The Road to Recovery is long and winding.

It’s confession time:  I cheat on running.  I don’t just run, I also play soccer.

Recently I was hurt during soccer.  That led to cheating on running with  spinning.  I’m not sure if it’s still considered cheating if you can’t actually run though.

In the semi-final match of soccer play-offs, an opposing player decided my knee looked like the ball.  I sustained a hard hit on the inside of my right knee.  I walked it off for a whole bunch of reasons that could all be summed up in one tidy sentence:  “I was stupid”.  Keeping the “I was stupid” theme in mind, I proceeded to go in for a tough challenge and connected with the ball at the exact same time as an opposing player.  I was limping.  A smart person who valued running would have left the field at that point.  I was stupid.  I went for one more attempt at the ball (just needed to see if my leg would work), made contact and promptly cried out and dropped like a stone.  I was stupid.

Many ice packs later and an eventual visit to a physiotherapist revealed that I was broken.  The verdict: a torn MCL and Pes Anserine Bursitis.  The first kick resulted in the bursitis.  The second hit resulted in the torn MCL, just like this one.  Bye bye running.  The bursitis completely froze my hamstring.  I could manage about 10 degrees of flexion before crying like a baby and yelling “MERCY!”

I had worked really hard this summer to improve my race times.  I was 0.08 seconds off a PR for my 10K (and if I had realized it during the race, I would have busted my hump to achieve that PR).  I had one more race planned for the season: a 10K.  A second chance to hit that race target!  And with one (2…okay, 3) small steps/kicks it was all gone.

Bye bye running.  Hellloooo spinning!  I had hopes of keeping my cardio up so that I could still race the 10K.  My Physio thought it was possible.  Indeed, I did regain a great deal of mobility by week 5.  I was told I’d be out of commission for 6 weeks and the race was exactly 8 weeks away from the date of the injury.  By week 5,  I couldn’t run farther than 2K without experiencing severe discomfort.  I found that running didn’t exactly hurt so much as it resulted in a great deal of swelling afterword (which did hurt, in case you were wondering).  Spinning on the other hand, spinning did not hurt before, during or after.  Spinning did not initiate an intimate relationship between me and my icepack(s) like running did.

Spinning became my go-to activity.  I tried running every so often.  It was a challenge to get to the 5K mark.  I missed it.  I missed running in the way that you can only miss something when you can’t do it.  I pined after it.  I promised that when I could run again, I would run every day.  I kissed any hopes of running my last planned 10K race good-bye.  I made do with spinning.

Before you start wondering when this doom and gloom fest is going to end and think about visiting another blog, just hold on!  Today, 9 1/2 weeks after I got hurt, I ran 5.82K.  It isn’t the farthest I’ve run since I was injured.  It was the fastest!  I sustained a 5:39/km pace.  I’m back on track.  It’s been slow going.  I still experience some minor swelling if I go too far.  I have to carefully manage my distance.  I have to stretch diligently.

I appreciate cross-training (spinning) ever so much more now, for its ability to make me a better runner and its ability to keep me active when I couldn’t run.

I appreciate running more now that I haven’t been able to do it. (How is a girl supposed to manage Hallowe’en and all of the chocolate that comes with it, without running?)

I appreciate the layer of paper towel between my skin and an ice pack to prevent frozen skin. 😉

Tell me – have you ever been injured?  How did you cope?  What did you do to keep yourself active?

Chafing. How bad can it be? Really bad.

I think chafing should be one of those words that when you say it or type it, a short blast of ominous music plays.  Otherwise it just seems like a dish you heat food in. There is one thing that running and chafing dishes have in common.  They both involve heat and moisture.  Ay, there’s the rub.  And that’s the last piece of the puzzle for running: friction.

Put more succinctly, rubbing (friction) + heat + moisture = chafing (pain).

You may or may not have seen pictures from a recent marathon of some poor guy who really didn’t know that it’s not a good idea to run 21 km (half marathon) or 42 km (marathon) in a cotton tshirt.  Missed that photo?  Let me show you what you’re missing:Don't Let This Happen To You! I’ve been reading the Sookie Stackhouse series of books (from which True Blood is based) and I can’t help but think this poor dude looks like gigantic vampiric fangs attacked him. He would probably be in less pain if that was the case.

Nipples on men are a common area for chafing.  Other areas to watch: around the band of your bra, inner thighs, under arms and feet.  Note that when chafing usually happens with feet, that turns into something completely different and equally crippling: blisters.

So, how do you avoid chafing? Here are my key rules that have kept me chafe-free for the most part:

  • Avoid cotton.  Invest in a technical style shirt that will wick away moisture.  This type of clothing doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Winners and Costco can usually be counted on to provide a good shirt at a reasonable price.  Same for shorts and socks, bra and undies – avoid cotton!  Cotton absorbs moisture and holds it against your skin.  The repetitive motion from running will cause the fabric to rub and voila: chafing.
  • If you’re blessed with quads like myself, once you find shorts that are comfy, buy more than one pair if you can.  Or at least take really good care of the ones you have (wash after every wearing either by hand or on a delicate cycle and hang to dry) so they’ll last.
  • If you’re a guy, consider putting something like Vaseline or Body Glide on your nipples before your run.  If you’re not too hairy and can stand it, consider applying Band Aids over your nippes to protect them.  Just make sure they’re waterproof so they stay put while you sweat.
  • If your inner thighs rub, consider putting some Vaseline or Body Glide on the affected area before you run.
  • If you’ve got a mole or anything that you need to cover, go for the Band Aid solution, again making sure the Band Aids are waterproof.
  • If you’re trying a new piece of clothing, test it out before you wind up in a situation where you’re half way through your run and your skin is burning.  If you have any doubts about the comfort of a piece of clothing, don’t wear it.  This was my mistake on a run last week.  (If anyone is looking for a Champion brand running skirt, size Medium, I’ve got one for you.)

Listen to your body.  If you feel a hotspot, adjust whatever you can to take the friction away.  My first experience with chafing was on a long run.  At the 12K mark of a 15K run, I finally stopped chatting with my running partner long enough to realize one of my legs of my shorts had ridden up and had been like that for who knows how long.  I know how long.  Long enough to do some real damage.  Even though I adjusted my shorts and they stayed put for the remainder of my run, my skin looked like this (note: not my skin; some other unlucky devil’s):Ouch.

The thing about chafing is that it repeatedly reminds you it’s there.  When the water from the shower hits – ouch.  If it’s in an area where you sweat: ouch.  If it’s in an area where clothing normally sits/hugs (think: bra band): ouch.    Hopefully by now, I’ve convinced you that there are a lot of reasons to try to avoid getting chafed.  And now you understand why I think the ominous music should play when chafing is mentioned.

Okay so you’ve done everything right and yet somehow, something went wrong.  What to do?

Clean the area.  Put an ointment like Polysporin or Vitamin E (ointment, not cream!) on it.  Dress it with a piece of gauze if it’s going to rub and it’s really bad.  If it’s in a place that will be aggravated by further running, hang up your shoes for a day or two unil the area heals.  Analyze what went wrong and make a note not to repeat it.

Happy trails!

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