Learning to Fly Again

“Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.” – Kara Goucher

It’s been five long months since I fell and broke my humerus in three places. It’s been 16 weeks since I started physical therapy. Today was a big day. A huge day. Today I was released from orthopedic care and I graduated from physical therapy. I have a long way to go until I regain full strength again but this experience has taught me that no matter how long the road ahead may seem never ever give up.

Let me start by stating the obvious. Getting back in shape after an injury is hard. And humbling. And, at times, frustrating. Did I mention humbling? It can be so challenging. Often times, you end up taking two steps forward and one step back. But you have to keep reminding yourself that you are still one step ahead of where you were. Starting over is never easy but I think I’ve done my best to keep my eye on the prize and focus on the progress I’ve made; not how much of the road was still ahead of me. I remind myself constantly that I’ve done this before and I can do this again.

I remember, not that long ago, when my goal was to run the reservoir in Central Park without stopping. The reservoir is 1.58 miles. So, at some point, my goal was to be able to run 1.58 miles without stopping and eight months ago I ran a marathon. A constant reminder that anything is possible. With patience, determination, and hard work, anything is possible.

This view never gets old.

This view never gets old. 1.58 miles of pure bliss.

I’ve officially been running again for about two and a half months. Admittedly, I still pretty much suck at running and haven’t made as much progress as I would’ve hoped. But as my friend Danielle reminded me, I was sidelined from a traumatic injury and it’s going to take time. So wise, that girl. Running still feels hard but I ran seven miles last weekend and it was quite possibly the best I’ve felt on a run since my first run back on May 3rd. For the first time in almost six months, I got over my fear and decided to tackle the West Side rolling hills in Central Park.

Good advice.

Those birds. So smart!

And I didn’t have to stop to walk on them once. And I felt pretty good. I ran alongside the New York Road Runners Run to Breathe race so that may have helped push me along. Nothing like thousands of other runners, and some good music, to help you run the hills of Central Park, right?! I’m still running slowly but slow miles are always better than no miles.

Grateful just to be running again.

Grateful just to be running again.

There have been a bunch of runs where I felt great and like I could keep going.

Fastest 3 miles post-fracture.

Fastest 3 miles post-fracture.

But there have also been many where I’m so happy to be done and drinking my coffee.

Can't beat this post-run.

Can’t beat this post-run.

I’m back to spinning at Flywheel with one of my favorite instructors again. My first class back was last month and I was terrified. Like, first time on a spin bike, terrified. I was originally on the wait list and when I got that magical little email letting me know I got in, guess which bike I was on? Yup! FRONT ROW. I wasn’t sure I’d have the endurance to survive a 45 minute spin class, but you better believe I tried my hardest to keep up. It actually went much better than expected. I was sore for days but I felt amazing after that class. I walked out high on endorphins I hadn’t felt in months. For the first time in almost four months, I really started to feel a little bit like myself again. Guess what song was playing before class started? Ready or not, here I come, you can’t hide… It was like it was meant to be. I finally went back again two weeks ago and not only did it go even better but I wasn’t nearly as sore in the days following the class. How’s that for progress? My physical therapist even cleared me to try the arms part when I go back next.

I’m officially up to using five pound weights regularly. Some days they feel like they’re 12 pound weights but I started with one pound weights so I’ll take it. Remember when I could swing a 12 kg kettlebell around and squat two of them? Like I said, getting back in shape after 12 weeks off is humbling. But at the end of the day I have to remind myself that at some point I started from nothing. I was really strong before I fell. And I continue to remind myself that I will get there. I will be strong again. I graduated from doing push-ups against the wall to push-ups against the table to finally doing push-ups on my knees. I can bang out three sets of 10 now pretty easily. Baby steps all leading to big progress.

I can hold a plank again. I successfully held a one minute plank. Twice. I tried the second one just to make sure the first one wasn’t a fluke. Let’s be honest, I was never great at holding a plank anyway so one minute seems HUGE to me at this point in my recovery.

Proof that it actually happened.

Proof that it actually happened.

I’ve also successfully (sort of) held a side plank for 18 seconds.

Just in case you didn't believe me.

Just in case you didn’t believe me.

I halfway got into downward dog with the help of my physical therapist. We attempted a chaturanga a couple of times and I failed miserably; collapsing to the floor both times. Clearly I’m not there quite yet.

I officially have full range of motion back again; except for external rotation. FULL RANGE OF MOTION. I honestly never thought I’d hear those words before August. The orthopedist told me I’m only about 10 degrees shy of full range of motion in external rotation, as of this morning.

My strength isn’t anywhere near where it was before I fell but I know I will get there. I have been doing squats for a couple of weeks and decided to start adding lunges and dead lifts back into the mix. I did ONE set of lunges and ONE set of dead lifts and it seems I slightly strained something in my leg two weeks ago. I felt sore and tight and rested on Friday. I woke up Saturday morning and although I didn’t feel 100% I thought running might loosen things up. At first, I felt much better. Until I didn’t. I thought the same thing Sunday morning and went to spin. Spin had to loosen things up, right? Again, it did at first. And then it didn’t. After two days without improvement in my symptoms, I decided the smart thing to do was rest and ice. It did the trick. After four days of rest, I felt 100% back to normal. This listening to your body thing, while trying to get back in shape thing, is extremely challenging but I try not to get frustrated with my body. I know it’s working really hard for me. The same thing happened after my seven mile run. I find I’m just really slow to recover at this point. My hamstring felt a little tight after my run this weekend. Likely from the additional hills. After two days of resting it, it’s feeling much better. Do you see the pattern here? But again, I’m trying to have patience and realize that after 12 weeks off it’s going to take some time to get strong again. But I know I’ve made so much progress over the past five months and for that I’m grateful.

My friend/teammate, Kara, is so wise!

Wise words from my fellow Oiselle teammate!

So what’s next?

I will continue to do my physical therapy exercises on my own and work on getting stronger each week. I’m hopeful that by the end of the summer I will be able to go back to my favorite classes like Refine Method and Barry’s Bootcamp and Exceed. I really miss being strong. I know that my running will only improve the stronger I get.

Getting stronger every week.

Getting stronger every week.

I need to work on losing the weight I gained while out of commission. I know that will help me feel better; mentally and physically. I know it will definitely help my running improve. I have the most amazing dietitian. She continues to be patient with me. She never gives up on me; even when it appears I’ve given up on myself. But at the end of the day she doesn’t live in my apartment to police me. Perhaps I could hire her to do that too?

I signed up for a couple of races this fall. It’s time to wipe the dust of my Oiselle Team singlet and get back out there. For now, the Bronx 10 Mile will be my first “big” race back. I’m still deciding whether or not to be brave and sign up for a half marathon. I think I could be strong enough come late fall but after so many DNS’s in the last year I’m honestly nervous to sign up. I did, however, start researching hotels in Philly. Stay tuned…

I could never have gotten through this injury without my incredible family and friends. They’ve been there for me since day one. They have been absolutely amazing with their unwavering support, encouragement, and unconditional love. Always believing in me and my ability to work hard and fully recover and rebuild. They showered and dressed me and put my hair in a ponytail. They visited me, baked and cooked for me, and spent time with me. They checked up on me when I was living at my parent’s house; reminding me that, even though I was away, they were still there to support me. And now, finally, they run with me, at a turtle’s pace, in Central Park. My family and friends have been cheering me on since the day I fell and for that I am forever grateful. Words can’t express just how grateful I am. Thank you just doesn’t seem adequate.

Some of the best people I know.

So grateful for these girls.

And these girls too!

And these girls too!

I love this girl so much. This was her 1st run outside in almost 5 years and after 2 back surgeries. I'm so proud of her!

I love this girl so much. This was her 1st run outside in almost 5 years and after 2 back surgeries. I’m so proud of her!

And now it’s time to take this broken wing and learn to fly again…

Do you know how long I’ve waited to use that line? Try not to have that song stuck in your head now. My apologies.

See you all in Central Park! Head Up. Wings Out.

Taking this wing and learning to fly again!

Taking this wing and learning to fly again!

Tell Me.

Have you ever started over again after an injury?

Is the unrelenting summer heat and humidity killing you too?

Do you think I should run a fall half marathon? Which races are you all running this fall?

Any tips for trying to get your legs strong again?

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6 thoughts on “Learning to Fly Again

  1. Beth, you are doing so great! Your speed and strength will come back. I am so proud of how far you’ve come since your injury, and your positive attitude I am sure is helping! Hope to meet you in 2 weeks when I visit NYC!!

  2. I am so excited to hear that you’re now allowed to get back to it – I know how tough you’ve had to be over the last few months to sit on the sidelines! Your attitude is so wonderful and I can’t wait to see how you get back to where you used to be… and then go beyond that. I know you can do it and that this will be the most minor of setbacks in the grand scheme of things 🙂 Congrats on graduating from physical therapy!

  3. Yes. Yes. Yes. So proud of all the progress you have made and I KNOW you will continue to get stronger and faster and feel like yourself 100%. Welcome back, buddy! I can’t wait to keep running with you, in person or via #runningbuddyinmypocket! xo

  4. I love this post – so honest but uplifting. It’s going to be so helpful for anyone else who’s coming back from injury. I can’t wait for you to crush some fall races – especially the Bronx 10M…one of my favs! I may have to find a way to make it back for that one 🙂 You are one of the most dedicated, passionate, inspirational people I know and I’m confident this was just a little bump in the road that will only, as they say, make you much, much, stronger!! xoxoxo

  5. Pingback: Back in Training | Once in a Mile

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