I love running magazines, blogs, books. I love talking to other runners and non-runners to hear what they have heard about running. From books I’ve learned the stories of other people’s accomplishments and set-backs. From magazines I’ve found recipes and race or sneaker reviews. From other runners I’ve learned about techniques. Non-runners have shown me how strong motivation can be. I wasn’t in love with the compression socks the first time I wore them, but someone recommended I try them after a run as a recovery technique. I tried that this weekend and loved it. Compression socks are redeemed.
The downside of running advice is that it’s not always beneficial. It’s not that it’s malicious or intentionally detrimental; it’s just that every piece of advice doesn’t fit every runner. It’s easy to forget that when it’s coming from experts or more experienced runners.
Stride is the best example for me. I have a naturally long stride. This is when I walk and when I run. As a result, my feet hit the ground less often than the recommended 180 times per minute. My hip/leg joints “piston” less frequently. I read that to be most energy efficient I “should” be taking shorter strides, landing more often and my feet should be angled a certain way. I changed my stride to match this. It felt really awkward at first but eventually I could run through it.
Over time however, I started getting knee pain. My hips started to ache. I kept trying to run with the short little strides and after 10k my knee would ache so badly I’d be limping more than running. During longer races my hips would ache and afterwards all I could do was sit with ice packs on my knee and hips.
It wasn’t until the race this last weekend that I began to think about what might be causing this. I only changed my stride a few months ago and in all the years I’ve been running, I’ve never had these problems. I tried taking a few strides at my (previously) natural stride. I opened the distance between the footfalls, slowed the number of steps and kept my hips facing forward.
It felt amazing.
I had been nearly in tears for the 2/3 of the 30k a few weeks ago, and in pain halfway through the half marathon on Saturday. It seemed like I couldn’t get beyond 10k without hurting. That’s not what I wanted for running, and certainly not something that I wanted to have to anticipate for a full marathon.
Going back to my natural stride felt amazing. That’s not to say that my legs and joints aren’t going to hurt next time I run, but I realized that I know my body the best. I can read and consider the advice of experts, but they don’t know my structure. They don’t know what my body is able (or not able) to do. If my stride needs to be a metre long, then my stride needs to be a metre long. I know my body the best.
This can apply to epilepsy too. I know when I am not feeling well, and I know the difference between when I am not feeling well because of a migraine and when my brain is being squiggly. I may choose to disregard it and try to push through. I may understand that it could be more, and act accordingly. I know my body the best. Something that might have been bearable a previous day may suddenly not be. If stress can be a trigger, I know how much I can handle. I know what I need to do to alleviate stress, and that may be different every single time. Sometimes solving it may be running and sometimes it may be binge watching Netflix. Sometimes it could be a couple glasses of wine and trying to create costumes or makeup (Halloween is right around the corner, after all!).
There was a time that I was at a hospital and I disagreed with the neurologist on call there. He was not my doctor and he was not my neurologist. I was telling him something and he was not listening. The person there with me was telling him something and he wasn’t listening to her either. There have been very few times I have argued with doctors. I respect them and the time they have invested in their patients. They went to medical school for a very long time to be able to do their jobs. In this case however, I did not agree and he was not listening to what I was saying. I know my body and what I can and cannot do. I’m sure he attributed my belligerence to a post-seizure brain, but it just came down to that he wasn’t listening to me.
In retrospect about the change in stride, my brain was doing exactly what I hated from that doctor. I wasn’t listening. I wasn’t listening when it was important. In both cases, the doctor and I were just trying to do what we thought was best. The doctor was trying to find a solution and I was trying to improve my running.
It is so infinitely important that we listen to what our bodies are saying. One size does not fit all when it comes to running and to epilepsy.
[Please note: I am in no way recommending that we don’t listen to doctors or specialists. They know what they are talking about. Getting a second opinion isn’t terrible if you really don’t agree, but I do not suggest arbitrarily disregarding what they say. I went to my neurologist immediately afterwards and clarified the situation.]