Adapt. Pivot. Let go. In the past six months, I have learned to let go.
The background: My recovery from the hamstring tear on my right hip has gone exactly as I had hoped. I was running and running well. I was starting to race again and was happy with my times. In July, after a full year of my “return to race” build-up, I started to add some speed work into my training – intervals, tempos, and was hitting my targets. But one summer night, as my left foot hit the road, something didn’t feel right. My left hip was hurting.
A few weeks later, an x-ray led to a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. I was told to stop running. I was devastated. You can read about that here. I wasn’t ready to quit and I am still not. Instead, I have adapted. I have made several changes so that I can keep putting one foot in front of the other and am listing them here so that they can help others who might go through something similar.
Running Through Osteoarthritis:
Step 1 – Seek Medical Experts: This is crucial. I have been working regularly with both a physiotherapist for manipulation and adjustments and a chiropractor for active release therapy. The two treatments complement each other and between the two of them, I have been able to stay active – running, cycling and yoga.
I am waiting for an an appointment with my hip specialist, the one who treated my right hamstring in 2019. The aches and pains on my left side are a mirror image and I am hopeful that he will be able to work another miracle for me. In the meantime, I am also waiting for an ultrasound (the pandemic has slowed everything down) so that he can see exactly what i going on.
Step 2 – Explore Different Shoes: For years, I loved my Mizuno wave riders but I felt that I needed to make a switch. I looked at Hokas, based on the recommendations of a few running friends. “Why not?” I thought. The technology in the Hoka Cliftons seemed right for my joints and feet – more cushioning and more stability – and when I tried them on, they felt just right. It’s been five months and I am happy that I’ve made the change.
Step 3 – Run on Different Surfaces: I have lived in a community surrounded by a beautiful trail system for almost 20 years but most of my running has been on the roads. In the summer, I recognized that I needed a softer surface to run on so I found myself veering towards the trails more and more. At the end of the fall, about half of my distance was covered on them. “I feel like I can run forever,” I told my physiotherapist. But not yet. I still have some repair and healing to do.
Step 4 – Consider Dietary Changes: I have a virtual running friend who went through a similar journey to mine (hers led to a hip replacement) and has been mentoring me through mine. She recommended taking turmeric as an anti-inflammatory, which I have been daily. Last week, I also started to take a collagen supplement by Great Lakes to help strengthen my tendons and joints.
Step 5 – Listen to Your Body: In the past 6 months, I have been able to do the things that I love but I have also had to respect what I can and cannot do. I can’t run the same paces that I use to and I have to be cautious with how I climb hills on my bike and runs. This been a mental battle. I have always loved to push myself and, even with an aching hip, there are times when it is still hard to hold back. But I have learned what I have do so that I can keep doing the things I love. I’ve turned it down a notch. Even though I wear my watch, keep an eye on splits and review my data after every run and ride, I don’t get hung up on times; I’m okay with my new happy pace, the pace that keeps me running.
Stay Positive: I know that there is a medical solution to eliminating the pain but it is going to take a while to find it. Meanwhile, I have a pretty good handle on what does works for me when dealing with osteoarthritis and the pain that comes with it – movement. I am focusing on what I can do, not on what I can’t. “You’re still running,” I often remind myself. “That is all that really matters.”