The Cheapest Therapy

I started to run back in high school, a time where it was normal to be involved with three sports simultaneously.  At that time I thought I was invincible; pounding out miles upon miles each day and each week,  never really wanting to take a break.  The coach suggested a two week break in between seasons but I had found my crutch or my escape from daily stress (because being a high school is indeed stressful) and that was exercise, or more importantly – running.

PICT0069Bringing up the back of the pack at Mammoth Mountain

My knees started hurting but I pushed through. Maybe if I ran more and ate less, it would be better.  Nope, the knee issues remained.  When I got into college, I continued my “cross country training” at least for the first few quarters of college.  Once I realized I’m not much of my own coach, the elliptical became my new best friend and I found myself participating in the typical “sorority workout” – elliptical + abs.  Thank goodness I did pledge a sorority or I’d feel a little terrible calling it that. Well, there are worse things people could say but I digress.

I slacked off on the speed work, adequate cross training and rest, and every once in a blue moon massaged my sore muscles out with the foam roller.  I began signing up for half marathons with very minimal training and still decided to push my own pace.  Ok, not a problem for a 19-21 year old, right?

In all truth, I run for me as much as I run for the swag and the thrill of running in a group.  Tiffany’s at the finish?  Why thank you.

Fast forward to today and even though I’ve increased my strength training at the gym and speed workouts by trying to keep up with my friend who did happen to run cross country in college, I thought I was doing a dandy job.   That is until my legs started to cramp up and ache and feel as though I’d just run a marathon and could not run any more. (I’m sure most could reply with a resounding “duh, no wonder you are hurt right now.”)

The thing is, I’ve been reading Runner’s World for years.  Ok, let me re-phrase that – I’ve been subscribing to running magazines and glossing through the pages to see what they say on nutrition (sometimes taking their advice) and mostly reading the juicy stuff about races and looking at all the pictures.  Coffee improves performance and is good for you?  Ok.  Making red velvet cupcakes with beets?  Sounds interesting. As for the workout recommendations?  The stretching and core exercises?  Almost more important than I would admit to and each time I saw one, I flipped to the next page, unsure if I could carry it out on my own; hold myself accountable. 

b967a646623f50b290d60cedf6e0b47aI never (and still don’t) understand how some runners can run for miles every day without feeling the pain or contracting shin splints (yes, it’s like a disease).  The 14-year old who has already finished a marathon on all seven continents?  How college students compete throughout their four years, sometimes balancing Dean’s lists and academic scholarships and a social life. I call them bionic, a term I wish I could call myself sometimes.  I guess it’s a little bit of envy or jealousy that comes out and yes, I know we are all different, but the feelings are still there.

I’d like to say a majority of people who tell me (I’m just talking about me, not stereotyping the public) to cross train with swimming or cycling are not runners.  They don’t know or appreciate the thrill of the open road, the ability to explore new territory, or revisit the old.  I could map out a run in any part of my home town, just to re-visit the funky houses, the known turns, and even the deadly hills.  But, to preserve this love for the road? Yes, I guess I could start to pay attention to training advice.


I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and even finish a Ironman triathlon.

Today I’m not sure if that’s possible between my life in the city and nagging injuries, but there may be a time in the future; a time where I can dedicate my time to training, strength, and recovering.  Then I might be able to train with a few other people and I guess I could mature enough to listen to expert’s advice as well.

So, for now I go back to the drawing board.  I actually start to pay attention to training advice, I actually read the magazine articles, and I learn how to train from scratch.

There will be times for base work, speed work, stretching, foam rolling, cross-training, and rest, no matter the difficulty in the concrete jungle.



15 thoughts on “The Cheapest Therapy

  1. i think running can serve so many purposes for people, therapy certainly being one of them. i think it comes down to finding what running does for you personally, and what kind of balance your life needs with running being part of it.

    • You are absolutely right. Everything in life is about balance and finding what works. Sometimes there are different levels of running that come in and out of our life, just like people 🙂

  2. I saw a great list of dumb things runners do yesterday…I may have to dig that up for a post. We are generally a stubborn lot, so kudos to you for actually taking time to listen to the advice! You’re right, when done correctly running is the best therapy there is.

    • Oh my gosh please dig that up I would love to see it! Goodness knows it’s taken me about 8 years to take that advice and I’m not always pleased but really want to stay active for many years so, it’s about time I pay attention to my body and aches.

  3. This is the worst. When your “therapy” is taken away from you. I know I had a really hard time accepting it back in January when I was first feeling the pain and opted to go for long runs only to suffer the consequences later. The only thing that has helped me is to keep playing with what can give me a similar sense of calm. Obviously I know that nothing will replace running but I was able to reach a point where I wasn’t angry or upset about not being able to run anymore- I accepted it. There are days where I wonder if I’ll ever be able to run like I once could again, but I promise following the stretching and the resting will get you back to that point where running is actually your therapy again, not just something you push through because it’s painful.

    • You and I know it. I think we both have done an excellent job of finding different ways to exert our energy and stress though. I agree, there are days where I question if I’ll be running miles upon miles and then I realize maybe one day, but I don’t need to stress or worry about that just yet. It’s all about staying happy and motivated in the moment.

  4. It’s hard to be smart about all your training, but I do try hard to listen to my body and stretch before and after a workout. I think that has helped me so much. I hope you’re able to do a marathon in the future:)

    • You are so smart and I really should take your lead and stretch more 🙂 I don’t take it seriously enough and yet, I’m getting to a point in my life (gosh at 22) where it becomes more and more important.

  5. Man Kaitlin, that post really resonated with me. I was training for a half marathon a year and a half ago when I tore my MCL and got a concussion from playing soccer. I was completely out of commission after that and felt like I was going to go crazy if I couldn’t run. As hard as that time was, once I was given the green light to start running again, I made sure to focus on cross training. Two things I’ve found immensley helpful are yoga and rock climbing. Yoga increases flexibility and works a lot of different muscles that running overlooks. And since I hate the gym and lifting weights, I’ve substituted rock climbing in for a good full body work out, which works my arms more than I would work them normally. That three way combination has really really been helpful and I suggest trying it out if you’re looking for a way to balance out running with some other excercises. Although let’s be real, I would prefer to just run if my body would allow it.

    • Yikes, isn’t that the worst feeling? You feel like you are on a roll, conquering the world and life throws you a curve ball. Not to be completely cheesy but it is all about how we react to those curve balls. I really should take up yoga more often as the lack of flexibility is hindering my other movements. Go figure 🙂 Also, fabulous idea about rock climbing! Oh if we could run like some of those bionic athletes, that would be grand. But, until then, cross-training for happiness it is.

  6. Loved this. I can relate to so much of this! I dislocated my kneecap and tore my MCL and ironically that’s how I got into running but it also causes me the most pain. Now I hear advice like do low impact or stop running long distances but I love it! Weight training does help a lot though- building muscles to help weaknesses. I hope you find what works for you! ☺️

    • Aw thanks Courtney! It’s really tough to bounce back to what we consider the “most athletic point of our life” but it’s all about evolving, right? I admire your speedy Ragnar relay legs! It kills me when people tell me to stop running because they don’t understand what it means to me – to be free, independent, explore, and so on. 🙂 We will work through this!

  7. My favorite part of running has always been the feeling of accomplishment I gain from it – I’ve been “a runner” for over 3 years now, and each run is its own challenge for me. While I keep wondering (hoping) it’ll be easier as I go, it certainly provides an outlet of relief (therapy!) for me, too!

    • I love how you use “accomplishment” because that’s exactly how I feel after exercise! It’s such a wonderful feeling. For some reason I feel that running gets harder and easier at the same time, as strange as it sounds 🙂

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