For the last six years or so, running has played an important part in my life. From being an excellent stress reliever, to being a great way to manage my anxiety, it has helped shape me as a person and meet some wonderful people. Running has definitely been a coping mechanism that I use often.
In late December, I hurt my hip pretty badly. I had been running a lot last semester, and after coming home for break and getting an hour-long run in, I was limping. Thinking that I was just sore, I took a break the next day, then took up going a long distance again. After that second run, I could barely walk.
During cross-country and track, it’s a common theme in meets and practices to work through the pain. Pain or exhaustion was just another excuse to why you didn’t run fast or far enough. In my coach’s eyes, taking off more than a day due to whatever pain you were experiencing was laziness.
I know, in runners, pushing yourself beyond your limits is a goal. But we need to find that line between when you’re using soreness or laziness as an excuse, and actual, physical pain that could cause your body more harm.
When I was in high school, I always seemed to struggle with shin splints. I was running six days out of the week, and logging in long distances in all kinds of weather. I wasn’t giving my body enough time to heal, and would run while in pain often.
Now in college, I run consistently (well, not recently but you know what I mean). I don’t have to train to compete, unless I’ve signed up for a road race, and can stop when I want to. But I’ve been trained, mentally and physically, not to stop. So I don’t take more than two or three days to rest, unless I absolutely have to.
Running is not a bad thing, but it can be harmful to your body if you aren’t careful. Running has far more benefits than negatives. It’s important to listen to your body, and it’s important to be able to forgive yourself for not being the strongest or the fastest.
In January, after not running for three weeks but still experiencing pain while walking or standing for a long time, I finally went to the doctor and was scheduled to get an MRI done on my hip. Turns out, I have bursitis, hip impingement and a labral tear.
While it could have been worse (the doctor thought I had a stress fracture at first), it did still stop me from running for two and a half months. I had to go to physical therapy three times a week, and I’m still scheduled to go when I get back to school. I am, however, able to run a mile and a half without pain now, which is definitely progress but I’m not quite back to normal yet. Hopefully I’ll be able to run longer distances sometime in the future, but I’m always going to be cautious and make sure not to push myself too hard.
Which, honestly, is probably a good thing. Runners know that being able to run, the joy you get from moving in a way that feels almost like flying, is a blessing. One day, I won’t be able to run for whatever reason, so the time to get these miles in is now. Being injured takes away from that time you have to run.
So many people out there push their limits beyond breaking point because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do. After all, change only happens outside of the comfort zone. But it’s important to address that pain should be a huge red stop sign, not something to ignore and “work through.”
Getting adequate rest and stretching properly is just as important as making sure that you’re exercising regularly. So is knowing that it’s okay not to be the best, and that taking a break doesn’t mean you’re weak or unmotivated.
Running should be something that makes you feel happier and healthier, and not cause you more pain than normal.