Running Tuesdays: Post-Surgery Cross Training

I’ve had two neck surgeries. The first one was in 2006 where one disc was fused. After that surgery I didn’t have to figure out what running looked like because I wasn’t a runner then. Running started for me a year later.

Once I started running it was like I found what I had been missing. Entering races helped me do what comes naturally, set goals and push for more. All that came to a stall again in 2014 when I had to have two more discs fused. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate even more the value of cross training.

But let me back up. I haven’t always valued cross training. In fact, I avoided it for several years. Very few things interested me without the movement of running. So I would kid myself that tennis, which I enjoyed, was sufficient cross training. And when other people told me their cross training habits, I just shook my head. “That’s not for me.”

So I dabbled. I’d swim occasionally. I’d occasionally utilize the gym by the pool where I lived. But I had to make myself. I dabbled for 4 years. 

Finally, I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to getting under the 4:00 mark on my 2012 marathon. So I started working with a trainer at YouFit. We focused mostly on core and legs, which I immediately saw benefits. He also challenged me with plyometrics, which I loved. Result, met my goal with a 3:57 in Savannah.

Forward to 2014. Post surgery was not going as well as hoped, as far as seeing my neck handle running like the surgeon said it would. For a year I struggled. All I could successfully do was walk, which drove me crazy. At my year review in October 2015, the surgeon said he finally believed I should do physical therapy; he hadn’t thought I needed it immediately after surgery, but said maybe that’s the answer. He was right.

The simple strength building was exactly what I needed. It’s now another year later and I can’t imagine not doing these things now. And that includes other things I forced myself to do during my year of “what is going on?”  In that year of frustration my dabbling included swimming and learning the value of yoga for runners. 

Thanks to this time of learning these past two years, I have a reasonable cross training plan that works for me. Could it be more intense? Sure. Should it be? I’ll put it this way-if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.


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