“Did a bone break and come out from my foot?” I stop at the 5 km mark of the 10 km Turkey Trot in Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia. I look down at my right foot. There’s no bone sticking out. Strange, because it feels like it. Well, at least that’s what it would feel like if a broken bone did. All those runners I passed a good long while ago are passing me now. I was in the lead pack and now I’m going to get a big DNF next to my name.

I’m put into the Meat Wagon that will take me to the medical tent. The attendee says, “looks like one of two things. Severe tendinitis, or a torn ligament.” No broken bone. That’s good news. But I don’t like the sound of “torn ligament” because the Medical Laboratory Technologist in me knows that sort of injury takes forever to heal and requires a long time of rehabilitation.

My friend drives me to Delta Hospital and the doctor confirms that no bone is broken. He says to me, “one of two things, tendinitis or ruptured ligament. Neither, as you know, don’t show up on X-ray. All I can tell you is you’re going to need to be off your foot and take NSAID, heat and ice, and if it clears up after three months, then it was your tendon and you can go back to regular activities. If it hasn’t improved after three months, then it is your ligament and you are going to be off as long as six months or longer.”

I end up being off my foot for a year. All my hard work in training to run a 16 minute 5K and an under 45 minute 10K was gone. Rehabilitation took another six months to just be able to walk and fear of another injury held me back another six months.

Fear of injury is very real. I no longer wanted to push myself, even just a little. If I felt even a little bit of pain, I stopped and called it quits and went home.

This was unacceptable. I became my own prisoner. Trapped behind an injury that was no longer there. I’d become conditioned by an invisible tether. And that’s when I made the decision. I needed to be a runner again. I needed to remind myself what it was like to be brand new (again) and that in order to move forwards I needed to take two steps back.

I set my watch for 30 minutes and did what I had done when I first began as a runner: I ran for 1:00 and walked for 1:00 and repeated this until my timer beeped at me like some sort of congratulations!

My foot and legs were quite sore and I took a full week of rest before my next outing. As for my next outing, I changed things up slightly and ran for 1:30 and walked for 1:00 and repeated this until I was congratulated again for my efforts.

The following week I ran for 2:00 and walked for 1:00. After that I was running for 3:00 and resting for only 0:30. I kept upping my run time the following weeks until I eventually was capable of running the whole 30 minutes.

I extended this excercise to run 60 minutes. I broke up my sessions into intervals of running and walking, and kicking up my run time in small increments while decreasing my walking time.

This strategy works and it is something I use still: to help my friends and family get started in running without injuring them; and after I get sick and my body is still working hard to recover.

How does this play in to the Shut Up & Tri theme? Easy! Running is part of the triathlon sport! In a more serious note, this strategy is useful for swimming and biking and can boost confidence by breaking down a bigger goal into much more smaller intervals that are obtainable. Matter of fact, this can be applied to pretty much all sports and training.

So if you are looking to do a half-marathon, then break down that distance. You can start by running and walking until you can run nonstop for 5 km. Then run/walk until you can tackle 10 km nonstop. Or instead of using distance you can substitute it for time. HUGE WARNING!!! Do not increase your distance or time by more than 10% and round up. Endurance training should not hurt. If it does, stop. Rest. Reassess and come up with a new plan. Come back even stronger. Smile. Have fun!

Note: seek medical attention and get yourself a good clean bill of health before you dive into sports or training. Also, endurance training should never be hard nor should it hurt. Er on the side of caution. If something hurts, don’t push through the pain like I did. Don’t set yourself up to fail and lose out on all the training you put in to yourself. It would be a terrible shame for you to invest so much time, effort, and money only to be sidelined by a major injury that could have been prevented if you’d only listened to you body.