Monthly Archives: February 2013

This Injured Runner

So what did this injured runner do this week?

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I needed the nail varnish for a hen night this weekend. It’s called Bachelorette Bash so it was obviously meant to be.
I sold stuff on ebay. Don’t worry not my running gear although in the dark moments I have been tempted. I been considered selling my beloved Nike Cheetah Bowring leggings. Injury induced madness!
I have had lots of cups of tea in my running mantra mug. I should probably drink more water but tea is just much more comforting right now.
I have been swimming again and it wasn’t so bad. I managed 50 lengths which I was quite proud of. I wasn’t in too much pain either which is reassuring. Desperate for my aqua belt to get here though so I can feel more like a runner. Even if it is in water. And not going anywhere very fast. And makes me look like an idiot. But I’ve seen Mo Farah do aqua jogging so if it’s good enough for Olympic champions….
What I have discovered is that being injured is costing me money! I am buying all sorts of things out of pure boredom: nail varnish, lip stick, more swimming goggles and trips to the swimming pool aren’t exactly cheap. I need to get back running soon or at this rate I’ll have no money left!

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Diving into Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is something that I’ve recommended to many of my patient’s who run or are involved in impact exercise. I did it when I was a teenage athlete following a sprained ankle and I know it’s been a great rehabilitation pool for elite athletes such as Mo Farah. And so with my back starting to improve enough for me to swim I decided the time had come for me to dive in and give it a go again myself.

I consulted some physiotherapy colleagues and fellow runners on Twitter and I was recommended the Kiefer Aquafitness belt. After a quick internet search I found it at Swimshop.co.uk which is an online swimming specialist. I opted for the belt in my size which you select via your weight. I popped it into my online basket and was rather chuffed to get an online discount and free delivery. Aqua jogging was already making me smile. My aqua belt was with me by the end of the week and I was itching to give it a go.

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The time for me to try out my funky new toy came yesterday after my physio appointment. My back  and leg pain hadn’t been great over the weekend but she gave me the go ahead to try it. We agreed that swimming hadn’t made anything worse and that physical activity would be of benefit. No running just yet.

At the pool I fiddled about and adjusted the belt a bit and managed 25 minutes of aqua jogging. I was the only person in the pool with 3 lifeguards watching. That’s a lot of attention for someone moving very very slowly in a swimming pool. It must have been dull to watch.

I attempted a running action but as it was my first time kept it to a steady pace. I felt like I was working my body but I didn’t feel particularly exerted. My back was ok during the session and I didn’t really suffer for it afterwards. I was pleased with the fit of the belt too and found that unlike belts I’ve used before, this one didn’t come up round my upper body and chafe the skin.

At home I had a quick look at my articles and came across a review paper which looked at Deep Water Running. It suggested that you may need a ‘proper’ state of mind for aqua running so that movement patterns are relaxed and fluid rather than tense. Increased tension might compromise the aqua running gait which could compromise the kinematics and overall benefits.

Another point the review mentions is that picking the right belt or buoyancy device is important to avoid altered movements such as forward leaning . Once the movement is incorrect it will link back to dissatisfaction in the runner i.e. you won’t feel like running is being replicated and become despondent. The upshot is find the right belt for you and try to make sure that it acts around the centre of buoyancy which is close to the lungs during deep water running.

The paper also makes some suggestions of the style you should adopt for deep water running:

  • water should be level with your shoulders with head facing forwards.
  • a very slight lean forward of the body, which according to the review is similar to ‘running up a slight incline or into a head wind’. It recommends not just bending at the trunk but leaning towards the way you are travelling. The review suggests that this position will engage the hamstrings and gluts with less emphasis on the hip flexors.
  • Arms and shoulders should be relaxed in the same way as land running.
  • Legs should follow more of an interval speed pattern. Maintain some knee flexion throughout so you avoid hyperextension and increased drag.

Of course it was never going to reproduce land based running for me but it felt good to just be ‘doing’ a running action in the water. I’m hoping that psychologically that will be a boost for me in my recover from this injury. The review paper suggested that it can be comparable to treadmill running but I’m not entirely sure. More research is probably needed but as an individual I know it didn’t feel like actual running. Hopefully by deep water running I can maintain my cardiovascular fitness and stimulate the muscle patterns used for running to try and avoid further atrophy, because I am feeling weak as a kitten these days. Nothing like the runner I was a few months ago. But you know onwards and upwards. Every little step forward in rehab is a step closer to running and racing.

My aqua belt is from http://www.swimshop.co.uk.

The review paper is ‘Deep water running: a practical review of the literature with an emphasis on biomechanics’. Garry Killgore in The Physician and Sports Medicine, 2012.

Getting Back Out Running Post Baby.

I think the hardest run I’ve ever had to do was the 15 minute jog round the block that I did 3 months after the birth of my second son. I had found my second pregnancy more challenging. I had a toddler to care for, severe back pain and sciatica, I was still working, we moved house and I was carrying a lot more weight than I did during my first pregnancy. His delivery by caesarean had ended up being a complicated affair and it took me a long time to heal.

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Almost three months later I was fed up of not exercising but I wasn’t sure what to do. I can swim but I wasn’t keen. The gym wasn’t a big favourite of mine either. The only other option I felt I had was to go back to my big love, running. Not because I wanted to be thin or lose weight but because I craved the chemical buzz that running gave me. I wanted the red cheeks and the glowing eyes. I needed an energy boost and I wanted to be fitter for my family. Also running has always made me feel awesome and with 2 pregnancies close together, self confidence was low. I needed to feel a little bit awesome again. So I dug out the sports bra, found some running kit I could fit into and went out for my first run 3 months after having my second son.

That first run was atrocious. I could hardly breath. My entire body burned and I hated every minute of it. I had DOMS for almost a week but when it eased enough and I could walk down stairs again, back out I went. A month later I had done my first 5k Parkrun and before I knew it the regularity of my running increased and it started to get easier.

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I didn’t use a trainer or a coach. I didn’t use treadmills. I stuck loyally to the roads, mainly because I enjoyed being out in the open and I didn’t have to be around other people. For a busy mum of two boys running became a great outlet for me and a way for me to just be me and be alone with my own thoughts for 45 minutes. I used the Women’s Running site to map my favourite routes and to keep an eye on my progression. Before I knew it running was a part of me again. I would think about when I could fit in my runs and set targets for the week ahead to try and gain some mileage and to try and smash PBs. And then last year, in Olympic year I ran my first marathon, something I never would have believed after the first post baby run.

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Over the last couple of years my times have massively improved and I feel quite proud of myself. Even my children understand that I go running. My eldest son will ask to go with me and my youngest will go and fetch my running trainers if he sees me in my running gear. I think for children it is really important to see one or both parents exercising because it normalises it and hopefully they will be encouraged to take up running alongside other activities when they are older. However I don’t think my eldest misses me going marathon training. He didn’t like me being out for 3 hours on a Saturday!

Almost three years after that initial run my love for running is as strong as it was when I was a teenager. Running has given me my confidence back and for mums who sometimes feel a bit invisible in the workplace or at home I think that’s really important. I’m not just a mother, a cook, a cleaner or a story teller. I am a runner.

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I’m not going to regurgitate the postnatal medical advice that they give you regarding exercise and running. If you’re not sure if you should be trying to run then I would suggest you speak to your GP or postnatal care team. I can only say that if you want to go and run you should go and do it. If you did have pelvic dysfunction or back pain during pregnancy then it might be worth chatting with a women’s health or musculoskeletal physiotherapist before you start. I had back pain so I tried to do some core stability exercises to complement the running.

If you do feel ready medically and you’re still not sure all I can say is just go. Once you’ve been given the all clear to do it then there is no better time. There will be a little voice inside that tells  you you shouldn’t or that you can’t. I almost listened to that voice and I’m so glad I didn’t or I would be regretting it now. It will be tough at first but remember you’ve been through labour and birth so in comparison running really is nothing. During my marathon I had a wobbly patch and I told myself that a few hours of pain was nothing to what I’d been through with my first labour.

At the start you will curse every muscle in your body but stick with it and I promise it will get easier. It will make you feel awesome, you will have more energy, sleep better and you will be surprised at how much stronger and fitter you feel. This much I promise and before you know it the kids will be trying to catch up with you.

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Continuous Effort

‘Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential’.

– Winston Churchill.

This quote obviously isn’t by a runner but I think it applies nicely to the runner mentality, especially for runner’s who want to get better. I also think it applies to the injured runner. Who’s injured  Oh yeah, that would be ME!

It’s been continuous effort to try and move around without crying.

It’s been continuous effort not to give in to the thoughts creeping in telling me I’m daft for running and that I should just give it all up.

It’s been continuous effort not to do something silly, like try running too soon, and injure myself further.

It’s been continuous effort to stay positive and stay motivated.

It’s been continuous effort to stick with all the physio’s advice and continue with the exercises even when I felt I was going no where.

It’s been continuous effort not to lose my temper about the whole situation.

It’s been continuous effort over a period of three months to try and get myself better and ready to start running again.

Getting over this injury has been tiring physically but mentally it has drained me. I’m starting to feel more hopeful after being out for my fourth run and my rehabilitation has progressed in the right direction. What I also hope for is that all this continuous effort will be rewarded with more running which I can eventually turn into a training plan with some actual goals. This continuous effort can’t all be for nothing!

Motherhood and Running

After having children I didn’t think I would get back to running. I had suffered so much with back and leg pain during both pregnancies that I couldn’t imagine it would ever be possible to run again. My deliveries had been caesareans, each with their complications which meant an extended recovery time after the births. I didn’t foresee ever having the time or the inclination to do anything more than a short jog. What I also didn’t foresee was that motherhood would give me a focus and determination for running that I didn’t ever think I would have again.

Don’t misunderstand me, prior to having children I had plenty of ambition and drive but nothing like I’ve known since I’ve had them. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I bemoan all the wasted hours pre children with all the missed opportunities but motherhood has led me to focus my energies and manage my time more efficiently. Post motherhood I also found a physical and inner strength I didn’t know I had.

It is an urban myth that some women become better athletes following pregnancy. There is no scientific evidence but there are plenty of anecdotes. The US Olympic high jumper Chaunte Lowe has two children and in interviews she has stated that she was physically stronger post partum, being able to squat way above the 225 pounds that she used to squat pre children. I also heard a quote attributed to her in which she said that following birth she no longer feared pain.

Having had a traumatic first labour I can relate to this. My labour experience has helped me during training and with hard runs, including my marathon. When you’ve experienced nearly 40 hours of pain that burns through you and causes you to roll your eyes to the back of your head and you come through it, there comes a realisation that the pain from a hard run is nothing. My labour experience helped me to manage training pain, to acknowledge it was there and to embrace it, in the knowledge that it will be gone in far less time than having my first child. Fear, gone.

Being a mother and being a runner are two separate facets of my being but they so often come together, overlap and complement each other. Being a mother doesn’t mean I’m soft or that I’m going to let my competitive side go. Being a runner doesn’t mean that my competitive side boils over to affect my parenting. But being a mother and being a runner have given me attributes that help the other. Running helps me to be fitter and stronger for my children. Running gives me energy. Being a mother helps me to find the time for running and training when the schedule looks otherwise jam packed. The mother in me will find a way to run, just like I find time to fit in play dates and homework. Pre baby I wouldn’t have, I think I was a bit lazy using work and post graduate study as an excuse. But not any more. Mothers and runners just do.

There is one aspect to being a mother and a runner that will never change. Running will always come second to being a mother. There will always be runs missed because my children need me. Runs might have to be shorter because you don’t always have the time to do the run you wanted to do. And if at any time running impacts on my ability to be a good mother (I don’t really see that happening) running would have to go.

I read an interview with Paula Radcliffe today. A screw in her ankle has come loose and she needs to have another operation which could end her career but her first concern is for her children:

“I just want to be able to run and play with my kids,” she said. “I’m not even thinking about getting back to running a marathon again.”

Most mothers who run aren’t multiple Olympians or world record holders but I think we can empathise with how she feels. For me this is the juxtaposition of being a mother and being a runner. In my life they co-exist side by side, both giving me great joy in different ways, but when all is said and done if one thing has to come second for whatever reason, it will always have to be running.

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