Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A smiling runner

To recap: I have been in physical therapy for the last four weeks for foot pain that started when I was training for my half marathon this summer. The pain started at the base of my toes and radiated out into two of them. At its worst, I didn't want to walk for a while after running because I was in so much pain. Then it started to bother me when I walked. Then it started to bother me when I just stood around on hard floors. I saw a podiatrist, who gave me anti-inflammatories and referred me to the physical therapist.

I'm not sure how many of you have been in physical therapy, but at the place I'm going now, there is one therapist and two or three assistants. After an initial consult with the therapist, I spend most of my time in therapy working through an exercise program with help from the assistants, and the therapist checks in with me for a while at each visit. The therapist has three or four patients at a time and has to spend some time with each of us and have us do various exercises or treatments. I get an ultrasound treatment at each visit and then the therapist manipulates my foot to see how it's progressing.

In one of my first weeks there, the therapist was working with another patient and chatting. In the course of their conversation, I overheard the patient say, "If I ever saw a smiling runner, I might take up running." I think he was talking about passing a runner on his drive over there. He wasn't talking to me and the comment wasn't directed at me, but the therapist said, "Jennifer's a runner. What do you think of that? Do you smile when you run?" I said that I would feel kind of silly smiling as I ran, especially if there were cars around, but that I did enjoy running in nice surroundings. (In reality, I always tend to breathe both through my mouth and nose when running so smiling is sort of impractical.)

Seriously, I know where the patient was coming from. Some runners are super-serious and almost grimly self-righteous about the whole running thing, and they tend to make an impression. But overall, most runners are pretty laid-back and don't tend to take themselves too seriously or judge people for not running. I think the patient was just trying to be funny -- I've heard similar comments before. I tend to just laugh stuff like that off. If you haven't tried it, it probably doesn't look like much fun. But I joked to my husband later that you shouldn't make a remark like that if you aren't prepared to back it up with action. If this patient saw a runner smile at him as he drove by, would that really make him go out and buy a pair of running shoes?

If he didn't mean it, it's a good thing he didn't drive by me today. I was given the go-ahead by both the therapist and the podiatrist to try running again. I downloaded the C25K app for my iPhone, which provides cues for when to walk or run using popular Couch to 5K running program as you're listening to your own music. I did the Day One workout today and the combination of hearing U2's "A Beautiful Day" during a run interval and the relatively nice weather for January, made me so happy that I was almost giddy, and I was smiling and singing along to the music, probably not sounding all that great. No one was around.

Sometimes when you do walk-run intervals, the run intervals feel really long. For me it was the other way around. I just wanted to be running forever. Still, I'm following the program because it's a good way to rein myself in. I did all of 8 60-second run intervals interspersed with 90-minute walk intervals. The program only requires a 5-minute cooldown, but I did 25 more minutes while listening to part of the new 2 Fit Chicks podcast, for a 55-minute total workout. I felt really good after I was finished.

I had a tiny bit of toe tingling after the run but it didn't stick around for long. I will be seeing the physical therapist tomorrow to give him the full report. I'm still feeling fine and I haven't even taken my anti-inflammatory yet today.


  1. I can see you smiling now - you are indeed someone who loves doing it and having had a forced break, you're now back and smiling all the more. Following the C25K cues is a great idea. How nice to have a beautiful day to try your winged feet again :)

  2. Generally, I'm working hard enough physically, like you said with the breathing and all, to just smile like a fool. But in my soul, I have a huge smile! Glad you enjoyed yourself. You don't have a neuroma in your foot do you?

  3. I listened to Two Fit Chicks yesterday and thought it was so cool they mentioned you. I am so happy you are starting to run a bit again!

    Ha. It is hard to smile when running, because of the breathing, like you said. It's funny how people knock running so much. What are they afraid of?

  4. Like Carol, I might be grunting on the outside, but smiling on the inside from a hard workout. However, there has been times when I smile when I workout because I am happy to just move my body.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07