Working Within Unwelcomed Limitations

MORE/FITNESS 10th Anniversary Women's Half-MarathonSoon after completing my most recent—and best—half marathon in April, I was forced to take a hiatus from my favorite endorphin-inspiring activity. Overtraining led to shooting pains along the posterior sides of my shins anytime I hit the road weeks after the race concluded, and nothing I did seemed to help relieve the pain for more than a few hours. After succumbing to a set of x-rays, an MRI and two meetings with an orthopedist, I received my diagnosis: bilateral shin splints.

Are you kidding me? That’s it?

Not that I wanted to deal with a more serious condition (a stress fracture was initially discussed as a possibility), but I was hoping for an answer that matched the severity of the pain I felt any time I took off for Central Park. I felt like a wimp, a failure, as I was told to avoid all running and jumping activity for four to six weeks on account of “really bad shin splints.”

After a few bouts of self-pity, I simply felt strange. Four of my workouts each week suddenly ceased to exist, and it definitely felt limiting at first. What do I do now? But the freedom actually liberated me in a sense, for I opened up to new activities that I would have snubbed just months before… like bikram yoga. You wouldn’t have been able to pay me to do a 90-minute yoga session in a 105-degree room full of people literally dripping with sweat, but suddenly this physically and mentally challenging practice became an integral part of my week. I sweat more than ever before as I move through the series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises, drastically improving my flexibility, blood circulation and mental focus. Needless to say, these things come in handy as my legs recover to the point where they will carry me across my next finish line.

As of now, physical therapy mandates I limit my runs to two 5Ks a week, but it no longer feels as frustrating as it once did. I am constantly working to get back to where I once was, which surely feels like a distant memory, but I have discovered and embraced new passions that I feel could have only come from an experience like this one. Sometimes, you just have to take bad news in stride and work with what you’ve got. The result may surprise you.

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