Thursday, June 27, 2013

When Forced Not To Run

This past Monday, I had a minor surgical procedure. No, I didn't mention it before, mostly because I didn't want questions about what it was all about and I was at times emotional and stressed about the whole thing. Don't worry, this was indeed minor with a relatively short recovery period. And yes, before you ask, I'm ok. And in case you're wondering, I still don't want questions asked about this, and I appreciate your understanding. I've let close friends and family in on this, but I'd rather not share too much here.

After I came to terms with the fact I needed this surgery, the hardest part about the whole thing has been coming to terms with the recovery period and what it means for someone who takes their training as seriously as I do. It might seem childish or silly that I'm dwelling on what I can't or am not allowed to do, when if I were to look at this in perspective, I'm lucky that the problem was detected early, before it became a real problem, that I was able to have this surgery done to rid me of future complications. My health will be better because of it and I have my lucky stars to thank.

When I learned about the time off all physical activity I was going to have to take, I secretly hoped it would all happen right after my June 2nd marathon. I mean, if you're going to have to take time off running, right after a marathon is perfect. Of course, it didn't get scheduled that way. Again, if I take a step back, now is not the worst time to have time off. It takes a good month to shake a marathon out of one's system. It'd been about 3 weeks for me and though I was getting back into running again, I wasn't quite back. Perhaps some added forced rest will be just what I need to turn the corner. But then some added forced rest could be what I don't need as it will make me lose some of my fitness no doubt. I was just starting to find my groove again after the marathon and here I am about to lose it again and start from square one.

Ok, so how much time off are we talking about? And is Zahida being melodramatic? The answer to both questions is "a little bit". 

The informational materials I read about the procedure all suggested that there were some activities I'd need to take at least 3 weeks off from, but things like running, 1 week will do. But the doctor told me she wants me to take more time off than that. Why? When you do something a bit more strenuous, it increases the risk of wounds that are trying to heal coming apart and not healing.  I think she realizes that my definition of running as a marathoner is a bit more intense than what most people do so she wants me to be more cautious than what the leaflet suggest. But I don't think she fully understands what she's asking me to do. Or perhaps it's me who doesn't understand; I don't understand how important it is what she's asking me to do. But what I can tell you is that what I've been told about the healing process and what it should look like, mine's going really well. I also know my body really well and have always made smart decisions about what's too much too soon. I have plans to run next week, but it will be shorter distances and a transition-back kind of week. I'll get back to the serious stuff the following week and be kind to myself until then. Of course when next week comes around if I have any doubt, I simply won't run. I know it's not worth it to push too soon, as it'll only lengthen the setback and time off.

But while I realize that I need rest right now, resting right now is really hard. It's only day 3 of at least 7 days of no running, and I already feel like something's not quite right. I'm used to 1 day off, maybe 2, but not 3 or more unless it was right after a big race. This isn't right. Yes, of course, I'm tired and blah from the procedure, but I'm not running which is something that's hard not to do when it's such a habit. And I think my mind exaggerates how my body feels after only 3 days because it's imagining at least 4 more of the same and how I'll feel then rather than telling me how I feel today. I'm catching myself feeling punchy every time I see a post on social media about other people running or someone asking "how far did you run today?" I want to tell those people to shut it. Of course I'm sure there are days when those same people are thinking the same thing about me - does she ever stop talking about running? The answer is no.

Here I must clarify - I really don't think it's an addiction to running that I have.  Running is simply a big part of my life, a big part of my daily routine, and my identity. It's the sport that turned my life around. When there are days I don't run, there's all this extra time on my hands (which trust me, does fill up quickly), and it feels like something is missing from the day. It's kind of like if I were to go a day without brushing my teeth, or something super routine like that.

I often get told by non-runners when I describe how much I run, that they've heard how runners get addicted to the adrenaline rush running gives you. These people are what I call "misinformed". I kid about it being an addiction but I don't believe it's true (although it isn't the worst habit to have). I run often because it brings me joy, and who doesn't like being happy? I run because I'm driven to achieve in my sport and running often and with discipline is a requirement to achieve the goals I set. Sure running does make me feel good after and energizes me, but that's not what it's really about. It's so much more than being about a good feeling. It's about what running has brought to my life and how it has transformed me. And so when I don't run, I feel blah, I feel bloated, my legs feel heavy, my thoughts are cloudy. My body doesn't feel right. I haven't had that time to decompress my day or that alone time to think about everything or nothing at all. Running is what I need to do to help me cope with all the transition and stress life has thrown my way - to help me make sense of it all. I can't run and enjoy these benefits. But this off-feeling from not getting that time and space will eventually pass. I can get through it no matter how much I don't like it. 

So yes, if I put aside my melodrama, I realize that I will get through this, of course. It's just a few more days, maybe a week. I just need patience and I need to remember that there are bigger things than having to work it to get my fitness back to where it was before. And sure I won't have the same amount of time I had hoped to have to prepare for my July races, so they might not go as well as I would have hoped, but does it matter really? There will be other races to get those goals if it doesn't happen in July. Regardless I'll have fun at those races and there'll be others to set my eyes on for those time goals. This surgery is not a setback but a positive I needed to ensure a long and healthy life going forward. I needed it in order to run for many more years to come.

So please, if you hear me whining in the coming days, remind me to read my own words here. Be kind to me, please, but don't hesitate to turn my head in the correct direction.


  1. Glad to hear you are recovering from your surgery. It must be very difficult for you. But as you said, keep it in perspective. And if you need to vent or whine, you know my number :-)

    Looking forward to seeing you on Monday


  2. Zahida, you were looking great on Tuesday. I had no idea... Best wishes for your full recovery. I just discovered your blog. It's great. You have such an inspiring story. And I love your art work too! btw- I'm also chronicling my running journey in a blog- See you next week.

  3. Wow, Angela, thank you! Thank you for your kind words and for checking out my blog. I try to keep it up to date as best as possible, and always post links to my new posts on Facebook. This one I wrote last week when I was frustrated not being able to run. Recovery is going well and Tuesday was my first 'real' workout since. It felt ok, but not 100%.

    Great that you're a fellow blogger; I'm going to check it out right now :)