Injured runner: Checking back in

How have I been doing? How has PT been? What have I been up to?

Well, for one, I caught a cold that has been going around in my family and my office. I feel better than I did last week when I first started having a sore throat and super runny nose but now I have developed a cough that I can’t shake and still feel pretty tired. (It didn’t help that I had a very busy weekend and couldn’t “stay home sick” from my pre-planned weekend activities and obligations — more on this in a later post).

So, I haven’t been doing all my my PT exercises that I am supposed to be doing … Getting sick in the summer is kind of a bummer because it feels weird to be wrapped in a blanket at home when it’s so nice and sunny outside!

This is week 3 of physical therapy and I have another PT appointment at the end of the week, so hopefully I will feel better ASAP and have a productive appointment.

I haven’t been to the gym and/or swimming in like a week with getting sick and all. Even though I have been injured from running for almost a year, this is probably the longest stretch of “inactivity” in a while.

Hope to be back on track with everything (life, work, PT exercises, going to the gym), next week.

So, nothing really new to report for now.

Knee is still the same.

Injured runner: Learning how to swim yet again

I have had to learn how to swim now four times in my life.

  1. As a child when I was maybe three or four and my parents had me take “little tadpools” swim lessons — or whatever the classes were called at the time.
  2. As an adult when I decided to participate in my first triathlon the summer of 2012 and had never done any “serious swimming” before.
  3. As an adult when I found out I was injured from running last summer and needed to learn how to swim on a consistent basis and for a longer period of time.
  4. Most recently, as of a week ago, when my physical therapist told me to continue swimming without kicking my legs!

This post is going to be devoted to the fourth point because I have conveniently linked out to past posts about points #2 and #3 and I didn’t have a blog when I was four.

Ever since re-learning how to swim as an adult for my triathlon five years ago, I have had mad respect for swimmers. They are tough. They are relentless. They are strong. They can freakin’ hold their breath for so much longer than the average person!

And, now that I have attempted to swim without kicking my legs — so, yes, only using my arms — my respect for swimmers has increased twofold.

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I arrived at the pool Friday a little nervous. I was hoping that the lap lanes were not crowded because I didn’t want to be bumping into other swimmers. Luckily, I only had to share the lane with one other woman so we split the lane. She’s someone I regularly see at the pool and for some reason this time we started chatting and actually introduced ourselves to each other. I mentioned to this 60-something-year-old woman that I probably wouldn’t be in the pool for very long today since I was going to be swimming without kicking for the first time. She replied that she thinks that swimming without kicking is easier.

I placed the little floatie-thing — is there a name for it? — between my legs, just above my knees, and was on my way. As soon as I swam my first stroke, I felt uneasy. My stroke felt “uncontrollable.” I don’t know how to explain it other than saying that my lower half of my body felt like it was floating so much that my top half felt like it was being submerged under water with a greater force than normal. I felt like I couldn’t easily turn my head to take my breaths of air. Whenever my hands and arms would swing back into the water, I felt like I was pounding into the water and creating huge splashes. Sometimes, my arm would even waver and cross over my body as it re-entered the water.

I basically felt like I was not in complete control of my body. A few times I even swam too close to the lines that divide the lanes and ended up hitting the plastic markers!

Oh, and I was moving way slower than I normally do when I swim while kicking.

This was all so hard that after one lap I wanted to quit. I took off my googles, because for some reason they were fogging up, and looked over to my new friend and said, “Wow, that was tough! I don’t know how many more of these I can do.”

I don’t know what I was expecting her to say to me but what she did say kept me going.

“I’m rooting for you, Kristin!” she replied and dunked her body back into the water and continued with her laps.

OK, if this woman thinks I can do it, I can do  a few more, right?

With each lap I completed, the easier it became and the more comfortable I felt about my new swimming routine. I kept telling myself, get to 5 laps, then get to 10 laps, until I reached 15 laps and decided to call it a day.

For reference, I normally swim 30 to 36 laps on an average good day, with upwards of 40 to 45 laps on a really good day.

The good news was that after this workout, I didn’t experience any knee pain. The main reason my physical therapist does not want me kicking while swimming is because I told him that sometimes I have knee pain while swimming.

I’m doing all of this — including my PT exercises — to build strength and eliminate my knee pain.

And, so that I can get back to running once again.

So I’m OK with learning how to swim yet again.

Injured runner: The start of PT

I had my first physical therapy appointment on Monday and I’m excited and super motivated (right now!)

To note, I did self refer myself to PT last summer when I thought my knee injury was “just an IT band injury” but it actually was a stress fracture so the PT wasn’t doing anything.

Once I was diagnosed with a stress fracture, the orthopedic doctor I had first been seeing told me to stop going to PT because I just needed to let the stress fracture heal. I needed to rest and give it time.

So, I did.

But, during that time I also apparently developed “runner’s knee” so when I got a second opinion last week with a sports medicine doctor, he referred me straight to PT.

My focus this week is on single leg bridges (with one ankle crossed across the other knee), side plank clamshells and supine active straight leg raises. I’m doing three sets of 15-30 reps daily. (Well, the suggested number of times is five days a week so I am aiming for daily).

My PT can really tell I “have serious work to do” — my words, not his — because I can’t even do a single legged squat without wavering and wobbling around. I clearly need to work on stability and strengthening my muscles again.

For now, they have me scheduled out for one PT appointment weekly for six weeks. I’m hopeful that during those six weeks I’ll be able to incorporate some walk-jogging into the mix. But, we’ll see.

My PT also told me to stop kicking my legs when I am swimming laps and to lower the resistance when I am on the stationary bike or elliptical. (This is because I told him that sometimes I experience pain while doing these workouts). He told me that my cardio exercise isn’t meant to get me sweating or raising my heart rate. It’s to get my knee functioning properly again. So, if spinning on the bike for 30 minutes at zero resistance is what I need to do, I need to do it.

It’ll be hard.

So, maybe I will just focus on my PT exercises for now.

Good luck to me.

Injured runner: On really being hopeful

My second opinion went just about as good as I could have hoped it to have gone.

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The “TLDR” version is that this doctor has no concerns that my stress fracture hasn’t healed. That issue is basically no longer an issue we need to be worried about.

So, what’s with my off-and-on knee pain then?

He suspects I have “runner’s knee” — the clinical term being patellar femoral pain — which may be due to mechanics of leg strength and improper muscle activity. AKA, my body has not been running for nearly a year and now my muscles are all out of wack leading me to have this knee cap area pain.

“You’ll be running again. I’m not here to tell you, you will never run,” The doctor said, adding that my cartilage and meniscus look great.

 

Hearing this was such a relief. It sounds cliche, but it felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. The unknowing-ness of what was going on with my knee for the past several months was making me annoyed and anxious and angry.

Now I do not need to get a third MRI (that the first doctor recommended).

I kind of wish I had gone for a second opinion sooner but c’est la vie. It is what it is.

I was lucky to snag a cancellation PT appointment tomorrow so at least my comeback journey can begin soon. And, this doctor I saw is a sports med doc so I got a referral to one of the “good physical therapists” who works with a lot of runners.

There’s no concrete timeline on when I can actually lace up the running shoes again. It all sort of depend on how PT goes.

But, that’s OK.

I’m so, so ready and really, really hopeful.

Injured runner: On being hopeful

For the past month, I have been holding onto a glimmer of hope.

I scheduled a second opinion and last month, the appointment was one month away.

My second opinion is now tomorrow.

I’ve been oddly looking forward to it because I’m hoping I will get concrete answers or a concrete plan for when I can return to running.

Maybe this doctor will tell me that I can start to ease back into running. Maybe this doctor will tell me to give walk-jogging a try. Maybe this doctor will say my two MRIs were mis-read and I do not have a stress fracture. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe I’m on the mend. Maybe it’s nothing at all. 

One can hope, right?

I haven’t run in 11 months.

I’ve been injured for a little over a year.

And, I’m still hopeful that things will turn around.

I’m running on hope — even when not running.

Injured runner: Not a swimmer but a swimmer

I don’t know who I am anymore.

I’ve been prioritizing my after-work swims as diligently as I used to prioritize my marathon training runs.

I’m not a swimmer so this is a big deal.

In the last week, I have swam — or is it swum? — 5 times.

This is a big deal.

I usually arrive to the pool around 4:40 p.m. every day after work. I’d like to think of myself as a regular just like the handful of “real swimmers” I always see. We exchange head nods or smiles. Sometimes I muster a “How are you?” or “Hello” but other than that, I keep to myself and just swim laps.

My “routine” consists of swimming breast stroke out and then the crawl back. I do this over and over until I get tired and then will swim with the kick board for five laps or so. I do all of this for a total of 36 to 40 laps. (Thirty-six is the minimum number to swim one mile at the pool I frequent).

I’ve gone on runs in the past that have felt bad, or even horrible. But, unlike running, with swimming I never have a bad one.

Maybe it’s because just getting out to swim is a victory for me. I’m spoiled with being able to go to an outdoor pool for my lap swimming and I think being outdoors really makes a difference. On the few days where I have to hit the gym and use the stationary bike (because of scheduling time constraints) rather than go to the pool for a swim, the gym feels torturous.

But, just keeping active while being injured is doing wonders for me.

It still sucks to not be able to run, but at least I can still do something.

That something of choice right now is swimming in the Seattle sunshine.

Injured runner: Are you running yet?

I’ve gone silent again.

Maybe it’s the “extreme Seattle heat” — we hit the 80s over in the Pacific Northwest, folks! — or maybe it’s because I haven’t felt like writing that I am still injured. Maybe it’s because I’ve been busy doing other things.

I have been swimming a lot (but more on that later). And, have spent a lot of time both in and out of the pool reflecting on this whole, um, experience.

While the past year has had its low moments (due to this darn knee injury), I have to remind myself that running has provided me with so many wonderful experiences, proud moments and life-long friendships.

Last night I went to the Seattle Reign soccer match with one of my friends, Ragan, and her group of season ticket holder friends. I feel like I have been friends with Ragan longer than the four or so years I have known her.

We met because we both worked together about two-and-a-half years ago. But, it wasn’t the “fast friends” type situation. I actually walked over to Ragan’s desk one afternoon and straightforwardly asked her, “Do you want to be on my Ragnar team?” In that moment, I really didn’t know much about her. I knew she was nice and smart and was in grad school for something science-y while also working. I didn’t know she played soccer and had several half marathons under her belt. Once I explained what exactly Ragnar was to her, she was quickly on board to join my team and filled the last spot on my 12-person team.

Since then, we’ve done two team relays together and have another one on the books — the upcoming Ragnar Rainier which I will most likely not be running, but will still captain and hang out. We obviously also hang out outside of running and I’m so thankful for her friendship.

This morning I went on a walk at Discovery Park with Mo and Leah. They are both high school friends and we all ran cross-country together in our teenage years. Since then we have trained and raced many marathons together. Mo currently lives in Seattle and Leah lives on the East Cost. A few years ago their living arrangements were reversed with Leah living here and Mo on the East Coast. Throughout geographic differences, we have remained close friends. Walking around Discovery this morning — on the same trail we have run together countless times — I was reminded that I have been friends with these extraordinary women for more than a decade.

All thanks to running.

So, to answer your question …. No, I am not running.

And, yes, it is still sad and makes me mad and anxious all at the same time. But when I really think deep about running, I cannot be so mad. It has brought so many new people into my life and has strengthened so many of my relationships.

So, kudos to you, running.