Featured post

Cheating On Two Legs With Two Wheels

So, I have given in. I have decided to see what this bike lark is all about. I swore that i would be a runner only until the end, but a combination of injury and boredom of run/walk led me to the deep corners of ebay and the discovery of my new bike. I dithered over whether to buy it for a couple of weeks, secretly sabotaging myself with the wait, telling myself I was being daft. And then, last week I clicked on add to basket and took a leap of faith via my credit card and the added trust of buyer ratings. It was done.

Within two days I had my bike (thanks Parkers of Bolton). It was rather stereotypically ‘girly’ in colour for me (white with a dash of lilac) but beggars and mothers of two kids who only do part time work can’t be choosers, and this bike was a bargain. Don’t worry, I had done some research i.e asking friends and neighbours who are into bikes. It was all going to be fine. As long as I hadn’t done any sneaky growing since I was last properly measured aged about eleven (I haven’t).

When the box arrived via a very prompt Yodel delivery (bravo Yodel, who knew eh?) my 6 year old was straight in there, assuming the bike was for him. Cheek! He did the hard work of unwrapping all the corrugated cardboard and tape for me while I had a cuppa. Who says kids can’t be helpful? He realised that the bike wasn’t for him and immediately tried to negotiate a road bike from Father Christmas for himself. Then the bike sat in my back room while I waited for my husband to come home. Yes, this is most unfeminist of me but if you’ve seen the garage where the tools are, and where my husband does his wood turning, you would know it was safer for me to just wait.

I was wondering whether it would be a five minute wonder. I wondered whether I would back out in fear and return it. I have to admit I am terrified of riding the roads on a bike and having it sat there meant put up or shut up. I had to face a fear I’ve held on to for a very long time.

The first ride I did I happened to be chaperoned by my 6 year old who has NO FEAR OF ANYTHING (life really does change when you get ‘the fear’). We stuck to safe paths and he chattered while I wobbled like Bambi on wheels.

The next day I scarpered for a longer ride before he could sense that there was an impending bike ride on the horizon (seriously that kid loves a bike ride). I got my balance (and my courage) and bit the cycling bullet. And I think I’m now hooked.

I have never felt so invincible and yet so vulnerable at the same time. Tell a lie, I did have a similar feeling to that when I was pregnant. Maybe it’s the knowledge that your body is doing something rather amazing that makes you, well me, feel that way. A combination of what for me was the unknown combined with the excitement of my body doing something utterly different. It was exhilarating to hear the orchestra of wind around my ears building to a crescendo as I descended a hill with the air swirling around me.

It was simply amazing and I didn’t fall or get scared by cars (ok maybe I did for the first 10 minutes). I was out for an hour and I came home wobbly legged and deliriously happy, a feeling that I haven’t been able to get from running because of all my niggles. It was the most satisfying hour of exercise I have had in months. It was an absolute dream.

I’m not giving up on running but I really needed something to give me the endurance and training base that I’ve been lacking through being injured. Now that I have my cheapo bike ‘Paula’  (don’t ask, the name occurred to me on first sight) I can do that while gradually building the running back up. Plus after only a few rides I’m actually looking forward to going out and riding ‘her’ *add canned laughter here*. But don’t worry running, this is just something I need to do so I can come back to you with open arms.

Featured post

Running and Depression: A Vent

Before I start I should state a disclaimer: I do not have a diagnosis of depression. This post is not about me having depression. This post is mainly about how others see depression. I am no depression expert. I am just the partner of someone who does have this diagnosis and have seen first hand what it can do to someone’s health and well being.

A few days ago I came across a couple of tweets, the first of which I’m sure was coming from a good place:

‘Running is a great cure for depression, you can’t run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time’.

Another tweeter replied with:

‘If only depression was as simple as feeling sorry for yourself’.

I very nearly jumped into the conversation but I decided not to, it’s a topic for me that needs much more discussion than just a few tweets. However I’ve been mulling things over and I just needed to projectile vomit them onto this blog.

Firstly: if only it really was that easy. Two years ago when my significant other had basically decided he was done with this life, if only it had been that easy, that I just tell him to go for a run. He could have walked in from a few laps of the park saying ‘hey I’m all better now’. I would have dragged him out marathon training with me. If that was the ‘cure’ that the first tweeter was talking about then why isn’t everyone with depression doing it? Well it’s not that simple. Exercise can be an adjunct to the therapies for depression but it will never be a cure.

Secondly, to say that someone with depression just needs to go for a little jog to feel ‘less sorry for themselves’ completely undermines the condition. If someone is in physical pain from a chronic condition we don’t tell them to go for a run and get over it do we? Again exercise is an adjunct but we never expect exercise to completely reverse Type 1 diabetes or cure a tumour. No, because physical pain seems more acceptable and plausible to people than emotional pain. Emotional pain and mental anguish seem far harder for us to fully acknowledge. People are embarrassed by it and turn away from it. It is taboo to admit that you don’t want to be alive any more. Imagine that, at your lowest ebb, people telling you that you just need to ‘get moving and do some exercise’. Believe it or not, when I didn’t understand the condition as I do now, I tried to persuade him to do some exercise because I had read that it helps symptoms. Not when you’re down the rabbit hole though. No way.

Thirdly, I myself got a bit sick of the ‘he’s just a bit down’ and ‘what has he got to feel sorry for himself’ attitudes from people surprisingly close to us. Now, if I feel a bit frazzled from the day’s events then yes, possibly, a run might shift the clouded feeling I get. I get back from a run and I’m pretty much over it. But I don’t have depression. Depression isn’t something you can stick a patch on and expect it to be a bit better in the morning. The fact that some people insist on telling those with depression that they just feel ‘a bit down’ completely invalidates what they’re experiencing. People with depression need to feel safe to voice what they are going through, be heard, acknowledged and then tools and therapies decided on to manage it.

As the wife of a man who fell to some real depths I cannot imagine what people with depression have to suffer. I myself used running as a bit of a crutch to help me cope when it got tough so to this day I probably have quite a strong emotional connection to running. It’s why I miss it so much when I can’t do it. But no amount of running will cure depression. It will help manage it alongside medication and counselling, but please don’t tell the wife of someone with depression that you could cure my husband by taking him for a run. Just don’t.

Like A Girl

My youngest son attends a karate class regularly. While his big brother has gone downt he route of the Welsh national sport, T has embraced martial arts, mainly I think because he gets to pretend to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Last night I did hear him shout ‘Booyakashah!’ as he performed a round house kick (what happened to Cowabunga?). Anyway, it’s a great class and it has had a huge impact on him: his discipline, his concentration and his co-ordination. I tell anyone who listens about how wonderful this karate class is. And when I do tell people about this class one of my biggest praises is that one of the main teachers is a woman and that there are many, many, MANY girls who attend. I think it’s brilliant that this class has attracted so many girls into what appears to be quite a masculine activity.

Now with karate we have gradings. I love gradings. T gets to show off some set forms and moves and he gets a new belt. And again I love that there are so many girls and with that a huge number of women helping out who appear to be bad ass black belts. One part of the gradings is to see the Tigers who have just turned 7 being inducted into the Dragons class. For this they have to demonstrate that they can hit a piece of wood really hard (don’t panic, the wood is designed to break in half and it’s not that hard). The Tigers step forward one by one and hit the wood with a downward punch and an accompanying battle cry.

On this occasion there were a fair few girls progressing to Dragons. Each one fierce in their attitude and powerful in their blows to the wood. It was amazing to watch little girls embracing something so physical. Step forward a little boy. He hits and gives a murmur. The female coach tells him to hit it again. He tries and he doesn’t break the wood. The coach turns to him and says…..

Come on, you can do better, YOU’RE HITTING IT LIKE A GIRL.

I think parents may have turned round when they heard the sound of my palm hit my face with force. You’re hitting it like a girl.

NO hes not hitting it like a girl! Was what I wanted to scream. Three girls before this child had smashed this piece of wood in half. I was dumbfounded because of what those girls had managed to do just before and also because IT WAS A WOMAN WHO SAID IT.

But then it’s ingrained isn’t it. Hit like a girl, run like a girl, fight like a girl, cry like a girl. I have no doubt that this female coach hadn’t even thought twice about what she had just said, it was habit, societal. As routine as saying please and thank you. I was thrilled for T getting his grading that day but I felt sad for those little girls. I doubt anyone else had noticed and that makes me a bit sad too.

I am quite hard on my boys and they probably get fed up with me but I jump on them if they use ‘like a girl’ as an insult. I correct them when they say that boys are better than girls. I pointed out to my eldest that a female match official is there because she understands football and rugby just as well as any male official and better than anyone sat on the sofa. I told the boys that at one time woman weren’t allowed to vote and couldn’t have bank accounts or own a house. It’s probably a bit much but I feel that it needs to be done because in 2017, despite International Women’s Day (there is a men’s day it’s 19th November before any baby men go wah wah wah) the female gender is still seen as a symbol of weakness and a way to insult a man. NO, NO, NO, NO.

So when you find yourself saying ‘crying like a little girl’ just stop and think. Language like this needs to be stamped out. Little girls are not weak, they are awesome and grow up to become black belts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rejection

Over a month ago I took a punt on a part time job in athletics. Since leaving the NHS I have gradually been building on my dream of working as a physiotherapist in sport. Working in private practice was the first step. Then I took on the MSc in Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy. And then I got the amazing opportunity to volunteer as physio for the Cricket Wales Senior Women’s team. My confidence has grown and I don’t feel like a fraud anymore when I consider sports jobs. So when the job came up, a post involving 6-8 hours a week working with track and field athletes I decided to say a big Yes instead of No.

I was still amazed when I got an interview. I still get shocked when I get offered any opportunities or interviews, it’s a reflection of how I still see myself. But I had thrown my hat in the ring and last week I found myself waiting in the reception of the NIAC in Cardiff.

As I drove home with after the interview I kicked myself about things that I should have or could have said. Isn’t that always the way with these things? I reflected on my performance: I hadn’t been awful but there was a definite brain freeze moment during the interview that I felt had let me down. I didn’t expect to get the job.

And I didn’t. I had a phone call the next day to let me know I wasn’t being offered the job. They said they had really liked me, I was personable and had done well in many aspects of the interview but that one section had let me down. I was given some ideas for future development and that I shouldn’t this let it stop me from applying from jobs in sport in the future.

I think it’s a telling sign of how far I’ve come trying to build a career after leaving the safety net of an organisation like the NHS. In the NHS my career had been going one way but I decided to make a sharp turn and take another direction. It hasn’t been easy because I’ve had to work hard to try and gain experience in an area that until a few years ago was probably unthinkable for me. I think the fact that I didn’t completely crumble at the rejection is that my confidence in myself as a physiotherapist has grown (even though it still needs work) and I’ve decided to take ownership of my skills and attributes rather than apologising for them and being overly self-deprecating.

I didn’t get this job this time but it’s shown me that I am capable of getting interviews for jobs in a specialty I didn’t think possible. I’ll learn from this experience, take the great feedback that I was given, build on it and I’ll go for the next opportunity when it arises.

 

 

 

 

 

Walking My Dog

I haven’t been running much. I haven’t been exercising much. My energy right now is being funneled into the final piece of work for my MSc: a 20000 word dissertation. I can’t see beyond it at the moment, it’s become all consuming in my spare time when I’m not working or the boys aren’t around. If I go running I feel guilty for spending that time on running (and the inevitable time it takes for me to sort myself out post run) instead of being sat in front of the computer tightening up my literature review and transcribing interviews.

wp-1487340299926.jpg

What has kept me sane has been walking my dog Polly. As another day passes without a run it is the time I spend walking her that keeps me mindful and keeps me active. While I walk around the field near our house Polly will run and find sticks while I clear my head after the school run, getting ready for another day backing up my statements with references and rewriting paragraphs that I realise I hate. I’ve found that walking Polly clears my head for lots of other aspects in my life and seems to prepare me for things that I don’t always feel confident for, in the same way that running always has.

My dissertation is due next month and I can’t wait to have my time and my mind back. Before dissertation fever (or panic) hit me I had actually managed to do some running and had completed a couple of races: the famous Nos Galan race in Mountain Ash and The Buff Trail 10k in the Afan Valley. These runs felt like a final hurrah before I submitted to my fate at the computer.

I keep feeling guilty over running but I have spent too much money over the last two years to piss it back up against the wall. For the first time in many years running is way down on the priority list and I actually feel okay about that. I don’t need or want to get up at 5am to try and fit runs in, I’m tired and run down as it is getting up at 6.30am to sort two children, do my own work at home, run a business, work in the physio clinic and running a household. It’s ironic that my research is on barriers to participation because I recognise all the internal and external barriers for myself right now. Some might even call it ‘amotivation’. But you know what? I’m okay, because if I manage to get this work submitted and I manage to pass, it will all be so worth it for my self-esteem, for the time I’ve spent on it and for my career. Until I’ve got that bit of free time and mental energy back in my life, walking the dog will keep me moving and keep me happy.

wp-1487340243615.jpg

Wheezy McWheezy Face

About three weeks ago on a trip to Spain for a friend’s wedding I had a dream. Well more of a nightmare. In my dream I was struggling to breath. Someone who I couldn’t see gave me an oxygen mask. I tried to breath deeply but I couldn’t. The faceless person gave me another mask and told me to try this one. Again I tried to take a deep breath and yet I couldn’t, nothing seemed to move. The faceless person told me I was doing it wrong and shouted at me. Panic consumed me and then I woke up and I was wheezing and I couldn’t take a breath.

I started taking my reliever inhaler, sat up, drank some water and made an attempt to calm down. My husband was passed out from all the booze and food of a long day at a hot wedding reception. I half thought to wake him but decided against it. After all what could he do? So I stayed sat up, eyes closed, intermittently taking my inhaler and eventually the wheeze eased enough that I didn’t feel panic stricken.

I didn’t tell my husband properly until we were home the next day and I felt safe. I don’t know why, maybe I didn’t want to be dragged off to a doctor while I was abroad. The day after we got home I went to the GP and was given steroids. Not the type that would make me beef up but enough to get my irritated air ways to calm the fuck down. They did help but I felt a little dismissed when the GP told me I ‘it was just a flare up’. So I saw the asthma nurse and she confirmed that I had had an asthma attack. She altered my medication slightly and gave me a new tablet especially for asthmatic hayfever sufferers. Honestly I love the summer but it really fucks me over. And then she gave me the kicker: no exercise or training for a month (not that I could anyway, I feel weak as a kitten). The nurse gave me an asthma management plan and a peak flow: if my peak flow goes below a certain level I have to go to hospital.

For the rest of that week I felt tearful and I cried a fair bit. I felt silly for crying but when I looked at asthma charity sites this is  normal response after an attack. I was cross with myself for not looking after myself and not taking my preventer medication as regularly as I should. I was tearful because I’d had a real fright and I didn’t realise how quickly an attack can come on. And I was especially sad because I can’t run. I’m still wheezy and breathless and my peak flow still isn’t great. I feel dreadful a great deal of the time.

We are so fragile. I can cope with injury a bit better than I can cope with this but this almost seems easier to accept. I can’t cross train with asthma. It’s not physically possible.  I have to be better. I have to be well. What I hope is that because I am a runner and  fit person my attack wasn’t as bad as it could have been, I had plenty in reserve to cope with it. That’s what I’m telling myself, that is my silver lining. I need to let go of the plans I had for races this summer and shift my goals for the Cardiff Half in October. There are always other races. Being able to breath is more of a priority right now.

 

Injured But Happy

Injured but happy. Those words are total opposites in running. How on earth can being injured and being happy co-exist?

About a month ago training was going really well. I had a place in the Reading Half Marathon and I was really excited to get back into road races. All my runs had been going well. I had kept my long runs at a conservative pace without going mad. Shorter, faster runs were feeling more like my old self again and I was feeling quite chilled out about it all. And then one morning I got up and there was a sharp pain in my shin when I walked down stairs. That pain was also there a bit when I walked. After a couple of days rest and some stretching and foam rolling I went out for an 8 mile run. Not even half way in I turned back. There was a pressure in my leg that was building and wouldn’t ease off. I didn’t feel distraught but wasn’t feeling overly confident.

I left my decision right until the last minute as to whether to sack it off. The day before Reading I tried a jog. Every step on my left leg brought on a searing pain on the inside of my shin. The decision had been made. No half marathon for me.

I didn’t cry, I didn’t get overly frustrated. I didn’t come to my blog straight away to moan or blub about it as I might have done previously (Note: nothing wrong with that, just highlighting a change in me here). Instead I carried on about my business, took some ibruprofen and shrugged my shoulders. The only thing that bothered me about it was that I would be unable to take my beginners running group as effectively and I hated letting them down. But shit happens.

The difference in me compared to a few years ago when I was injured is this: running is no longer my emotional crutch. I am happy in other areas of my life and I think it is because I have decided to unapologetically be me. I stopped holding back on the person I wanted to be. I enrolled on my MSc. I have set up my own physio clinic. I went after a volunteer job to be physio for a national squad and I got it. I stopped hiding myself in running. Instead running is something that I do alongside everything else in life. I stopped looking inward, stopped thinking about luck and bad omens, stopped overthinking running and stopped paying attention to social media. Yes it sucks to be injured but I accepted it and moved on. I did what I could do about it and then got on with my life while waiting for my injury to heal.

Four weeks post injury and I managed a pain free run today. I don’t even think I’ve been particularly patient but it hasn’t felt like that long since I had to rest. After I ran I was of course happy but I think I would have felt like that anyway. It’s weird to feel that I am happy. I went for a long time feeling so anxious and stressed that I never thought I would feel like this. I have the excitement of the new clinic and the work with Cricket Wales and it’s a really good feeling. Hopefully the leg has settled and I will be able to run again on the weekend but I’m being mindful about it instead of overthinking it. Plus there are other things right now helping to fill the place in my head that I had expected running to fill for so long.

wp-1462365877631.jpg

New Shoes

As Paulo Nutini, that great Scottish bard sang ‘I put some new shoes on and suddenly everything is right’. He wasn’t wrong.

Despite being a physio of fair experience, a physio who often reminds clients about the importance of changing your trainers at the appropriate intervals, I appeared to have dropped the bollock on that myself. And the only thing I can put it down to is not writing down all my training runs and totally underestimating how much running I had actually been doing.

Last year I replaced my Saucony with an identical Saucony. I was focussing on the London Triathlon so in my mind my training had mainly been cycling and swimming, my two weak points. Running when it happened didn’t seem to be as important in the training diary that I kept. It was all about water and wheels. After the triathlon my regimented diary keeping seemed to tail off and again in my head so had my running.

About a week ago I started to have severe pain in my left foot, right under the big toe. I could hardly put my foot to the floor. I mentioned it to my other half, and when I suggested I needed new trainers he laughed and said ‘Nah, you’ve only just got those’. I felt like that too (although I’m sure he’s trying to stop me shopping) but the foot pain was telling me something wasn’t right. I looked at the tread and they didn’t seem overly worn. I did the squish test and they still seemed fairly robust. I then put my hand inside the left shoe and found a huge dent that was the size of my big toe, not just a little put of wear but almost worn through the trainer. How the ‘eff had I missed that?

I then went back through my training diary again up until I had stopped recording runs. I scrolled through Strava and discovered a fair few runs that I had completely forgotten about. But I had managed to convince myself I wasn’t doing that much running, because many of the runs had been so short that I had taken them for granted perhaps? So note to self…..

ALL RUNS COUNT. ALL RUNS ARE WEAR ON YOUR TRAINERS KAT, WHETHER THEY ARE THREE MILES OF THIRTEEN MILES.

When I totted it all up I had about 300 miles on paper (good old pen and paper). That’s not including runs that have completely left my memory altogether. I must completely switch off for some of those runs and I really believe that. The Sauconys went in the bin and I found myself some neutral Asics at an outlet store (Macarthur Glen Asics store in Bridgend, what a discovery!). First couple of runs and all the weird aches and pains in my feet and calves have eased off. Funny that *head butts desk at own stupidity*

So the moral of the story? Keep your training diary up to date. It all counts. Slow, fast, long or short, those runs all contribute to improving you and wearing out your shoes. If I make a resolution to keep my diary and a note of the date I start running in new shoes I might avoid total shoe disaster next time. And in new shoes the Reading Half Marathon might actually be alright.

wp-1458468132406.jpg

 

 

Bulls, Horns, Jelly Legs and Saying Yes.

As I’m sat here just now I feel like my head is in a bit of a spin. I have said ‘yes’ to something that I never thought I would. I have pounced on an opportunity instead of letting it pass me by and then doing the inevitable ‘what ifs’. No, no. Instead I said yes and got massive jelly legs at my audacity in going against my habitual ‘no, I can’t do it, what will people think?’ mind set. I hope that what I’ve done will work out but if it doesn’t, at least I can say I TRIED.

I have also said ‘yes’ to being a volunteer physiotherapist for Cricket Wales’ senior women’s team. Instead of wondering if I should do it and going over it and having an argument with myself I just applied and now I am physio for a national team. I’ve put myself out there and something amazing has come out of it.

I had an email from the PR people for the Reading Marathon and I said ‘yes’ to running it despite what other bloggers seem to think about people getting offered ‘free places’. I have been running loads lately and instead of letting my past injury woes scare me I said yes, yes I will run a half marathon.

I feel like a woman on a mission at the moment. At running club someone asked me how I fit everything in. I really don’t know I said. All I know is that I got sick of saying no to lots of things because of the fear and these jelly legs that I’ve got right now. But maybe the jelly legs are a good thing? It’s the same feeling I used to get before the gun went for an 800m race when I was 15 or at the beginning of my first marathon in 2012. These jelly legs might be a sign of good things ahead. Who knows? But at least I can say I’ve taken a great big bull by the horns and had a go. Saying yes is scary but it feels scarily good too.

I’ll just leave this here…….

Fast Track Physiotherapy's profile photo