Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Benevolent Profession

I have mulled over writing this post. I have seen my profession take a battering from various places on social media and for once I can see what teachers and nurses have to put up with although it’s only an tiny amount of the vitriol of what these professions have to put up with.

I am a Physiotherapist. I have been a Physiotherapist for more than ten years. I was inspired to become a Physiotherapist after having spinal surgery as a thirteen year old. It was the Physiotherapists who rehabilitated me and got me back to athletics in time for cross country season. From that point on I told everyone that I wanted to be a Physiotherapist. So basically none of that ‘failed doctor’ stuff going on over here.

I studied, as all Physiotherapists do in the UK, on a three year degree course and like the majority of Physiotherapists I entered the NHS to do my junior rotations. I think there’s this image that Physios qualify and then open up private clinics and make oodles of cash. Well if cash was what I was after I would have studied law or business. Instead I went for a vocation where I hoped to make a difference.

Junior rotations for Physiotherapists mean that you move between various specialities throughout the hospital, learning and hopefully developing into better clinicians. I deny any Physio to say that these rotations make little impact on you. Yes, there are those who are intent in getting out into private practice but I think junior rotations teach you so much and give you invaluable experiences. I’ve seen Physios save lives on ITU and on the wards through chest treatment. I’ve cried with a stroke patient and his family when he finally walked the length of the ward. I comforted an end stage MS patient when I was called in to treat her chest. I have taken groups of kids with cystic fibrosis to the Physio gym to play basketball as part of their treatment. And so I feel very passionately about defending my profession when I feel it is being bashed unnecessarily. It is a benevolent vocation and I don’t think it deserves some of the vitriol that has been thrown at it on social media.

One of the things that I always felt was a positive about musculoskeletal Physios is the time that we spend taking a patient history, both subjective and objective. For me it helps to get to know someone and to help me reason through clinically what could be causing their problems. It can help us to determine whether a problem is truly musculoskeletal and that we can help, or if it is caused by another system or indeed a red flag. I am proud that we are trained to recognise when a person might be presenting with a more worrying pathology (it happens very very rarely fortunately) and I know that myself and some of my colleagues have managed to do this and have helped to refer to the appropriate person.

I understand that a group of runners have been to an education session recently and were lectured to by a Physiotherapist about running injuries. What I’ve read is pretty standard and I can’t see any harm done by it. None of it was news to me. What I don’t understand is the interpretation is for it to stop people from running. Rubbish. Every session I have with a patient involves talking to people about their current problems and about their short and long term goals. I might see a runner or a violinist but my goal as a clinician is to try and get someone back to doing what they love.

I also saw someone refer to Physios as ‘experts’, emphasis was on the inverted commas. Well I would say that my education and experience does make me an expert. What I tell people isn’t plucked out of mid air. It’s from hard work, study, master level study, research and science. But I am also never afraid to say that I am wrong or that I can no longer help a patient. I am always learning and I continue to develop. To assume that I was perfect as a Physiotherapist would be dangerous. I am also aware of my scope of practice, something that other fitness professions could do with being a bit more aware of (like the PT who told a woman on diabetes and heart meds to stop taking them. Her GP was furious).

Making an appointment to see any health or fitness professional is a huge leap of faith. You are required to confide your problems, hopes and fears to a total stranger. It is an important relationship and a delicate one. I am not saying that people have always been happy with me and the treatment I have provided but I have always been honest and offered people the best I can offer through my knowledge and ability. If you’re not happy with a health professional then you are perfectly entitled to question their opinion and find someone with who you have a better fit. But please know that for me and the majority of people I have worked with, all we want to do is help and get you back to running or whatever else you have in mind.

Have Cold. Won’t Run.

I am going to come over now as an out and out wuss. But I won’t run when I have a cold. I am aware of the neck up/neck down ‘rule’ or ‘guideline’, whatever you want to call it, but I don’t seem able to apply it to myself.

Since yesterday evening I’ve been sneezing. My nose and eyes have been streaming. Walking up the stairs has made me break out in a sweat and my legs feel like dead weights. I don’t think I have anything else other than a head cold but I really don’t think I can justify going for a run. I could barely pull myself out of bed to get my boys ready for school so running just seems out of the equation. Excuses, excuses I know but I have my reasons.

The thing is, no matter how many people have said it’s okay to run when you’ve got a cold, I know it’s not right for me. Even when I was younger I couldn’t do it. Mainly because every time I try and do it I make myself worse. The last time I tried to run with a cold I ended up with a full blown chest infection, antibiotics and missed a half marathon.  This is a pattern that has repeated many times over the years so I concluded that it’s just not worth it. I’d rather take two days off than be forced to take two weeks.

Everybody is different and if you can run with a cold then that’s great. I wish I was like you. But I know my own body far too well and today it’s telling me sit tight, let this pass and come back in a few days feeling ready to take running on again. Please pass the Lemsip.



Running Is Like Being In A Movie. Sort Of.

I don’t know if anyone else finds this but occasionally some runs can take on a particular theme. I blame my children for having had the Star Wars themes in my head for the past few weeks, the first trilogy is their new obsession and I cannot get the music out of my head.

Yesterday was my first hour long run in months and it happened on a dreary stormy day of Biblical Noah’s Ark proportions. The heavens were opening and it seemed like Mother Nature was not happy. The weather had gone a bit crazy like something out of ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. I hung on and waited for a lull in the down pour and escaped through the front door. As soon as I was out on the pavement this jumped into my head.

I was a freedom fighter running for her life through the Valleys of South Wales. A sole runner against the elements, fighting the injury nemesis. The theme continued to repeat as I ran towards my first hill. The rain was lighter than it had been all day and my calf and heel were feeling ok giving me New Hope for the rest of the run.

As I turned right onto one of the longest stretches the sky started to darken. The rain became heavier and the next theme started.

Hail started to hit me like bullets and I looked up and realised that I was running next to the mega store of a major supermarket chain, it’s sign looming down on me like the base of the Imperial Army, sending out it’s tractor beam telling me to go home, the weather is too bad. I fought past my imaginary Death Star and powered on into the wind. The Empire continued to strike back against me with the driving rain but this determined runner shut it out, drew on The Force and continued.

As I turned a corner knowing the Imperial Army was behind me I found myself running towards two boys. These boys were about 9 or 10 and were identical twins. Twins on identical scooters. There was not enough room on the pavement so I moved out to the kerb slightly, thinking that they would move in. But no. One boy made eye contact with me and then they moved out towards the kerb, forcing me onto the road. If there had been a flight of stairs nearby I’m sure I would have been shoved down them. A shiver ran down my spine as if I was watching a horror movie.

The next hill I ran up was a struggle but when I reached the top and the ground levelled out, the sky cleared and I could see the top of the valley and a rainbow ducking down behind the hills. I imagined Ewoks were in the trees, cheering me on for home and victory. The Empire was not going to give up though and as I ran alongside the river that had been swollen by the rain, it churned as if it wanted to pull me in, like the pink river of slime in Ghostbusters 2.

I wasn’t going to give up though. I sped up past the river to prevent my run from being thwarted and pumped my arms up a hill for the final stretch home. The Star Wars theme played again for the credits: the tension of injury uncertainty, the weather, the scenery and my own thoughts had played their parts to make this run my own little movie. To be continued……

The Golden Hour

Today for the first time in many many months I ran continuously for one hour. No walk breaks, no stop and start, no stretching. One whole hour of running. It was slow, but that was intentional. I’ve invented my own version of long Sunday runs while I am still building back time on my feet. So I aimed for one hour running and one hour on the turbo trainer. Job done.

I don’t know why I feel better about being able to run for an hour. It’s an arbitrary time, plucked out of my brain. There is no evidence anywhere to suggest that being able to run for one hour is a predictor of anything but for me it was a big deal. A few weeks ago, as I still struggled to deal with my Achilles injury, I was getting to 20-25 minutes and then playing a waiting game to see if my heel, or anything else, would flare up. I continued to stick very strictly to this time for a number of weeks, biding my time to make sure all was well. It has been excruciating because in terms of fitness I feel great, and I have cycling and aqua jogging to thank for that.

However last week I managed to totter out a 45 minute run. It was not intentional. A free wrong terms and misjudging a route that I haven’t done in a while meant I no choice but to keep going. I rested for a day and then I was able to do a half hour steady run. There was no real argument from my Achilles. So I waited another couple of days while my cold settled and the cogs started whirring. Could I manage a 50 minute run with add on time on the bike?

Curiosity definitely got the better of me and in a break in the rain today I headed out with the goal to start slow and see what happened. Turned out I was pleasantly surprised. Driving winds, rain and hail hit me but I didn’t turn home and for the first time in a long time I wasn’t thinking about my calf or Achilles. I could focus on other things: traffic, buildings, people and songs going round in my head. Everything but my Achilles heel which has literally been my running Achilles heel.

When I got home I was so chuffed with myself that I very nearly flopped down on the sofa. But instead I found a dry pair of trainers and jumped on the turbo trainer for another hour. 2 hours of training and my long Sunday duathlon was done

I’m trying to hold back and not rejoice too much yet. My tendon tends to flaers up, if it does flare, the day after running, so I am crossing fingers and hoping it remains dormant. But to get to that hour of running in felt like a benchmark today. The more time on my feet the better. I don’t know why the Golden Hour should mean so much but for me it just means after that hour anything is possible.

Post Baby Comebacks.

Post baby comeback. Post baby exercise. Post baby diet. Post baby figure. I loathe the phrase post baby. For one it sounds like you’re trying to post a baby through a letter box. But it is also extremely patronising. We heard last week that Jessica Ennis-Hill is expecting her first baby and huge congratulations to her and her husband. But as soon as it was announced the media was off discussing whether she would be back ‘post baby’.

Can I just say that us women don’t actually disappear off the face of the earth once we’ve had babies. Yes we are understandably distracted by trying to nurture and keep a totally dependent human being happy and healthy, but we don’t suddenly become shadows of our former selves. So many people assume that a pregnancy announcement for a sportswoman is akin to a resignation but I wouldn’t be too sure. Jess has already said she will be returning to sport after having her baby and she is in good company because many other athletes have come back even stronger after having children.

One of my favourite twitter accounts Spikes tweeted a link to their site of a list of brilliant athletes who have returned with a bang after pregnancy. They missed out some other ladies though including Chaunte Lowe and Sonia O’Sullivan. The Canadian hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep returned to high level competition just months after having her first child. So why, WHY, does this question about mothers always have to be asked? I’m not saying all women will return to their pre-pregnancy activity but I’m sure it’s more about a little thing called choice rather than ability. But it frustrates me that it is always assumed that a mother loses interest along with her ambitions and desires.

If anything I would suggest that other athletes should fear a competitor returning after having a baby. The high jumper Chaunte Lowe was apparently faster and stronger after having children. There is also a myth that pregnancy and child birth can benefit distance runners, no actual research evidence but anecdotally some women have said they felt a difference. But what about the mental aspects? Mothers have to be focussed and be committed to fitting things in around their babies. All of a sudden there is less time but somehow you can find the time because anything else is not an option. Maybe these mental and emotional changes could give these athletes a different sort of edge.

This isn’t to say that women who haven’t had children are lesser athletes either. They most certainly are not. But I’d like the patronising drivel around women coming back to sport after having babies to stop. Jess Ennis-Hill is having a baby, not retiring. And all being well for her she could come back better than ever.

Tequila and Running. They Make Me Happy.

Just before the weekend I had built myself up to accepting that I probably wouldn’t get any running done. I was going to the wedding of one of my best friends from school and I was up for some fun. There were some guilty feelings but as my husband and I don’t get away by ourselves very often I had made peace with it and guilt was replaced by excitement. There was to be no running or training…..until I got a text from one of my oldest and dearest friends asking me to bring my kit with me. There was a decent gym in the hotel and he wanted to do an interval session with him. Who was I to say no to this? At the last minute my kit made it into the bags.

My friend is running his first marathon at London and he is really committing himself to the task. He was an excellent swimmer as a kid. In fact we first met as 8 or 9 year olds at swimming club before I saw the light and discovered running (sorry water babies). Dean isn’t a runner but he’s been really organised, finding a plan, sticking to it and adapting it to his schedule and his strengths. He’s even joined a Masters swimming session to back up his running with some cross training. He isn’t shirking on the training which is why at 8am on the morning of our friend’s wedding we met at the lift to go down to the gym.

We did an interval session on the ‘dreadmill’. It’s been a while since I’ve run on one of those and it felt really odd, not knowing how to work it for one thing. The great thing about going outside to run is that THERE ARE NO BUTTONS TO CONFUSE ME!

Dean talked me through a session that he’d done with Mel B (yes I just name dropped a Spice Girl, what?): 2 minutes walk, 4 minutes good pace and 1 minute sprint it out. We managed this 5 times and it all added up to approximately 5km on the treadmill, but lets face it who really knows with those things?

Afterwards Dean and I were ravenous. We went straight up to breakfast and behaved like total weirdos at the amazing breakfast in the Marriot Hotel, stalking the buffet and shrieking every time we found something we liked. In the end I had a huge spinach and smoked salmon omelette alongside mushrooms and some bread. We also found a pancake machine. We were in post exercise heaven.

Knowing me well my husband went to the shops and got me more food for the journey from the church to the venue. Other guests must have wondered who this woman was, as I scoffed a chocolate bar that I had stashed into my bag.

At the reception venue there was the obligatory wait around for the wedding breakfast as the bridal party had their photos taken. Dean and I, starting to feel the hunger pangs from our session again, found positions by the doors that the waiting staff had to come through with their trays of canapés. We practically jumped on the poor souls, blocking their way so we could get fed first.

And then after champagne and more champagne and dinner and speeches it was time to get up and dance around like loonies. I think my satisfaction at the fact I had trained in the morning meant I really decided to just go for it. For the first time in years I drank tequila and then we bounced around while other drunk people sang to Rockaoke. Dean did a stonking live band version of Like A Virgin. The morning after it was almost a relief to think that the pain in my calves was from dancing in heels and nothing running related.

I know that this post doesn’t read like it has a great deal to do with running but for me it does. We’re at the stage in January where people are getting deadly serious about marathon training and I applaud that, but life is still going on around us as we try to prepare. I could have been really disciplined and trained for the whole weekend, not drink any alcohol, go back to the hotel early and miss all the fun with my oldest and loveliest friends. But I didn’t. This weekend I found a balance and it was the right one. I felt a little bit smug about training in the morning but I feel even better that I spent time enjoying the company of so many fantastic people. I might have regretted not going for a really long Sunday run for a little bit. But I would have regretted not throwing myself into the celebrations and not having those tequilas* even more. Somehow I managed to achieve both running and celebrating, and I came away from the weekend feeling really happy.

*maybe I regret the tequila an innsy teensy bit.

Photo: Daaaaaaasrliiiings!!! @katielynn_w @deanpiperisalive

Be warned! Post tequila pictures are not always pretty.

My amazing friend Dean Piper is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support, a cause very close to his heart. You can find his fundraising page here.



Run With An Idea #9: Who Cares What You Write About Running?

This is the ninth topic in the Run With An Idea debates. I’ve sort of avoided writing this for a bit because I have been in a running and blogging lull. I love running but injury has thwarted me for many months. And when you’re a running blogger who is injured it can leave you with not very much to write about.

Blogging and I definitely have a love/hate relationship and I often lack motivation to sit down and blog properly. Feeling bad about running and writing about it can often lead to very whiny ‘woe is me’ type posts and I don’t like being that kind of ‘feel bad for me’ blogger. I don’t really want Facebook type comments e.g.  ‘you ok love? you’ll get there hun’. No I am motivated by debate and information sharing. I like a laugh and to be inspired. Lately though I am less and less inspired by running blogging.

I’m not entirely sure who I write for and I certainly don’t write to get free stuff. Reading a review biased blog is a total turn off for me so it’s something I do on rare occasions here, mainly because when I try to write a review post it can often feel forced. I’m also not a huge fan of training diary type blogs. It’s not that I think they shouldn’t document what they’re doing, just that I find it irrelevant to me and rather dull to read.

The blogs I love and enjoy reading have great stories behind them, make me laugh and are often very personal. I like rude, close to the knuckle posts and I love ‘angry, feisty, get the juices flowing and comments flying’ debate posts. I also love reading about how running and exercise have changed people’s lives for the better because that is probably one of the most important messages that needs ‘getting out there’ right now.

As I’ve been writing this I came to a conclusion: I don’t actually care who cares what I write about running. When I blog it usually comes from my heart and it’s never about what anyone else wants to hear (which isn’t good blogging apparently, but like I said, I don’t care). My most popular posts have been the ones where I have had moments of catharsis, have shared my love for a particular aspect of running or have shared my enthusiasm for my favourite athletes and big events, like my New York Marathon run down.

Although I’ve been a bit down about blogging I have to say that it has helped me reflect on the past year of injury and it has been like a mirror for me at times when I’ve gone back to read it: answers have been jumping off the screen, staring me back in the face. I remain an intermittent blogger but that shouldn’t matter to the readers ( if indeed I have any). If I have nothing to blog then why blog?

So really I’m not at all bothered whether you like my blog or not. If you find something here that you like then please tell me, as I will if I find a blog post I connect with. But you know, if I was bothered by what everyone on the internet and people on other blogs thought about my running blog, it really wouldn’t be mine would it?

*presses publish to send post into the internet abyss*