To hit the ground running is considered an admirable personality trait. When it happens literally, it doesn’t feel so admirable! That’s what happened to me one sunny Saturday afternoon in July. I was running along my favorite course on Old River Road at my usual pace of six-miles per hour, a nice, steady, comfortable ten-minute mile. Without any warning, I went from “six-to-zero” in what felt like a second. I hit the ground running–my elbow, shoulder and head landing in a simultaneous smack! Ouch!
I picked myself up, stunned and bleeding, and took inventory of my damaged parts. A woman in a van stopped, took pity on me and offered me a ride home, my Good Samaritan. I asked her if she was sure she wanted me in her car, all bloody and sweaty. Not only did she say yes, she was going in the opposite direction and turned around to take me the three miles back to my house. She even had an old towel in her car which she donated to the cause.
She was a runner herself, the mother of a nineteen-month old boy. He wasn’t with her when she picked me up but she mentioned that she runs with her baby in his jogging stroller. I told her I may have to consider doing that myself, although at sixty-one I didn’t have a baby (or grand-baby) to push. For a minute I had a little fun with the idea of running with a walker! What a sight that would be!
Two days later I was sporting the most colorful black eye I have ever seen. It rivaled Rocky! I had a linear skull fracture and a fuzzy head for about three weeks. My bare shoulder had scraped along the asphalt and looked like a piece of raw hamburger meat. My elbow matched my eye. The good thing was that I only had to put eye make-up on one eye! The challenge was to match my wardrobe to the daily changes in my eye. It went from mid-summer sunset to late bruise green . . . some new names for the 64-color box of Crayola Crayons!
Six weeks later I was back to normal but I knew I had to make some changes in my exercise program. I was sure I hadn’t tripped. I have fallen other times while running in exactly the same pattern. This time was the worst. I have a great heart but that won’t do me much good if I have another “Humpty Dumpty” experience and crack my head beyond repair.
I have embarked on a new venture . . . race walking. It’s a form of walking that propels you forward faster and uses different muscles than regular walking or running. I’m just getting started. I have found a personal trainer who specializes in race walking. I plan to see her after I get some nerve studies done on my leg to see what is causing me to fall. In the meantime, I am pursuing my goals of keeping aerobically fit, doing weight-bearing exercises and going along the same courses that I have enjoyed for years while keeping myself safe and learning a new skill, not to mention discovering a whole new set of muscles. In the process I have had to do new warm-ups and cool-downs to prepare before and stretch after the muscles used in race walking. I have to admit, though, every so often I break into a jog for old-times’ sake but only for a minute. I also plan to run if I go to the beach. I figure the worst thing that can happen if I fall on wet sand is a derm-abrasion to my face which might have the advantage of wiping out a few wrinkles in the process!
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What have I learned from this experience? Always carry a towel in your car. On my first walk back to the scene of my crash, I stopped by my Good Samaritan’s house and gave her a brand new towel. When you are faced with adversity and take an unexpected “road-trip” as I did that day, look for new ways to exercise. I had no idea it was possible to walk so fast. You just have to know what muscles to use and how to use them. I recently changed my status in an upcoming Oregon Road Runners’ Club race from “runner” to “walker”. I’ll be doing my first official 10K race as a race walker. I’ll let you know how it goes in my next article.
Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM