Emotional elliptical

Things just got a little out of control at the tiny gym in my apartment building.  Or: I’m a giant baby.  Probably the latter.

The Crankle is still cranky, which is in turn making me quite cranky.  I am missing out on the nicest running weather of the year.  I want to wade through the crunchy leaves and bask in the crisp sunshine.  Footstomp.

But instead, I’m suffering through my 40-minute elliptical workout (40 minutes is my official tolerance on that thing, I think) when in stroll a fit-looking girl and fit-looking guy.  There are only four machines in the gym and they are oriented like so:

Naturally, Fit-girl and Fit-guy go for the two treadmills, flanking me (I’m on the left elliptical).  Naturally, I begin to seethe.  And naturally, I hone in on the girl as the main target of my seething.

Hold up, I tell myself.  She’s probably going to power-walk while texting.  No need to be all envious and shit. Right?

Wrong.  Fit-girl cranks up the speed.  She’s a legit runner, dammit.  I surreptitiously steal glances at her treadmill’s display.  (I know I am not the only one who does this.)  7.5.  7.7.  7.9.  8.0.  She’s cruising along at sevensomething pace.  Screw her.

I crank up the resistance on my elliptical.  I’m not sure why.  I can’t compete with that.  Not on a stupid elliptical.  And she’s not competing with me, anyway.  She’s banging out a nice little run, occasionally chatting with Fit-guy over my steaming, seething head.  Probably dismissed me in an instant as some dumb gymrat who spends hours toiling away on cardio machines so she can chug Michelob Ultra on the weekend.

I kind of want to cry.  I want a chance to explain myself.  I want to wear a sign on my back that says HEY, I’M A REAL RUNNER TOO.  I’M JUST A LITTLE HURT RIGHT NOW.  I’m not sure why I care so much.  But I do.

My emotions swing wildly between boiling jealous hatred for Fit-girl and Fit-guy (and everyone out there running through crunchy leaves) and resigned self-pity.  I fear that every day on this stupid elliptical is costing me fitness – fitness that I cannot afford to lose, because even deeper down I fear that I’m not good enough to be out there, period.  There will always be someone faster and fitter and stronger than me.  Paranoia, neuroses, envy, self-doubt: all a part of the running game.

All of this is highly irrational; I realize that.  I mean, I’ve been on the injured list for, like, a week.  Big effing deal.


But it is kind of a big effing deal.  Running is what I do – it’s what I’ve done for the last 17 years.  It’s the foundation of my social life, the activity that defines my lifestyle.  I just moved to a new city and the only place I’ve really made friends is on the track.  I’ve dumped most of my eggs into the running basket, and to see that basket wobbling perilously, threatening to empty all of my efforts into a pile of cracked shells?  Well…it kind of sucks.

The injury psyche is a complex thing.  It’s not as simple as “well, I like to run and now I can’t do it and that makes me sad.”  It’s an identity crisis of sorts.  I think this is especially true in our social-media-driven, Dailymile-and-Strands-logging, training-minutiae-over-sharing world.  It’s becoming the norm to broadcast everything that we do.  These bits of information define us, whether it’s cultivating a foodie following by Tweeting check-ins at trendy restaurants or posting pictures of your kid on Facebook.  A temporary interruption in our daily activities is no longer just personal; it profoundly affects the image of ourselves that we project to the world.

Anyway.  With respect to this post, here is what you should probably say to me: calm the hell down, now.  It’s nearly certain you’ll be back to running in a few days.  There are runners who are injured for weeks and months on end.  They can complain.  You?  Not so much.  Sack up and shut up, toots.

But it’s my blog and I can cry – and be a whiny, self-indulgent arse – if I want to. 🙂

Time to hang out with my new best friends:

And psych myself up for more scintillating adventures on the helliptical.

Today’s EAT: After my tantrum in the gym, I cleaned myself up and decided to go have a black bean burger and french fries from the bar next door.

And to answer an important question?  Yes, it is acceptable to wear compression socks to the bar.

You’re welcome.

Today’s DRINK: How fitting that Marie just did a post on Black IPAs.  Because I happened to enjoy a Grave Robber Black IPA from LoneRider Brewing with my burger.

I have to share in the enthusiasm for this kind of beer.  It’s really perfect: somewhere between a normal IPA (which sometimes are too puckery for my taste) and a real dark beer like a porter (which are delicious but fill me up quickly, leaving no room for french fries, and that’s no good).  LoneRider’s version was just a tad sweet and nice and smooth.  Delicious.

Today’s RUN: 40 angry elliptical minutes.  More of the same for a few days until the pain in my Achilles totally goes away.  It’s feeling better now, but still kinda hurts when I walk around, especially barefoot.  Hrmph.

Today’s QUESTION: How do you deal with injuries and setbacks? Are you a whiny drama queen like me? 🙂


45 responses to “Emotional elliptical

  1. Ugh when I was hurt, I wanted to make a t-shirt that said something along the lines of “if I wasn’t hurt I’d be running faster than you right now”. I hated feeling like some idiot girl who works out in her tiffany’s jewelry while texting. It’s the worst. But you’ll get better, and hopefully there will still be some crunchy leaves to frolic in.

  2. I could have written a lot of the same thing when I was recovering from my (sh)IT Band injury last fall. Down to the “helliptical.” I used it once and was bored out of my mind.

    I’ve had 3 injuries that have caused me to take downtime. 2 of the 3 happened during marathon season, therefore I was a whiny drama queen 🙂 The other happened in the winter, which was actually not the worst time to be cross-training (plus it was because of that one that I took up yoga.) So maybe it’s also the time of year that it hits too…

    Wishing you a speedy recovery!!

  3. Oh, I’m a whiner too. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
    When I do non-running workouts, like the elliptical, or weights, I tend to wear marathon or half-marathon shirts and/or BondiBands. It’s like having a giant banner on my chest…like, “YES I AM ON THIS STUPID ELLIPTICAL…but dammit, I ran a marathon a month ago so I’m still better than you. SEE? I’m a real runner, too. I swear.”
    I am not on the IPA train. Too hoppy. I would make love to a good stout, though.

    • I often find them too hoppy, too. Try one of the black IPAs – if you love stout, I think you’ll like it! Much different from a regular IPA (well, at the least the one I have tried was, but I plan on trying more!)

  4. I’m all over the place when injured or taking a break b/c of potential injury …one second I’m completely dedicated to my yoga practice as the activity that will surely get me through and the next I’m planning for all the large sized clothing I’ll inevitably have to buy b/c I’m not running and eating large bags of salty snacks for dinner every night.

  5. You know what? I don’t know many people who want to read a blog where someone is always happy, always healthy, and always running. It would make me, the reader, grow envious! If you were to only blog about the best-of-times and omit the worst-of-times, it wouldn’t be an accurate portrayal of your life and your readership would dwindle! Thanks for keeping it real. 🙂

  6. i hear you. we TOTALLY define ourselves by what we “do,” or our most time-consuming activity, and the internet certainly delineates these personas very clearly. however, these passions change over time as a result of what we can and can’t do at certain times. so you can’t run for a week – let’s hear more about your drinks and eats. ya get me? aaand i will call the wahhhhmbulance on ya ’cause it’s only been a week! i’m sure you’ll heal up just fine and be writing about tempo runs and track workouts very soon. chin up, chica, and keep up the awesome compression-sock-in-bar look. i like it.

    • Thanks! I will admit I was totally thinking of you when I wrote this and was like, uh, Sofia was on crutches for months, stop yer bitchin’, Shelby. 🙂 So you can call the wahhhhhmbulance on me any time! 🙂

  7. Yes. Yes, I know where you’re coming from. Cut to: sobbing breakdown on my bed. Because THAT IS CLASSY. Bitch all you want. I mentioned this today, but I went about three months with NO RUNNING NONE, and just turned into a miserable gym rat. It sucked ass and I was a cranky little pisser. You are being completely rationally irrational. You are also saving yourself one buttload of grief while nipping the injury in the bud now.

    But here’s my problem – WHY was fitgirl running on the treadmill during perfect running weather? Couldn’t she take her cardiovascular ability to the crunchy leaves? Dumbfuck.

    • I wondered the same thing about her running on the TM instead of outside! I think some people are skirred of running “downtown” (where I live) when it’s dark out (which it was getting to be, at the time of the incident in question). That’s the best explanation I could come up with. 🙂

      • shelby, i honestly just don’t feel like going out when it’s all cold sometimes (like today) and i like to do easy runs on the TM because i read magazines while i do them 🙂 long and tempos i prefer outside, but i really like the mix.


      Yesterday I was doing a body pump class (Heh heh that sounds dirty) and totally watching a girl rip out decently paced intervals outside the room. I was angry, because I’d just run outside and knew it was gorgeous…why the fuck was she stuck between two people walking at 2 MPH? WHY WAS SHE DOING THAT?

      Grrrr MORE CAPS PLZ

  8. I capitalized a lot in that post. Sorry. Too much reading Angry Runner on Twitter.

  9. YAY black IPA season!! I’ve haven’t tried that one but I’ll have to look for it.

    I totally judge people according to their speed on the treadmill. I think it’s a rule of the gym. I also don’t like to leave if the person next to be has been on theirs longer. Or if THEY leave first, I’m like, “pussy.” Not out loud though. Under my breath. Usually.

  10. i’m not a drama queen per se but i get wicked moody! i felt the same way when i was on the elliptical for those weeks i had terrible shin splints. and i HATED seeing people running on the tm or, even worse, seeing people outside running.

    LOVE that you wore compression socks to the bar. i kind of want to do the same tonight…

  11. oooo i may be even whiner… i have the same complex… i wanna so “whoa whoa, you realize i caaaan run right?” the other day i was at the gym trying to give my sore leg a break on the elliptical and in walks a fit girl running a strong treadmill pace.. i could only take it for 5min before i switched over to the treadmill and started a little competition in my head!

  12. I could have written the exact same post during any one of my injury phases. Luckily you wrote about it (better than I would have) because I think a lot of us can identify.

    It sucks. Hang in there!

  13. Um, yeah. In my head.

    And this is EXACTLY why I can’t bring myself to do dailymile or strands and why I NEVER mention specific training paces. IT FREAKS ME OUT.

    And pretty sure I would have just gotten off the thing, gone home, and started smashing stuff. So there is that.

  14. I laughed a lot while reading this post. Well done, Shelby.

  15. Are we twin sisters? You just voiced the entire gym experience for me lately…I have an injury too and was relegated to walking/jogging on the treadmill. I would get so mad and jealous of the real runners on treadmills next to me, eyeing their speed, analyzing their form, seething! I’d think “Don’t judge me for jogging I ran HOOD TO COAST mother effer!” Of course this was all in my head and it’s not like anyone was judging me for walking.

    Grrrr I hate the treadmill.

  16. Aww Shelb, I know how you feel. When my calf was bugging me last month (is this contagious?? Both Sarah and Kelly had similar calf woes!), I was convinced I’d be resigned to the elliptical or worse…the pool! forever. And I would get super passive aggressive whenever anytime tried to talk to me about their running. “Oh that’s GREAT that you just finished an awesome 10 miler in the sunshine. I am SO happy for you”. Meanwhile, I am thinking – “STFU”.

    The rage will pass. So will the calf pain. I promise. xoxo

  17. I have always been a runner, too. Not at the caliber of yourself or your lovely readers, but it’s always been part of me. When I broke my foot one summer I was depressed and moped around for a few weeks (queue Charlie Brown music). I got really jealous when I would see a girl I went to high school with out flaunting her endless miles at me on my way to work each day.

    If I were you, I would just start wearing only race shirts on the elliptical. And remind yourself that you would totally kick fit girls ass in a real race.

  18. Shelby I’m worried about your injury! I am just getting over a not-too-bad achilles injury myself and when i saw the doc he said defi do not do the elliptical because the motion is too much like running and will only make it worse. I had been doing the elliptical and after it was giving me more pain but i was too frustrated to realize i was making it worse until the doc pointed it out (but i did the recumbent bike (gag!) and that was okay). ALSO do not walk around barefoot- the doc told me i need to be in shoes with the heel higher than the toe part of the shoe to give the tendon a rest (okay im not a doctor so these are not technical terms) so ive been wearing my running shoes in the house for a few weeks. i am starting to feel better and i know everyone’s body and injuries are different but i wanted to share this with you and hope that it will help! i have only been out 3 wks and getting back slowly (15mi week so sad!). OH one more thing- I was sticking the heck out of my lower leg (sort of below the calf muscle) and the doc also said that was not good-because the area is already inflamed and annoyed and sticking was going to irritate it more (for me the concentration of my pain was where my calf muscles meet the tendon so the pain was just below my calf muscle. finally i did use a topical anti-inflammatory and i believe that helped . . .i know you don’t want to hear this but i know you know it already you just have to rest properly for some days! okay sorry so much and obviously am not giving you real medical advice because i have no qualifications for that but i wanted to share with you my experience!

    • Aw, thanks! There is a lot of conflicting info out there but it definitely helps to hear others’ experiences! The elliptical doesn’t seem to be bothering it, but I’ll certainly keep that in mind. I think (according to my extensive Google research) it depends on whether it’s the muscle that houses the actual achilles that is strained, or the soleus muscle (which is up a little higher). The two strains apparently feel very similar but have different courses of treatment, so….yeah. I’ve been running the stick over an area of my calf that always gets knotted up (has for a while, happens on both sides!) so I don’t *think* that’s hurting anything, but I guess you never know! Anyway, thanks for the comment! 🙂

      • Do your compression socks help with injury? Ive read so much conflicted stuff about them so i would like your personal view, especially because we have a similar injury right now. Thanks :)!

  19. Great post, Shelby! I think you said everything perfectly. Sometimes I think I put a lot of eggs in my running basket too, and when it threatens to dump itself over I FREAK OUT! I think you’re being smart though – it will be nice in NC for a long time and you’ll have plenty of outside runs to look forward to after you nip your injury in the bud 🙂

    Also, I’m with Sarah – why the eff was fit girl running inside on a beautiful day?? This always baffles me when I’m at the gym, XT-ing away on a nice day when ALL the dreadmills are full.

  20. are you kidding? I’m still running every other day and I’m starting to get rage-y. I would say that I deal with my anger by swimming. The tears of rage are hidden in the water.

  21. I really do understand what you’re feeling. Last November was one of the nicest, most dry, warm and mild Novemebers that I remember in Minnesota. And… I spent nearly the entire month at the gym on the elliptical because my stupid Achilles was sore. It had been bothering me on and off, so I finally just decided that I needed to get it back to normal. It was crappy, no other way to say it. But, worth it. I hope yours heals up faster than mine did.

    Also, I have an irrational complex at the gym about looking stupid on the bike or elliptical. I’m trying to do more cross training, and I always feel like an idiot trying to break a sweat on the stupid stationary bike when everyone around me is running and I WANT to be running too. You are not alone!

  22. just wanted to say that i 100% know where you are coming from and don’t feel bad for feeling bad!! injuries suck, and the uncertainty is painful. you WILL be back though! and we all know you are as REAL as they come.

  23. Great post. I’m on day 2 of an injury (1 week away from a race) and I’m napped in bed all evening feeling sorry for myself. I think I might have shed a tear too. I had to text my running buddy to cancel on our 8 miler tomorrow. i didn’t want to do that.

    I’m feeling slightly better this second, but who knows what will happen tomorrow. I plan on swimming in the morning and hopefully a light run on Monday. We shall see.

  24. hahahaha thanks for the laughs. your graphics are always awesome too. i always wonder when i’m in a gym just how good of an athlete others are. this week since i’m in recovery i went to the gym for core/lifting in one of my marathon shirts to make me feel better about not running. wtf? dumb.

  25. Perfect. post.

    A. What was bitch doing on the d-mill when there’s flawless fall weather right outside the window? She should have been worried about you judging HER for being such a nitwit and putzing around in the nasty germy gym air conditioning when she could have been outside in the fresh air and variable scenery instead.

    B. Running? Identity projections?! YES. That’s why I’m too spineless to frequently advertise my mileage or paces to the online community… it makes me feel pressured to perform to that level all the time, which is impossible. Running is too cyclical a sport to be consistent all the time, to be getting faster all the time, and to be healthy all the time.

    Injuries are the worst. The worst. They make me a cranky, weepy, mopey, grouchy, unenjoyable person to spend time with. Such an unwelcome shake-up to the routine. I really hope your angry ankle/calf area feels better soon. Take care of yourself! Maybe take a break from being so plugged in with strands/twitter if it will make it easier to be careful about the injury…? We would all understand. 🙂

  26. I know how you feel! It makes me so anxious when I see other people running and I can’t. Explain that to someone else and they just kind of stare at you and are like take a break, do something else. NBD. But it’s not the same!! This just goes to show how much you really love running, and you’ll apperciate it even more when you are back out there.

  27. I’m a total drama queen about injuries. I like to say awesome things like “life as I know it is over” and “I’ll never run again”. At least you have your sense of humor intact 😉

  28. That’s why, even though I know my body prefers the crosstraining, I really don’t enjoy the elliptical. It’s like “hey… look at me fake run!!!”.

    I would have almost hated the girl more if she had powerwalked and texted. Because I would have been there thinking “look at her waste the treadmill. what a waste. If I weren’t hurt, I’d show her how it’s done. Seriously- she should be thrilled to be able to run- instead she’s just bullshitting around. LAME.”

    Yeah, that’s what I would have been thinking… at least I’d be able to respect the running.

  29. Awww sucks! I do the elliptical 1-2 times a week and have the same thoughts even though I am not injured. It will be over soon, don’t worry!

  30. Hilarious and Heart Wrenching at the same time. 😦 Would this be a horrible time to tell you that I ran the C’ville half course yesterday and it was beautiful? It’ll be a gorgeous run in April. Give in to the emotions for a little it, but don’t fret too much – you’ll be back running in no time.

    ps – how do you like the arnica gel? It’s been recommended for bruising…think it would help?

  31. I think this is the best F’in post I’ve ever read. Seriously, loved it. And yes, I definitely steal glances at peoples treadmill screens. I had to do the helliptical today too and it totally blows. I’m sure your injury will be okay and you’ll be competing with Fit Girl in no time. PS- I love the crazy thoughts that go on in the brain of a runner. Amazing!

  32. Helliptical and dreadmill! I love it! I’ve heard of dreadmill but helliptical is new to me! Can I borrow the name? 🙂 Funny thing is, I want one for Christmas!!!!

  33. guilty here too. except usually other girls’ paces are slower than mine so i can gloat. haha. so much for a supportive sport?

    anddd compression socks are wearable anywhere. even in the summer with shorts.

  34. So glad that someone else feels the same way! I’ve been injured for MONTHS now and wish i could wear an “i’m a legit runner, i swear!!” shirt around. i am also starting to seriously resent spinning class. And sometimes i wear cute Lululemon running clothes to trader joes just to feel better about myself. TOTALLY NORMAL. Right? 🙂

  35. Pingback: Run (or Not): April 24 – 30 | Duke's House

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