I’ve been running for seven years now. I was a late bloomer discovering it, teaching myself the basics, setting small goals and conquering them. It’s where I fell hopelessly in love with it and no other sport has come close.
But I’ve had my fair share of disappointments along the way. I was so in awe with it that that’s all I did – four times a week. I didn’t want to strengthen weak areas that were failing me time and time again. I became depressed, resentful and didn’t open my mind to cross-training during periods of injury.
My dream of running long distances, a marathon, an ultra-marathon or even Comrades came to a halt when I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees. It felt like a death sentence. Doctors were advising me to forego running and I simply couldn’t accept it.
I underwent an arthroscopy to treat and repair my knees. The recovery was painstakingly slow and once again I was forced to stop running. I had reached my rock-bottom, I’d shed too many tears, I was sick and tired of chasing a moving target that kept switching the rules of the game!
Things had to change, my mindset about running had to be altered, I needed to be realistic about what my body can and can’t do. I was advised to take up cycling to strengthen the areas around my knees. I hated cycling, how was I going to do something I disliked so much! But I forced myself to do it, three times a week on a stationary bike in the gym. Before long my knees were getting stronger, I could get around more easily and the aching pain disappeared.
I’ve cut down my running substantially. I only focus on short distances or as much as my knees allow. I listen to my body intently. If it doesn’t feel right, I don’t run a race just because I entered it. I allow myself to feel disappointed that I’m missing out on something I wished I could do. But I carry the knowledge that my body is precious and I am the specialist on my health.
My advice on overcoming injury?
Be kind to yourself. Every athlete gets injured at some stage in their sport. You are not alone. Most injuries take between 6 – 8 weeks to heal. Respect the recovery period. Open your mind to trying different forms of strength training whether you like them or not. Always believe you will return to your sport, healthier and stronger. Be grateful that you can still exercise, so many don’t have the opportunity to do this. Appreciate the setbacks, there is always a lesson to be learned from them.
Most importantly nurture your body – its the only one to carry you through this lifetime.