“I’m proud of the way I’ve dealt with setbacks. It’s hard when you feel down and you think, ‘Why is the world doing this to me?’ But you have to pick yourself up again. That’s what makes you a better athlete.” ~Jessica Ennis
Literally the day after I hit publish on my FAI surgery 6 month recovery post boasting how awesome I am doing after FAI surgery and gushing about all of my recent running, skiing, backpacking adventures and endless summer dreams – my knees went to hell, SERIOUS HELL!
It feels like someone is stabbing me under both of my knee caps. I can’t run, I can’t bike, and I can’t walk down stairs without holding onto the railing. My hips feel great, but my knees, son of a…. oh geeze! Classic patellofemoral syndrome. WHY ME?
During my previous two hip surgeries, I had setbacks and flare-ups of pain every few weeks. My recovery from hip surgery #3 was essentially flawless, no flare-ups or major mental breakdowns, just progress every single day.
I returned to running very slowly using my post-FAI surgery return to running plan and was pretty cautious until around mid-April when, as you can see, I made about a 75% increase in weekly mileage and what you can’t see is I made about a 500% increase in weekly elevation gain. I was feeling awesome and so excited to put these three years of FAI surgery drama behind me!
I was feeling so good that I started dreaming about my summer/fall race schedule, I made training plans, and re-subscribed to several running magazines and with that I began to neglect my stretching and strengthening and cross-training and yoga and icing and ughhh I should know better by now!
My outlook was super positive the first week, I was convinced that I would get better with rest. I went a week without running or cycling or anything and iced my knees no less than five times a day. I stretched and rolled every possible leg muscle, forked over the money for a sports massage, and nada, no relief. I bought two different kinds of knee braces and well everything I did to make my knees feel better just made them feel worse.
To say I was bummed would be a total understatement. I have never, ever had knee pain before so I had no idea what to do! The idea of going through three hip surgeries and then winding up with incapacitating knee pain was enough to turn me into a total crab-ass. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, I was angry, and I felt like my entire summer (and life) was ruined. And then, well I got over it!
Finding The Way Out
Zenhabits posted a very timely piece, Coming Back From Setbacks, which helped pull me out of the hole.
Embrace Reality – My knees hurt. I can’t run. The reality is my hips feel great, I have a wonderful life, great friends and family, and a job with a lot of flexibility. I have a lot of fun summer adventures planned which will be great regardless of my ability to run! My knees will get better and I will be up and running by the end of the summer.
Embrace Who I Am – I have been blessed with not so great joints. I so desperately want to run wild and free and be this crazy kick ass trail runner and I doubt my ability to be that person. I need to embrace the reality of me and that my future may not include a whole lot of running.
Embracing Feeling Bad – The more I suppress feeling bad the worse I actually feel. I allow myself to feel bad and sorry for myself and than well I get over it and focus on the healing.
Find Gratitude – I am thankful for this setback of sorts and that I didn’t suffer anything worse from my mileage ramping. It was a good reminder to commit again to yoga, strengthening, stretching, cross-training, and nutrition – all the things I neglected once I could run again.
Realize It Is Only Temporary – This injury too shall pass and I will learn from it and come back even stronger!
And so I accept this current setback and the reality that I can’t run right now. I also find humor in the fact that I am limited by something other than my hips right now, perhaps that means I am once again a real runner?