Two weeks ago, I sat in the doctor’s office and explained that, despite my best and repeated efforts, I had completely and utterly failed at taping my foot. Despite that, the ache in my arch was gone, and the initial pain from the cyst a distant memory. With that, I was cleared for “running,” given a “graduation” tech tee, some stability exercises (he was worried that the hip and knee weakness he saw could eventually lead to some bigger issues), and told me he never wanted to see me again (in the nicest sense).
“Running,” in this sense, has been a gradual return to normal mileage. Three days a week, I have been alternating running and walking for 30-minute increments using city blocks as a guide. Day 1: 1 run/1 walk. Day 2: 2 run/1 walk. Day 3: 3 run/1 walk, etc. The first day was both amazing (I’m running again!) and excruciating. (Oh, wait. Nope. Now I’m walking.)
For two weeks, I followed the gradual increase in running periods. On Saturday, I “graduated” from the program, running around 4ish miles with 1-2min walking breaks between miles. I felt amazing and excited. With that run, I was now free to run however I wanted (still easy — no speed work for a few more weeks to be safe).
I’ve also been doing my PT exercises at home, and they have been absolutely crushing me. Nothing reminds you that you’ve been neglecting strength work like sidelying abductions with resistance bands, or lateral planks. (I obviously chose the fresh-faced, super-fit images of women I most resemble… except my smiles have a tinge of desperation to them – not unlike Katie Holmes’s wedding photos.)
Yesterday, encouraged by my new freedom, and excited by the beautiful, early-Fall-like weather we’ve been having, I donned my foot rehab graduation shirt and hit the road. After a half of a mile, I took a step and felt a familiar feeling of shifting bones/ligaments/whatever is in your foot …and pain. I walked home, crying a little bit, and hating everything about that beautiful weather and my amazingly great-fitting graduation shirt. Towards the end of my walk of shame, my foot wasn’t feeling “pain” anymore, and I was actually able to run essentially pain-free for the final block. I still iced it, and definitely wanted to punch a wall. This is not the triumphant “I AM BACK – BOW DOWN, BEYONCE!“-type post I had hoped to be writing.
The pain I felt was essentially the same pain/experience that brought me to the doctor in the first place — and completely different than the arch strain I had been dealing with. To say I’m frustrated is an understatement. The pain is not as *bad* as it was the first time; I’m walking fine today, and I really only feel the same twinge when I twist my foot (which was kind of still the case over the past few weeks, and is likely just my foot still needing some more time to chill out). Maybe it was the cyst. Maybe it was never the cyst.
In the shadows of this frustration, I found myself thinking about my goals and my running career (both past and future) and what this foot issue might mean.
- What if distance running just isn’t in the cards for me moving forward?
- What if I’m forced to focus on shorter distances?
- What if my dream of Boston (and all that entails) is physically no longer a reality?
- Would I be OK with that?
- Would I learn to love 5ks that much more?
- Would I feel trapped by my limitations?
- Will I ever be able to wear heels again?
It’s entirely possible that none of these questions are relevant. Maybe I’ll heal up and win an ultra while carrying underprivileged children on my back. Maybe I’ll qualify for the Olympics in some weird Rookie of the Year-type story arc. Maybe I’ll get really into water aerobics and start an activity-based tourism company in Venice, Italy, that combines architectural tours and low-impact fitness.
What I do know is that I’ll be resting my foot, and taking more time away from running-centric exercises for the near future. That means discovering what is fun outside of running. (Please, someone. Tell me something is fun outside of running.) More swimming, more spinning, more group classes at my gym, more ping pong with Martellus Bennett, with the ultimate goal of maintaining stress levels and fitness with the hope that my foot will eventually begin to cooperate. Does finger-crossing count as cardio?