Waiting is the Hardest Part
"Walk carefully, do your exercises, and be kind to yourself," said the athletic trainer as I left my appointment this morning. "It's the 'be kind to yourself' part that's the hardest," I said as I hobbled away.
To say that the last four and a half months have been a struggle for me would be an understatement. In September of last year, I suffered hypothermia at a race, which led to hypothermia-induced pneumonia and, later, prolonged bronchitis. After that, I started to experience inexplicable nerve issues and foot drop on my right side, which led to pain in my toe extensors and, eventually, a severe case of tendonitis that has prevented me from running for several weeks. Just when I thought I would be able to start running again, I experienced yet another setback. As I stood up yesterday, the right side of my body locked just as I turned away from my desk. I felt a pop in my knee and then immediate pain. Increased pain and inflammation led me to see an athletic trainer today, who diagnosed a tear in my meniscus. No, I would not be able to start running again soon.
As endurance athletes, we train ourselves to be inured, to accept pain and frustration (both mental and physical) and to move forward. We tell ourselves that we just need to work harder, to get more sleep, to fuel more effectively, to focus more on strength/speed/stability/flexibility (whatever the weakness at the moment might be) and we'll get through whatever the issue is. We just need to work harder. We do not remind ourselves to be kind to our bodies, especially when they do not perform the way we expect them to.
Today, the athletic trainer and I focused on retraining my body to walk; quite literally how to put one foot straight in front of the other and move my toes in the correct way. When I left my appointment, I broke down. The four-plus months of anger and frustration and sadness welled in my eyes and I broke down. I couldn't even walk. I couldn't even move my toes or my leg in a way that felt stable and didn't cause me pain. The possible long-term effects of a nerve issue terrified me, and I felt my 2014 race goals slipping away. All I wanted to do was run, to find the highest point of a beautiful, secluded mountain and sit there. Instead, I sat in my car and cried as my knee throbbed in pain, all the while wondering why my body couldn't just heal. No, I was not kind to myself.
Several hours later, I have a little more perspective. Sometimes the answer is to work on strength/speed/stability/flexibility and sometimes there's nothing you can do except wait. Waiting, inaction, the complete absence of control, is always the most difficult part for me. But, as I sit here waiting for my body to heal, I tell myself that sometimes you have to fight for a finish line and sometimes you have to fight for a start line, and tomorrow I vow to be a little kinder to myself.