Here we are again, back on the elliptical trainer. Possible meniscus tear; I’ve been “rehabbing” for weeks now. This is a new injury; I don’t usually have problems with my knees, but there it is.
It started in August. My triathlon season was over prematurely when my stepfather died suddenly and I flew to be with my mother, right before my last scheduled race of the season: the Self-Transcendance.
Not wanting my season to be over, and needing to burn off stress, I ran while I was in Saskatchewan: country roads, small town streets, and the amazing Devonian Pathway system in Regina, my old stomping grounds. I thought I could salvage my race season by signing up for the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon in October.
I was 12k into a gorgeous 15k run around Wascana Park when my knee suddenly started to hurt so much I hobbled 3k back to my car. I stayed off running for a couple of weeks, then tried unsuccessfuly to ease back in. I’ve been struggling with it ever since. That’s three months now!
I did an internet search of “Are triathlon injuries inevitable?” and got 13,800,000 hits. Make that running injuries and it’s 8,720,00 hits.
I take it the answer is yes.
For most people, injury is at some point inevitable. We go out too hard too fast, we pile on mileage instead of building up slowly, we ignore warning signs, we don’t cross-train and build up some core strength, we don’t stretch enough. I’m guilty on all counts.
In the midst of all this I hurt my back too. Anyone familiar with body mechanics could see these two were probably related. I was still trying to get in some running miles with a sore knee, and it was altering the way I ran, and my lower back paid for it. I managed to bike up Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles, Washington with some friends in late August/early September; a gorgeous day, but I was in agony by the time I made it to the top. I completed the 100K event of the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria in September, in the pouring rain and wind, relatively pain-free under the care of my physiotherapist.
Since then I’ve been hard at work strengthening around my knee and core, and waiting to heal. However, I tried going hard swimming (because I couldn’t bike or run) and quickly added on mileage in the pool – then I strained my shoulder.
Injuries are only inevitable when you keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
Matt, my physiotherapist, shook his head at me when I reported the shoulder injury. This is what made me really buckle down and start listening to him:
“You masters athletes and weekend warriors,” he said. “You think you can go hard all year round, and this is what happens. You know elite athletes take a few weeks completely off – do *nothing* – after their season ends, don’t you?”
Since then I’ve been a good girl, doing as I’m told, backing off completely. I’ve been granted some sanity-saving bike rides as I recover. I’ve learned some lessons:
Yes, injuries are inevitable, when you try to be a superhero or keep up with the fitter, younger people on your team, or have something to prove. When you really tune in to your own body and only gradually push your limits, reaching only just beyond your grasp at any one time, they don’t have to be inevitable. Training, especially for endurance sports, is a cumulative, long-term enterprise. You can’t cram for it, you have to put in consistent effort.
And with that, I’m off to the pool to do my exercises and swim a modest 800 metres or so. Soon I’ll be back to my old, joyous self.
Tour de Victoria and “jumping” gif by Patrick Fisher, used with permission.