T-minus

It’s the home stretch, and I’m so excited. I am ready to get this over with, make it to the other side, and prepare for the long, slow return to running (maybe by like… 2019?). If you are faced with an unfathomably long break from running, you may be wondering what kinds of new hobbies could possibly be out there to compete for second fiddle. I know there is no way to completely fill the void, but in the last few weeks I have discovered a couple substitutes that work for me.

Gardening. I’ve been trying to makeover a previously neglected and overgrown yard since the early spring. I spent weeks raking, chopping down tree shoots, and digging up grass in order to make way for flower and vegetable beds. Some tasks are a decent workout, even if tedious, but runners who know the benefits of getting the small things done will find a lot of satisfaction in the end result.

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Biking. Though I had to part ways with it eventually due to pain, it’s still the next most enjoyable form of exercise to me. Find routes that are challenging, and your runner brain will love the endorphins. It’s also a great way to revisit running routes that you are sorely missing, and feel some wind in your face. Bike while running errands or commuting to work to sneak in extra cardio throughout the day.

House therapy. Ok, I’m not, like, some HGTV maniac. But a year ago I refinished my dining room table and chairs, and after that I was kinda hooked on home improvement. This spring, I have also done things like paint my entire house, install new light fixtures, and replace cabinet hardware. Stuff like this can be tough to fit in when you’re spending your free time running and recovering from running. Let those creative juices flow and challenge yourself to learn a new trade.

Hitting the gym. I’m more of an out-the-door runner, and in case you missed my last post, I hate the gym. But being injured makes a strong case for going. I used the elliptical until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and currently I’ve been acquainting myself with the pool. I also started lifting weights again. There are group classes to take advantage of, like pilates, which is a fun way to sneak in your PT work without even noticing. Yoga and barre offer core and muscle conditioning that can aid the return to (or continuation of) running. Find alternatives that work for you. A sweat is a sweat.

Reading. By far my healthiest sedentary habit. I’ve been tackling a list of “feminist” reads that I made up myself — it’s almost 100% stuff written by women of color, LGBT women, or women suffering from mental illnesses — sometimes these categories overlap. We’ve all read the “traditional” bullshit they feed you in high school and college. Patriarchal garbage IMO. I’ve enjoyed all of these books so much more. Don’t forget to exercise your mind.

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I have a lot of gratitude going into surgery. It’s a relief, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to consider it as an option. It’s also given me a new perspective on time away from running, and with that the realization that life goes on, that the absence of running is tough, but not impossible, to endure. This is a time to heal, to reflect, to set new goals, to remember not to take running for granted when I get the opportunity to return. The next few weeks are somewhat unchartered territory, and a few of my newfound hobbies will be impossible to stick with while I’m recuperating. Gonna have to learn some couch hobbies. That’s why I haven’t started the new season of Orange is the New Black yet — you gotta give yourself an automatic win sometimes. But there will be PT appointments, and small sprinklings of normalcy that return slowly as I make improvements. I’m optimistic, and one day all of this will be a thing of the past.

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Navigating Injury

Here I am at 6 in the morning trying to explain that I’m not a morning person. I’m not. This is a fluke. I’m actually an insomniac and I have been awake since about 2:30 am. Normally, shorter bouts of sleeplessness eventually lead to falling back to sleep and rendering myself incapable of being awake before 8 or 9 am. Now, if you have any scary Type A runners in your life (and if you can’t name one, it’s probably you) then you know that sleeping past 5 am is seen as a sign of weakness. Like do you even try to be a runner??

I’m also a huge procrastinator. Why get up at 5 when I can get up later? Why go to the gym to ride the elliptical for 30 monotonous minutes of staring at the clock when I can go laatterrrrr.

Let me first make a confession… I actually hate the gym. Going to the gym feels like a chore, mechanical and sterile. Don’t get me wrong, I always feel the way you’re supposed to after the gym, all high on endorphins and shit. But the gym just isn’t fun. You know it. Admit it. The gym sucks. I like to be outside, where the scenery changes and the air is fresh and I don’t count the minutes. Plus, there’s the added thrill of discovering a new route, or running super fast down a hill, or finding some sprinklers, maybe losing a contact lens or being chased by a dog! Running is less of a chore and more of a compulsion, an opportunity. I can roll out of bed in the morning or collapse in a heap on the floor after work and still mumble, “ok, gimme five minutes and I’ll put my shoes on.”

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This is what outside looks like

 

Not so much with going to the gym. Like, if I’m even the tiniest bit too hungry, I’m like ya know, I probably shouldn’t risk it. It’s called flexibility, right?

I follow a lot of runners on the social media. Pro runners, elite runners, friend runners. My favorites are delightfully transparent about the times when they’re just not feeling it. Usually, it’s because they’re pregnant, but still. The takeaway is that often our bodies need and deserve breaks that we aren’t allowing them unless pregnancy or a giant injury gets in the way, and maybe the best way to deal with it is to embrace the option to be “flexible” or downright lazy. If I bargained for cross-training after work only to wind up not feeling like it when I get home, it’s nice to be able to throw away my neurotic tendencies and just say no. Trust me, I’d prefer to get up and go before work, I’d get a lot more done that way, but if you didn’t see this whole story arc coming from a mile away, please refer back to the part where I mentioned a fondness for sleep and procrastination.

Call it what you want — flexibility, procrastination, laziness — but not being held to my own batshit standards of running x miles per week no matter what is kind of a relief. I mean, I gave up on that months ago and I’m still alive. For now, I neurotically wrote a pool plan that I will sort of follow up until surgery that looks something like this:

Day 1: 30 minute aqua jog + PT

Day 2: swim 20 lengths, 10 min aqua jog, swim 20 lengths + lift

Day 3: 30 minute aqua jog + PT

Day 4: swim 30 lengths + PT

Day 5: swim 20 lengths, 20 min aqua jog, pool intervals, 10 min aqua jog + lift

Days 6-7: PT, yoga, or rest

It’s the procrastinator’s method. You can shuffle it, swap out, save one for tomorrow, whatever. Slice it how you want. I also haven’t been to yoga once. And the BEST part is, I can accomplish all my PT work without even being at the gym. I have a spot carved out in my garage where I can do my core and glute work. No fighting college kids for space or equipment, it’s free, the music is better, and the cat likes to join in.

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Did you know you can tack your workout to the kegerator if you’re at home?

If reading about not following a plan is making your eye twitch, you might find some relief in these resources. Pro trail runner Megan Roche recently suffered a talus injury as well, although not the same as mine, and she did a feature for Trail Runner magazine about her comeback cross-training routine. Runner’s World also has a six week cross-training plan that I meticulously copy/pasted, and then saved for later (like a true procrastinator).

Enjoy your downtime. Rest. Use all this free time to make new hobbies. Stick to the things that serve you. And never forget that Des Linden won the Boston Marathon after taking several months off. Running will always be there when you’re ready to come back, when “later” eventually becomes “now.”