November 30, 2023

SENZON | Running the Risk of Injury

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I’ll just go for an easy run — it will all be fine. 

These are the words I told myself after waking up from my weekly Saturday run with slight hip pain. 

Running is a high-impact sport, which means many runners run the risk of injury throughout their careers. Unlike many long-time athletes, I started my running career by turning a blind eye to the possibility of getting injured. Growing up, I always enjoyed sports and the rush of adrenaline that came with it; that said, I was no more athletic than the average person. I never foresaw falling in love with a sport like running, nor did I ever believe I could run a half-marathon three weeks into discovering this newfound passion.

My running career started with getting sick of my usual routine at the gym, which consisted of lifting weights until I felt somewhat tired and then walking at an incline for a minimum of thirty minutes. To my surprise, I was able to keep this routine for seven months before boredom caught up with me. Sick of staring at the wall in a room comparable to a dungeon, I felt the unnerving pressure to get outside. It didn’t take me long to realize what I was missing out on once I built momentum with my running and reached new thresholds that allowed me to move farther and faster than ever before.

Aside from the exhilarating feeling that comes with the notorious runner’s high, hitting new personal records can become addicting. As a distance runner, hitting new distance personal records is a good demonstration of my capacity to handle a full-length marathon in the future. Going from not being able to run one mile to running 13.1 miles at an 8-minute-per-mile pace in a matter of three weeks is hard to put into perspective. 

I usually run anywhere from seven to eight miles on a day-to-day basis throughout the week. Most days I try to weave in different types of runs to ensure that I avoid injury. Depending on your goals, you’ll need to incorporate different types of runs into your weekly training schedule. A speed workout might look like an interval run in which you run for a given amount of time and walk in between sets. You might also try a fartlek run, where you alternate between slower and quicker paces at varying efforts. Another option for runners of all experience levels would be easy runs — these are better classified as runs at any distance where an easy pace is maintained. Easy runs are also known as recovery runs since they don’t spike your heart rate above its threshold rate and feel easy

When it came time to complete my morning miles on an unusually cold Saturday, the conditions were fairly reasonable and I was excited to listen to Taylor Swift for the coming hour. The goal was to complete 11 miles at my threshold pace of 7:45 minutes per mile; the first few miles were going well and I was dealing with the temperature change quite nicely. Sub-freezing temperatures aren’t the worst for running, and it can actually be refreshing to breathe the cold air in. 

At the halfway mark of my long run, my knee brace started to malfunction which became all the more frustrating as I attempted to maintain good running form. As the run progressed, my fingers slowly started to numb out, starting with a tingling sensation that transitioned into an overall loss of feeling, even while wearing gloves as a protective measure. In all transparency, my form was horrendous, resulting in me twisting my torso and tearing my front hip flexor. 

In that moment, I knew that I’d injured myself but I was in denial and stubbornly finished the run at a pace faster than my threshold. I couldn’t set my ego aside and proceeded to complete another 8.5-mile run the following day in complete and utter pain. Days after, the pain has only worsened and it’s been hard to accept that I need to take time off from running. The satisfaction of seeing my mileage recorded on my Strava graph week-by-week made it all the more challenging for me to listen to my body and take time off from running. As of late, you’ll find me stationary cycling as opposed to running the roads of beautiful Ithaca, NY. 

I hope that in hearing my struggle of grappling with self-care after facing injury, I can inspire athletes to take injury seriously and know that your body isn’t indestructible. When you’re feeling off balance, take it seriously. This means taking the necessary days or weeks to recover — you should commit to the process. You don’t want to worsen an injury at the off chance of facing permanent damage, only to lose the thing that offers you fulfillment that you can’t find elsewhere in life.

In the absence of running, I’ve taken this experience as an opportunity to listen to these intuitions, and while it can be miserable to be physically incapable of running, I’m grateful to know that this is temporary and not everyone has the privilege of being able to bounce back. I’m grateful for running helping to strike a balance in my life, but I’m even more grateful for a lesson learned that allows me to make my physical and mental health a top priority for the first time in a long time.

Adam Senzon is a second-year student in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. His fortnightly column My Two-Sents covers a plethora of topics ranging from advice on navigating life challenges to more complex topics of injustice within the law, labor and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected].

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