Something I have noticed since being injured is how paranoid I am about sensations in the calf region of my legs. I am transfixed on that area, any slight discomfort, niggle, or itch is immediately paid attention too. It has even gone so far as, I have been worrying about a discomfort on my left calf, looked down 10 minutes later to realise there is a piece of grass scratching at my leg 😂. Some awareness is of course to be expected, but there is a point where it becomes too much.
I am sure every runner who has had a serious injury is guilty of having this paranoid reaction to their previously injured area. Even when we are busy doing something else, our mind becomes accustomed to focus on the injured area 24:7. As a result, we have a heightened response to any sort of feeling in that area, and may even convince ourselves of a pain that does not exist.
Having had an injury for 6 months, it became a subconscious reaction for me to focus on my tibial area. If I thought I was focused elsewhere, my mind still felt that slight tingle in my lower leg. I was indeed, ‘paranoid’ of any sort of feeling. I was even aware of a numbness in my leg throughout an exam. A discomfort to be expected by any normal person who has sat cross-legged for 2 hours, but to me, I was significantly more aware of that numbness than anyone else would’ve been. I most definitely was paranoid; believing that to be a bad sign.
Following my follow up with the physio and consultant, where I was told I could start getting back to running, he too reinforced this, and reassured me of where this paranoia stems from. Without making the error of telling me it was all in my head, he justified how all running injuries are also injuries to the brain. He did say this was normal! (If normal is such a thing!). He explained that as a result of having a long-term injury, your mind becomes so used to having discomfort, that it almost generates a feeling of discomfort that does not exist. Your brain begins to work alongside your nervous system, sending discomforting sensations to that area, convincing you, you are still experiencing abnormal feelings. In fact you are not, your brain has just decided to tell you that you are.
Consequently, as I have experienced, overcoming an injury also involves overcoming a mental injury. You have to work towards convincing your brain your injured area is no longer injured, and you no longer have pain or discomfort associated with that area. It is only once you have achieved this, that you will truly overcome your injury. Therefore, be sure to remind yourself, once you have been given the all clear, and you know your injury is healed, that the pain you may experience from then on is nothing serious. It will either be a manifestation of your brain, or muscular discomfort as you return back to training.
So please don’t get paranoid, just be sensible and cautious, and follow your prescribed running recovery plan.
I’m sure every runner out there would agree, whether they have/haven’t run, or whether their run has been good/bad, this can have a major effect on your mood. I am definitely among those who are affected. If I haven’t run on an occasion, even on a planned day off, my mood can be considerably worse. All I want to do is be out there training, and just loving what I do. When I can’t do it, or it’s not going well, those close to me may say I can be a bit ‘prickly’.
In relation to my injury, my mood was definitely considerably worse when I was running but was repeatedly in pain, compared to when I was unable to run. Both my family and I thought I would be a difficult nightmare when I was told I wouldn’t run for 6 months, but in fact I was not bad. Due to the fact I knew if I ran, I may never run again due to worsening my injury, I tried my best to be as content as I could be. Cross training definitely helped! Although in the first 3 weeks when I was unable to do any sort of activity, my mood definitely lent towards the touchy and emotional side. Any comment could send me into tears or a complete grudge. Not nice, I know!
My mood was however far more affected by how well my runs went. Building up to the pinnacle of my injury I was in an awful mood, day in, day out. This was not because I am a grumpy person, as I definitely am not, and not because I can’t handle a ‘bad’ run, but because I was in extreme pain constantly, and nobody seemed to be able to tell me why. The fact I was told to run through the pain, only made a good mood ever harder to achieve. Imagine starting, completing, and finishing every run with pain shooting through your legs; I don’t think you would find it easy to be happy either! Now I am pain free, starting to run again, surprise surprise, my mood has considerably improved. I’m so much happier, because I’m doing what I love and it’s no longer having a detrimental effect!
On a much brighter note, previously, when I had finished a tough track session, if I was pleased with how it went I felt on top of the world, even though I was absolutely knackered; a feeling similar to that when you have finished a race. I was unable to stop talking, and quite frankly I would and will forever in the future drive you nuts 😂. My Mother and coach always say, you won’t hear a peep from me on the way to a race, but on the way back, you can’t shut me up. I will have the music on loud, singing non-stop. And yes, if it’s a 3 hour journey, I will be singing the entire way. But that’s why we do it! We yearn for that runners high. The indescribable euphoria felt after a successful run is what we strive for. It provides us with the reinforcement to want to train ever harder, put ourselves through pain, and upset ourselves with bad results, as we all know that that runners high will eventually arrive once again. Whether it’s a good run or a ‘bad’ run, because your legs feel heavy and empty, you still always finish it feeling happy you’ve done it! This is a feeling I miss. Having had painful runs, a bad run feeling tired is something I can only dream of feeling again, as it is a sign of having had a tough training session previously.
I asked the British Long-distance runner, Charlotte Purdue, how running affected her mood, here is her answer:
“A good run always makes you feel more positive and like things are going in the right direction. A bad run is often a lesson...did you rest enough? Or train too hard in the week before? I always feel better after a run - even if it’s a “bad” run. I don’t expect every day to have a good run 😊”
Is this the same for you? How does running make you feel?
If anyone asks what the number 1 thing a runner needs, (obviously besides trainers and running gear) I would say, a support team. Every runner has one, and every runner needs one, as without those people who offer you support, you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near as far as you can with them. Personally, I wouldn’t have got to any of the races I had without the support of my crazy mother driving 900 miles in one day just to ensure everyone could get to the race in time to watch me. This is involved multiple journeys, to multiple locations to ensure the whole support team was there en masse.
There is no better feeling, than hearing those you care about, and those who support you, scream at you as you push yourself to your limit. Whether they are screaming at the start line or the finish line, that screech of support is vital. It gives you an extra surge to push forward, reminding you why you love what you do, and that there are lots of people who believe in your ability.
Although you are the only person who is able to physically achieve your goals, it is the support around you that spurs you on, reminding you what you can do, believing in you, and probing you on to succeed. When you question your belief in yourself, it is your support team that remind you, you are strong and you will succeed if you put your mind and heart to it.
The people who have been there to support me, whether it’s from day 1, year 5, or, year 10 of my running journey so face, have always reminded me who I am and what I can achieve. They are a part of the major part of my life that makes me, me.
When times were tough, and I lost faith in my ability, they reminded me the only way was up; darkness couldn’t get any darker. With their strength alongside my own, I was able to pull myself up. Had I not had them to believe in, and encourage me, I wouldn’t still be in the sport today. It is their love and care that means I am!
Once you have learnt to trust the support of those around you, and realise they do believe in your ability, you will have more confidence in your own performance. If others have confidence in you, so do you! Trusting the support of those around you is just as important as trusting yourself, as you need them to to accompany you on your running journey.
I think I have always taken running for granted. Never having had a serious injury, I have always been able to get on with training, go out for a run when I want, and not think anything of it. It has always just been part of my life. Yes, it will forever remain part of my life, but I will never take it for granted again. I will never simply see running as ‘part of life’, as it is not. It is an incredible sport I love and will cherish doing for the rest of my life. It is part of my life, but a fabulous part, not a guaranteed given! It is something to be valued and taken seriously, as I definitely do. You never truly appreciate what you have until you can’t have it anymore, and it took not being able to run for me to see how clearly I want to pursue the sport.
I was finally able to get that aspect of my life back this week and take one major step towards being fully back running! After over 6 months off from running, I was allowed to take my first running steps again! It may have only been for 3, 1 minute intervals, but every second of those minutes counted, and every stride was one step closer to being where I want to be; chasing down my goals. Every second was spent with a huge grin on my face, relishing exactly what I was doing.
My head was nowhere else, except in the moment. The complete absence of pain I felt truly showed me how worthwhile it is to take recovery and rehab seriously. Had I not done as I was told, and stuck to the disciplined plan I was given, this may not have been the case, but I did as I was told (finally) and it worked!!!! Recovery and rehab are so important!
It filled me with complete joy when the physio said, ‘you are no longer in the rehabilitation phase, you are getting back to training’. I have waited so long to hear this! Right now, the focus is simply on pain free, sensible running. I purely need to get back to full training, at a very steady rate to avoid any risk of returning injury. Speed does not come in to it. I have even gone so far as running with my watch on stopwatch mode, completely ignoring any signposting of my speed, as that is irrelevant. I have decided to focus on my form, ensuring I am running with the best technique I can possibly have.
I know it’s going to be a slow process, but the fact I am back running is a huge step, or should I say, stride, towards achieving my goals. So don’t give up! As my last post said, be patient, enjoy the journey, and it will all be worth it! Now for the patience and self discipline to really commence!
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!