A few weeks ago I listened to an episode of the Triathlete Hour podcast that discussed how some athletes are “quarantine injured.” Some people are sitting too much while working from home, overtraining, or tweaking things by moving workouts inside to trainers and treadmills. None of those situations apply to me, but I changed my habits in another way due to the quarantine and now I’ve joined the ranks of those who are quarantine injured.
Today marks day 55 of quarantine due to COVID-19. My layoff from work began on March 20th and despite all of the various stressful aspects, I was thankful that at least I still had running. I wasn’t thrilled that my favorite running spots were suddenly crowded with people who wanted to escape their homes. It became clear that if I wanted to take social distancing seriously it wasn’t ideal to run on trails with swarms of people. Going out for runs turned into a stressful thing for me so my mission was to find places where I could avoid people and be alone.
I couldn’t resist when I saw a “Social Distance Running Club” shirt for sale from Dave’s Running Shop. It seemed fitting for me since I’m an introvert who happily runs solo 99% of the time anyway. Plus, Dave’s was donating $5 from each sale to partner with local restaurants to help feed Toledo-area frontline workers.
I woke up early the first few weeks of quarantine and often went to the local dirt roads for my runs. It’s quiet and spacious out there so I didn’t have to worry about being around any people.
I had a really nice 15-mile run on April 11th but the outside of my right ankle started to bother me that evening. I was too stubborn to skip my run the following day like I should have. I tried a few miles but knew I better cut it short when my ankle didn’t feel right. I questioned what happened and realized the crowned surface of the dirt roads had caused the problem. I run against traffic on the left side of the road and my right foot is often up higher where it probably pronates too much. Although I had been fine for all of my other runs, somehow that 15-mile run did me in.
I really worried that I could have a stress fracture. I had one in my foot in 2016 and now that’s where my mind always goes when something seems serious. I could pinpoint a spot on the outside of my ankle that was tender to the touch and it freaked me out. Biking in the basement seemed fine so I did that for the rest of the week. It didn’t bother my ankle and it helped keep me active. A week passed and it didn’t feel any better so I stopped biking in case it was delaying the healing process. I got into a routine of riding, questioning if that was a good idea, then taking a week off. The same thing happened with walking. I tried walking a mile or two around the neighborhood to see how it felt. Sometimes it was sore afterward, so I stopped and tried again a week later. I wore my walking boot around the house and spent a lot of time on the couch in hopes that it might help.
Now I’ve been dealing with this for over four weeks. I felt like I finally made some progress last week. Walks have felt better, I’m not taking two steps on each stair when I go down, and I don’t feel any strain when I do lunges. My ankle is still tender when I touch a certain spot though and I know I’m still not ready to run. Now I wonder if it might be a tendon issue. It’s not a great time to go to the doctor thanks to the virus, but I probably wouldn’t go anyway. Being unemployed with crappy health care means the doctor is an expensive last resort. I’m trying my best to be patient but I’m pretty bummed.
Most of my upcoming races have been canceled so I don’t have any pressure to train for anything right now. That’s not what motivates me though. I had been running high mileage and was excited that it seemed to be working for me. I hate knowing that most of that fitness has slipped away and now I’m going to have to gradually build back from scratch. Running has been one of my best ways to cope with a lot of stressful things that have happened recently. It’s been one way to help maintain some level of sanity. Taking running away not only leaves me more stressed out, it also takes away my main coping mechanism. It’s been really frustrating and difficult, to say the least.
I listened to another podcast, Work, Play, Love with Lauren Fleshman and Jesse Thomas, and they covered this very topic. Jesse said it’s hard for him to go a day without exercise and feel balanced. Yep…I relate to that 100%. They talked about how exercise can be taken away and we need something else that brings a feeling of accomplishment. Lauren said we need more than one tool to cope with stress, whether it’s talking to friends, listening to music, reading, etc. I’m doing all of those things and trying really hard to fill that void. I’ve kept busy and have found plenty of distractions, but it’s still hard to simulate that feeling of empowerment and accomplishment I get from running.
I need to workout in some form or another. In addition to some biking, I’ve been doing strength workouts three times a week since the beginning of April. Prior to that I usually only lifted weights once a week. Obviously now I have more time. Last week I started using a stretch cord for some “dry-land” swim strength workouts that Triathlete Magazine shared. I’ll probably have three months off of swimming by the time I’m back in the water and will be starting over with that too.
Hopefully these exercises will help me maintain some kind of swimming-related fitness. I also started doing a specific pull-up workout routine this week. I do pull-ups regularly during my strength workouts but I’m following a plan that will help build the number I can do.
I followed this plan years ago when my friend Jeff shared it with me, but a car crash in 2014 messed up my back and I’ve been cautious about some exercises ever since. If I push too much it still makes part of my back ache. Maybe doing my strength routine three times a week has actually helped because pull-ups aren’t triggering the issue as much lately. It gives me something to work toward and it was fun to see the progress when I did it before. Hopefully my back will cooperate.
I’m doing my best to keep busy and enjoy this extended “vacation” while it lasts. I’m sure getting anxious to run and swim though. It’s hard to stay cooped up inside babying my ankle as the weather gets better. I’ve been through this before and know I’ll bounce back eventually, but I hope this ankle thing isn’t too serious and fades really, really soon.