I was never a particularly active person. I tried to be. I tried running, pilates, lifting weights, aerobics, and just about every other fad exercise that came down the pike in the 80s and 90s, but nothing stuck until I caught the running bug about five years ago.
As a child, I was always the kid picked last for the kickball team in gym class, and you could usually find me inside the house with my nose in a book rather than running around outside with the bugs. Cuz, ew.
I’ll never know what clicked a few years ago, but as anyone who has hung around here for any length of time knows, running gradually became a huge part of my life and my identity. Training for and running my half marathon two years ago was by far the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life, aside from giving birth to my three children.
At first, when I had to stop running, due to my stress fracture last fall, I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I felt like I was going stir crazy. I had gotten so used to exercising that my body was in shock when I stopped cold turkey. I was miserable. Just when I thought I was starting to recover, we discovered the torn tendon. That time, my doctor put me in a medical brace, and I stopped working out altogether.
Over the next few months, my body got used to being sedentary again, and I decided I was okay with it. After all, I spent the first 35 years of my life that way.
When I started getting active again a few months ago, my foot flaked yet again. That was the final straw. I was just about over this whole exercise thing. Everyone was right. Exercise is bad for you, clearly.
I decided I needed a fresh perspective so I made an appointment with a new (my 3rd!!!) doctor. By then my foot had calmed down again. He ordered an MRI and told me that I could do some light walking and jogging if I felt up to it, but I didn’t even care. I was growing content with my sedentary life. I mean, I’m not hobbling around in a foot brace at the moment, and I can wear cute shoes for short outings. What more could a girl ask for, really?
I was feeling pretty okay with going about my life without exercise being a part of it.
Last week, I went back to see the doctor to get the results of the MRI he ordered. When he burst into the room (yes, he burst; he’s a pretty intense guy), the first thing he asked was how my foot was feeling. When I told him that it’s been pretty quiet, he asked, “WHY? What have you been doing?”
Me: Um, well. Nothing.
Him: Not walking? Not running? Working out? Biking?
Me: Nope. Nothing.
Him: Oh, so you’re going to be a lazy American now, is that it?
Me: I’ve just lost my mojo, I guess. Every time I increase my activity, my injuries flare up again and I end up in a boot or a brace. I’m over it. I’m just happy to be walking around without a medical device velcroed to one of my appendages.
He shook his head and turned towards the computer screen, where he proceeded to show me the the pictures of my left foot and ankle from my MRI. He explained that the stress fracture and tendon are completely healed, but when my tendon healed, it didn’t knit itself together quite as tightly as it should have. He showed me where he could see scar tissue in the ankle area on the film.
Then he spun back around and fixed his eyes on me and said, “So. We need to get you active again.”
THIS is the kind of doctor I’ve been looking for all my life.
He proceeded to explain that I need to retrain those muscles to work properly or I will keep getting flare ups when I increase my activity level. His recommendation is “aggressive physical therapy” and he referred me to someone he believes can help me.
I am cleared to walk and jog, as long as I listen to my body. He even said that a light jog can be easier on my body than speed walking, especially if I tend to take long strides when I walk. Shorter strides are better, he says. It makes sense to me. In fact, walking always seems to create more tension in my legs and feet than running does.
I’m also supposed to go to PT 2x a week for a month and continue using my anti-inflammatory cream 3-5 times a day.
“You might hurt, but aren’t hurt,” he assured me. “I want you to start working this thing. No more lazy American.”
My first thought was, “Um, have you MET me? I get hurt doing nothing.” But I didn’t say it. I decided to take his words at face value and hope for the best. If he’s wrong, he can fix me. He gave me the push that I needed to get back out there. I’m not ready to give up yet.
The next morning, I laced up my running shoes and headed out the door. After a few minutes of walking, I broke into a gentle jog. Everything felt good. I went about a mile, doing the 1-minute run/2-minute run/walk intervals.
The next day, I went out again. And the next. I took a break yesterday, even though I didn’t really want to. Today I did 2 miles.
It is AMAZING how freeing it is to be run/walking and not be worried about every twinge. Now that I can visualize that MRI in my mind and I know what’s going on in there, there are no more guessing games. I can’t tell you the relief that has provided and the freedom it’s given me to trust my body.
Now I’m eager to get outside every morning. The joy is back. My mojo is back. The heat and humidity can’t even put a damper on my enthusiasm.
I don’t know if my body is going to hold up or not. I don’t know why I got those injuries to begin with, so I realize that I’m taking a risk by picking up the same activities that I was doing when I got hurt, but I’m not ready to give up yet. If I get injured again, I’ll deal with it when the time comes. As my mother always says, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
For now, I’m just enjoying each moment. I don’t need to run races or long distances. There are no goals. I’m not tracking my pace or my distance or hoping to set any new records for myself. I’m just happy to be out there.
Each day that I can run, even just for a few minutes, is a gift. I’ll take what I can get.