Sunday, April 3, 2016

There are two types of runners: the currently injured, and the soon-to-be injured!

Meditation, yoga, and Pilates work for some
 I wish I could say none of this was my fault; that I had been sensible and listened to my body. That I took rest days. That I’d stretched and foam rolled and done those exercises they recommend in articles like, “Seven-hundred-seventy-five-and-a-half easy ways to avoid injuries”. I wish I could say I’d done all that… But, no.

“Everything happens for a reason," they say. However, as I've learned, sometimes that reason is simply that you’re stupid and you've made terrible decisions. There I was. I’d just run the fastest 100 mile race of my career, and my body was completely trashed. So naturally I went out the next day and hammered a track workout! 

No, just kidding; I’m not a complete idiot. For once in my life I figured I would do the sensible thing and take a couple weeks off from running to let my body repair itself (See, I can be sensible sometimes!). After my two weeks of mandatory down-time were up, I decided to carefully ease back into running with a short, light jog. 

No, I can’t lie to you. What I actually did was far more foolhardy. For some reason, I decided that the best way to jump back into running was to race a 5K race, followed immediately by a 10K, at my local Turkey Trot.

Whatever works for you...
The 5K race went well, surprisingly. That is to say that nothing in my legs popped, tore, or exploded. I probably should have quit while I was ahead after the 5K. But instead I decided to double down and try to hammer the 10K as well. Less than a minute into the second race I felt something snap in my hip, followed immediately by a painful burning sensation. “Chances are, that’s probably not good,” I thought to myself.

Thankfully I was only a couple hundred yards from the start/finish area so I could easily walk back to my car. I could have easily walked back to my car. But… I didn’t. Instead – for reasons that I still can’t quite fathom – I decided to try and press on try to see how fast I could hobble the next ten kilometers on just one leg. Which turns out, was not particularly fast. However, several mimosas and a plate of bacon later, I was feeling no pain.

To make sure I totally screwed things up, instead of seeing the doctor afterward and resting and rehabbing my sore hip, I spent the next two months logging workouts on Strava with alternating daily titles such as, “All-out sprint down Lombard Street” followed the next day by, “Slowly hobbling on sore right hip” and “Vertical Beer Mile course record attempt” followed by “Attempt to jog around the block”.

Apparently at some point during all this nonsense I even flew out to Texas and tried to compete in the USA Track and Field 100K Trail National Championships. It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that I dropped out 20 miles into the race due to hip and ankle pain. But still, I refused to admit that anything was seriously wrong. I wasn’t actually “injured”; I was just “working through a niggle”.

But then one day, in the middle of an all-out sprint while attempting to capture a Strava course record during a work trip in Germany, that “little niggle” suddenly became an “Oh S#!t. I hobbled back into the conference room after lunch, barely able to walk, stoned out of my mind on several thousand milligrams of something called “Marihuana”, which my helpful German colleagues assured me was the German equivalent of ibuprofen. (Although on a positive note, our Senior Vice President remarked that he was impressed with my creativity and out-of-the-box thinking).

Have a friend evaluate your form...
So here I am… a month later and twelve pounds heavier, and just finally able to start back running again. My life has become a cautionary tale. It is only now that I appreciate one of the most profound truths in the universe – that there are essentially only two types of runners: the injured and the soon-to-be-injured.

Those of us who are currently injured realize, albeit after the fact, that prevention is indeed the best medicine. Yet it is too late for us and so we sit at home, foam-rolling in the dark with the curtains closed; icing and intermittently applying moist heat to our swollen bits; rubbing strange-looking and worse-smelling liniments all over our aching ligaments; self-medicating with bulk quantities of ibuprofen, and occasionally the harder stuff – wine, cookies, and ice cream.

And then are the un-injured (or, as I prefer to think of them, the soon-to-be-injured). Those smug bastards. Those happy, carefree fools skipping along through fields of wildflowers with the sun on their faces; smiling unapologetically, completely unaware that they are just one misstep away from a devastating injury and a life or "Netflix and chill" with a five-gallon drum of ice cream.

So, how can soon-to-be-injured runners avoid calamity? Sure, they can stretch and foam roll. They can light candles, burn incense and pray to the gods of pulled hamstrings and sprained ankles. But not everyone is convinced of the efficacy of stretching and/or offering sacrifices to the trail running gods.

And don't be afraid to look stupid.
There are certain things that people will probably always fight over: politics, religion, race. You can probably add to that list: stretching! Granted, I doubt that anyone has ever been shanked with a sharpened spoon in a prison yard for claiming that yoga is more beneficial than Pilates. And I haven't seen too many Twitter wars between elite runners about the efficacy of static versus dynamic stretching.

But still, people don’t seem to be able to come to a consensus about when stretching is most effective (before running or afterwards), whether it works at all, or if it is causes more injuries than it claims to prevent. However, there are a few thins that most runners will agree on including the importance of rest, and the importance of not being a complete f*ing idiot.

In short, if something hurts, take a rest day! If something feels kinda weird, take it easy. Do some stretching. Foam roll a bit. Maybe hop on bike or jump in the pool. But whatever you do, don't do what I did. Unless of course you're looking to take a break from running and want to catch up on all those Netflix shows your injured friends have been raving about :)

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