COMMUNITY: Road to recovery can get bumpy

Running tips from Erin Moeller

JR Ogden
Published: February 15 2014 | 5:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:42 am in
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Editor’s note: Erin Moeller, 36, of Mount Vernon is a lifelong runner who qualified for the last two Olympic Marathon Trials. A native of Ryan, she’s a graduate of North-Linn and Wartburg and works for Benchmark Inc. in Cedar Rapids. She has three children — Ryne (9), Evelyn (4) and Kellyn (6 months) — with husband Andy.

By Erin Moeller, community contributor

As you may recall, my last column shared that our newborn son was recently born with spina bifida. What I failed to mention was the events leading up to his birth.

After learning of his condition at our routine 20-week ultrasound, we opted to take the plunge and forge ahead with fetal surgery to close his lesion en utero in an attempt to minimize complications associated with spina bifida.

Fetal surgery? Yes, you read this correctly. A team of experienced medical professionals basically performed a C-section to get to Kellyn’s back side, closed up his lesion and then proceeded to staple my belly up and allow our baby to grow for several more weeks. Oh yeah, in addition to hoping and praying my uterus wouldn’t rupture throughout the remainder of my pregnancy, I was also put on “limited activity,” which basically is a kind description for bed rest.

This girl, this runner who hadn’t missed more than a few days in a row following the births of my first two children and the recovery days following numerous marathons, was confined to laying on the couch for three months leading up to Kellyn’s birth — and then another six weeks away from running after he was born.

All-in-all, I went 108 days with no running. Despite being a runner since seventh grade some 23 years ago, I have never experienced this amount of time away from one of my favorite pastimes. Even battling through various injuries throughout the years, I always was blessed to be able to do some type of cross-training. Not this time — no biking, no elliptical, no nothing.

My only movement consisted of occasional trips to get a drink and visit the bathroom.

As you might imagine, the muscles become a bit weak with this lack of activity. Following Kellyn’s birth, my first few attempts at running (after the doctors gave me the green light) were more than a little humbling.

I painfully trudged through eight slow and shaky laps at the Cornell College indoor track — to complete one mile. The muscles in my legs trembled and ached as though I’d just completed 26.2 miles. They were weak and any bit of endurance I once had was non-existent.

Despite the agony, somehow it was liberating to be able to slip my running shoes back on and shuffle my way around the track. One mile grew to two and soon I was able to tackle five miles at a time. This marathon runner who has been known to run more than 90 miles per week was thrilled with the accomplishment of completing a five-mile shuffle.

Returning to running was a true challenge in so many aspects. It was painful. It was frustrating, struggling to finish even a single mile. It was humbling to see my slowed pace. It was so darned much work running with all the extra baby weight that has yet to be shed.

I felt I was able to feel some of the pain my non-running friends have encountered as they’ve approached the sport. Instead of throwing in the towel, I decided to approach my return to fitness one day at a time, one run at a time.

Despite all the pain and agony, I managed to remain patient with myself throughout my return. There were days of frustration and points throughout the first weeks of running when I would have rather sat on the curb and cried from the pain and lack of speed and strength. However, I told myself that giving up was not an option.

Here are a few key elements of my return:

  • Being patient. Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a patient person. However, I repeatedly told myself to cut myself some slack. Not only was I returning from the delivery of a baby, I also was recovering from not one, but two pretty major surgeries.
  • Staying positive. Coach always said “a positive lie is better than the negative truth.” Even when my legs were begging me to stop, I kept telling myself that my body was capable of more. Thank goodness the body is able to achieve what the mind believes.
  • Approach one day at a time. I resorted to the fact my speed and endurance wasn’t going to return over night (if ever). I just focused on the day’s run and told myself to do the very best I could on that given day.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. I never would have accomplished my return to running on my own. Thankfully, I have some of the most supportive fiends and family by my side who continue to encourage me along the way.
  • Set goals. Goals are a great way to keep a person focused and measure success. I’ve personally started with a few “baby steps” and am cautiously considering more aggressive goals for the future. Stay tuned for more on goal setting.
  • Take in your surroundings. In case you haven’t noticed, it really is beautiful out there. I’m tired of this cold and snow, too, but all this white stuff really is pretty. Allow yourself to look around and enjoy the beauty. Just be careful not to slip and fall.
  • Recruit a partner in crime. Running with others can take your mind off the task at hand, push you to go a little farther and run a little harder.
  • Have fun. Don’t be afraid to slip off the watch and head out for a run completely unplugged. Through leaving all timing mechanisms behind, I was able to overlook my slowed pace. Instead of measuring my success against a time on my watch, I allowed myself to be thrilled at the mere completion of a workout.

Remember, the most important part of any activity is having fun. Life’s too short to have it any other way. It might not be easy, but hopefully slipping into your running shoes and heading out the door for a run manages to bring a smile to your face.

If you’re struggling to get back into running, rest assured, you’re not alone. Be patient, believe in yourself and be sure to have a little fun in the process.

Happy running.

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