16 weeks ago I first noticed the pain in my left foot that led to the diagnosis of a 4th metatarsal stress fracture. In these past four months I went through a period of exercise “depression.” I lost my motivation, felt pretty hopeless and any signs of encouragement were followed with two steps backward. Only within the last month have I seen significant strides toward recovery, and I owe it all to time and complete rest.
Complete rest means exactly what it sounds like….actually resting 100% and not just taking it down a notch from normal.
I was in the boot for a month, and during that month I admittedly walked around way too much. Finishing up my last semester in college and being on campus all-day required more movement than was good for me. That was pseudo-recovery in my mind, but unfortunately I couldn’t do much about it because school was my priority.
Note: During and after the boot I did upper body strength training. I can’t say for certain but I don’t think that hindered my recovery. If anything it helped me mentally so I probably wouldn’t take that back.
After my last injury update, still discouraged from wavering improvement, I started doing even less than I was doing. I stopped the 10-15 minutes of non-impact cardio that I had just introduced. I had a handicapped parking pass that I used religiously to limit walking. I cut out random trips to Target and the mall because I knew I would wander around way too much. I sat on my couch/bed with my feet elevated to eliminate any pressure. I exercised even less than I had been (which wasn’t a lot).
It was only after true, complete rest (around 2 weeks, so not that long) that I felt strong enough in daily life to try cardio (Spinning) and then running. I first ran on the Alter-G for two weeks, then on a regular treadmill, and then outside. Always following the 10% rule and never running on back-to-back days.
If we were wishing for things, I’d wish for two: 1) that I took recovery more seriously A LOT sooner (and got my MRI right when I noticed pain), and 2) that there was a concrete formula for how to recover from an injury. This process has been trial-and-error to a T for me. I’ve struggled with being both too ambitious and too cautious. Sometimes wanting to run more but hurting and sometimes holding myself back in the absence of pain.
I’m hesitant to say that I am fully recovered. I’m still very leery of any successful runs and I think pain-free exercise is too good to be true. I might forever be cautious of my foot now. A stress fracture isn’t like a wonky knee acting up and any pain is a bad sign in my mind. I know that bones heal so maybe with more time I will start to feel relaxed in that sense.
In summary, my advice for stress fracture recovery:
-Stay off your freaking foot and sit on the couch (and don’t you dare feel guilty).
-Don’t cheat your recovery and walk around too much in the boot like I did.
-Find access to an Alter-G when you’re ready to run. It was a great way to ease back into it, physically and mentally.
Where I am now:
-Wearing new inserts for my extremely high arches (recommended by my orthopedic).
-Working on correcting my foot stroke (I under-pronate and land on the outside of my foot…aka where the fracture was located).
-Still icing my foot after runs. If anything this just eases my mind.
-Up to 15 miles/week :)
It feels pretty darn good to be (mostly) back. I’m sure I’ll do another update with workouts and such soon.
Run happy, people!!!!