Relearning to run… yayyyyyy!
So after about six weeks off, this calf tear nonsense appears to be under control. I’ve been back to running for about two weeks.
To recap the last few months: I tore my medial calf slipping on snow during a run in mid-February and initially brushed it off as nothing more than a minor tweak. But bruising at the tear site, knife-like pain that prevented me from even jogging through a crosswalk, and finally a doctor diagnosis forced me to stop being an idiot and take care of it.
What I did while I was injured: I aimed for 90 minutes a day of cross training (mostly rowing machine plus some biking, swimming and elliptical) and three lifts per week. I schlepped my injury toolkit of ice, ace bandage, heat pad with me to work so that I could take care of it there, too. I carried a baseball around with me everywhere and massaged the life out of the tear area. I strongly suspect that the combination of heat and baseball massage were a big part of the recovery magic.
This entire experience has made me incredibly gun-shy about pushing things. Right now, it feels as if I’m relearning how to run. The comeback process will be long and probably frustrating. I’ll be slow. I’ll be vulnerable to getting injured trying to do too much too soon. My knees already feel tendonitis-y and that neuroma/bursitis/whatever in my foot is as painful as ever. Patience is more important than ever.
In the meantime, though, I can use this opportunity to reconstruct my entire stride. Instead of working on trying to get faster or go longer — which I am not in the position to do yet — I am forced to focus on form and cadence. What better time to build good habits than right now? Perhaps eliminate any propensity to heel-strike? Keep my turnover hovering around that magical 180 steps per minute? These are the things I’m keying on in lieu of miles and paces.
And here’s the good part… here’s why I worked so hard not to lose too much fitness while I was out: last week, I finally, finally, finally ran in a race. My calf held up excellently and I managed the 7.3 mile course in about 49 minutes flat, inwardly grinning like a doofus the entire time. My legs still have many gears yet to find, but it was such a thrill to be back at it that I couldn’t even be bothered by the realization that I have zero kick right now.
But let me tell you something about how your body will feel while racing for the first time in two months even if you managed to stay in very good cardiovascular shape during the layoff:
My heart and my lungs are ready to go. They’ve been maintained and challenged through this entire two month process. The legs, on the other hand, are many miles behind. This became incredibly obvious during the race — my breathing was controlled, my heart felt like the effort level was “business as usual,” and my legs felt like whiny crybaby garbage. That’s how it’ll be for a little while, and I’m okay with it.
So happy to be back.