After obtaining negative results from every diagnostic test performed on my shin, including x-ray, bonescan, ultrasound, compartment syndrome testing and MRI, I decided to do what every athlete is told NOT to do: stop listening to my body. Instead of obsessing over the tightness and discomfort I felt in my shin, I decided to ignore it. Well, I didn’t really decide this, rather my genius physiotherapist Greg Lehman told me to, and since I do whatever he tells me, I simply obeyed his orders.
Greg trying to desensitize the brain in my shin
This does not mean I woke up one morning and ran 40k, a la old G.I. Jane. Rather, I coined a new form of running, one I like to call ‘granny jogging.’ Granny jogs can range anywhere from 10s to 10min, and are basically a non-equivalent to running, except that you are somewhat going through the motions. You do not even have to be outside to do granny jogs. You can do them down the hallway of your building, or in the comfort of your own home, even if you live in a box! That’s right folks, hopping up and down on the spot is considered a granny jog. You can granny jog at work, in your office, around a table, probably under a table if you tried hard enough. In short: granny jogs are what you do to convince yourself you are back running but really aren’t. One may think that granny jogs might not be as rewarding as a run, but let me tell you, after a year off running granny jogs will blow your mind.
Stretching after a granny jog (in jeans!) while waiting in line for brunch
The purpose of the granny jogs were to get my legs used to the running motion again. After so much time off I needed to completely re-familiarize my body with the concept of running. I also had to gradually train my shin to adapt to running again without it firing alarm signals to my brain, thinking that I was going to re-injure the area. That’s right people, apparently my shin developed a brain (or perhaps this is just known as nerves...) and had become hypersensitive to any potential threat that was similar to the one that originally caused my acute injury. Ultimately, I had become so preoccupied by the feelings in my leg that they became out of line with any actual damage in the tissue. Again, this is only what I was told. This actually all sounded ridiculous to me. I am a scientist for crying out loud! I wanted tests, data, EVIDENCE to account for my symptoms! It drove me nuts that there was nothing tangible to explain what I was feeling, and I began to think I really was going crazy. So when Greg told me a-matter-of-factly to stop thinking about it, very gradually start running, and stop talking about my feelings (sniff sniff) I realized this was the most logical thing to do.
If you granny jog in your clubbing outfit men will stop to tie your shoes, it's pretty awesome
During my first few weeks of granny jogs, the shin flared up constantly and it took every ounce of faith in the program for me not to think I was making things worse. It wasn’t until about a month later that I realized that the feelings may be dissipating. The process was so gradual that I don’t even remember at what point I completely stopped feeling my shin. But I did. When I realized the huge changes I felt in a matter of months, I was ecstatic. By the fall I was running consistently between 40-60k and reached the point where it was the other parts of my body – hip, achilles, knee, ankle, toe , pinky finger – pretty much everything - that began to hurt because they also weren’t used to the pounding of running. My mind had become so warped, however, that I was happy when I had to take two weeks off due to achilles tendonitis. “It’s a legit injury!” I exclaimed, “You can SEE the inflammation, you can treat it with RICE, and it will get better in a couple weeks!” I was thrilled that instead of some voodoo in my shin I finally had an injury that I knew how to deal with.
Despite having to take a few weeks off in October and in December due to some (gloriously treatable) injuries, I have now been running relatively consistently since July and am averaging about 80-90km/week. I am just trying to build my base and only do workouts when I feel like it. Although I hopped into workouts with the Angels in December, it’s too easy to get sucked into going harder and doing more in a group situation. So for the moment I have my fun doing tempos on my own or chasing down the Ninja group I coach during their hill workouts. I am not sure of any race plans in the Spring yet, but I have no doubt those plans will come naturally once I feel the speed coming back to my legs. For now, it’s still a bit of a slog, but at least I’ve graduated from the granny jog?!