects of losing it: the mental side and the physical side. Let’s start with the easier of the two: the physical side. There’s been lots of research about how quickly fitness is lost when an athlete has to take time off after an injury or just because they are burnt out. We lose the most fitness right up front 20% in the first three weeks. Ouch. after that things level off and up to three months you retain 80% of your fitness. For those athletes who have trained for a long time the impact over time is less because you have a stronger base of fitness. What the experienced athletes lose is what they have most recently gained. You go back to your baseline. As much as this steep drop in fitness loss sucks, it is easier to get back to where you were than it was to get there in the first place. You can slow the loss and maintain fitness by cross training that makes sure your aerobic system keeps working at the level you had it and doing strength training to minimize the amount of muscle strength you lose. Sport specific fitness is definitely going to take a  hit though so don’t get discouraged when you go back and are sore after a run that would have been a walk in the park pre-injury. The mental side of it, in my opinion, is the harder of the two that you work through. Depending on how long you are injured, you may have developed a maladaptive coping skill telling yourself it doesn’t matter and maybe you do something other than running. Sometimes it can go as far as, I just don’t want to run anymore. Telling ourselves these things when there is no end in sight or we when we are catastrophizing is a way that we cope with the loss of running, which has becomes a indispensable part our life and who we see ourselves as.  The problem with this, is it makes reviving the motivation to get back out there more difficult. The best way to regain motivation is by remembering the things you love about running, which can trigger those feelings of loss all over again that you were trying to avoid in the first place. See my article on working through the cycle of grief link above. Once you are back out there, you have to get over the fear of another injury. This takes time and building trust in your ability and self confidence. The only way to build these is to get out there. Give yourself permission to go at your own pace by taking it slow and run easier routes for a bit. It helps if you come up with a plan of action. A plan will help you come to terms with the fact that you can get back to where you were. A critical element to maintaining motivation and avoiding a lot of self recrimination is to not compare yourself to where you were and where you are. This is a particularly difficult one for me. Try to remain positive and every time this thinking pattern pops into your head, counter act it by reminding yourself that you had to work hard to get to where you were and it’s possible to do it again because you know how and you know you are strong enough mentally and physically to get there. The other half of working through this is accepting where you are. Berating yourself and dwelling on the fitness you’ve lost is not going to help you move forward. It doesn’t change where your current level of fitness is at. It is not easy to come back from an extended voluntary or involuntary break from running, but runners are a tenacious bunch who like challenges and this is just one more hill to climb. I’ve also blogged about the safe way to return to running after an injury. You can find it here. Here is a post about how to run in the swimming pool. Boo! There is also something called forced rest depression which I talk about here. […]

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