It’s mid June as I’m writing this, and I thought I should share an update on how my running is going since starting to run in April 2020 with the Couch to 5k app. I am still running, just. I’ve not actually completed the 9 week Couch to 5k programme because of injury. During my runs I have actually managed to cover more than 5k. I’m trialling Strava which says my personal best for 5k is 28minutes 47 seconds, which I’m fairly pleased with.
So back to the injury, I was doing my last run of week 6 and my right ankle started to play up. There was no specific incident like going over on my ankle, but between one step and the next I developed a pain in the front of my right ankle. It was painful enough for me to mentally go “Ow! What’s going on..?” and but was at a low level. I was completing the first of the long runs and I was determined to finish which I did, then gently walked home.
I had been suffering from heel pain after my running, but I’d put that down to my body adapting to the change in exercise levels. I’d been managing that with the different stretches for the hamstrings, quads and calf muscles after the run, and self treatment.
However, the pain at the front of my ankle was the first I felt whilst running. As I was finishing that run, I kept checking in with how the ankle felt. Trying to work out whether it was a message from my body to stop immediately or was it just grumpy. I went with the latter as it wasn’t really painful (2-3 out of 10) and didn’t get any worse. If it had been more painful (over 5 and/or getting more uncomfortable) I would have stopped and walked home.
Whilst listening to my body grumble, I remembered I had severly twisted that ankle playing basketball at Secondary School. I have particular memories about that ankle sprain and i remember that the pain in the ankle was enough for me to actually stop at a payphone and call my mother to come and pick me up as I was struggling to walk the 10 minutes home from school. It was also very swollen and I’d ignored it during school as “it’s just a sprained ankle”. I didn’t do anything about that injury then (it wasn’t something that you did, although I might have worn a tubigrip) and then when the pain went I promptly forgot about it.
Paying attention to my discomfort during that run I was getting flashbacks of the school gym and basketballs, and I know that the interpretation of warning signals from the body filters through the brain’s memory of “what happened the last time I felt this” so I think it’s related to that old (30 years or so) injury. This way of viewing the discomfort and associations the brain makes is something I do during an MFR treatmetn as I will ask clients what they’re feeling. Sometimes memories of events can surface for a client and we attribute that to the “body speaking” or we are paying attention what connections to memories the brain makes in response to the sensations coming from the body. Sometimes this can have quite an emotional component to it, but not always and it doesn’t always happen. It can sometimes be helpful to become aware of the associations the brain is making in relation to discomfort as that can help a client to understand a long held discomfort and reprocess it.
I gave the running a break, as a brief attempt at a jog was really uncomfortable and felt like my body was saying “no”. When I returned to running the following week it is strange as my ankle grumbles to start with, then is fine, but it really doesn’t like it when I return to walking. And Goodness help me if I have to stop and start during the run. It has also been an interesting experience in feeling how the rest of my body reacts and tightens up in response to the right ankle, and it does feel like it is showing me my internal tensions rather clearly.
I have had some wonderful virtual help from colleagues who have an interest in the mechanics of the feet, and I do have some interesting personal habits. I have managed to get to the last week of the run, but finding it harder than I want and my ankle is not happy. So I have had to stop again to give my ankle a complete rest, which I’m not particularly happy about. I have also realised that the exercise and run has definitely been a time that has been good for my mental health. I wonder how it will be once Lockdown is eased and I am leaving the house for work and not just for exercise or shopping.
I have been thinking about how I will return to work, and one thing that may happen for the Clerkenwell clinic is cycling into work. This means I will avoid travelling on public transport on those days. So I have introduced some bike rides into my regimen, and an added bonus is that it doesn’t hurt my ankle. So rather than irritating my ankle running, I’m giving it a rest from the pounding of jogging and l maintaining my cardio exercise on the bike.
Things I have learnt about having an injury
1) I seem to have reached the stage where my mental equilibrium is helped by running. The initial week where I stopped, I was very grumpy, and my mood lifted the next time I went out.
2) My ankle is still not right, and I can feel the way that it is influencing the rest of my body, specifically the right side and breathing on that side.
3) I am trying to work my way through a number of rehab exercises to deal with this ankle properly this time. I will be honest that I’m really not that good at remembering to do them, but I am doing them.
4) I have some interesting habits (like walking and running with my big toes pointing upwards) and its really hard to retrain habits like that.
Thanks for reading this, and you may now see me pootling along the cycle ways on a Brompton wearing a high vis vest and a crash helmet. I will always do my best to be safe and seen.