A runners identity: Who am I if I’m not running

Being injured and on the bench is meant to show me what’s important in life. It’s meant to highlight all the things that I never have time for because of training and racing. You know, going out with friends, reading books, binge watching Netflix (oh wait I do that when I’m not injured!), all the things I choose running over.

Well it’s been 26 days since I’ve ran. Yep I almost have my one month chip.

It’s been a really long 26 days. In addition there was the two weeks pre-diagnosis of two pelvic stress fractures, where I did pretty much nothing in a vain attempt to cure myself. One week with no running just two swim sessions and another with only two 5 km runs at the instruction of my clueless physio (now not my physio) and new best friend the osteo. So essentially I’m at 36 days of very little exercise. Nothing. No thing. Anecdotally, everything I read online said to stop everything. Don’t swap running for swimming or stationary bike because all it does is prolong the recovery. Stop everything. So I did, 26 days ago.

It’s been a really tough few weeks. It’s hard to tell if it was challenging because this is the first time that I’ve been injured and had to take time off or because of the terrible timing.

Going to my goal race and not running was tough (read about that here) and hobbling around New Zealand and not getting to really enjoy the trip made me miserable and I felt terribly guilty that I was ruining my husband’s trip as well.

I’m hoping that today is my last non exercise day. I have everything crossed that tomorrow’s follow up appointment will include the green light to get back into the gym, to regain some of my fitness and shed some of the belly fat I’ve accumulated in my “recovery” period.

So in the spirit of this is my last day, here is what I have learnt in the past 26 days.

1. You can’t just go back

About a week into my hiatus, I switch flicked. I don’t know what happened but I found myself re-piercing my nose, painting my nails and “offensive” colour and selecting at home hair colour from the supermarket. I stood there looking at myself in the mirror, at the extra padding that had formed around my cheeks and chin and I felt like the girl I was before I started running. Insecure, weak, vulnerable, uncomfortable in my own skin and before I could say “it’s only 4 weeks”, the old Mel was staring back at me, puffy cheeks, nose piercing and all.

2. Exercise = good sleep

I didn’t realize the impact of regular exercise on my sleep until I stopped. Every night I find myself just lying there. I toss and turn and wake up feeling like I’ve hardly slept at all. I know how important sleep is for brain and muscle recovery but maybe since I was not stressing my body or my brain, the sleep fairy didn’t have anything to clean or repair. I’ve cut my coffee consumption way down to try and help and limit my screen use before bed.

3. Food is fuel

As a runner and a former fatty, I am constantly straddling the fine line of fueling my runs and eating because I run. As a runner you can justify your late night Ben and Jerry’s binge by saying you would burn it off tomorrow or had already earned it but the truth is you are eating crap. It isn’t for “fuel” it’s because you are putting food on top of your feelings or you’re bored or for whatever other emotional reason you are eating but let’s be real, it isn’t fuel. My excuse during these 26 days, “I’ll start again on Monday”. In my case it’s Tuesday, tomorrow, the green light day. I somehow got it in my head that I would have these four weeks off. I don’t know how it got in there. At the start I was all about the supplements and making sure I did everything right for my recovery and somehow it turned into an all you can eat buffet. So now here I am, at least a kg heavier (although tomorrow’s dexa scan will tell me exactly how much fat it is, more than a kg I’d say) and ready to actually treat food as fuel.

I thought all this was behind me. I thought I had said goodbye to the fat, non runner version of me so I was surprised to find she was just hiding under the surface.

I didn’t discover a love of books or cross stitch. I discovered what I already knew. I love running. I love how it makes me feel, I love who I am when I run.


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