April 16, 2014

The Five Stages of Injury Recovery

Stage 1. Denial
Stage 2. Anger
Stage 3. Bargaining
Stage 4. Depression
Stage 5. Acceptance

I didn't go through any of these symptoms when I first hurt my knee. What started back in June as a 'holy-sh*t-I-blew-out-my-knee' moment turned 'I-feel-fine-let's-start-training-for-a-marathon' turned 'holy-sh*t-I-blew-out-my-knee-again'...lather, rinse repeat...eventually turned into being sidelined.

I stopped running in October when I dropped out of the Marine Corps Marathon. I didn't actually see a doctor until November and I didn't start PT until December. I probably could have sped this whole recovery process up by about 2 months if I had just gone to the doctor, but I didn't. I knew something was wrong and I thought rest would be just fine. I was complacent.

I never went through any of the five stages of injury oddly enough, until I actually started running again at the end of February.

I skipped the Denial stage. Well, kind of. It took me a really long time to finally admit to myself that I wouldn't be able to run Marine Corps despite knowing for awhile that I shouldn't be running the race.

I was never really angry either, just frustrated. I was diligently doing my PT exercises and I HATED the freaking elliptical. Even when I started running again, I was really frustrated that I didn't feel great on my first run.

Here's a dose of denial for you: I honestly thought that my first run back would feel amazing. I thought I would feel on top of the world and that I would be so happy to be running again that nothing else would matter.

In reality, it felt so had. I felt uncoordinated, unbalanced, and despite all of my cross training, so out of shape.

Enter bargaining: Well, if I balance cross training with running and PT exercises, I'll be back to my usual running in no time! Running a 10-miler in 5 weeks will be easy! A half in 8 weeks? No problem! Just be a good little patient and keep up the XT and PT.


I still don't feel great. I'm finally starting to feel good on my runs but the first two miles are always tough, no matter how good of a warm up I do.

Depression. Saturday night, I sat across from The Pilot and told him that I was scared I would never love running again. I was scared I would never have a good run again and might never run a marathon again.

(Note: I know that you don't have to run marathons to be a runner but I freaking love the marathon and every part of me is itching to toe the line of another 26.2.)

Sunday morning, I woke up and ran 8 miles. It was the best I've felt post-injury. I didn't feel great, but I felt pretty damn good. My knee is still a little bit twingy and I was more sore after those 8 miles than I've been after 18, but I know that my body is just relearning how to do this again. I'm being pretty damn smart about this recovery and while I'm so much slower than I've ever been before, I know that my focus right now just needs to be on putting one foot in front of the other and when running finally starts to feel great again, I can start thinking about trying to get faster.

So, those are my five stages. It's been a long road to recovery but I'm a lot luckier than most people. I didn't need surgery. I wasn't in a boot. I wasn't sidelined for a year. I could run, I chose (at the advice of my PT) not to, in order to really build the strength I needed to prevent another running injury and ultimately, I'll be a better runner because of it.

It wouldn't be right to write a post about running without, in some way commemorating last year's Boston Marathon. I wrote this post reflecting on the tragedy and every word of it rings true today.Watching the news yesterday, my heart broke all over again for those who lost their lives, their family members, those injured and wounded, and those who ran. For everyone running Boston this year, especially those who ran last year, I hope and pray that you have the best race of your life next week. 

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