A few days ago, after I'd attempted to run on the treadmill, I started researching how to know you're ready to get back to running after a stress fracture. When I'd attempted the treadmill run, I didn't have any pain, but it felt "weird"--that's the only way I can describe it. A little twinge, basically. I assumed it meant that I wasn't fully healed, but after some more reading, I realized that it's quite normal.
I came across this article on Runners Connect, which described what I was feeling perfectly:
The article also went on to describe "phantom pains", which was very helpful. The little twinges I feel are very sporadic and they don't get worse over time, which is indicative that they're "phantom pains" or just the calcium buildup.
After reading that article, I was pretty confident that I'd be able to run. I went to the rec center to run on the indoor track, because the last thing I want to do is slip on the ice and break my ankle (ha ha) outside. I could use the treadmill, but I wanted to be able to run at whatever pace felt most comfortable, and it's hard to do that on a treadmill (I tend to push myself harder on the treadmill, because all it takes is a push of the button).
My hope was to be able to run a mile, but I didn't want to push myself into that if it felt too hard, so I was just going to see what happened. I turned on a podcast to listen to, and I started running around the track. I felt a few of the odd twinges, but nothing painful. I was a little surprised at how difficult it was cardiovascularly. My lungs were burning, and I wasn't even running fast. My pace was 11:00+ per mile, which is about 1:30 slower than it was two months ago, but I didn't let that bother me.
When I finished the first mile in 11:11, I kept going. My legs felt great, and I thought, "Wow, I wonder if I can do two miles?" And after the second mile, I figured I might as well go for three. Jerry is on week three of half-marathon training, and I thought if I really am okay to run again, maybe I can pick up on week three along with him.
I ended up finishing three miles in 33:42, an 11:09/mi pace. My heart rate was pretty high throughout the entire run, and like I said, my lungs were burning! It was a tough run in that aspect, but my legs felt really good. I burned a crazy 125 calories per mile, because my heart rate was up fairly high. Even though I was doing deep water running for the past six weeks or so, I don't know that it kept my cardio fitness level what it was when I was running on ground. I felt really good for finishing three full miles, though--when I'd hoped to do one!
I was worried I'd wake up this morning and my ankle would be all swollen and painful (meaning I shouldn't have run), but my ankle hasn't given me one bit of trouble. I decided to try and follow the same schedule that Jerry is following for the Indy half-marathon (Hal Higdon's Novice 1 plan). That won't get me any PR's, but I'm hoping that it'll help me to at least be able to run the whole race. There are four runs per week, and I'm going to do 1-2 days of cross training. Today, I ran two miles (at a 10:45 pace) and felt fantastic. It feels so good to be back at it!
To hopefully prevent another stress fracture, in addition to the cross-training, I'm going to make sure to rotate my shoes (between my Altra Paradigm, Altra Torin, and Brooks Adrenaline); when the weather clears up, I'd like to start running on trails or grass once a week to vary the terrain; I'm also going to try to shorten my stride a little and increase my cadence to as close to 180 as I can. Most importantly, I'm only going to concentrate on ONE race at a time... doing races "just because" messes up my training schedule, which causes me to overtrain (and I believe that's why I wound up with the stress fracture). My top priority is to stay injury-free so that I can train for the Detroit Marathon.
I'm hoping that now that I'm back to running, I'll be extra motivated to get back to my goal weight. Over the past 7 weeks of not running, I am happy to say that I haven't gained any weight--but I haven't lost any either. I've been tracking my food, but only sporadically, so I'll lose a few pounds then gain a few, and it ends up being a wash. Jerry is over his goal by about 15 pounds, too, and he really wants to get back to his "happy weight". So maybe now that both of us are training for Indy, we can help to push each other to track our food very consistently and make better choices. I know we'd both like to go to Indy feeling our best!
Now, if this snow and ice would melt, and we could have some nice spring weather, I'd be bouncing off the walls with motivation ;)