Two of the most dreaded words for a runner are stress and fracture, especially when put together. I had been extremely lucky in my running career to never have an injury that kept me away for more than a couple of days. That luck ran out in late July.
On July 23, I went for a run and about half way through, I couldn’t help but limp with every step. I run before work in the morning so I immediately emailed my two managers and told them that I was icing my foot and calling the podiatrist for an emergency appointment as soon as the office opened. Thankfully I did indeed convince them to see me that day and not make me wait over the weekend. I went in hoping they would tell me that I needed to take a week off and do things like biking instead. However, they told me that I wasn’t even allowed to do that. In fact, I had to wear a boot and was lucky I didn’t have to use crutches. Ouch! It’s safe to say that I left the office in tears.
I then went over to work and talked to my managers, who were so gracious and kind and told me that I could work remotely for 2 weeks. I love them. That was super helpful in terms of making it easier to let my foot rest. (It’s hard to not walk in NYC, even if it is just to and from the subway).
In the meantime, I cleaned up my diet and focused on doing some seated weight training just to keep my body moving a bit. I was seriously missing all of the endorphins! I’d say the first week was by far the hardest. I hadn’t gone more than 5-7 days not running since high school. After these two weeks were up, I decided my foot felt good enough to carefully ride the stationary bike (I did not consult my doctor about this–just Google, probably not the best decision but I didn’t feel any pain so it ended up being fine). Then another two weeks later I had another appointment with my podiatrist for an ex-ray to determine how well my foot was healing (it was my second and fourth metatarsals–yes, two fractures!). Thankfully it was great news! The calcium was building up and the doctor say it was ok to bike (he didn’t know I had already started that) and then build up to the elliptical and then running. I asked if he had a set out plan for that, and he said there was no magic formula and you would know when you overdid it. Frustrating, but it turned out to be true. I stuck with biking for another week and then did a week of the elliptical before very gradually building up my running again. Last week (mid-October) was my first run farther than 3.5 miles, and I built that up from a 10 minute run, adding a few minutes each week.
A few things I learned throughout the process include:
- You can’t out train a bad diet–and you are much less hungry after a few days of not running.
- Life goes on! That was extremely hard to hear the first week in particular, but it’s true.
- You really, really need to appreciate the times when you are not injured.
- Doing the little things like walking to get groceries, wearing heals out with friends, and being able to go for a walk in Central Park over the weekend are amazing and I cherish them even more now.
- Make sure you are getting enough calcium and iron if you are a female. I take supplements for both now. I also upped my protein intake while I was healing.
- Cross training and strength training are super important! I used to run every day, but now I have started doing things like biking, boxing, yoga and lifting weights and feel better than ever! I run 3-4 times a week now.
- Check out the shoes you are wearing. I used to only wear stability shoes and have switched to alternating between those and Nike Frees and feel much stronger now.
- You will not feel perfect or ‘normal’ when you start running again. I also had what they call “phantom pains” for quite some time.
- I waited 9 weeks to take my first run (which was 10 minutes. I might have been able to go sooner, but I wanted to play it safe because I’m a paranoid person like that 😉 I also walk quite a bit for work and figured I could use the extra week to heal.
I referenced this plan (first one on the page) when I was looking to figure out how quickly/slowly to up my running milage.
You’d be surprised how many people have had stress fractures before. I swear half of the people I talked to about it had gone through it before. I actually had one friend at work that told me she got one on her last long run before the NYC Half in March! How awful! Thankfully I wasn’t training for anything at the time of my injury. She said she was (understandably) balling when the doctor told her she couldn’t run the race. I can’t even imagine the number of tears that would have been poring down my face.
So, keep this all in mind if you go through this or any other injury. Don’t hesitate to comment below with questions too! I’d love to offer any help that I can, although you should certainly talk to a doctor if things are serious (I have absolutely no medical background).