February 29, 2012

Exercise is dangerous for your health

Some moron actually said those words to me today, right after he asked me why I was on crutches. I laughed, thinking surely he was being sarcastic. But nope. Dead serious.

Lately, every conversation goes something like this:

"Oh no, you're on crutches? What happened?"
"I have a stress fracture in my hip. It's an overuse injury from running really long miles."
"So you got this from running that marathon? Wow. I told you all that running was crazy."

But it isn't crazy! So stop saying that. People run marathons all the time and don't get injured. People run ultras and come out unscathed. As soon as I ditch my crutches, I'm starting a couch to 5K plan, just like I did in the beginning.

This injury doesn't mean I should stop running; it means I should train smarter. Because, see...the thing is, I should have seen this coming. And when people ask me how I got a stress fracture, I feel like a giant idiot every time I explain it.

Here are the facts:

1. The first rule of running is that you shouldn't JUST run. You should cross train and strength train to make sure your muscles are strong enough to withstand the impact of running 26.2 miles.

But all I did was run.

2. I knew rule No.1 so I tried following a marathon training plan that incorporated cross training with running - Run Less, Run Faster - but I couldn't do it all. I couldn't keep up with the prescribed paces for each run, and I got sick every time I tried to do all the workouts. It was too intense for my fitness level, so I dropped the cross training and just tried to get in the miles I was supposed to run.

I wasn't ready, and I should have backed off. I had set a goal of running a marathon, signed up for the race, booked a hotel, and shouted from the rooftops that I was doing this thing. Even though every time I ramped up my mileage, I got sick. Even though I couldn't keep up with my training group and should have run my own pace. I just kept going.

3. Proper nutrition, getting enough protein, taking multivitamins and taking calcium supplements are all things I knew I should have been doing.

But I ate garbage and never bothered with vitamins or supplements. Would this have made a difference? There's no way to know, but it couldn't have hurt.

4. I've had problems with my right hip for a long time. Remember when that crazy chiropractor hurt my knee? The reason I went to him was because I was having hip problems - in December 2010! The same hip problems that finally got so bad that I stopped running two months ago.

I should've seen a real doctor. A really long time ago. I don't know if it's medically possible to run on a stress fracture for a year, but I have to wonder just how long I've had this problem and didn't know it. My hip always hurt after a run, but never enough that it prevented me from doing anything...until this year.

So...I knew all the things I should have been doing to try to stay healthy. But all I did was run.

I know all this regret doesn't make any difference now, but when you go from marathon training to not even being able to walk, it's impossible not to question every single decision you've made about training. Hindsight is always 20/20, and there's no way I would have ever dreamed I'd end up with a stress fracture. But here I am.

I've learned a valuable lesson to listen to my body, no matter what everyone else is doing and no matter whether I've registered for a race. I have to do what's right for me. And I know that no matter how much I hate these crutches and I'm mad about what has happened, running is still what's right for me. Just running smarter.


  1. I really hate it when people do judge like that. I hated to tell people that I had plantar fasciitis and heel spurs b/c I knew everyone would associate it with running. I think people do that when they don't fully understand what running might mean to you. Though, every once in a while I think I might have joked about how "great" exercise is for me when I've been injured.

    But you are so right about having to pay attention to so many factors when you exercise (whether it's running, swimming, cycling, lifting). You can't just go do it, you have to fuel properly, take care of your body properly. But, you live and learn right?

  2. Well, considering that heart disease (not exercise) is the number one killer of women in the US... I say just poke him with your crutch.
    We learn so much from each race and training season. Some things we never even set out to learn! You'll come out of this smarter & stronger. Sounds like you are already figuring out what to change!

  3. It is a good thing that you realize the things that you may have missed and you can now improve on them. For now just focus on getting better and then you can worry about the rest. Hang in there :)



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