When You Listen to Your Body
I had just passed the 20 mile mark of my first marathon, the longest I had ever run; I was suddenly overcome with emotion as I realized I had not one hint of bone pain. I didn’t even wear shin sleeves for the race, which had become a staple part of my running outfit over the past 5 years. As I struggled to complete the remaining 6.2 miles, I kept reminding myself how fortunate I was that my bones had successfully made it through this inaugural marathon training cycle.
Completing a marathon had been a huge goal of mine ever since I started running, but my injury-ridden college years had caused me to doubt whether my body would ever be able to handle long distances again.
That’s not to say that I didn’t acquire any injuries during this process. Two weeks before the big day I came down with a nasty case of IT band syndrome and had to really modify my training in order to make it to the start line (read: lots of foam rolling agony).
This is important for me to write about because I don’t think I was just lucky. Rather, there were real changes I made that helped keep my body and bones strong through the brutal summer miles.
First, I kept my mileage very low.
I knew it would be a challenge, but I also knew it was possible. And I knew it was necessary to keep my body happy. So I worked with my dad to come up with a training plan that was best suited for me and my situation. Every run was a quality one (workout, long run, etc.), but I ended up looking forward to them instead of dreading going out into the heat and humidity every day.
Second, I supplemented my running mostly with yoga.
This kept my core and stability muscles strong. I personally do not enjoy lifting weights, so yoga is my strength training, stretching, and relaxation all in one. And often I did nothing at all, depending on how busy my schedule was that week, how my body was feeling, and whether I mentally felt like doing anything.
Yoga normally recharges both my body and mind, but sometimes it doesn’t. And it was better for me to rest than to worry about how well I was doing certain poses or whether or not my core was getting stronger.
The most important adjustment I made was to fully nourish my body.
Someone asked me after the race whether I had followed any special diet during my training, and it felt good to say that I had, in fact, just followed my normal eating pattern (although in larger amounts to account for longer runs).
In the past, this comment may have planted seeds in my head that would lead to disordered eating, but I was able to recognize that my healthier relationship with food was very likely linked to my lack of bone injury.
Another indication that my intake was on par with my energy needs was the maintenance of my period throughout my marathon training. I was actually most proud of this because it proved to me that I could still run endurance distances without jeopardizing my reproductive and bone health.
It proved I wouldn’t be broken forever.
I am unsure whether my training would have been as successful if I had not found the Lane 9 Project earlier this year; it has really helped me with multiple areas of my life, including my relationship with food, my body image, and my confidence as a female athlete.
My body was ecstatic that I had taken care of it, and so was I.
All of these improvements played an important role in helping me through my first bone injury-free training cycle in a very long time.
So as I kicked into the finish shoot, my quads were on fire but my bones were solid. I had put a significant amount of stress on my body, but I had also listened to it. And it had rewarded me. My body was ecstatic that I had taken care of it, and so was I.
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