On Being Told To Stop Running (And Breathing)
Just bear with me for a moment or two. I need to be a little bit dramatic to express my grief. Let me be a dying swan for a minute. I promise you I am moving on. But yesterday I was told something I had been fearing, but which I thought wouldn’t happen til I was 75 years old and hobbling around a retirement home. I was told to stop running. For a while. For now. Until (insert question mark).
It’s hard for a non-runner to understand, but imagine you were told to stop breathing. Running is my reset button. It’s a place, not an activity, for me. It’s where I get my calm, my resolve, my sense of purpose, my joie de vivre. I run to keep going in life. I run because at one time I couldn’t run for five minutes without feeling like I am dying, and now I run distances that I never dreamed were even possible. (They’re not long distances for a marathoner, but hey. It’s all relative). So running makes me feel strong, and reminds of what is possible out of the seemingly impossible. I ran in my first pregnancy until 28 weeks. Even my mum, who is not an active person, will ask me if I want to go for a run when she comes over to look after the kids. I’m one of those annoying people who does get an undeniable “runner’s high”. I tear up when I remember those cold crisp mornings when I set off on my long runs, listening to an inspiring podcast, the autumn leaves under my feet, the sky blue, my heart soaring and filled with bliss. As soon as I hear the crunching of my feet on gravel, left, right, left, right, I know I’ve come home.
(Enough of the rhapsodies now, woman!)
But it seems my left hip doesn’t like the left, right, left, right and the impact of those feet on gravel. It’s been niggling since my first baby was born. I was told it was a hip flexor tightness and glute weakness. The physio then didn’t know what we know now – that it’s likely I have something called Femoroacetabular Impingement. There’s probably some developmental problem with my hip where the ball bit of the hip joint doesn’t fit well with the cup bit. So there’s a bit that rubs, over and over again, when the hip moves. Hence the hip/groin pain. It’s interesting that I ran a 15km race without too many problems. I’m hopeful.
So for now, I am to stop running. There. I said it. Last night I read a chapter from my “Train Like A Mother” book which is written by two “badass mother runners”, Dimity and Sarah. Dimity describes sobbing as she pulled on her boot when she was diagnosed with a stress fracture and had to stop running for 7 weeks. I sobbed too. Then she talked about a cycling program to train for marathons. Yes it’s possible. And deep water running. And I stopped sobbing.
As I said, I’m moving on. Not being able to run (for now) isn’t something I can change. What I can change is the state of my deep hip rotators, apparently. So I’m doing these funny exercises every day that isolate these little suckers that haven’t been externally rotating my hip enough, causing some instability. I’m rolling around on my little spiky ball which my four-year-old has nicknamed “Thorny”. Thorny gets into the sorest tightest spots around my hip and back to loosen up those naughty muscles. I’m sore today but I’m taking that as a good thing! I’m doing pilates. I’m finding the stationary bike extremely boring, but I’m going to download audiobooks, movies, box sets… whatever gets me through a session! If I’m to stop running for a longer period, I’ll take up deep water running. I can also do spin cycling or zumba or yoga at our Uni fitness centre or local gym.
I’m going to do whatever I can to maximise my chance of getting back to running, and in the meantime, I want to discover that place again, outside of running. I may be giving up running for now, but I’m not giving up on that feeling – the fist-pumping “AWESOME!!” feeling when I’ve moved my body and exceeded my own expectations. No way. And yes, I do know that in the big scheme of things, having a minor hip problem and not being able to run, but still being able to walk, work, pick up my children, and do other physical things is not a huge problem. (Unless I’m talking to a fellow runner!) I need to get some perspective. And get my Zumba on! Who knows what will come from this new phase. Hopefully a brand new hip (please send me some hip love!!), maybe a new-found love of another activity that can sustain me in the times when running takes a back seat. Another place that I call home.