The Long Road to Recovery: Part 3


Warning: This is gonna be long. It’s not gonna be funny and things may get a little personal… and maybe a little weird. Drama Llama 3.0 says that you’ve been warned. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I feel that I need to issue a disclaimer before I continue. I’ve pretty much already given away how this whole thing ends. Yes, I ran 3.2 miles today. Yes, it’s a huge deal. Yes, it’s the first real positive step that I’ve taken in a long time. Is this ordeal over? I really don’t think so. I’m not a pessimist. I’m a realist. I’ve got a lot of work to do — not just in getting back in shape, but making sure that I stay ahead of my ITBS. The important thing is that something positive has happened (more on this later) and I truly feel reenergized.

So, I was crushed by that last physical therapy visit. I was pretty much told that they’ve done everything that they can and I was pretty much on my own. Yeah, yeah, I was gonna continue going to physical therapy and all that, but the white flag was in the air. So I continued to attend physical therapy for the next week, going through the motions. Waiting for the inevitable final day when I truly was on my own and back to square one.

Suddenly — graciously — a life preserver was thrown my way. In the six weeks that I was attending physical therapy, I had about five different therapists. One main therapist — the one that initially evaluated me and gave my the news that I should revisit my doctor — and 4 others that helped me from time to time when my main therapist was busy. They all worked off the same gameplan, but threw in different tweaks here and there. Last Tuesday, I was working with one of the other therapists. I’ve worked with her a few times — and to be honest — liked her the best. I guess because of my affection towards her, I opened up about being pretty bummed about the whole process.

“Don’t worry. Both me and my husband had ITBS. It will get better. It just takes time. It took me 6 months.”

What! Why are you only now telling me this? I’ve been her for 6 weeks. I didn’t know you were teaching from experience. I honestly thought you guys were winging it. Why haven’t I been solely with you the entire time? You know the struggle!

That’s when she told me something that made so much sense — and was such a relief — that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.

For all intents and purposes, I was cured. My muscles were stretched. My hips were strong. Thing is, my body didn’t know that. Everything that caused my ITBS was fixed, but the damage was already done. When I ran, my feet struck the ground a certain way. My muscles reacted a certain way. My IT Band reacted in a certain way. My knee paid the price.

“It’s muscle memory,” she said. “You need to reteach yourself how to run.”

I’ve never really had formally training in how to run long distances. I guess I kinda taught myself. I’m a suplinator — meaning the outside of my right foot strikes the ground first. This was not a problem as I slowly began to run long distances, but when I jumped back into running after my 10-day layoff, my suplinating running style, as well as my well-worn running shoes, triggered my ITBS. I needed to retrain my body to run differently — to tell my IT Band to knock it off. Finally, a gameplan I could wrap my head around. Something that made sense.

Here’s the problem though: I had lost the will to run. It was cold and there was still snow on the ground and — just as I had gotten used to running every day — I had gotten used to not running anymore. I used to always be able to find an hour to run. Now, man, I just couldn’t find the time. My final physical therapy session was on Thursday. I promised myself I would run right after. I didn’t. I promised myself that I would run on Friday. I didn’t. I didn’t on Saturday either.

Finally, on Sunday night, my girlfriend asked if I wanted to go to the gym. No, I wasn’t really feeling up to it. Wait, YES, I would go to the gym. I would get on the treadmill and I would make this work.

So that’s what I did. I ran 2 miles, focusing my running style. Focusing on a neutral stride. I’ll be damned, It worked. It was a tough — and boring — two miles, but there wasn’t a hint of pain. I’d run 2 miles without problems on a treadmill before though, the real test would be outside, back out on my running trail. As luck would have it, it was a beautiful day out on Monday. There was no reason to not give it the ole’ college try.

Same gameplan: Slow, deliberate steps. Focusing on how my feet hit the ground.

Remember how I said that the first time I ran a 5K without stopping was the high-water mark of my training? That became my goal while trying to fight back from injury. I had an midpoint marked out about 1.5 miles away from my house. Each time I would try and run during these four month, I would run to that point and  attempt to run back. I never made it. I was alway forced to walk the rest of the way home. It was always a depressing walk home.

But not yesterday. Yesterday I ran the entire way. Those last 100 meters felt like a religious experience. No pain. None. At. All. Nothing. My God, the run was hard. The hardest since that initial 5K all those month ago. But I did it. I reached my first goal. I’m on my way back.

One Response to “The Long Road to Recovery: Part 3”

  1. Matt Fetters Says:

    Great 3-part story Paul! Interesting, conversational, really well written, very easy reading. I’m glad I stumbled into your blog…I’m hooked. I look forward to following your journey.

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