Ever since I started this blog, I’ve been battling an injury. What started as a hamstring pull has evolved into a hip imbalance, posterior tibial tendonitis, you name it. I’m getting tired of writing about how I’ve almost healed, only to get sidelined again after a few months. Each time I start training for another race, I’m set back quickly by something that does not feel right and I return to PT. It’s frustrating to feel aerobically in shape but feel physically restrained from going the distance. Running has been my lifeblood since I tried track and field in middle school — it has been a constant source of joy in my life, even when times have been rough. For the past couple of years, however, it’s been the main source of my frustration. Running is the only sport I truly love. Growing up, I tried so many of them, but I’ve only ever enjoyed the feeling that comes with pushing myself to the limit on the track or until the trail’s end.
Recently, I was listening to an episode of Running On Om (Episode #187), and Lauren Fleshman said something that totally changed my perception. I’ve always been a pretty casual runner, but this still resonated with me:
Julia Hanlon: This is a question from Runner Who is Striving to Deal with Injuries Better. ‘Hi Lauren, I was injured a lot while competing in college, and just recently got injured as I was ramping up my post-collegiate training. My various injuries have often resulted in low self-esteem as I so strongly identify as a runner and injuries don’t allow me to exercise that part of my identity. No pun intended. As someone so passionate about running, how do you deal with the disappointment that comes with injury and how are you able to dissociate your self-worth from running goals and accomplishments?’
Lauren Fleshman: The positive side of an injury is that it’s that impetus for growth that everybody needs…You have to at some point actively draw a line, a hard line, you have the glass ceiling, this is like the concrete floor — where is the concrete floor of how deep you will allow athletic disappointment to go into your being? Where is disppointment allowed to live and where is it not allowed to live? How do I stop it from erroding my self worth and remaining just an injury? …This is something really important … Those first steps are tough. …You have to keep working at it.
Julia: Running is a practice that you have to keep at, even during the times that are uncomfortable or may feel unfamiliar.
Lauren: It’s worth that awkward stage.
And this really got me thinking. While running is something I love — there are other interests I should be pursuing too. Being injured is providing me with the opportunity to push myself in a different direction and I’m discovering new ways of challenging myself physically and mentally.
Although I’ve tried a lot of different activities to stay in shape outside of running, being injured this long has really forced me to go outside of my comfort zone to find things that work and are enjoyable. I’ve ditched the gym because I’ve finally admitted to myself that I hate it. I’ve stopped doing barre too. Right now, I’m discovering how much I enjoy yoga, cycling ,& pilates, and I plan to start swimming regularly soon. Who knows? By the time I am able to fix my hip imbalance, maybe I’ll be ready to try my first sprint tri…(it’s nice to dangle that idea in front of myself as a goal).
Outside of staying active, I’ve been using my extra time to explore my interests in graphic design & hand lettering a bit further. It’s exciting to put extra time into these hobbies. I’ve only ever trained up to a half marathon, so running did not ever consume that much of my time, but I have been focusing on goals outside of training and work, which has been refreshing for me.
Regardless, the most important thing I’ve come to terms with is that if you’re injured, it’s going to take a while to get back to 100%, but the journey is important. If you are truly willing to work on it, you will become stronger and can only end up a better runner. I really hate working on my hip, but I’m finding new ways to do it, and that is giving me the hope I need to get after it.