Hey, everyone! Happy Friday :)
How was everyone's week? Mine was very busy, per usual, but then again, who isn't busy these days? I feel like we constantly go from one thing to the next and never get a second to just pause. So take a second right now! Stop and think about one thing that you're grateful for in this very moment.
I want to share with you what I'm grateful for. Today, I'm grateful for this beautiful fall weather. It's 50 degrees and sunny outside. The air might be a bit chilly, but the sun will warm you up, which is the best feeling. I'm also grateful for black coffee; there are few things better than sipping a nice cup of dark roasted brew while slowly waking up. I'll admit that the bitterness is an acquired taste, but now I've come to love it and can't imagine it any other way! I'm really grateful for the love and support I feel from my family, boyfriend, and friends. I'm so lucky to have them in my life; they help me to stand tall and strong, even when I don't feel it inside.
It's always good to remember what we're grateful for, right?
Now, on to today's post. The other day, I was reading this article about a common trend in running to use ibuprofen to get through injuries and how incredibly damaging and unhealthy that is to the body and mind. While reading that article, I felt a pang of guilt because I was that runner, on an extreme level.
I remember the days when I had a very unhealthy relationship with running, the days in which I literally destroyed my body because I exceeded the amount that was healthy for me personally to run. At one point during my junior year, I increased my mileage drastically while maintaining a very restrictive diet. I remember starting to feel the pains in my lower shins. I told myself it's just shin splints, I'll recover soon enough and be on my way to even more miles per week. Well, this was dumb. My body was trying to tell me that I had exceeded my limits and that I needed to slow down, but me being the stubborn ass that I am (my family and friends can attest to this statement), I kept running.
I started out by taking one Advil every four hours and kept running. I ran despite the increasing pain in both of my shins. First, it started out dull, like an ache from being hit. Then it worsened. To remedy this, I increased my Advil; I was now taking nine Advil a day. The pains turned from dull aches into what felt like sharp knives cutting at my shins. I increased yet again, now reaching a point of 12-14 Advil per day.
Then one morning, I couldn't get out of bed. My legs killed to the point where I was biting back tears. Now, I have an extremely high pain tolerance, and I think that comes with being a distance runner. We're trained to endure pain and almost enjoy it. But when I tried to stand up to go to the bathroom that morning, I immediately fell to the ground because the pain was too much to bare. I had exceeded stress fractures and now had two broken legs. At the time, I lived on the third floor and had to be carried downstairs because I couldn't walk. To be a runner and not be able to walk down stairs, you better believe my pride was hurting. That was the "breaking" point (excuse the horrible pun). My body wasn't just screaming at me to stop, but it physically thwarted me from not listening to it anymore.
That was my cue to get help. I dragged my feet (both literally and figuratively) to an appointment with the bone doc. At this point, I was still taking 12 Advil per day just to take the edge off the pain, or else I would be in tears from the amount of agony I felt. He came in with the x-rays of my legs and showed me where the breaks were; my shins lit up like a Christmas tree. It looked like someone took a hammer to both of my legs. The doc told me that it would take at least 4-6 months to heal these breaks, and in the time between, I was to be in a wheelchair, doing no exercise. Well once again, me being the stubborn ass that I was (and still am ), I refused the wheelchair; my pride could not take another hit after my stupidity in not listening to my body when it cried out for rest. I agreed to doing a double boot and crutches.
After months of wobbling around and begrudgingly listening to my doctors (my body was singing "Hallelujah"), I finally got to take off the boots and take my first steps. I expected to feel normal, but it was still painful. By this time, I had finally gotten down to taking eight Advil per day. But why was I still in pain? My stubborn brain thought, This is easy, just take more Advil!
And so I did. As I walked more, the pain was dull, but remained the same. When I gained enough strength, I started to use the elliptical and cycling. My shins still hurt, but I fought through it (though I probably shouldn't have). I began running again prematurely, while still using Advil to kill the pain. I would take some before and after my run. This was a mistake. I may have gotten back to my old mileage, but I was still in a lot of pain and still abusing the Advil. Needless to say, I ended up re-injuring myself, now with one stress fracture.
And that was finally it. It took two serious injuries for me to finally realize I couldn't keep beating up my body like this. I was determined I wasn't going to let my stubbornness get in the way anymore. I needed to treat my body with the respect and care it deserved and so desperately needed. No more numbing the pain with Advil. No more running and overdoing it with exercise when my body should be resting. No more listening to the little voice in my head saying just one more mile when my body had reached its exhaustion point. And you know what? I finally listened to my body and it told me what I needed to do. I stopped taking Advil and I started taking rest days. My body wasn't designed to endure seven days of rigorous activity like some are. To perform best, I needed those rest days in between long runs and speed workouts. I let my body speak and you know what? It rewarded me.
I am faster, I can train harder, and I actually enjoy it more. I can now tell more accurately when my body needs a break before I reach another serious injury because Advil is not dulling my pain. What's more, I can run pain-free now, and let me tell you, it is magical. That's when my relationship with running also morphed. Running went from being a numbers thing that played with my OCD to being a therapy and an escape from my thoughts, a brief moment when my body, mind, and soul are entirely present and in tune.
So try it. Next time you want the Advil before you run, try to not have it and just run until it feels good. One of my favorite running quotes to leave you with for the weekend:
Enjoy your long run this weekend :)
Hey there and welcome! I'm a 20-something-year-old running, painting, and eating my way through NYC. Hope to see you along the way!