Monthly Archives: January 2015

Memes and Motivation

I love the new campaign by Sport England. The ‘This Girl Can’ advert demonstrates that all women, no matter what age or body shape, can find a sport or fitness activity they love. It doesn’t have to be what the latest fad is, it doesn’t have to be about ‘weight’ or ‘appearance’. Instead to me it is saying:

Get out there, enjoy yourself, make new friends, discover a new talent with the added bonus of being fit at the same time!

I know that it is not to everyone’s taste. Some people from the University of Bath believe it is ‘unfeminist’ but I can’t agree. There is no sexualisation as far as I can see and it is a celebration of sport and activity. I watched the advert and hoped that many other women would be inspired to take up something new or return to a sport they once loved and in their hearts still love.

And then there are these ‘no excuses’ memes which quite frankly don’t help. Seeing people in their bikinis flashing rock hard abs do absolutely nothing for me. Some would argue that I’m jealous. I would argue that sitting in the gym for six days a week, eating next to nothing and posing in skimpy outfits is nothing for me to be jealous of. And I’m definitely not jealous because I went for a run today in the bright Winter’s sun, enjoying the crisp air hitting my cheeks. Running is my motivation, not abs. Abs will never be my motivation.

Then there is the no excuse element. I feel that this always strikes an accusatory tone. It may be motivation for some but I know plenty of people who will be ambivalent to it. In fact I think it could turn a lot of women off exercise. Plus why presume that all people want to go to that extreme? I know so many people who have run marathons and ultra marathons (including myself) but we don’t go round pushing it on people, because we know it will just piss people off be irritating.

As a health professional I want people to be healthy but also enjoy what they are doing to make themselves healthy. Being thin/slim/skinny and being fit for training or for sport do not necessarily go hand in hand. And yet women continue to have ‘aesthetics’ pushed on them rather than healthy, achievable goals.

I hope that the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign continues to be the success that it is. I never believed that after having two children I would have run two marathons, but I have and it is something that can never be taken away from me. This girl definitely ‘did’ and will continue to do so for as long as I can (and am uninjured).  I will never have a six pack. It has never bothered me to have a six pack. My ‘excuse’ is that I don’t see a six pack/abs as particularly important to me. Give me a running goal though and I’m all over it like fake tan on a Women’s Health cover shoot.

(As an aside, I don’t have abs but I have been told I have quite a nice backside, however I think it would be a tad inappropriate to ask my sons to point at my arse while I pose in shorts barely covering me. That would be weird and I would also like my sons to know that a woman can be strong for many reasons, intellectually, emotionally to name just two,  not just for her ability to squat a bar.)

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Mud and Tumble

Over the weeks I’ve been building my CV and fitness base again. A gradual build of running plus some turbo trainer action and a regular circuits class. I love the circuits class and not just for enabling me to giggle at people’s interpretations of different exercises. I mean, where’s the coach? Sorry I digress..

Oh yes, serious fitness building. I want to keep hedging my bets but dare I say it, things seem to be going okay. So yesterday morning I wrapped up keen to get out for around 40 minutes. I made it less than 150 meters up the road, skated, slid and saved myself from falling on black ice. I beat a hasty retreat back home. Plenty of people fall and break wrists in this weather, I didn’t fancy being an A & E statistic. Total chicken I know but there we are.

I didn’t jib out completely though. I went out for the day with the family, had a nice lunch and when we got home I decided it was the perfect time to head out for attempt 2. Rain had helped to melt away the black ice and although it was damp it wasn’t terribly cold. I only needed the three layers and some gloves, which for a South Wales valley at this time of year is warm.

As I headed off I decided that I’d had enough of pavements so I veered off onto a local trail. I realised fairly quickly that all the ice from the morning had melted and made the mud even deeper and stickier. This amused me and I started singing a running version of ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ to myself, mainly for the part that goes:

Oh oh!
Mud,
Thick, oozy mud.
We can’t go over it,
We can’t go under it,
We’ve gotta go throught it!
Squelch squelch, squelch squelch

And that is what I did. Straight through all the muddy puddles, white Saucony trainers now a murky, browny-grey colour. Splash, splosh, squelch. Before long I was recalling how much I had loved cross country and getting muddy and dirty in great abandon. The tree tunnel I was in was helping to shield me from the elements and as I got braver I started to stride out, enjoying the increase in intensity the mud gave me and then……

ERGH. OW. UGH. ARGH.

I caught myself awkwardly on a slippery rock and BANG. I fell back, twisted and landed, saving myself with my elbow. I darted back up as if I had been shot, felt a creak and a twinge in my shoulder. And then?

I carried on running.

I looked down and my bottom half was saturated in mud. This gave me huge amount of satisfaction. A grin emerged on my face and I continued to run at the same pace as I had before I fell. It was exhilarating.

Yesterday’s run was by far my favourite since I’ve been able to run more often. Adrenaline coursed through me and the amount of mud I was covered in secretly pleased me. I have always loved running in conditions like that. It amuses me that if I was just going on a walk I would have chosen to avoid that path but send me out running and I purposefully seek out these rough, unforgiving paths.

I also wonder if yesterday was a mental mile stone too. I didn’t head home after I fell, I ran through it and I hope that the little fears that crept in after being injured so long are gradually being dissolved by the return of my enjoyment for running. I am still a long way off from interval training, hill reps, tempo runs and even booking a race in. But it will come. What I do hope for though over the next few week is more squelchy, muddy runs like that because I really and truly loved it.

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Okay, that picture doesn’t make me look tooooo muddy!

 

 

 

Slow and Crap

Slow and Crap is how I feel about my running right now. I don’t feel anywhere like the runner I was in 2012. I don’t recognise myself as the 42 minute 10km/20 minute 5km runner that I was. Right now I can’t imagine being anywhere near as good at running as I was when I ran Edinburgh in 2012. Injury has caused me to see that runner as being someone in the past.

As I run along the pavements I occasionally catch a glance of myself in the reflection of the window of a parked car or a shop. The runner I see is hunched over, her form all over the place as she tries desperately to catch up to where she once was.

I know this is the hardest part, getting the running fitness back and feeling at ease with running again. I just think I’d forgotten how hard it was and it’s so difficult not to turn round and say ‘ahh fuck it, I give up’.

I won’t though. I just won’t.

EDIT 6/1/15: I just want to say that I wrote this literally as soon as I came in from the run above. It wasn’t a plea for sympathy, I know it’s going to be hard. I just needed to get this off my chest. I was typing the emotions I felt , in that moment.

Running Buddy

One of the best things about getting over injury is to be able to take my oldest son out on his bike while I trot alongside. This was a post Christmas run with ‘F’ accompanying me on his Christmas present, a brand spanking new bike.

The air was chilly, the ground covered in silver frost and he stole my gloves because his hands were cold. He declared himself my coach and there did end up being some Fartlek action as now and again I had to speed up and shout at him to wait for me. I can’t wait for youngest to be able to ride his bike too so we can all go out together.

Apologies for the shakiness of the video. I took it on my phone. Santa didn’t bring me a Go Pro. Maybe next year.

 

 

My Tips For Getting Over Injury

Seeing as I’ve had a little bit of experience of a chronic injury over the last year (possibly more) I thought a post about how I dealt with the issues I faced and how I managed being injured without going totally crazy might be of use. When I’m talking about tips for injury I don’t mean those little pulls and scrapes that resolve within a couple of weeks. I’m talking about injuries that are with you for the long haul. Below are things that I believe helped me. Read them, take them with a pinch of salt, slag them off but you never know they might help someone.

Acceptance

For ages I think I was in denial that I did have Achilles tendinopathy. This meant that I continued to run or do things that were only helping to worsen the problem. I think the moment that I accepted that I had an injury and that I needed to do something about it was the moment I started to improve my chances of resolving it.

Rest

Rest is a dirty word to runners. When my Achilles started to niggle I carried on training, mainly because I was training for London but also because I was being a bit stubborn. Lets face it deferring wouldn’t have been the end of the world! In this Running Times article John Ball talks about there being ‘a bit of OCD with runners’. I wondered about that comment but then decided, as we’re all on a spectrum of sorts with our behaviours, maybe it’s very true. The need and the drive to run, despite being a Physio who should know better, was so overwhelming that I had to keep training.

In the end I definitely made things a lot worse and my tendinopathy became very deeply entrenched. I needed to rest, to let things settle and allow myself to put strategies in place to get over the injury. It is frustrating but to get back to running sometimes it is best to do no running at all.

Seek Help: Physiotherapy, Rehabilitation and Treatment

All treatment and therapy interactions are leaps of faith. You have to believe in the person you are speaking to. You also have to trust that they have the knowledge to help you. A lot of runners will see one clinician and because they don’t hear what they want to hear i.e. you’ll be fine keep running, they declare the therapist as clinician rubbish and seek treatment elsewhere. If that is the case then I think you may have to revisit tip one again.

What you will find if you do go shopping around is that Physiotherapists pretty much give out similar advice. Healing times do not change depending on the clinic that you visit. Neither do the physiological effects of exercise alter depending on who you see. This may sound harsh but sometimes you have to get on board with what the health professional is telling you.

In the early stages of injury I didn’t even listen to myself and trust my own knowledge as a Physiotherapist. That running OCD kicked in and I didn’t do any of my rehabilitation. But then after giving myself a stern talking to, accepting my problem, chatting with colleagues and reading the evidence about tendinopathy I embarked on a programme to target my tendinopathy. And guess what? After three months it’s worked.

Three months sounds like forever in running terms but I told myself it was better than knocking running on the head altogether. I’m not out of the woods yet but I am getting there. So my main point for tip three is to do your exercises and do not expect an over night miracle. Stick with it. Exercises take time and patience.

Embrace Cross Training

As runners we like to think, or I certainly did, that running is the best thing in the world and nothing else can compare. So when you are forced to do something else it can feel like a poor replacement for our first love. I had to get over that deluded ideal when I realised I faced months of no running at all. I was desperate to keep my fitness up and so I purchased my first road bike. And I discovered how awesome cycling is. Now that I can run again I can credit cycling with maintaining my base level fitness because it hasn’t been a total shock to the system during the first few runs. So embrace cross training, whether it is cycling, swimming, aqua jogging or walking. It will be your running saving grace.

Do Other Things

Use the time you would have been running to do or try other things. It doesn’t have to be fitness related. You could try something crafty if you are so inclined (I did try knitting) or you could be as extreme as me and sign up to a post graduate course. Admittedly a tad more expensive but the mind is as important as the body!

Talk About It

Find people who you know won’t think you’re crazy for missing running. Blog about it, tweet about it, just don’t bottle it up. When you’re used to doing something almost daily, something that feeds your body and your soul (runners know what I mean) and then you can’t do it at all it can feel a bit like a loss. I know that it seems extreme to talk about it in those terms but it can feel like you need to grieve a bit or have a little bit of a cry. I know I did but I just think that shows how much running means to me.

So there we have it. A very non-scientific list of tips in how to get over and survive a running injury. I am aware that as Physiotherapist I could have been a bit more in depth about aspects of my injury but this is a running blog not a Physio blog. Hopefully you’re not injured as I have been but if you are unlucky to have a chronic injury maybe there’s something here that can help you a little bit. Here’s to lots of amazing running in 2015. Happy New Year!

 

 

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