In Ask the Trail Sisters

I recently got diagnosed through MRI with a femoral neck stress fracture, or stress fracture in the hip. I’m on crutches for at least eight weeks and it will be a couple months before I’m allowed to walk and slowly get back to running. Six months before working back up to some real running.

Have any of you experienced a big layoff from running, and what if so, what did you do to stay sane?


Deserae ClarkeDes: I am self-admittedly terrible at being injured and off running, but a couple winters ago I broke my little toe (I was running in vibrams and caught it on a rock) and managed to survive my time off. First, I figured out what I was allowed to do, and did that. For you, that sounds like core for now. Second, I was honest with the people around me about how being off running was impacting me emotionally. It didn’t make me any more pleasant to be around, but at least they knew what to expect. Third, I was mindful of what I ate, not only because I knew my body needed the proper fuel to heal, but also because if I accidentally overdid it on sugar or caffeine I didn’t have my usual outlet to go burn it off. Finally, I found other positive things to do with the time I wasn’t using for training, including reading some books I had been meaning to get to and spending some extra time with the kids.  Using the time for positive things can help keep you positive during time off. Good luck with your recovery!

trail-sister-ashley-hunter-arnoldAshley: As hard as it can be, injury is the perfect time to face the parts of ourselves that drive us to go, go, go. It’s also an opportune time to invest in other off-the-trail hobbies you’ve had interest in but not enough time to pursue (art classes, music, etc.). And really, there’s nothing wrong with taking down time and just being gentle with yourself. Plus, you can work to increase happiness vibes by starting a seated mindful meditation practice. The science is in on that one: it really does work. When you’re able to start exercising somewhat again, I suggest working on creating musculature balance with a strategic combination of strength and stretching—a balanced yoga class from a knowledgeable alignment-based teacher goes a long way (just don’t overstretch!).

trail-sister-sandi-nypaverSandi: I can only speak from personal experience, so please realize that what worked well for me may not work well for you at all. As a little background, I was out from running well over a year from trying to avoid achilles surgery with rest and PT stuff and then having to need surgery anyway. To try to mentally stay stable I upped my gratitude practice simply by reminding myself what I was grateful for throughout the day. It helped me to have physical reminders to do this. It’s not that I wasn’t already grateful, but it was more to form a habit in my brain to keep focusing on the positive things even when it’s easy not to.  Then I committed to embracing the challenge. A lot of us run at least partly for the challenge, to try and improve, and to learn to push ourselves when things get tough, right? Well to be honest I think being injured challenged me and pushed me to improve my thinking way more than a race ever did. Low moments will come and that’s okay, but at least challenge yourself to not stay in those low moments too long.

On the physical side of things, I found out the hard way that setting expectations as to where my fitness should be at on what week post surgery (or start of healing process) was not helpful at all. After trying to force things I finally just started asking my body each day what it could honestly handle/what it could do. I did what strength training I could, found some great spin classes, rollerbladed, etc. In no way did those things replace my love for running, but it felt good to move. Setting a time each day specifically to workout helped too. There were some days I was definitely sick of all of the cross training, but one spin class instructor always played inspirational songs (I will forever have Fight Song by Rachel Platten stuck in my head whenever I’m on a bike!) and I could normally work some of my frustration out by the end of class.

Tara Warren Head Square HeadshotTara W: First of all, bummer.  I’m sorry about your injury and glad they finally were able to figure it out.  I’ve come to learn that we’re a strange breed of characters in this running community.  Right? As I’ve seen good friends and family go through long running lay-offs, I’ve noticed a few things that I think has helped with their mental and physical recoveries. Follow doctor’s orders.  Sounds like you have a good idea of what you can and can’t do.  Make the most of what you can and find milestones in those experiences. If you’re into social media, cut back a bit to lessen the FOMO temptation. Get out there where possible and volunteer.  Races and groups are always looking for a hand.  That’ll keep you in the loop and give you some good volunteering vibes.  GET WELL SOON!

trail-sister-maria-dalzotMaria: In my 18 years of running, I have been injured many, many times. Sometimes laid off for months, other times days or weeks. One thing that is for certain, even though I have a lot of experience with injuries, it is still a hard process to go through. And it’s just that, a process. For me, it starts with denial, then once I accept that I am injured, it turns to anger (or rage!). Then I commit to being the world’s best cross trainer and go bonkers in the gym or in the pool. That lasts about 3 days. Eventually, acceptance happens, and when it does that is when I find peace. I do whatever I need to do to keep me mentally happy and forget about training for a particular race. I go to yoga, spend time with family (they’re always so happy when I don’t have to run!), or take on a new work project. Realize that in the scheme of life, an injury is short-lived and the silver lining is that you are guaranteed to learn something about yourself that will make you stronger and more resilient in the future. So hang in there!

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  • Ann

    Dear trail sisters, thank you for all the wise advice.
    A serious injury layoff like this turns your life upside down. From a super active person you suddenly become sedentary, first there is grief but once you found acceptance and peace it’s actually not that bad.
    Personally, while sleeping, resting and reading a lot at first, I found ways to work out the healthy parts of my body, making sure getting out of the house at least once a day, usually just a trip to the gym on my crutches. As a regular at that said gym I soon started building up new friendships like with the senior crowd that recognized me from seeing me all those years as that “strong runner”. Even though I didn’t feel like it anymore, in their eyes I still was and am that same runner, they became my new cheerleaders in my healing process, celebrating tiny recovery milestones with me. New routines, new friends.
    I’m still trying to figure out what this current injury is trying to teach me but for now I got new appreciating for what I first thought of as normal, new appreciating for the distances we run, for what healthy bodies are capable of. I promised myself never ever to say again “I ONLY gonna run the 50k instead of the 50mile”, never!!!

  • Jackie

    I was on crutches for 4 months non weight bearing for a femoral hip fracture. I did not run for 6 months. Going through a major injury like this one teaches you how to become a stronger, smarter athlete. You will go through every emotion throughout the healing process. You will experience pain from the injury and when you start to come back. The best thing to do is follow Dr orders. Come back smart when you do. Because the one thing you will have learned the most by being injured with such a bad injury is you don’t want it to happen again. When i came back to running i cut my miles in half and had the best year of my running career with winning a prestigious 50 mile race 6 months after being off crutches and a trail marathon shortly after that. I learned to train smart and the injury taught me to stay humble and greatful for everything I had. I found a passion and drive deep inside I never knew I had. It’s been 2 years since my injury and I am still running strong. I do have weakness in the broken side still but I survive off a chiropractor and sports massage.

    • Ann

      Thank you Jackie for the uplifting info. My doc told me the same, be smart and when you’ll listen I predict you’ll come back stronger than ever.

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