This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot recently, as I am just now making my running ‘comeback’ after having foot surgery last year. I wanted to share my experiences with you in the hopes that perhaps it will perhaps help someone else.
On a lazy Sunday afternoon last August, I was in the kitchen getting some food prep done for the week. I was chopping veggies, putting together salads, and of course, making homemade salad dressings. I was washing the dishes when I accidentally dropped the food processor blade and it landed smack dab on my right foot (it was summer, so I was bare foot at the time). Ouch. Those darn things are SHARP (duh…). At first I was kind of stunned, but then I glanced over and saw the look on my husband’s face and I knew it was bad. I looked down at my foot and there was a LOT of blood (at least it was on the linoleum I guess…).
We went to the ER and they stitched me up. However, the blade had landed right where my big toe meets the rest of my foot and severed my EHL tendon (this is the tendon that moves your big toe upward). I was completely unable to move my toe. It just kind of….flopped around. It was pretty gross.
Ten days later I underwent my very first surgery. I figured this would be a pretty simple endeavor…just sew up the tendon and away we go. Wrong. They did suture my tendon, but the healing process would actually be pretty touch and go since my surgeon told me I had oddly tight tendons in my foot, probably due to genetics (interestingly, he said this is connected to me having very, VERY, tight hamstrings). They ended up inserting a 6″ steel pin in my toe in order to keep it in place while it was healing. Observe:
And here is an x-ray showing the pin in my foot:
Anyway, nine weeks of crutches and canes and casts and walking boots and physical therapy later, I was finally able to start putting full weight on my foot again. My surgeon gave me clearance to start running at the end of January. I’ve been upping my mileage slowly since then.
I mean aside from wearing shoes in the kitchen (while healing, I promptly ordered a pair of ‘kitchen shoes’ and now I always wear them when doing things involving sharp appliances!).
I don’t want this to sound like I’m whining about my injury. I’m not. People have gone through a LOT worse. A LOT. But since this was my first ‘serious’ injury it really taught me some valuable lessons.
Perhaps your injury is less severe. Maybe you have a sprained ankle or tennis elbow or a pulled muscle. Maybe your injury is much more serious, perhaps you have broken bones or a major illness. This isn’t the point. The point is learning to work around your injury and not letting it pull you downward.
There were times in the healing process when I was incredibly frustrated. Lying in bed all day with my foot on a pillow got old FAST. Sometimes it felt like I would never be able to walk again, never mind run. I had a few meltdowns and cried. But you know what? Afterward I picked myself back up, dusted myself off, and kept on doing what I had to do to recover.
If you have a temporary injury it is so important to look past the present into the long-term. Sure, those nine weeks seemed like forever at the time. Looking back, it is such a small blip on the timeline of your life. Don’t get caught up in the now, keep your eyes on the big picture and what you need to do to get there. Maybe you need to rest so you can heal. Maybe you have physical therapy exercises you need to do.
When my surgeon said I could put full weight on my foot but I still would not be able to run for three months, did I go home and sit on my butt? No. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I had a conversation with him about what I could do. I was cleared for the elliptical and the stationary bike, so that’s what I did. Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I DESPISE cardio machines. BORING. But hey, after being sedentary for so long I knew I had to start working to get my fitness level up so that’s what I did. When I was finally able to start running again, I was able to make a strong comeback due to getting my cardiovascular endurance up via the elliptical and bike.
Okay, so this has turned into a long and rambly post. If you’ve actually read this post and have made it to the end, wow, I’m impressed! Here is the takeaway. Don’t let injuries get you down and stop you. Sure, you might need to take a temporary rest to let yourself heal, but you need to stay focused on the big picture. Do what you safely can, let yourself heal, and move forward.