Hi, My Name is Rachel, & I'm a Recovering Runner.
As a recreational runner, I have been running since early high school. I would run for a couple of weeks, usually no more than a couple miles each time. I would do some simple stretches before running, and run around the field that encompassed my childhood home. But my life would get busy and I wouldn't run for a few days, then a few days would turn into a few weeks, and then I was out of the habit again. I could never seem to stick with it longer than a week at a time because life would get in the way, and then I would lose motivation and that would be the end of it for a while.
This cycle continued all through college. I spent the 2 months before graduation running every evening after dinner, where I averaged about 3 miles.
After graduation, and after I finally got a job working at a preschool, I would come home and power through my exhaustion for an occasional run on my treadmill. This habit would easily come and go, however, as still living at home with my parents meant I was on their schedule and not my own.
I lived at home for about a year and a half, during periods of employment and unemployment, where my running stayed as haphazard and periodic as my jobs.
After becoming engaged to the man of my dreams, I realized that I still loved running and desired to stick with it long enough to actually start seeing results. My fiance and I had already decided that we wanted to live healthy, active lives, and to encourage each other to pursue this goal in whatever way each deemed necessary.
I wanted to run. So I ran. I ran almost every day (with 1 or 2 rest days off per week) for the 2 months leading up to my wedding. I wrote it into my schedule book, wrote it on my calendar, delayed dinner, and got up at the crack of dawn to make sure I fit my workout into my day. I did pretty much whatever it took to fashion my day around running, to teach myself to stay motivated and to finally make running a daily habit.
Now, after almost 5 months of marriage, I run almost every day, with 1 or 2 days off during the week. Or should I say that I was running almost every day. Before I got injured.
I had never had specialty running shoes. I had always worn the department store special, usually $25 Nikes or New Balances. But after upping my mileage and running an average of 4 or 5 miles daily for a few months straight, my upper & lower back constantly had so many pulled muscles that I was asking my husband for a back massage every night, just to relieve the pain.
After realizing that this was not normal and getting sick of my back aching after every run, I realized that my cheap shoes were probably the issue. I did research online and talked to runner friends, and they all said one thing: most back pain can be traced back to one source: wearing the wrong, unsupportive shoes.
So I took Christmas money to a specialty shoe store and had my first-ever foot & gait evaluation by a trained staff member, who felt my arches and watched me run in different types of shoes. It turned out that my arches were somewhat high, but they moved much more than the normal person's arches. It was decided that I needed shoes with super-supportive arches, and maybe even some arch-support insoles to insert into my shoes. I ended up buying both supportive shoes and the most supportive insoles the store carried.
Following the advice of the knowledgeable staff member, I eased gently into running with my new shoes & insoles. Because my body was not used to having such strong support, new & different muscles ached for the first week or so. My back seemed to be slowly getting better, and I never had knee or ankle pain.
But about a month into running about 5 or 6 miles a day with my new shoes, I began to feel dull pain in both lower shins, near my ankles. At first, the pain seemed to come and go during runs. I thought it was just another small ache that would go away on its own. Then, the pain would come and stay until after I was done running. Then my legs started hurting to the touch, when I pressed on my lower leg. Before too long, my lower legs were hurting almost too much to run at all, and were even hurting on days that I didn't run. If I crouched down or put excess weight on that part of my legs, they would scream in pain.
Everyone I told about my pains thought I was suffering from shin splints, an extremely common running malady. But shin splints usually come and go while running and don't hurt while resting or walking. I had had shin splints in high school and college, so I knew what they felt like. My pain was not shin splints. I was becoming very worried. I was afraid they were stress fractures.
I did some online research, which affirmed my worst fear: my leg pain seemed to be stress (hairline) fractures on my tibia (the big bone in the lower leg). The tibia is apparently a very common spot for stress fractures, and it occurs with overuse. Tibial stress fractures occur often when a runner runs repeatedly without giving the body enough time to rest in-between workouts, which was apparently what I had been doing. I had been unknowingly working my lower legs so much without giving them time to adequately rest & recover, even though I was trying to eat post-workout meals with protein, carbs, potassium, and calcium.
On an online web site about stress fractures, it said that usually 8 weeks of rest is required to heal a stress fracture. I was not happy, but I wanted to heal.
So I bought 2 Ace bandages, with which I wrapped my ankles & lower legs with daily, every time I left the house or was doing anything on my feet. I rested my legs, put ice bags on them for the first week or so, and had my legs wrapped whenever I was on my feet for an extended period of time.
I did more research online, and found that runners usually have very strong quadricep muscles (the big muscle in your thigh), but weak calf muscles (muscles in lower leg, near my injury). So I did calf-strengthening exercises every day. I also found out that, to avoid future injury, I should do ab exercises to strengthen my core. So I designed an ab workout routine and spent about 20 minutes a day performing them. It hurt, and still hurts, but I'm doing them.
At this point, it has only been a little over 2 weeks since I've stopped running and started the recovery process, but the pain in my legs is gone. I am going to give it a few more days, then try running a mile or so at a slow pace. Then I will see if my leg hurts again. If not, I will continue to slowly up my mileage until I can run 5 or 6 miles again, all the while monitoring my leg to see if pain is starting. I will be thrilled if I'm healed after only a couple weeks, instead of 8! But I know not to be too hopeful. Healing takes time, and I'm willing to give it time, so I can heal properly, so hopefully I can run longer in the future. I want to still be running when I'm 90 years old, so I am taking care of my body.
I will also continue to do ab & calf exercises. Once all of me is stronger, it will help fend off injury & sickness.
I wrote this very long story for every athlete out there, from beginner to advanced, know that injury is just a part of being an athlete. Injuries are bound to happen, but you should take the proper time for recovery so you will heal properly. If you take the time now, you'll be rewarded for it in the future. So don't rush it! And get better soon!
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