A blog by runners. For runners.

Bouncing back from injury: one runner's comeback story

runner of the week jason schmitt

Sticking with an exercise routine can be anything but easy. If anyone knows that, it's WalkJogRun user Jason Schmitt, 42, of Clearwater, Fla. This busy father of three (with a fourth on the way) has fallen off the running bandwagon a few times — and it caused him quite the health scare.

Schmitt began his running career in his late teens, culminating with the Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. After the race, he stopped running and started drinking, smoking, and spiraled into a depression. Eventually, Schmitt got sober and kicked the cigarette habit, but he still wanted to lose weight.

“I decided to start running again to get back in shape, with my young daughters and wife to think of,” Schmitt says.

Schmitt laced up his running shoes for the first time in nearly two decades and followed a training plan to get up to 30 minutes of running in 30 days.

“It didn't even take 30 days before I was running 30 minutes nonstop,” he said.

Schmitt caught the running bug again. He raced a 5k and signed up for the 2013 Disney World Marathon. Things were going well, he even lost about 90lbs thanks to a combination of running and healthy eating.

Then last November, two months before his goal marathon, Schmitt got bad shin splints.

“I could hardly make it a half mile without screaming,” he says.

Schmitt was angry. He became depressed, stopped all exercise, threw his healthy eating plan to the curb, and put back on almost all of the weight he lost.

And then it happened. A few weeks ago, Schmitt started having chest pain at work, so he booked it to the hospital. There, he learned his blood pressure was through the roof and doctors told him he was minutes away from a heart attack. He says it was the wake-up call he needed.

Now, Schmitt is more determined than ever to recommit to running and good nutrition. He's training for a 10k race in July, and he wants you to learn from his mistakes.

“My advice for newbies is never quit exercise once you start. Take my word for it, starting over is harder,” he said.

Maintaining fitness while injured

Almost all runners will be sidelined for a time during their running careers. Injuries and other setbacks  like recovery from surgery or childbirth, for instance — are bound to happen. Luckily, there are ways to stay active and keep up a healthy lifestyle even when you can't run. Try these tips:

  1. Ask your doctor what activities you can do. There is almost always a way to work around an injury and get some exercise. Have a stress fracture in your foot? Try swimming, aqua jogging, or lifting weights. Does your IT band bother you? Take up cycling or yoga. During an injury, the goal is to maintain and not gain fitness.
  2. Stick with your other healthy habits. Schmitt's story is not unique. During an injury, it's common to let other healthy habits slide. Eating foods high in nutrients and drinking plenty of water can help your body heal faster.
  3. View your situation as a blessing in disguise. If you're a race junkie, taking some time off running will give your whole body a chance to recover and you may come back stronger than ever. Devote the time you would have spent running to other things you enjoy, like cross-training or reading a good book. You never know, you may ignite a new passion. Triathlon, anyone?

Written by Jenilee Matz, MPH. Jen is writer, runner, and new(ish) mom living in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C.

Related: Tips to stay injury free throughout the year