Thursday, March 27, 2008

Boo Boos: A History

This week's Take It and Run Thursday is all about injuries. I've been a runner since about 1984, so I've had my share of injuries, aches, and pains over the years. I always think of the advice of my high school cross country coach, a man destined to his job by his last name. Coach Quick would tell us that one of the most important things to learn as a runner was what injuries you can run through and which you can't. So, for what it's worth, here's a history of my running boo-boos and how I handled them.

What: Shin splints
When: At the beginning of pretty much every single cross country season.
Cause and Treatment: I'd complain to Coach Quick that I had shin splints, and in return, he'd offer me absolutely no sympathy. Basically, the reason I had them was that over the summer when I was supposed to be doing some minimal running to keep from getting totally out of shape, I... didn't. My treatment was to slather my legs with Icy Hot, do some stretching exercises, and most importantly, suck it up.
Lessons Learned: In the case of shin splints - or their cousin, sore muscles - pain really is weakness leaving the body. It's not serious, and in time, it will pass. And I should know better than to slack off for months and think there will be no ill effect on my fitness level.

What: Pulled muscle in my groin (sexy)
When: Sophomore year in high school
Cause and Treatment: I was running a cross country meet on a very muddy and slippery course. My leg slipped out from under me, pulling the muscle. Sweet Yoda, did it hurt. For about a week, instead of running, I'd go to the pool, where I'd run in the shallow end and swim the deep end. The lower impact allowed my leg to heal, which was a good thing, because I needed to fill in for one of the top seven in the state meet. I had a pulled muscle, but she had tendonitis.
Lessons Learned: Be careful on dicey terrain. Cross train to get better while still maintaining fitness. And remember, there is always someone worse off than you are.

What: Stress fractures in the shin bones of both legs.
When: Senior year in high school.
Cause and Treatment: Stress fractures were tragically common on our team. Why? Because the track, where we pounded out a lot of miles, had seen better days. It had all of the softness of the highway. Unfortunately, the only treatment was to stop running for a while. The good news is it happened at the end of the season, so I didn't miss anything.
Lessons Learned: Beware of hard surfaces. And by the way, the school has a new track now. It's much softer, plus a lovely shade of maroon.

What: Achilles pain
When: July 2007
Cause and Treatment: So, it turns out that it wasn't a good idea to add a bunch of extra miles to my marathon training plan, especially if those miles were a really hilly 10K that I raced pretty fast. I took a couple days off from running, iced it, and took Advil. I was lucky that I wasn't hurt more seriously.
Lessons Learned: Don't overtrain - duh. No matter how good you're feeling, the rules really do apply to you.

What: Chondromalacia patellae, a pain under my kneecap
When: November 2007
Cause and Treatment: This one really scared me. I was feeling pain in my right knee every time I went running. Even if I took some time off, I'd still find myself limping around after a run. I was afraid I'd done something serious to myself and that I'd have to quit, or that it'd be a chronic condition I would have to deal with forever.
I saw an osteopath, and he explained that my knee problem had to do with the cartilage under my kneecap. It wasn't anything I'd done wrong, just one of those things. He gave me a "return to running" program that had me run-walking slowly, gradually building speed and distance, until I felt better. He also told me to add weight training to strengthen my quads and hamstrings.
Even better, the doctor repeatedly referred to me as an athlete. He said that I had strong muscles and bones and would be back in the swing of things in no time. It was a huge confidence booster.
Lessons Learned: Weight training can help prevent injuries. A gradual approach is a good way to get back on track without injuring yourself worse. And I might not be winning any races, but I am an athlete and should be proud of how strong my body is.

I hope that my experiences can help some of my fellow BRFs. And because it wouldn't be Take It and Run Thursday without my bursting into song...
You got to know when to ice 'em, know when to RICE em,
Know when to take a break, know when to run.
You never run your fastest when your legs are hurtin'.
There'll be time enough for racin' when the healing's done.


Kent said...

Darn woman, I knew you were tough or had mad jedi mind skills, but I think a lesser person might have given up running after those injuries, especially the torn muscle one. Ouch! Of course this is just a guy talking who has no idea of what real pain is.

newsjunkie said...

Oh I hear ya on the Achilles tendinitis. OUCH! I am SO glad that cleared up for me, I can't imagine going through life with that creaking in my ankle every time I moved my foot.

Now if my IT band would just stop hurting...

The Laminator said...

Wow, that's enjoy injuries to last a lifetime. You are definitely an athlete, because a non-athlete would have given up after the first injury. Thanks for all your great advice and insight

Jess said...

Wow, you'v experienced a wide variety of injury! But your coach is right, and I always try to distinguish pain that I can't run through and pain that I can't.

Non-Runner Nancy said...

HA HA great post!! I have just been having dilemmas over what to run through and when to rest. Do you ever figure it out?

Shilingi-Moja said...

I like the way you organized your post -- makes it really easy to follow and your personal examples were great.

Database Diva said...

Hey Betsy, great post, but I'm dying of curiosity. Did you make it from high school to 2007 without a major injury?

Nat said...

I had the Patella pain... killers.

You are far tougher than I am.

bill carter said...


Wow, you have really had some injuries. But like a true runner, you keep coming back for more. Thanks for the great advice.