What I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made

It is nearly May, nearly four months since I’ve been able to run properly. I’m no where close to being healed, but I can sense some progress, more in my own state of mind than anywhere else.

When I first was diagnosed back in January, I assumed that I would just heal up and be running again as that was what worked the previous year. This was a huge mistake. I forgot that I was dealing with a fracture in exactly the same place as last year, in a bone already weakened my osteopenia. I did everything wrong. I cross trained hard, didn’t off load the leg sufficiently, restricted my calories, and tried to run too soon. The leg didn’t heal. Then, I fell over during a trip to the Brecon Beacons (where I had no business being), and twisted my knee. That didn’t want to heal either. Finally, I realised that I was sabotaging myself every single day. I was allowing my short term compulsion to train to get in the way of healing.

During this time, two people in particular have helped me immeasurably.  Firstly Jill Puleo, an expert in overtraining syndrome and athletes psychology (acaseofthejills.com) .  Jill helped me address my disordered thoughts around my identity as an athlete, my fear of failure and insignificance, and my learned behaviours that can be challenged and overturned. She made me see something that I had not recognised in myself and it helped turn a switch in my head and make me more receptive to change.

Then, the manager of my gym pulled me aside and asked if I was ok. It was he who gave me some tough talking and basically ordered me to take a few weeks off; he made me realise my routine was becoming a trap, and it was ok to free myself from it. He also made me accountable by sending him photos of my meals- a strangely helpful practice as it allowed me to get some perspective on my eating habits. Which can be summed up as: extremely healthy but not enough calories. Or protein.

In the end, I took three weeks off training, apart from cycling for my commute and a bit of yoga. No gym. No weights. No elliptical. I’ve lost a ton of fitness but, despite eating far more than I was when running 80mpw, I haven’t gained much (or any) weight. I feel that my body is actually using the energy to heal, and I feel mentally so much better. I’m not coming home exhausted and miserable all the time. I’m not sweating buckets at night any more, or being woken with severe leg pain. I still haven’t got my period back, but felt the hint of something, suggesting maybe I have ovulated. I suspect it is close to returning. The stress I’ve taken away from my body has made me see how badly I was treating it before, and I’m starting to get a feeling of how nice life can be when you eat enough and don’t get upset over every mouthfull.

I had an MRI yesterday but will not know the results for a few days, but I suspect it will show a healed tibia, but something sinister in the knee-possibly a torn or damaged lateral meniscus. We will see. It is better than in was, and I can walk without pain, and even jog a few minutes, but anything more is out of the question. I’m learning patience. Someday I will run free again, free over the fields and river banks of home; free over the turf of the Brecon Beacons; free high up in the Pyrenees. But for now I’m learning that this can’t be taken for granted, and my body is expecting me to pay back the overdraft I forced it into, and with interest.

Small, silly steps: starting to make my own sourdough bread. Somehow I feel better eating bread when I’ve made it myself. Last night I cooked pasta. I don’t think I can remember the last time I ate pasta unless before a race. I made a normal portion, ate it all, and enjoyed it. Small, insignificant steps towards a better life.

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