I’d like to share with you a lesson in patience after a serious injury.
I consider myself a social runner, I’ve undertaken a few half marathons over the years and mid distance fun runs. I grew up with a father who ran marathons and my earliest memories of smell are Dencorub mixed with sweat, Gatorade and sugary instant coffee (yes this is one of many reasons not to leave your children unsupervised at the warm-up station).
And so it is ingrained in me that my go to exercise is to go for a run. I love to run. It’s social, it’s outdoors, it’s a challenge, it’s always different. As they say it’s just you and the road. I’m not the worlds best runner, nor the fastest, but I’m as stubborn as hell which helps get you through those long runs. Unfortunately I also have a hip condition known as Femoral Acetabular Impingement, lets just call it FAI. Basically the bones in my hip don’t fit together perfectly and they rub against each other and cause not just labral tears but also damage to the hip joint.
FAI can cause arthritis, which was the shocking diagnosis I was faced with in my 38th year after intense bout of training for a half marathon and netball state championships. Needless to say I was feeling much too young to contemplate such an ‘old persons disease’. I had grand plans for my ageing years and none of them involved a walking stick. Luckily for me we caught it early, I had keyhole surgery to shave down the bone, and my surgeon told me that I would absolutely be running long distances again.
Over the last few years my hip has told me otherwise. There is a lot of debate in the professional world as to whether you can run long distances after FAI surgery and I choose to remain open minded out of the love for both running and the challenge of training for a long distance run. Also I really dislike bike riding, that’s my husbands gig.
A very wise friend who also happens to be a triathlon coach asked me to please work on my core strength before restarting my running training. I listened to her advice and when my husband started with a new pilates coach who was also a physio (yes real men do pilates!) I thought I would give it a go. During the first session the announcement was made to the entire studio that I really didn’t have any butt muscles. I knew my 40 year old bottom wasn’t up there with Gwyneth Paltrow’s but I didn’t realise I was that hopeless. Thankfully it was not enough to deter me and just encouraged me to go get those said butt muscles and get back out on the road. You see you really can be fit, but still be lacking strength which you really need to support or prevent an injury especially due to overuse.
Over the next 6 months I worked hard at the pilates studio building up my core strength and the muscles around my hip. I was in better shape than ever, I could butt clench with the best of them and my core strength was improving. And so I restarted my running training. I finally felt great. I worked with a trainer and discovered a whole new way of running. I soon started training for a half marathon (against the advice of my wonderful trainer) and started to drop my pilates sessions.
And then the inevitable happened, my poor tired over-used hip reminded me that it was old beyond its years and I’d pushed it to its limits too soon. Dropping my pilates had been a BIG mistake. I lost all that core strength that I had worked so hard for and my hip couldn’t go it alone on the long runs. I was now in a lot of daily pain. That my friends is a lesson in impatience. I was so mad at myself and back to square one.
And so I did the sensible thing, I stopped running and endured 2 months of intense Physiotherapy. I’ve returned to pilates again to find my butt and core muscles. They are nowhere to be seen but I have faith that I can build them back. I’m allowed to go for little run shuffles that are both slow and short. Our dogs need a workout AFTER i take them running. The grey haired set overtake me. It’s humiliating but that’s ok, this will be my gig for the next few months until I return to running training again SLOWLY and continue my strength training. Will I ever run a long distance again? Maybe, but I’m more interested in getting back to my love of running than ticking off any grand goals that will set me back to the start again.
Most importantly, I now realise that with my hip condition I will always need strength training as part of my repertoire. It’s not one or the other. In fact I encourage all runners to include strength training to protect their joints and improve their performance. And please listen to the experts!
For the most amazing yet intense pilates training (and a no nonsense physio approach) if you are in Sydney, I highly recommend my trainers Katherine and Liz at http://www.lizmillardphysio.com.au/
I can also highly recommend my running trainer Kirsten Todd at http://hookedonrunning.com.au/ whose advice I will now always listen to when it comes to returning to running after an injury. When she actually allows me to return to training, which might be a while. I have to go find those lost butt muscles first.