covid19 · fitness · injury

Injury-free, at last!

Image description: running shoes, yoga mat, metal water bottle, and resistance bands.

Like most people, I have experienced some benefits I hadn’t predicted from the pandemic isolation (e.g. more time with my parents; the transition from asking “what’s sourdough starter?” to churning out perfect loaves on a regular basis; regular family gatherings on Zoom). But the benefit that has snuck up on me the most is that after over a year of struggling with injuries, I am now, suddenly and happily and unexpectedly injury-free.

On the blog, I’ve been fairly quiet about my injuries (one reason for that is that I had a long good-bye late last summer where I more or less left as a regular contributor, and since then have only written a handful of posts). But also, I’m not big on widespread sharing of my own pain (not that I never have), and I have a personal aversion to dwelling on what’s wrong (not that I never do). People who know me were aware of my Achilles’ injury because it interfered with my regular routines. Most seriously, it took me out of my regular running routine for more than a year. Since I ran the Around the Bay 30K last March, the furthest distance I’ve covered was 10K. I did that maybe 2-3 times. Despite feeling good immediately after the event, I experienced debilitating back pain a few days later. And then, within a short time of the back clearing up enough to take a gingerly approach to running again, my left side Achilles started to bother me in June, and by July I had backed way off. Mostly, I’ve been running between 3-5K or not at all.

The thing is, I’ve been continuing to try. Despite my physiotherapist’s advice and other people’s insistence on the risks of running on an injured Achilles, I spent many months backing off and then easing in again. Really, what I needed was to back right off and take a long break. When I was in Mexico for a few months from January 1 to March 18, I settled into some short running for a few weeks and then brazenly added mountain hiking. If you’ve ever had an Achilles issue, you know that uphills are the worst thing for it. So let’s just say hiking in the mountains was ill-advised. I inflamed my Achilles to the point where I had to stop running and hiking again by mid-February. I continued to walk a lot, covering 8-10K on flat ground most days, sometimes limping. My Achilles wasn’t exactly getting total rest and I was still aware of it all the time, but at least I’d stopped stressing it out.

The other part of my regular routine was yoga, modified so as to put no extra strain on my left Achilles.

When I got back to Canada on March 18, I had to go straight into quarantine for 14 days. I was in the country at my parents’ place (we had travelled together), so I could safely go for very short walks without running into anyone. When the 14 day quarantine ended, I added some very short runs, but I walked on the uphills (it’s hilly around here, but I was adamant that I would respect the Achilles). When the quarantine ended, I was able to extend my distance a bit, but mostly I’ve kept it to a walk or a run most days, plus yoga. A couple of weeks ago I added resistance training classes on Zoom.

I’m giving this little rundown of what’s happened since March 2019 because it’s really only since the pandemic (almost a year from the event where this all started) that, without planning it, I have done exactly what I needed to do to tend to my injury. And since I didn’t plan it, I didn’t “design” my approach with the Achilles in mind. Instead, I have stuck close to home and only gone out for shorter periods of activity because it seems (to me) like the right thing to do.

I’ve kept to my commitment to daily yoga because more than ever I’ve needed a way to feel grounded–morning meditation and daily yoga are two ways I manage to do that. Yes, they are grounding in themselves. But along with my daily walks or runs, they have helped me establish a sense of routine that I absolutely need during the pandemic. I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel as if each day just spills into the next and time has taken on a weird quality where it is on occasion almost meaningless.

Because of the weirdness of time lately, I can’t tell you when exactly it happened. But some time during the past two or three weeks it occurred to me that I hadn’t been aware of my Achilles at all of late. One marker of an injury is that it never completely escapes awareness. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of months ago, around the time when I had to stop the hiking, my Achilles was throbbing and aching all the time, even when I was just lying in bed.

Now, I finish a walk or a run and the Achilles just worked the way it was supposed to work. When I’m doing yoga, I don’t have to back off of pushing my heel all the way down when doing Warrior I. In a Zoom workout, I can keep my heels down during the squats and not worry about pain in lunges or chair climbing or anything I’d usually approach with caution.

Because of the pandemic and my inclination for the foreseeable future to stick fairly close to home, I feel pretty confident that I am not about to “overdo it” despite feeling as if I am good to go. Instead, I can enjoy my new injury-free-again state without putting it at risk (as I might normally be tempted to do). It’s amazing and wouldn’t have happened without Covid-19 forcing such major changes in our expectations on all of us. By the time this thing is resolved (I am not optimistic that it will be within a few months), the foot will be strong and be able to support me in a new training plan that can include distance and intensity. Pretty exciting!

So that’s my story of recovery from injury and of one of the good things that pandemic isolation has brought me. If you have an injury-recovery story and/or a good thing you want to share about pandemic isolation, please leave it in the comments.

Meanwhile, may you all be safe and be well.

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