Category Archives: health and fitness

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.┬áIt’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.

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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.

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The Joy of Volunteering

If you read one of my last posts (it has been a while, whoops) you might remember that a new running group had been set up locally to me. I had offered my help and had started to lead a run mid week as I couldn’t make the other group runs. Following on from that though, at the requet of quite a few people, I have found myself coaching total beginners. People who have never run in their lives now want to try it and I am in the priveleged, trusted position of helping them.

For the first few sessions as a running leader I felt tremendously nervous. I would panic over whether a session was too much or not enough. Had I taken in everyone’s individual needs but also addressed the needs of the whole group? Would people feel a bit achy afterwards and not come back? Would it all just die off?

I’m glad to say that five weeks down the line people are still coming to my beginners group and the enthusiasm is still strong within my group of runners. They have been coming in rain, hail, frost and bitter cold which has surprised and amazed me. If one or two can’t come they actually seem disappointed. Last night we did our first ‘interval session’ where I got them to run a bit faster than usual and everyone was smiling. Nobody was discouraged and nobody felt they had to drop out. As we did our walk/run back to our meeting place I got them to take turns in deciding where we would walk to and where we would run from. And while they were doing this I realised I loved volunteering to help this group of non-runners on their journey to become runners. I felt proud last night and I couldn’t stop telling them how they had impressed me and how well they were doing.

I wouldn’t insult a coach with qualifications by saying I’m a coach. I’m a Running Leader volunteering to help others and it’s made me love running more than I ever have before. To see these people develop and improve in front of my eyes is fantastic and I feel humbled that they trust me to help them do it. It’s a time when it’s not about my running, it’s about helping others run and discover a like or a love for running that they didn’t think possible. I don’t want money or favours or things for doing this, I already have a job. Volunteering and helping this beginners group is purely, without a doubt for the love of running.

When Running Is The Problem.

I love running. I honestly really do. In my job I do my utmost to keep people running. I hate having to tell people they shouldn’t run but sometimes I have to for their own good and to enable any exercise therapy or treatment we do to be effective. Not everyone takes my advice and hey, sometimes people do get better with or without my advice. I can only go on what I find during an assessment and advise accordingly.

What I have found increasingly over the last few years is that with an increase in the running population has come an increased tendency for people to downright refuse to stop. They will continue to run even when there are a set of circumstances in front of them which are screaming at them to stop running, not permanently, just for a while.

I have had two cases in clinic recently where the best advice was certainly to stop running. But neither runner really accepted this. the compulsion to run was so strong that these runners were prepared to continue until any running at all was impossible. The most extreme of the two was a patient with a stress fracture so chronic that you could actually palpate the bony callus on his shin and hear the bone clicking when they hopped up and down. When I gave my diagnosis (which was confirmed by x-ray) the patient told me they had known in their gut for a few months that it was likely to be a fracture but hadn’t wanted to stop running, for fear of losing out on races and everything he gained from running. And yet the first question this person asked was ‘do I really have to stop running?’

I do sympathise because being injured is awful but I do feel that I’m increasingly in a ‘shoot the messenger’ situation when I have given advice to rest from running (that’s rest, not give up). I have had a patient swear at me because I advised them to rest for two weeks from running and to cross train instead. Actual aggressive language used because I gave a professional opinion. I may be good but I can’t speed up the natural healing times of muscle, tendon or bone. They all need their time to be appropriately treated and severity of an injury will always have a much bigger impact. Continuing to over load healing tissues will always mean things take much longer to heal, I don’t make this shit up.

Recently I have become aware of a personal trainer who is encouraging their beginners running group to run pretty much daily. Firstly, you’re going to put people off running because before long it will start to seem like a chore but secondly that is far too much for beginners who are just getting used to putting 4 TIMES THEIR BODY WEIGHT through their lower limbs. It’s making beginners over train and a study has found that training error and over training are the most common cause of over use injuries in recreational runners. In fact the most common type of injury among recreational runners is overuse injury, not sprains and strains. They are injuries that are unavoidable and yet more and more injuries like this are walking through my clinic door. (If you fancy a read that’s Taunton et al who published a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2002, just to show again I’M NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP!).

Why this obsession with running hard and fast all the time? Why are people being made to feel like they have to? Running every day doesn’t suit the majority of runners and to do that I think you have to be a runner of great experience who has built up to it sensibly over a longer period of time. That’s why I felt quite glad that I saw an orthopaedic surgeon comment that people planning on training for a marathon should have been running 2-3 times a week in the 6 months before training commenced. The body needs to be trained to train, conditioned to be able to handle the task that is given to it.

So if you’re a runner who feels like they need to keep up with everyone on social media and feel guilty about not joining in with run streaks, please don’t. Think about what your own running goals are. Be smart with your training. Give your body a rest from the pounding it gets 3- 4 times a week with some cross training, pilates or yoga. And if you get a niggle or are concerned about any pain that isn’t your usual post run pain go and ask your GP or an appropriate clinician for advice. Some things can’t be diagnosed via Twitter.

 

Buds

I haven’t posted here for ages. I used to feel awful if I hadn’t blogged and I’d sometimes feel a pressure to post something, anything, just so people would know that I was still here. That pressure seems to have dropped considerably in the past few months and this is probably for a number of reasons: no races to post about, being ill, being unable to run regularly, enjoying the holidays with the kids and having nothing to say (I don’t see the point in posting for posting’s sake). However when I sit and think about it the main reason that I haven’t posted that much is that I have let life sweep me off my feet a bit and I have surfed that wave with gusto.

Before Christmas I had to present to my peers and to sports physiotherapists who I admire (one of whom has worked at many Olympic Games). I was a nervous wreck so I made preparing a priority. Regular running went out the window but I didn’t notice so much because I had another task at hand. The week before Christmas I had a written assignment to give in and then on the first Monday back after Christmas I had to do another presentation. After the presentation on Monday I realised that this was another module completed (as long as I pass) and I am a step closer to completing a Masters degree in Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy. Just thinking about that has helped sow a tiny seed of professional confidence in my psyche, something that I feel has been missing for me since I left my full time job nearly five years ago.

On Tuesday and Thursday this week I completed my Sports Trauma Management qualification. My confidence rose again over the two days as I realised I enjoyed being a pitchside physio before the kids came along and that actually I hadn’t forgotten how to manage a spinal injury or how to spot a potential head injury.

This confidence then seemed to become a physical confidence. I managed a couple of runs without ending up feeling down and dismayed. I enjoyed them for what they were, no pressure, not training for anything, just running for the love of running and it felt unbelievably good. It goes to show how when I feel mentally well and stimulated I enjoy being active that much more.

Then yesterday evening I discovered that someone has set up a local village running group. And all of a sudden I was offering my help as a running leader and as a source of physio advice. Today they made me an admin and contact for the group. I also received an email from someone who wants me to contribute to an article they are writing for Women’s Running. They seem to have sought me out especially for their feature. I couldn’t quite get over it. When I told my husband he said ‘when are you going to start believing me when I say that you are awesome?’

I struggle with compliments and recognizing that I might be good at something. I was brought up with the attitude that you don’t push yourself forward because people don’t like show offs, and I really think that has impacted on me as an adult. I’ve tried to fight against those little entrenched mind paths for a long time and coming up to 36 I might just be starting to win myself round to the fact I’m not half bad.

I’m really excited about what’s ahead of me in the next few months. A dissertation and hopefully an MSc, meeting lots of new runners and maybe the occasional race. There are many little buds of confidence appearing in many areas of my life. I’m hoping I can nurture them all into bloom.

When You Find Something You Love

While I’ve been a bit under the weather and not running I’ve found myself contemplating my childrens’ own involvement in sport and exercise.

Usually on a Sunday I tend to stay behind while my eldest, who is 7, goes off with his dad to play tag rugby. Last Sunday it was too beautiful a day to stay at home so we all went down to the rugby field as a family to cheer the minis on. As I watched my boy play I noticed two things. The first was that he had obviously improved since I had last seen him. His passing was better, his tagging had improved and he has even developed a little dummy move. The second thing that I noticed was that he played the entire time with a smile on his face. There was a look of pure joy as he chased kids down to grab their tags and glee as he would find the ball in his hands before he decided to run with it or pass.

The next day when we were in the car together I turned to him and asked him if he had enjoyed playing and he said (of course) that he had. Then I told him that he played with a huge grin on his face.

‘I know Mum’, he replied ‘It’s because I love rugby so much and it makes me happy and I want to play it all the time’.

I think I remember feeling the same way about athletics. I remember being excited about going training and loving being around people who wanted to try and run fast. I loved the competition and I loved finding out what my session was going to be.

I remember my father taking my brother and I to all sorts of activities and sports. If we showed the slightest inclination about trying something he would take us along, let us have a go and then if we moved on so be it. Before I found running I had tried swimming, karate, dance, Brownies and ballet. But when I found the thing that I loved there was no going back. It was like being given a gift. It took practice and time and effort but because I loved it, it never felt like work or a chore. It’s a special thing and I have always vowed to do the same thing for my boys. I will let them try as many things as they can until they find the thing that they really want to do.

My son is still young and he may decide next week, or next month or next year that he doesn’t want to do rugby anymore. Until then he will keep going to rugby as long as it makes him happy. His little brother will carry on going to karate while it excites him and makes him want to practice his moves around the house to Iron Maiden. But equally I don’t want them to specialise too young so I will encourage them to continue all manner of other activities for as long as possible.

I started running age eleven and at age thirty five I still love it. Maybe I’m lucky that I found a sport that I loved at such a young age and despite all the peaks and troughs I’ve had with running I’m still drawn back to it. I found something that I loved and when you find that thing you shouldn’t let it go.

For Me

After London Triathlon I ended up doing naff all on the fitness front. I walked the dog but that was it. The boys were still in the midst of their summer holidays so I took the opportunity to have a rest. I thought it would bug me and I would get cross with myself for not training. But I didn’t. The was no over riding compulsion to run, bike or swim. Instead I enjoyed the time I had with the boys until they went back to school and accepted that this wasn’t the time to try and fit in more sessions.

When I look back over the last couple of years I’m amazed that this had become my outlook. Previously the urge to run or train would have been so strong that I would almost become angry and resentful that I wasn’t able to dart off for a run. The thought of losing fitness and detraining would have been almost abhorrent and I would probably have thrown an adult sized tantrum about it. This would be followed by manic training to try and make up for lost time, resulting in niggles.

Compulsion, self judgment, life stressors and constant comparing of myself with others only ended up in one place. Over use injury.

I’m so used to being injured that I had predicted that I would almost certainly get injured while training for the London Triathlon. But I didn’t. I think it was because I placed no expectations on myself, embraced it as all brand new and a great opportunity to learn. I placed an emphasis on enjoying my training and that’s what happened: I enjoyed training and I enjoyed the triathlon. I have no idea if my time was any good but for once in my life it really didn’t matter. It had been about me and my happiness.

Now that the children are back in school I have managed to get back out running again. Instead of stressing about mileage, pace and how fast I have taken an ‘ease back in’ approach. I have managed to get out for about 25 minutes each time, fairly short runs on the face of it. But instead of worrying about how far or how fast I’ve been running for me. When I look back to my first marathon in 2012 that is exactly the reason I was running: for me. And I think that’s why I enjoyed marathon training so much. Once I put all sorts of other stressors on myself it stopped being about me and instead became a compulsive act which wasn’t always so good for me and a body.

I think I’ve recognised, the hard way, that I need to consider my health and emotional well being above everything else. The over riding compulsion to run or train has ebbed away and I now run because I want to not because I think I should. I haven’t entered any more races or events and I haven’t felt the urge to yet. I would rather run this way for a while and then develop a feeling for a goal as things progress. I’m sure I will but I don’t feel any rush to right now. I feel far more in control of running rather than it controlling me. Right now, even though I’m not running far or as fast as I was a couple of years ago, I am happy with running. I am running for me.