Category Archives: running

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.

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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.

 

A Club Was Born

Over Christmas I had been musing about athletics and running clubs. It has always amazed me that there are so many visible runners around my local area but no club to cater for them. I had a chat with a neighbour who dabbles a bit in running and she asked if I would help her and some others in taking their running to the next level. Over a few glasses of wine I said I would and when she said I should charge I was like ‘no, no I’d do that shit for free’.

And so I mused a bit on how I would go about this. I thought about the name of the Facebook group and where these runners would meet. But then because it was Christmas I thought I would leave it until the New Year and definitely after my presentation/study week in uni.

During the first week in January I happened to log in to Facebook and spotted a new page that people were joining:

‘Pontyclun Road Runners’.

Okay, I thought, I definitely don’t remember creating the Facebook page I had been thinking of. No, it was a local couple who had pretty much the same idea as I had. After a few messages on the page and offering help in leading runs this couple had made me an admin on their page. Then things progressed to me offering to lead runs on a Wednesday for people unable to make Tuesday and Thursday. Requests to join the group didn’t stop and well over 100 people had joined in a couple of days. All people who run or want to run, all different abilities but all people who want to run.

And so this spiral of events lead me to be standing in a local retail car park in the lashing rain last night waiting for five total beginners who wanted to try a run/walk session.  I really didn’t expect anyone to turn up but they did.

There were two women who had never run in their lives. Two men who had run many years previously and now wanted to get back into it again and a neighbour whose husband runs and who wants to try it for herself. I lead a short session and everyone managed it. I was thrilled for them.

As that group got into the cars and drove back to the warm I tried to dry off a little and warm up while I waited for the 7pm group. In the end five of us ran a 4 and a half mile route at a steady pace while the rain got heavier and heavier. My neighbour who had urged me to start a group was one of them and even though she said it was faster than her usual pace, managed to keep up. I was so proud of her. The other people were equally brilliant and at the end, despite the drenching we all got, said they were glad they had come along.

When I came home I was buzzing. I felt like I had done a really wonderful thing. It hadn’t felt like a chore to me, I had shared something with others that I truly love and they had all seemed to like it. One of the chaps in the beginners group said he had used to run half marathons but over the years had put on weight and encountered health problems. He said without the group he would probably never have tried going out on his own. I felt a lump in my throat when he told me this as I realized what a massive step this man had taken and a huge leap of faith to come along to my group, trusting me to help him.

I love running, this is no secret to anyone I know. Last night demonstrated to me how simple and yet so wonderful running can be. It is something that is accessible to the majority of people whatever their motivations for doing it. You can do it in almost all weathers and you don’t need anything really fancy or expensive to do it. I know people charge for beginners courses and running coaching but I don’t want to. There is a little club on the verge of blooming, made up of like minded people who just want to run with some support. To charge for that would be against everything that I think running is about. I know some people do make a living out of it but I wouldn’t want it to be a job. I just want to help other runners and enjoy my running at the same time. I really hope this club isn’t a flash in the pan and that we can keep it going because I think it would be great for everyone in our community. Maybe some of the beginners will develop a love for running in the same way I have.

 

Virus

Since September I have felt rough. As mentioned in previous posts I started really struggling with any exercise and ended up on a course of steroids. The steroids were successful in settling my asthma down but that didn’t seem to be the end of it. My chest was still productive despite the GP saying I didn’t need antibiotics and my head felt like it was ten times the weight it should be. I tried running but my legs were like lead and there was an unnatural crawling sweat that would cover my back and top lip. Obviously sweating is a natural side effect of exercise but this sweat was cold and accompanied by a swimming head.

So I stopped. And I rested. It has resulted in me not running for quite a few weeks. This also leads to the typical pattern of trying to fight against it: attempting running, telling myself I’m being a wimp, feeling guilty for not running or cycling and then worrying about losing all my fitness and undoing all the work I did training over the summer.

But doing all those things is an exercise in futility. Viruses have been around since the beginning of time and evolve at tremendous rates compared to the human race. Fighting against this tiny being that has millions of years of experience is pointless. So I focussed on my studies, the kids and work and allowed the healing process to take place. Trying to run while I felt so crap would either have made my chest worse again or just made me feel really down.

I haven’t been totally inactive though. I haven’t taken to bed other than making sure I have plenty of early nights. I’ve sacked off alcohol fr now to make sure I sleep better. And I have been taking the dog on long walks. I have been finding the dog walks rather healing. I am getting some exercise myself but in a way that doesn’t exacerbate everything else. Soothing, mindful dog walks have been my saviour from not being able to do anything more intense.

Yesterday my chest felt clearer and I went for a run. My confidence has depletes over the many weeks and I was worried going out. But I took it gently and even though it felt hard, my legs were no longer virally fatigued and my chest felt like it could move air through my lungs. I felt like I was finally better.

I’m not going to get those weeks back but again I have had to let myself heal. But now that I’m feeling well again I’m looking forward to some winter miles which will hopefully be filled with lots of winter smiles.

Passing The Baton

I haven’t run much at all lately. I was getting on okay and on the verge of signing up to races but a calf niggle stopped me in my tracks. Before I used to panic and enter all the races just in case, an urge that I never think is helped by reading achievements by others on social media. I used to get a ‘I must enter races to feel like a runner’ anxiety but of late I have taken a more sensible approach. There will always be races, the time will come again, I will get there and save myself wasting money in the long run.

I was about to start to get going again but my chest has flared up and I’m now on steroids and blah, blah I feel rough etc. But while I’ve not been running something else has been happening in the background. My seven year old has been quietly going off to cross country practice at school. He’s been taking his PE kit in, going to lunch early and then joining in with an older group of juniors who go to the same practice every Thursday. I thought it would be a flash in the pan, he’d realise his mates were off playing touch rugby and sack it off. But no. He’s kept going and I think he’s enjoying it.

On Saturday I took him to his first cross country race. It was at a high school and involved a lap and a half of a field. It didn’t all go to plan though. There were hundreds of kids, a huge scrum and sprint at the start meant a few boys tripped and fell. As the boys ran past me I couldn’t see him anywhere. Not at the front and not at the back. No where to be seen in the middle. I ran one way across the field and back to the other. And then I saw him. Floods of tears, holding his face. A boy had fallen in front of him and he’d tripped over him and hit his chin on the floor. A combination of shock and pain (and a fear of coming last) overcame him and he dropped out. My first instinct was to tell him he should have got up and carried on but then I scolded myself, as after all, he is only seven. I comforted him and we went home. On the drive home he said he was disappointed and that he was worried he wouldn’t get another go. I felt sad for him but I was relieved that he hadn’t been put off altogether. Having been spiked and elbowed in the past I think a cross country race can be just as vicious as many other sports

A side effect of eldest boy running has been that his younger brother aged five now wants t have a go. He had a bit of a pout on Saturday when I had to explain that the cross country was only for juniors and not for infants. I then remembered that we had a couple of junior Parkruns near us and a promise to sign him up and take him soon cheered him up.

I have to say that I’m thrilled that my children are taking an interest in running. Even if they don’t join a club or do it competitively I am happy that they seem happy to run for fun. I’m glad that they’ve been able to watch me enjoy running and I know that they’ve sometimes been frustrated when they haven’t been able to run with me. They’re definitely doers not watchers. As they’re getting older I’m sure they will do lots of other sports but I’m happy that I seem to be passing the baton down to them to continue my running tradition, in whatever manner they see fit. I feel that they’re also being taught that going for a run is a perfectly normal, acceptable activity and this will give them a good platform for their fitness and other sports as they grow older.

And after the disappointment on Saturday I came home from work to some lovely news. Eldest has been picked to run for his primary school at a cross country on Thursday. Proud Mum is probably an understatement but yes, I really am proud of my two little runners.