Confessions of a Recovering Runaholic: Reinhabiting a New Body, and Letting Go

I’m still officially in rehab, but in a much better place. Two weeks in Bali is the ideal way to kick the running habit. I did look longingly at the treadmill in the gym while I was using the elliptical, but the change of scenery certainly helped me refocus. I have returned a slightly different person, one who has embraced a life without running (for now). Which is a very good thing as my physio made it quite clear this week that I am still in rehab, and running plans are for the distant, not near future. But I’m ok with that.

(I wrote previously about how and why I was told to stop running and how I initially felt about it).

I discovered the meaning of the word “rehabilitation” this week. It means to relive, or reinhabit, your body. I want to reinhabit a new, transformed body – one without the aches and pains and asymmetry that I had been ignoring. And I’ve learned three very important lessons about health.

Lesson Number One. Respect your body.
It is not cool to push your body through its imperfections. I was all gung-ho with long distance running and bodyweight HIIT. It was all those endorphins. I felt great, overall. But deep down I knew I had been physically “unbalanced” for a long time. Being pregnant twice has exacerbated those little imbalances. My physio has managed to drill it down into individual muscles – gluteus maximus, deep rotators, multifidus. I have new exercises to do to train the weaker muscles and have come to the realisation that I pushed my body too far with the training I was doing. Most likely, I’ve overdeveloped the stronger muscles in order to compensate for the weaker sides. Time to even things out now. I’m fully committed to my “rehab”. As my physio bluntly put it, it may seem like I’m doing “two-fifths of bugger all” but it’s the most important work of all. I simply can’t go back to running until I fix what went wrong. I spend almost half an hour on my rehab every night and consider this my main form of training for now.

Lesson Number Two. I am resilient. I am flexible.
I’ve found a new strength in letting go. Before I stopped running, I was a bit more Type A than I am now. I hung on to running with a death-like grip, telling myself I wouldn’t cope if I had to stop. I allowed being a runner to dominate my identity. Now, I am a much more flexible person. I’ll find a way to keep fit. It doesn’t have to be running. It just needs to be something that gets my heart rate up for an extended period of time. I’m actually feeling a little bit relieved, as my running schedule was getting a bit exhausting. And with that relief comes a new openness, a new sense of calm. I’m feeling liberated by letting go of my fixed ideas of myself, and excited by the possibilities as I reinvent myself.

Lesson Number Three. Everything is connected. So fix everything.
My holiday melted away the chronic neck pain I had been suffering from, and on my return I’ve been in the process of “pimping my workstation” to make it more ergonomic. This is worthy of a blog post on its own so stay tuned, but it’s made an enormous difference to my neck. When you spend hours at a desk (and using a laptop) every day like I do, neck pain is pretty much inevitable – unless you pay attention to ergonomics. I’ve also stopped stooping over my iPhone all the time – have you ever noticed how everyone using public transport is hunched over a phone?

Every day I try to do something aerobic – at the moment using the spin bike and walking is all I am managing. The bike is becoming more tolerable with loading up a video or talk to watch – the time flies by! And this week, amazingly, my hip is improving. I don’t have pain, I have more movement, and I can feel my left glute getting stronger. I see my physio again in two weeks and we’ll progressively work on more stabilisers – including the transverse abdominus, which is probably very weak after two pregnancies. I’m looking forward to inhabiting a better, stronger body than ever before. And I have no doubt that this will make me a better runner.

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