Numbers can be great motivators for runners. Tallying up weekly, monthly, and annual mileage is a great way to encourage people out of the front door. Looking at your average pace drop over the course of a training cycle helps push you through the hard workouts, knowing the effort will be worthwhile. But numbers can also be a burden. How many of you have gone for a run, only to end up back at your front door having covered something like 9.63 miles? And how many of you have then decided to jog around the block a couple of times, or up and down your street until your Garmin beeped for mile 10, even if it means passing the same person doing their gardening 12 times? We’ve all been there.

If I told you that I got to 6.12 miles on the treadmill 2 weeks ago and had to stop, that should give you an idea of just how quickly my knee pain can come on, and just how impossible it is to run through. And maybe also just how frustrated I am.

Not even THIS would help.

Not even THIS would help.

If I’m being honest with myself, I should have stopped at 5.5 miles. That’s when the creeping pain started to tighten its claws on my outer knee, and when I would have faced minor repercussions had I not been desperate to hit 10k. But I didn’t, and I was in a significant amount of pain for about a week afterward.  So what am I doing wrong?

1.) Pushing too hard, too soon.

Mentally, I’m used to running casual 20 mile runs. I am still somehow of the opinion that any run in single figures is like a side dish; a nice snack, but only satisfying when accompanied by something else (spin class, weights, hiking). I need to get out of that mind-set, and remember that I have spent 7 months doing practically no running. Although I did well to build up slowly from February to April, I should have stuck to a set distance for 2 or 3 weeks before impatiently trying to ramp it up. I should have also kept up with 1 or 2 shorter runs throughout the week, instead of viewing my ‘long run’ as the only one worthy of completing. My idea of ‘building up slowly’ is apparently not my knee’s idea of ‘building up slowly’. But hey, communication is frosty between us at the moment. We’re working on it.

2.) Doing my physio exercises less frequently once I could smell progress.

Which is probably exactly when my body was most in need of said physio exercises. I need to stop seeing these things as merely ‘curative’, but appreciate the importance of them being ‘preventative’. I have made a pact to myself to keep up my physio routine at least 3 times a week for the foreseeable future, and at least twice a week once (and if) I get back to running properly.

3.) Putting so much pressure on myself to GET BACK TO RUNNING NOW!

When you’re someone who plans vacations around running events, it is impossible to forward plan when you don’t know if there’s any point in even paying for flights to an event you might not be able to complete, let alone attempt. I’m not a ‘let’s sit on the beach all day’ kind of girl. And while I appreciate a bit of culture and history, I would be thrilled if all of my holidays could revolve around physical activity. The grim reality is, I might not have any running vacations this year. Or next. So how do I find a way of enjoying my down-time without wallowing in self-pity? The same way I dealt with quitting smoking. By replacing it with something else.

So what have I been filling my time with? Well, mainly trying to develop other areas of my life that long runs and races have forced me to sideline in the past. I’ve been a lot more structured (and varied) with my workouts, and have focused more on tweaking my diet so that it reflects the lack of calorie-busting runs during the weekends, but also works towards nourishing my body more, and aiding muscle recovery since stepping up my weights/kettlebells/spin sessions.

For some reason, cycling doesn’t aggravate my ITB, so there has been a lot of that. So much so, in fact, that I recently qualified as a spin instructor (and taught my first class last Friday!), and by mid-June should also be qualified to teach exercise classes to music.

Freshly qualified! ...And quite sweaty.

Freshly qualified! …And quite sweaty.

Despite the fact that a bit of extra money for covering classes would always be welcome, the main reason the fitness qualifications are starting to snowball is that they will all help me work towards my goal of eventually qualifying as a PE teacher. I’ve even volunteered to help for a couple of hours a week in the department at school, and so far – fingers crossed – the timetable looks like it’ll work out.

So instead of letting numbers make me feel like I am being held back by my injury, how about continuing to let them motivate me.

  • 135 days worth of teaching PE before I can officially register as a teacher in another subject.
  • Back up to squatting 25kg in Body Pump (after starting at 5kg after my injury)
  • 40 REPs (Register of Exercise Professional) points gained by then end of next month (if I pass all of my assessments)
  • Back to being able to hold a plank for 4 minutes
  • 7 weeks until the summer holidays, and (hopefully) a cycle tour of Northern Italy!