Taking Your Recovery Into Your Own Hands
By Carolyn Mather
Injuries seem to be the bane of runners. Just when all is going smoothly, you pull something, fall, get a bad virus or anything to disrupt your training. Not only is it incredibly frustrating but recovery seems to be a difficult process. As we get older, it gets increasingly hard.
When I fell during a race several months after my Steve died, I felt I was truly jinxed. I have no idea how I fell but it was hard. I picked myself up and walked to the finish. I iced the injury to my upper arm and refused to go to any doctor. The brilliant colors my arm turned were amazing but after 10 days I had a completely dark blue arm and shoulder. To be able to get some therapy I had to get a doctor's order. I went to my local urgent care center and got the news that my humerus was totally fractured where it met my shoulder. Of course by the time I got an appointment with an orthopedist (four weeks later), it was nearly healed. I finally got a physical therapy order in late March and started my journey to heal.
Now let me be clear. I never missed a day of running. I have learned long ago never to ask permission, but to do what I can. But I was truly amazed how much range of motion I had lost and the pain I had in my shoulder/upper arm. The therapy was excruciating but I was determined to get back to 100%. Unfortunately insurance does not care if you get to full recovery. They really only care that you can do the basic activities of daily living! So my therapy was stopped before I wanted it to do so.
I took my own recovery into my own hands. I carried my tools of torture wherever I went and spent nearly an hour a day going through a regimen of exercises. I have learned that recovery is something you have to want and be willing to pursue. No one can do it for you. It becomes like the act of running. You have to do it yourself. And returning to normal is a long and tiring journey. Yet it can be done if you are willing to go the extra mile!
My dear friend Barb fell on Thanksgiving several years ago warming up her daughter for a race. Apparently she hit something as she split her knee cap. Although she spent months in agonizing therapy, she was truly fearful she might never be able to run again or even walk. No one really understood why she wanted to get back to normal. They felt she should be happy just to walk. Barb, like me, was not satisfied with that and she undertook a grueling regimen. I remember her crying in pain during her exercises. At first she could not even pedal a stationery bicycle. She spent months in a full brace from her hip to ankle. She had many setbacks, but kept her mind on the prize of running again.
I am thrilled to report after over a year or more Barb was able to run again. She has become a much more conservative trainer and she stays out of situations that may contribute to the possibility of falling. She is back racing on the track and at age 52 still would like to break 20 minutes in a road race 5K. She has changed many things to get her running back. She now does intense yoga, meditation and stretching. She does not run as many miles.
Yet the lesson both of us have learned is that persistence does pay off. We are both back to as close to 100% as possible. We refused to accept anything less. We got the help we needed then took it to the next level, not willing to settle for problems the rest of our lives. It was extremely difficult and I will admit most of the people who witnessed my daily routine thought I was crazy. The same went for Barb.
In our 50s and 60s this recovery process becomes more difficult to attain but it can be done. Unfortunately you have to do the majority of the hard work yourself. Do not allow doctors or therapists to tell you this is as good as it will get. Keep plugging along and keep at it every single day until you get there. Once you have reached your 100%, you will still have to do some therapy three or four times a week. To keep going forward you have to keep at it so you do not regress.
Both Barb and I are a testament to the fact that you can recover, but it takes time and lots of work. Injury befalls all of us at one time or another. When it comes your way, instead of focusing on your woes, put every ounce of your energy into recovery. You can do it but it is not easy. We all have the desire to be as healthy as possible but it always requires some effort. Stay healthy and focus on your goals!!
Carolyn Mather, R.N. PhD. lives and runs in north Georgia and is a member of the Atlanta Track Club Elite. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article appeared in the April issue of Running Journal.