I have just returned from my first real run since my injury. It felt SO amazing to run! I forgot how much I simply enjoy running. Especially on a day like today when it's in the low 60's and I'm just going out for something very easy.
Wednesday, Feb. 23 marked the 4-week point of no running. The time actually went by pretty quickly. I had been mainly pain free walking around for two weeks, so I decided to give it a shot. I had been to two separate doctors and a physical therapist, and none of them gave me a concrete answer on when to start running again. But everyone agreed that my bone stimulator machine would reduce healing time. Both doctors told me I just needed to really monitor my symptoms and back off if I was feeling pain. But one doctor said it wouldn't be pain free, and some pains during/after were normal. But anything that was more than a minor twinge and I should back off.
I was feeling very frustrated with all the ambiguity. I was very anxious to get back into running, but I didn't want my four weeks off to have gone to waste by my foolishness. So on Wednesday I attempted my first run. I used a treadmill, which was dumb, because that's how I think I got the stress fracture to begin with. But I wanted to do the run-walk prior to my pool run and there are treadmills at the facility where my pool is, so it was the most convenient option. I set the treadmill to a conservative 5.4. I did feel a bit of something. I did two sets of 5 mins walking, 5 mins running and then stopped. Later that day I was having more pain in my shin than normal so I was discouraged.
But the more I thought about it, I remembered what the doctor saying about it not being pain-free, and my 5.4 miles per hour was unnaturally slow for me, which could have contributed to the awkwardness. So I decided to give it another go today (four days after the first attempt) and run outside. It was so beautiful out and I had my husband to accompany me, which was awesome. I was afraid that the run would hurt and that I would become discouraged, so having my husband for moral support was a huge help. I even wore my brand new Pacers Ambassadors shirt in honor of the occasion!
I did three sets of (5 mins walking, 5 mins running). We covered 2.52 miles total, and the run portion was just over 1.5 miles at an average pace of 9:41.
The first run section was a 10:04 pace and it felt rather easy. The next run portion was a 9:38 pace and that also felt really easy. The last run portion was a 9:22, and it still felt easy and pain-free. Yay! I was overcome with joy at the simple act of running outdoors without pain. I was also pretty excited about how easy those paces felt. When I was returning to running after my foot injury in October of 2009, a 10:00 pace felt like an 8:30 pace. But today, all of my paces felt exactly as they had felt prior to the injury. Now, I only ran for five minutes at a time, which is no indicator of where I am truly at fitness wise. But it was encouraging that it felt exactly as it did before the injury.
As for keeping my fitness up, I have been spending a lot of time water running, swimming and using the elliptical. I've actually spent more hours doing these activities then I would have normally spent running. For example, yesterday I did water running for 2.5 hours. This morning, I did water running again for 1.5 hours, and then finished it off with a 20-minute swim. And then later in the afternoon I did the run I just described. As for the elliptical, I have been using that about twice a week and doing it at a tempo effort. Usually I break the tempo effort into two sets, because it's just so unbearably hot in my gym and I need a break. But I think it's been effective. If I take my hands off the machine and use them as if I was running, it almost feels like running when going at the fast speed.
It's going to be a few more weeks until my running is intense enough to have any fitness benefits. And it will probably be another 2-3 months before my mileage can be where it was pre-injury. But I am going to my best to be patient. I want to be one of those success stories of an injured runner who came back stronger and faster! I'll be back in the pool tomorrow and Tuesday, and make another running attempt on Wednesday, so long as the shin behaves between now and then.
Special thanks to Cristina, Cheryl, Kathy and all of the others who have supported me and given me guidance throughout this injury! It's far from over, but I think I am heading in the right direction.