I haven’t been able to run for about five months.
It hit me hard this Thanksgiving, as I realized it was the first time in years that I had not run on Thanksgiving day.
It was gorgeous weather for running, but I was wishing it was a frigid rainy day so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out on what has become my favorite tradition.
I’ve been recovering from plantar fasciitis since early July. This means that even my walking is pretty limited. However, it is really, really difficult for me to be still.
In fact, it is nearly impossible for me to rest and recover this long without battling some depression.
On top of the injury itself, I have my mental health to work on.
It’s pretty mild compared to what some people experience, but it’s there enough that I have to keep an eye on it.
Running was my anti-depressant. It was my hobby. At times it was even my identity.
Running was one of my favorite winter hacks, since it got me outside and kept me comfortably warm in all types of weather.
I had built so much of my life around running and walking everywhere. I was used to the fresh air in my lungs, and the heavy pumping of my heart on a daily basis.
It was extremely humbling to start driving places I had only ever run to.
I spent more time on the couch watching Youtube than ever before.
I don’t want this post to sound all “woe-is-me.” I know I’m extremely privileged and there are tons of other things to be grateful for. Even as I walk through this chapter, I’m floored by how good God is.
My goal isn’t to whine or complain, but to be transparent and honest.
I didn’t realize how important running was to me until I had to lay it down.
(Hmmm, I wonder how many other things are like that in life?)
I’m not looking for sympathy or advice. “Here’s what worked for my great aunt, etc.” I’m just looking for authenticity.
Jake Tyler has a Ted Talk on living with depression called “I’m Fine.” In the talk, he mentions how walking across the UK and training for the London marathon helped him fight his ongoing battle with depression.
Depression is huge. It’s the biggest, most inclusive club in the world….but its biggest trick is convincing everyone that’s in that club that they’re the only member.
He says his coach used the word “movement” for exercise. And that movement, in connection with community, was ultimately the cure for many mental health issues.
Movement isn’t just about exercise. It’s about moving forward, it’s about progression. It’s about working on yourself physically and mentally and being there for other people.
I can attest that movement is a big part of my life and my health. So the trick these last five months has been to find ways to keep moving – ways that won’t prolong my injury.
I was blessed with a used elliptical and rowing machine from FB marketplace – right when I needed them!
I’ve been doing all the things that I’m able to do.
My mantra has been:
Even if you can’t do all the things you’d like to do, whatever you can do, do that. Embrace that. Do it do the best of your abilities.
The same goes for anyone who is recovering from injury, or simply aging out of a sport they used to love.
Do what you can. Don’t ruminate on what you can’t. Be grateful and move forward.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Some days really suck! It doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt to see others doing things you used to be proficient at.
But moving forward is a heck of a lot better than living in the past or dwelling on things you can’t change.
My home gym is growing, and so are my skills. I’ve learned a lot these past five months – out of necessity to keep myself moving!
I’ve been focusing on strength training, and enjoying seeing my body grow stronger. This is probably the strongest I’ve ever been!
I’ve been getting low-impact cardio from the elliptical and rowing machine. The endorphins are the same as running, and I had been wanting to get into rowing anyway.
I also discovered yoga, something that was probably missing from my routine this whole time. (My running game severely lacked regular stretching.)
Yoga with Adriene has been amazing! I’ve recommended her channel to so many people already. She’s like a good friend who happens to know a lot about yoga and invites you to her house every now and then for a good stretch.
No judgement. Just a refreshing and calming time.
The ritual and the breathing of practicing yoga has pretty much erased my anxiety. The stretching and the gentle strengthening are perfect for injury prevention and recovery.
I’m learning a lot through all of this.
I’m learning to row. I’m learning yoga. I’m learning more about strength training.
I’m learning that it’s okay to not always be okay.
Learning to ask for help when I need it.
Learning that I don’t have to do it all.
That there are a lot of emotions out there, and it’s okay to feel them. To lean into them. To let them teach us.
To feel them, not to fear them. To not be owned or defined by them.
I’ve been forced to redefine myself, not as a runner but as a human.
My identity shouldn’t be rooted in what I do but in who I am.
I am more than a mother, or a runner, or a rower, or a yogi, or an athlete of any kind.
I am Emily. And I’m still figuring out what that means.
I don’t have the answers.
I’m a lot better at asking questions than at giving answers.
But I do know that even though it hurts, this stage of life is beautiful and significant.
Photography by Alex Marie