Diary of an Injured Runner: Real Rock Bottom and Acceptance

Photo by Eric Schmuttenmaer

Every injured runner hits rock bottom. Sometimes it takes several false rock bottoms before you hit your real rock bottom. It’s hard to know what real rock bottom is until you’ve started to climb back out of it. It’s one of those things that you can only know in retrospect. I think it takes hitting that real rock bottom to accept the realities of the injury and to start moving toward recovery.

When my butt was firmly parked on the DL I read a lot. One book told me that I needed to accept my injuries before I could fully recover. So I kept saying I accepted my injuries and pretending I accepted them, but the truth was until I finally hit my real rock bottom I couldn’tย truly accept them. I think acceptance is like relaxation: it’s as easy to command acceptance of something as it is to command yourself to relax. Acceptance is a process that can only start at the real rock bottom.

I hit my real rock bottom about a month ago. When the doctors threw out the theory that my crazy tight butt and pelvis muscles and sciatica might be caused by a herniated disk I seriously wondered if this injury was going to sound the death knell for my running career. I moped. I cried. I whined to my husband a lot. I whined to you. I felt somewhat better when the doctors ruled out the herniated disk, but then I wondered if maybe my problems meant I had some crazy screwed up biomechanics that meant I’d never recover–why was I still down for the count 2 months post-injury if it was just tight muscles?

It’s funny how we internalize the injuries–there’s something wrong with me!

Then I slowly began the process of acceptance. I realized that I could mope and I could speculate about being doomed or defective. Or I could open my mind to the rest of what life had to offer. I borrowed a bike and a trainer. I signed up for swimming lessons. I sincerely invested in a future that was not dependent on running.

And then a week later I was cleared to run again!

Isn’t that how it always happens? Now I’m on week #4 of this comeback. I started training with my coach again. Yesterday I did my first track workout. It felt like August and I headed out alone to a track knowing I’d be more likely to listen to my body and respect the comeback fragility if I ran alone. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it far exceeded my expectations!

Beautiful night to be back on the track.

I knew I was going to have trouble keeping my reps as slow as coach prescribed. He wanted me to do 6 x 400 at 7:00 pace. After an easy mile, I did a slightly up-tempo mile in 7:32 no problem. Then after some drills I did some strides and those felt surprisingly smooth. I figured coach wrote such a slow workout so I would run within myself and not run by the watch–just do whatever felt comfortable. So that’s what I did.

I know I am going to sound like a big ol’ hypocrite after Tuesday’s post about jumping the shark, when I tell you how fast I actually ran. But I swear I followed all of my own rules. We don’t know what my proper paces are right now so as long as I wasn’t running by the watch and feeling ok I think I’m in the clear. That being said, there are a lot of gray areas in training and it is impossible to do everything right all the time. Remember, I jumped the shark myself not that long ago and I’m still not certain I’m back on the right side.

Anyway, I did 6 x 400 averaging 1:33.ย  Although it went a lot better than I feared I still have a lot of work to do to regain the fitness I’ve lost. But I accept that.

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear you’re injured too ๐Ÿ™ I hope the complete rest fixes you up and your rock bottom is a high one ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. I have always said that injuries put you through all the stages of grief. I had a long injury last year and I had an awful time with it emotionally. I’m in a much better place now that I am healthy and at normal training volume again. I wish that it wasn’t so important to me, but well, it is!

    Glad you are coming back strong and so quickly. Enjoy the feeling!

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you’re feeling good and overcame that tough time. I totally went through the stages of grief–it’s easy to not realize how important running is to us until we lose it!

  2. Hi there,
    I am suffering from ITB and after 3 months i still cant run! I am going crazy I go into acceptance but then fall back into depression. I am happy to hear that you are training again, i feel your pain when you were whining and crying …I hope i will be back soon and I hope you keep growing stronger!

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I’m injured right now and appreciated your words of understanding. DANG I hate the down time!! I guess I’m still in the denial stage….

    1. Sorry you’re injured, but glad this post helped. We’ve all been there. It sucks, but hopefully you’ll be back up and running again soon, stronger and better than ever!