Timeout To Let The Body Heal

The other day, I decided to go back to writing about running (add in link to post). Despite my being injured and unable to run for at least another week.

At least that is what the Physical Therapist has decided is best for me to recover from this most recent spate of injuries. Honestly, I can’t argue with her reasoning or advice based on how I felt when she gave it. I knew it was time to shut things down until the body has a chance to do its miraculous ability to heal the abuse that I tend to put it through.

Sometimes you find solace and words of wisdom from the words of others and when this quote popped up in my Twitter timeline from Brad Stulberg — an author that I respect very much.

“Accept Where You Are to Get You Where You Want to Go. Seeing clearly and starting where you are. Not where you want to be. Not where you think you should be. Not where others think you should be. But where you are. This is hard—but the only way to make meaningful progress.”

Brad Stulberg – Twitter

Where am I now?

Figuring out what my body is able to do at age 65 versus what I think, believe, or want it to do has been an adventure and not really a good one. I have already learned (the hard way) that It takes longer for the body to heal the damage I tend to inflict upon it. Just the way things work, as we get older, everything seems to slow down too. Yeah, it sucks.

The hamstrings and my left shoulder made running uncomfortable enough that I whined to the doc at my last physical about them. After seeing me wince too often, during the physical she thought it would be a great idea to refer me to physical therapy.

While waiting for the referral to happen, I was rototilling a new flower garden, I hyper-extended my left knee – badly. Which made things pretty miserable for about two weeks. It’s slowly getting better, but that injury also caused me to shut down all running while waiting for my first appointment and even now I am rather meechy about going back to it quite yet.

Which probably was a good thing in the long run.

Since that setback, I have had a couple of visits with the PT and have not been doing any running and will not until I get cleared by her to start back up. I trust her evaluation in this more than my wanting to get back on the roads quickly. This means that I will probably not be running after the next appointment on the 31st either. Everything is progressing nicely, but still not quite at the point where she will say go for it.

I am pretty happy with it how the body is progressing and feeling after not running for a few weeks. I can tell that the left knee and pelvic region are still not quite there yet. Now is when I need to be patient and not dive back into running before the body is ready.

Especially, when she evaluated my legs and pelvis the results were less than spectacular. Even to my untrained eye and how the body felt during the exam, there were some significant issues with the hamstrings and left pelvis (weakness, lack of symmetry, lack of flexibility, and yes – pain). While she was doing the exam, I was thinking out loud about running a marathon in October, she just laughed and said “You ain’t gonna be ready for that kind of training this year.”

I gave her that funny WTFO look and she basically said if I can pull your hamstrings down like I just did and you can’t move your left leg into a figure 4 without pain, you are not ready to train for a marathon anytime soon. Shorter races this fall maybe, but first let’s let the legs heal, get the shoulder right, and then get them strengthened before you get too many ideas of racing or marathon training.

What she said was the truth and I couldn’t argue with her. So my fantasies and dreams of what I can do are hitting the reality of what the PT is pretty sure I can do if I am smart. I ain’t ever been too smart when it comes to running, so it will be interesting to see where this leads us over the long run.

All that being said I am tired of the constant shut-it-down it hurts, then start back running again, before it is fully healed. Then repeat the cycle multiple times, until the leg miraculously lets me run again, despite my best efforts to screw things up.

I have a feeling that 2022 will be a year where I focus on healing versus running. I don’t need to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Like I have done so many times before.

Running Injury List

I just hit the highlights in this list of injuries there have been several more minor things that I just run through and don’t think about them and I didn’t bother with the minor hamstring, Achilles tendon, and hip pain that seems to never go away more than I had to.

Let’s do a little injury history review – starting at my feet and working my way up:

Multiple chiropractors and massage therapists have told me that I have a leg length discrepancy that might factor into so many issues with my legs. Plus my right foot points out at about a 45-degree angle if I am not focusing on keeping it straight.

Feet

  • Several broken toes – always kicking something by accident
  • 1975 – Trauma to Left Foot from stepping into a hole while running in Bootcamp
  • 2006 – A bad case of Plantar Faciitis
  • 2013 – Diagnosed with a Tailor’s Bunionette – right foot
  • 2013 – During PT, very little mobility in the big toes, which has bothered me for several years, by feeling “stuck” when I first start running sometimes
  • 2014 – Right Foot run over by hay wagon, significant bruising and pain lost 7 days running
  • 2021 – Right foot pain (by the Tailor’s bunionette) – 6 days no running

Ankles

  • Multiple ankle strains/sprains from junior high to about 1998, when I stopped playing basketball regularly (back when I thought being a 5’7″ power forward was cool).
  • 1975 – Sprained left ankle while running
  • 1977 – Sprained right ankle playing basketball
  • 1978 – Sprained right ankle playing basketball
  • 1978 – Put in the cast to limit ROM from pain in the right ankle
  • 1978 – Sprain/tendonitis right ankle playing softball – put back in a cast
  • 1981 – Left ankle sprain playing basketball
  • 1987 – Right ankle sprain playing basketball
  • 2013 – possibly tore Posterior Tibial tendon, when I injured my Achilles May in a 5K race
  • 2013 – PT commented that she had seen 2×4’s nailed together that had more mobility and flexibility than I had in my ankles/Achilles area

Achilles Tendons

  • 1974 – High school, injured my left Achilles senior year of cross-country and could not run the rest of the season
  • 1978 – Left foot/leg put in a cast after landing wrong on first base in a softball game
  • 1992Jan24 – Right Achilles strain/sprain – while playing basketball
  • 2001 – Right Achilles hurt while playing basketball (yeah I thought I could still keep up) and went to a Chiropractor who did Graston work on that area with good results, but it was in Portland and no one in the area did that at the time, so I stopped going after a couple of months the driving was too much.
  • Both have been chronically tight and painful throughout my running career
  • 2013 – Partially tore left Achilles and saw a specialist about it
  • 2021 – Left Achilles 6 days no running and inconsistent running through the end of June due to the discomfort/pain in the Achilles

Calves

  • Several years – both have been chronically tight and painful
  • 2007 – Shoveling snow off the roof, fell off a ladder and right leg got stuck in rung, turned upside down – diagnosed with a crushed soleus, strained knee, and significant trauma to my lower back muscles
  • 2012 – Pulled muscle in the right calf, when running on snowmobile trail

Knees

  • 1977 – Left knee injury while playing basketball, some swelling, but no serious damage – not enough to be seen beyond corpsman, ice, rest.
  • 1977 – Right knee injury while playing tennis
  • 1982 – Pain left knee after 1982 Marine Corps Marathon – dropped out at mile 14.
  • 1983 – Hurt left knee in 1983 Marine Corps Marathon – finished, but needed physical therapy after
  • 1986 – DNR Old Lyme Marathon due to right knee pain
  • 2007 – DNR Maine Marathon due to right knee pain
  • 2010 – Hurt right knee playing racquetball, had it operated on in May 2011 – was torn cartilage and meniscus damage
  • 2011May17 – Arthroscopic surgery on the right knee – just couldn’t deal with the pain and discomfort anymore.
  • 2013 – In May had a mild case of self-diagnosed patella tendinitis
  • 2022 – Hyper-extended left knee while rototilling new flower garden

Hamstrings

  • Back in high school I tore my hamstrings (yes both of them once during basketball sophomore season and then the junior year in track)
  • Several years – both have been chronically tight and painful – forever
  • 1998 – tore left hamstring while sprinting
  • 2014 – current problem with left hamstring and tight right hamstring.
  • If you count piriformis issues as part of a hamstring problem – had significant problems with them in summer 2012
  • 2014 – Saw Chiropractor for several sessions to work on right hamstrin
  • 2018May13 – Right Hamstring

Hips

  • Stress fracture in the right hip as a result of not stopping during the Marine Corps Marathon
  • 1984 – Left hip, fell on ice
  • 1984 – Left hip pain. Referred me to Bethesda – Negative findings
  • 2013 – In May I ran too much in three days in new running shoes and hurt my left hip and needed to take time off.
  • Several years – Yep they bother all too often, especially when I am in the process of changing around my shoes too rapidly or doing stupid training

Other

  • 1976May11 – Fell on deck hurting back. While working on the buoy deck the ship hit a swell and the boom hook detached from the sinker, just as we were getting ready to lift it. I held on as it swung me over the side of the ship, and came back, where I attempted to brace off the concrete sinker after swinging back past it. The boom operator was attempting to lower me to the deck and after passing the sinker, I hit my back on the railing and then bounced off on the padeye on deck. David H. hurt his knee attempting to stop my flying through the air.
  • 1979 – Left elbow injury (sprain) playing softball, landed wrong in the outfield
  • 1983 – Left elbow pain???
  • 1990 – Dislocated right shoulder, went to ER at Fort Monmouth. This is the shoulder VA rates 10% disabled.
  • 1990 – Left shoulder injured when 45/70 rifle blew up when shooting at the range. Broke glasses and had a badly bruised shoulder. Took a piece of the stock out of the right shoulder.
  • 1993 – Broken right ring finger – slammed van sliding door on it
  • 1998 – Back strain/spasms
  • 2003 – Neck, right shoulder, right hip, mild concussion – fell on ice
  • Over the years I have had several concussions (the last falling on the ice and whacking my head off the sidewalk in 2003),
  • 2003 – Right arm contusion (shoulder came out while restraining a student)
  • 2006 – while removing a stump, the crowbar slipped and hit my chest – hard. It put me to my knees (caused significant bruising, a visit to the emergency room, and an irregular heartbeat for several days), I had significant bruising and eventually diagnosed with Wolff, Parkinson, White Syndrome
  • A variety of other injuries (broken fingers, etc.) that don’t really affect my running, but add to the volume of scar tissue I carry around.

There are more, but these are the ones that I remember or found when looking back on medical records the other day.

What I Learned

It seems that the numerous injuries and niggles that have been a part of my running over the years have finally caught up with me. The brutal truth is that I don’t take time for the litany of injuries to heal. Then expect the body to just let me keep running.

Even when I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee in 2011, I pushed to get back to running too soon. I was taught that dealing with discomfort is a part of running, which I am also learning is a crock of horseshit.

If you are in pain or discomfort from some type of injury, give the damn thing time to heal. All those crap memes and sayings about getting tougher or someone else is out there training while you are home doing nothing is just that – crap. Don’t be like I have been over the years, it serves zero purposes.

Yeah, I know, we all want to run more, run faster and all that other stuff we read that others are doing in the magazines, books, articles, podcasts, or blogs. 

Let it go. 

Most of us run as a recreational activity, not because we have to, but because we want to. I’m probably a prime example of what happens to recreational runners who get a taste of running well and just keep pushing. Eventually, the body begins to break down, due to piss poor training, lack of recovery, rest and being stubborn. When you do those things, running becomes a painful activity that losses the joy we used to feel.

Which I have to change if I am going to achieve my goal of running into my 80s.

Pretty much the entire body needed this timeout to recover from all the falls, hits, overuse, and poor choices that I have made over the years.

Still, not running is hard. Because I am already at the point where I would normally be back to running in other years. Yet at the same time, I can tell that the body is attempting to do its part. My hamstrings feel the best they have in a very long time. The exercises that the PT gave me seem to be helping improve the range of motion a little (it will take a long time to get it back to semi-normal) and even the brain is looking forward to running again.

However, I am going to behave myself (well as best I can) and listen to what the PT says. Right now it is still that knee that worries me more than the rest, but it seems to be getting back to where it needs to be, it is just taking longer than I want.

Resetting the old body and readjusting how I look at my running going forward is necessary if I want to still be running 15 years from now.

Yeah, I am now on the comeback trail at age 65 and this time I’d like to keep it fun, but still want to see what running well looks like for me as I move forward.

It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

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