no better, no worse

I am in a little bit of a conundrum. I think that’s the right word for it. This post is just going to be a stream of my thoughts so up front I am going to apologize because I am not editing it for spelling or anything. I just need to write it all out and process things, to help me get clear.

Three weeks ago when my doctor gave me the green light to run again, I was happy but surprised too – totally skeptical because my toe definitely didn’t look or feel “normal.” PAIN isn’t a word I would use to describe what I was feeling, but there was noticeable swelling still, red/purple coloring and certainly not full range of motion. My doctor did an x-ray (the third one in almost 7 weeks at the time) and examined me and said “your toe is healing and you can run and do whatever you want.” He told me that running would not hinder the healing or make it worse (just don’t bang it again!). He said it would feel and look funky like this for months and that it was really up to me how much I wanted to tolerate that. So, I called my coach and we started me back to running with 20-30 minutes easy that week. My toe felt weird while running, but not painful, and it didn’t seem to feel any worse at all after a run. So we kept going.

It’s been three weeks and I am REALLY enjoying running again. We have added mileage and even some workouts, and my toe doe does not react negatively to any of it, good news right? – Yes, but the fact also remains that my toe doesn’t seem any better.  It has been almost 10 weeks since it broke and three since I started running again … and healing seems to be static. Which isn’t exactly a good thing, I don’t think.

So yesterday I went to see Lee at The Running PTs. Lee knows his stuff, has been someone I rely on for my own health and progress as well as that of local runners I coach. He is a runner. He specializes in working with runners. He knows me well. He sees injured runners every single day. While my injury is not a running injury, the fact is that I am a runner and I know that while I’m not in PAIN right now, I am likely altering my gait and making weird compensations because of the swelling and limited range of motion in my right foot due to the healing broken toe. Yesterday I spent an hour with Lee. We talked openly about what I have been thinking and feeling, and he took a close look at my toe/foot and lower leg. He wiggled and pulled and pressed. This toe is doing way better than it was nearly two months ago when I saw him last, but he agrees with me that the healing shouldn’t be seemingly static like it has since I started running again. Lee explained a lot of the physiology and science behind what’s happening as my bones heal and the joint adapts to the load I am putting on it. He showed me how to work on my own toe to increase passive range of motion and mobilize this little bitty joint. He also recommended that I slow my roll with running, and decrease volume for a couple of weeks so I can get over this hump and let the toe HEAL FOR GOOD.

So, I called my coach as soon as I got in the car and we knocked things around a bit. I appreciate candid conversations with James so much. The ability to have these chats is something I value tremendously and is huge reason why I chose to hire him in the first place. The thing is though, James does not exactly agree with Lee. James thinks as long as it’s not reacting negatively, or getting worse/producing pain, we should continue as we are. And if on any given day I think I need to do less running or ease up on the intensity that is absolutely fine.

So I am back to this: I have to decide what I am willing to tolerate, what feels right and what doesn’t, be my own best advocate and make choices each day in line with my priorities. Having a great coach and trusted healthcare practitioners to advise us and be there for us is WONDERFUL – but we have got to make our own decisions.

This led me to ask myself this upon waking this morning: What are my priorities, anyway? Well, number one is my health. I want to be and feel healthy. I want to act with integrity and treat myself with care and love and compassion. If something doesn’t feel right, I want to trust that and be curious about it. The fact that my toe isn’t getting better doesn’t feel right to me. I am relieved it’s not getting worse, of course, but I want it to be better than it is…I want to feel it is progressing. I want to run again and do life again without this weird feeling in my toe.

Yesterday I did a great workout. 9 miles total with 4 x 1 mile at my threshold effort. I felt strong and solid. I loved it!! But what I didn’t love was that little voice inside of me tapping me on my shoulder saying “this isn’t going to help your toe heal, Jess.” So today I am not running. I only had 45 minutes easy on my calendar and my toe feels no worse after the run yesterday than it did before … but how will I get better if I am just keeping it in this cycle? I need to allow it more space and time to heal between stress. At least that is how I feel today.

So I am deciding that not being any worse isn’t good enough for me. I want it to be better.

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