It's no secret that I have been very frustrated about my injury and its consequent impedance of my running. Six months ago, I could not imagine not being able to run at least 3-4 times a week and maintaining a weekly tally of at least 20 miles. Running gives me energy, an outlet, and goals to work toward. My life without running was unfathomable. That sounds a bit extreme, but it was true. It was the mentality that kept me running even when it became painful.
Psychologically, I gradually came to the realization that if I continued
trying to run, it was going to be a perpetual exercise in fighting
frustration rather than in improving fitness. There was nothing more
from a medical perspective that could be done other than stretching and
limiting exercise to what I could tolerate (a rather vague
recommendation left wide-open to personal interpretation). Drastically
reducing my weekly mileage from 25+ miles down to fewer than 10 didn't
eliminate the discomfort even during those fewer miles.
For the past few years, my identity has been wrapped up in being a
runner, albeit a very slow one. "I'm going for a run," was a common
phrase uttered to my husband as I headed out the door, sunglasses and
iPod in hand, after a long day at work. I often told people that running
kept my head on straight. The pride of finishing my first half-marathon
last year was intoxicating, and later that day I was already planning
which race to tackle next.
That was about 8 months ago. I haven't run more than a few hundred yards at a time in over a month now. And I survived. Actually, I've more than survived. My weight and energy levels have been about the same, and my overall fitness has actually improved. These benefits aren't solely due from not running-rather, from replacing running with other activities such as yoga, power walking, elliptical, group fitness classes, and spinning. I even ventured back into the 90's and enjoyed some roller-blading!
During yoga class, the instructor often reminds us that while some discomfort is OK, pain is not. If we are feeling pain during any pose, we need to modify it or return to child's pose. She uses the phrase, "Honor your body," and it is simple but true and sometimes very hard to do. My injury is still healing, and it will probably be some time before I (hopefully) feel back to normal. I can say that in the past month, the rate of progress of recovery has been at its highest. My overall fitness just might be too, in spite of (or perhaps because of) not running.
I think that I have come to the conclusion that identifying myself as "fit" is much more broadening and liberating than being just a "runner". I think my body agrees with me.