Running Update + What I Learned from my Injuries

This post is long overdo! I know I’ve been referencing an icky calf and lower left leg for the past few weeks and you’re probably wondering what the heck I’ve done to myself this time (if you can’t already tell– I’m pretty injury-prone, so this is clearly just another example of that). Well after almost 2 and a half months dealing with an achy left leg, I think I’ve FINALLY figured out what the big underlying issue was and have gotten things much more under control. So let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

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In early March before my half marathon, my coach noticed that I was overpronating during a longer team run one weekend. She didn’t mention anything to me at that point because I was so close to race day, but after running my half, I emailed her about pain in my left ankle and calf and she immediately knew what was happening. I ended up seeing a podiatrist and physical therapist, who quickly came to realize that my background as a swimmer had given me the blessing/curse of highly flexible ankles, which paired with my weakened hips and genetic make-up was causing me to overpronate much more than a runner should. My ankles were collapsing with every step, which was causing a ton of pain in my calf. So solution number 1 happened: I got custom orthotics (which were thankfully covered by my insurance) and started going to PT weekly to work on strengthening my hips. After “graduating” from PT, my doctor gave me strict instructions to continue working on hip strength and that this, combined with the custom orthotics and a new pair of running shoes, would solve my overpronation issues.

Now fast-forward to about 3 weeks ago. I was starting to increase my mileage and from a cardio standpoint, I was feeling great. There just isn’t a true replacement for running from my perspective, no matter how many people say biking and the elliptical are just as great. I was so appreciative of every morning that I got to start outside on a run rather than stuck in a stuffy gym on a piece of equipment, but I was also hungry to get back into the same shape as I had been pre-injury. I didn’t want to listen to the slow, achy pain that was starting to make its way back into my leg and kept plugging away at the miles on my training plan. After my longest run post-injury, a 7-miler with hills, I felt a nasty strain make it’s way into my entire calf, achilles, and ankle and knew I had to take a step back once again. I was diligent about maintaining my PT work, foam rolling, and wearing my custom orthotics each time I worked out, so I couldn’t figure out what could be going wrong!

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After emailing my coach, we both agreed that I needed to go see a chiropractor who specialized in this kind of running problem. Luckily, my coach is amazing and connected me to one of her former athletes who was very familiar with running related issues. In my first appointment, Dr. Annie was able to find a ton of scar tissue built up in my calf and thigh from all of the miles I had put in before while overpronating. She began an Active Release Treatment (ART) that broke down all of the scar tissue in my leg and, although it was extremely painful, I noticed a HUGE difference after my first appointment. We were both very hopeful afterwards that this would be a quick fix.

Although all of the pain on the inside of my calf and near my ankle was relived, I was still noticing pain on the outer portion of my left calf. Puzzled, Dr. Annie watched me walk in my running shoes & orthotics to see if there was something she was missing. It didn’t take long for her to realize that all of my hard work to heal my leg & strengthen my hips had paid off–and then backfired. I was over-correcting myself and now walking too much on the outside of my heel. Perfect. I left with instructions to test out new running shoes to see if a less-supportive pair would help, so that is exactly what I did.

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After two hours & 15 attempted runs on the treadmill in different running shoes, I finally found a pair that corrected my overpronation, but didn’t over-correct it. These Brooks Ravenna 7’s are life savers.

Saturday morning was my first attempted run with my new shoes & orthotics and I can happily report that it couldn’t have went any better. I ran the entire time pain-free (for real this time) and felt hopeful that I was on the mend from this injury-hiatus for the first time in months.

So what did I learn from this situation? 

1. Don’t take pain-free running for-granted. — I know there are some days where getting a run in doesn’t sound nearly as good as sleeping in, but I just need to use this experience as a constant reminder to appreciate what my body can do and continue to work hard and take care of it so this same sort of issue doesn’t happen again.

2. ART is lifesaving. — For real though, I highly recommend this to anyone having similar kind of issues. One treatment helped so much more than I ever would have anticipated. (And if you’re from the Seattle area, see Dr. Annie! She’s a rockstar!)

3. Overcorrection can be just as bad as not doing anything at all. — I did everything right in my treatment, but still wasn’t out of the woods with my injury right away. Its so important to continually check-in with your body and stop if similar symptoms start to flare up again.

4. Strength training is important!!! — I wish I could bold/highlight/scream-from-the-mountain-tops this one for all of you. If there is one takeaway that I want to keep fresh in my mind from all of this, it’s to continue to prioritize strength training. I’m addicted to cardio, so it’s so easy for me to skip weights in exchange for an extra 2 miles on the treadmill, but I can’t let myself fall back into that type of rhythm. My physical therapist told me at the onset of these issues something that has stuck out in my mind for the past few months– we have to GET in shape to start running; it’s not the other way around. This totally resonates with me, so I’m asking you all to hold me accountable to maintain at least 1-2 weights/strength sessions per week!

5. Running isn’t everything –Don’t get me wrong, I love running. I love being able to get out on the road early in the morning before many people are out of bed and feel so accomplished after each run. But these past few weeks have given me so much more flexibility in my schedule to try other classes/workouts and sleep in more on the weekends. While I’m excited to almost be back in the swing of things, I’m glad I was reminded that there’s more to Saturday’s than a 10+ mile run to start the weekend.

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With that being said, I’ve decided to back out of the 10K I was originally planning to run this weekend. My main goal is to be able to run while in Europe and I’d rather keep my runs at an easy pace than go out for a race (because there’s seriously no way I could go race and not push myself). As much as it sucks to do, I’m confident that this is the last race I’ll need to back out of (God-willing) and will now be even more ready for marathon training in early July.

So it’s all smiles over here! Life is a marathon–pun intended–so no need to rush into a race that doesn’t matter as much to me in the long run anyways.🙂

Hope you’re all having a wonderful Tuesday and if you’re heading out for a run at some point, make sure you crack a smile while you do it!🙂