If you're a middle-aged recreational athlete, you may have certain goals for yourself. But if your number one goal isn't to stay injury-free, it doesn't matter what goals 2-5 are. Try to get faster; complete a race a month; increase your mileage; figure out the right cross-training regimen... all of it is for naught if you get injured, because injuries take way longer to heal as you age.
Things are going decently well for me post-stress fracture. I've been increasing my mileage gradually and safely and am up to about 12-15 miles per week. That's less than a mile increase each week. I'm running only three days a week and cross-training the rest of the time, so I have at least one full recovery day between runs. I've started training with a heart-rate monitor to help me train aerobically and remember to train at an easy pace (I'm a big fan of 80/20 running, which most recreational runners aren't so great at).
But I did something to my foot a week ago. Sometime between my Saturday long run and my Tuesday brisk walk with a friend, something happened.
It felt like the beginning of plantar fasciitis. So I started doing all the things you do: I got new insoles (shoes are fine), I iced my foot three times a day, and most importantly, I took a break from running.
All those things helped. I'm ready to try an easy run/walk tomorrow, or maybe Thursday, in hopes of running the Fort Hunt 10K on Sunday (though I won't be racing it).
I also had tons of friends tell me to use the foam roller on my calves, because tight calf muscles can contribute to plantar fasciitis. I kinda rolled my eyes at this, because the problem is in my FOOT, not my LEG. And my calves didn't feel tight.
But I went ahead and started using the foam roller on my calves, because my friends are not flaky woo-woo people, and danged if they're not right. My foot feels better in no small part because my calf is better. It didn't feel tight to me, but the foam roller don't lie.
Becoming a runner later in life means I'm playing catch-up on a lot of things... not least of which is a basic awareness of how the body works. My body was always the thing that carried my brain around. (I also grew up in a religion that prized the mind, or "spirit," over the body--especially the female body--but that's another post.)
Now I know better. Of course the leg and the foot would impact one another. But really, everything's connected. I just heard a running expert on a podcast talk about how running while holding onto these special grip things helps his hip flexors fire better. Whaaaaaaaa?
I haven't dug into the research on it. But I shouldn't dismiss it out of hand either. It's all connected.
As a child, I loved going through my grandparents’ encyclopedias. A favorite section was on the human body, with intricate, full-color diagrams of the circulatory system, muscles, nerves. Each system was illustrated on its own clear plastic page, so you could view it on its own, or you could lay them on top of each other—organs on top of arteries on top of bones.
One of the gifts running has given me is that I'm starting to see all those disparate systems as part of one whole. As the psalmist writes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Even when our cranky calf is making for an angry foot.