A Runner on the Injured List by Josie Ahlquist

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Josie Ahlquist is a second year doctoral student at California Lutheran University in the Higher Education Leadership program.  Currently she is attending school fulltime, in addition to serving as the doctoral assistant on the Institutional Review Board for CLU.

Her research resolves around social media in higher education.  Josie brings with her ten years in the field of Higher Education in areas such as student activities, campus recreation, student unions, marketing, residence life, judicial affairs, student leadership and new student programs.

She is an alumnus of Northern Arizona University MEd in Counseling program and Undergraduate at South Dakota State University.  In addition to running, Josie was a group exercise instructor for five years teaching Spinning and Pilates.

Find her blogging at http://www.josieahlquist.com about higher education and social media; showcasing her research from course projects, research and effective practices in the field.  Follower her on Twitter at @josieahlquist.

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My grandmother still tells the story, “Josie never learned how to walk, she learned to run!” But today, I find myself more like limping with my feet and back becoming more tightened with each run.  But still I run, why?

I discovered long distance running in high school, recruited to the cross country team after finding I was burned out from swimming competitively since seven.  After my first race, I realized not only I could be competitive, but also that I really loved it!  Some kind of discovery/welcoming into long distance running is fairly common among adult runners.  Everyone has a story.  At first, the idea of running a mile, let alone 26, seems daunting.  But with every mile trained, the reality of running a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon becomes a reality.

Over the last couple years I have observed a movement going on in the field of Student Affairs, as graduate students to senior professions are lacing up their running shoes to train for races across the country.  I applaud these efforts, with community building occurring between colleagues though this #SAfit blog site, as well as a Facebook group called Student Affairs Runners (found here) as well using the hashtag #SArunners on Twitter.  Recently a Student Affairs runners calendar was also created (found here) so support can be sent to our colleagues.

Running is my happy place, my church, my therapist and friend.  A past time, with memories of jogging with my father on holidays home from college and even competing together in a half marathon.

Racing is the ultimate, where all my strengths all collide.  While in college, running up to a 5k was enough.  However by the time I was out of school I had a list full of races I hoped to complete in.  To date I’ve chalked up two marathons and three half marathons.  I wish I could do more.

But this has all been at a cost.  While I have the medallions proudly displayed in my office, their weight and value are felt not on race day, but during the months of training and recovery that I endured with each race.  Not only did I deal with injuries after the race, but also leading up to it.

I have a goal that every five years I will attempt a major race such as marathon or (hopefully soon) a triathlon.  When I turned 30 a few years ago, I ran the LA marathon.  Stubbornly I trained through foot injuries, literally cross-training everyday to compensate for an inability to put in road miles.  My long runs?  Three hours on an elliptical machine, which thankfully had a TV on it.  For a long time I have been in denial about my training related injuries, possibly long term putting my body at risk, figuring I was alone in my struggles and that maybe I would only have a few more miles left in my running career.

Over time I have learned I am not alone as an injured runner.  The likelihood to experience a ‘runners high’ is the same likelihood a runner will have to overcome an injury.  Like it or not, injuries are part of what it means to be a runner.  These badges are just as valuable as a race medal.

I am not writing this post to sway anyone from running, especially when considering training for a long distance race.  It will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.  At the end of each of my races it took everything I had left not to break down crying.

Maybe through properly training, stretching, diet and super-human genes you have/will not experience a running injury.  I envy you.

But for the rest of us, attempting to run through injuries, I want to provide you support and direction.  I’d like to share the other side of running, from your fellow student affairs runners.

Thank you to those below who responded through the Student Affairs Runners Facebook group, Twitter posts and individual emails I sent out.  Between all sources I had 15 runners respond.  Interesting enough as a blogger, I found a number of other bloggers quick to respond, which many I have featured and included links to their blogs.

I posed three questions, which I will summarize and highlight below.

What running injuries are you currently mending and/or recovered from?  

Injuries varied including heel pain, achilles tendon strain, hip stress fracture, pulled groin and planter fasciitis.  However the most common injuries involved the knee including lateral and medial meniscus tear, runners knee ,as well as overall weak/painful knees.  IT Band was the second most mentioned.  Foot related injuries were third.

Canadian Higher Education professional Lisa Endersby provided an honest and reflective humor when explaining her recent injury training for a marathon:

“I have a weak left knee, with a knee cap that sometimes tries to escape its proper position. I wish I could say it was an epic injury sustained in extreme adventure, but let’s just say it was a silly mistake.”

What activities do you attempt while injured to stay fit/keep training?  

A number of responders mentioned going to physical therapy to aid in their recovery.  Overall, most stated that they immediately decreased mileage.  In replacement, cross training activities were mentioned including: elliptical machine, yoga classes, stationary bike, weight training, additional stretching, massages, swimming, and spinning classes.  The most common response was yoga, swimming and strength training.

Steve Lerer, Assistant Director of Student Life at University of California, Merced provided a lesson learned when ‘fighting’ against healing an injury:

“I actually continued training (and ran a marathon) while injured and hurt myself even more. Now I vary my training, run, bike, swim, weights to work all the muscles around my knee. Weight training is critical to keep those ligaments strong to prevent further tearing.”

Have you ever been told you need to stop running due to injuries (short term or forever)?

Many had doctors or a physical therapist request the runner stop running for a period of time, so healing could occur.  One respondent faced giving up running forever or committee to surgery, which still didn’t give a complete guarantee.  Another also mentioned they had knee surgery and still continue to face doctors telling him to stop.  He uses it as motivation to ‘prove everyone wrong.’  Another runner declared ‘bring it on’ as she accepts the challenge, rather than defeat from injury.

Ann Marie Klotz, Director of Residential Education at Oregon State University uses inspiration in mending her injuries, as well as keeping on eye on the future:

“In the short term I was to stop running, but it was psychologically painful.  I kept a positive spirit, continued to work out in ways that were more low-impact and had a new appreciation for my body and all that it can do!”

Having a long-term focus also helped Ed Cabellon, Director of the Campus Center at Bridgewater State University:

“My physical therapist first told me to stop running, he said to stop running for 10 days to allow healing to take place with all the microtears that had taken place. It was tough, but I traded that time off for long term sustainability in running.”

Higher Education consultant, Eric Stoller experienced an interesting version of judgment from non-runners to stop running:

“Being told to stop running happens quite a bit. Most of the time, the anti-running vibe comes from non-runners. I usually listen attentively to whoever is talking about why I shouldn’t run and then skip the debate portion of the conversation. It generally isn’t very helpful. Only runners can really talk about running.”

 

8 Lessons Learned from these Student Affairs Runners:

  1. You are not alone dealing with running-related injuries.
  2. A variety of injuries may occur for any runner, most common are knee, IT band and feet.
  3. Exploring Physical Therapy to aid in proper recover should be considered.
  4. Cross training such as yoga, swimming and weight training are popular options to stay fit.
  5. Be patient, even if your doctor has told you to stop running for now, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever run again.
  6. Focus on the long-term gains; don’t fight against your injury.
  7. Personal motivation goes a long way on the road to recovery
  8. Student Affairs Runners are awesome

Reviewing these responses and writing this post was ‘healing’ for me.  It connected me further into the Student Affairs Runners community, reminded me to stop being so hard on myself when recovering from an injury and not to give up on the idea of hopefully soon running at least another half marathon.

I may still be a bit injured.  Some days pushing further than my feet are telling me to.  But I am a runner; it is part of my identity.  When I am able to lace up, it is the best part of my week.  For me, and the runners highlighted in this post, it is worth it.

Please share below your own responses to the three questions I originally posted:

 

1. What running injuries are you currently mending and/or recovered from?  

 

2. What activities do you attempt while injured to stay fit/keep training?  

 

3. Have you ever been told you need to stop running due to injuries?

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