Tag Archives: cross training

Cheating On Two Legs With Two Wheels

So, I have given in. I have decided to see what this bike lark is all about. I swore that i would be a runner only until the end, but a combination of injury and boredom of run/walk led me to the deep corners of ebay and the discovery of my new bike. I dithered over whether to buy it for a couple of weeks, secretly sabotaging myself with the wait, telling myself I was being daft. And then, last week I clicked on add to basket and took a leap of faith via my credit card and the added trust of buyer ratings. It was done.

Within two days I had my bike (thanks Parkers of Bolton). It was rather stereotypically ‘girly’ in colour for me (white with a dash of lilac) but beggars and mothers of two kids who only do part time work can’t be choosers, and this bike was a bargain. Don’t worry, I had done some research i.e asking friends and neighbours who are into bikes. It was all going to be fine. As long as I hadn’t done any sneaky growing since I was last properly measured aged about eleven (I haven’t).

When the box arrived via a very prompt Yodel delivery (bravo Yodel, who knew eh?) my 6 year old was straight in there, assuming the bike was for him. Cheek! He did the hard work of unwrapping all the corrugated cardboard and tape for me while I had a cuppa. Who says kids can’t be helpful? He realised that the bike wasn’t for him and immediately tried to negotiate a road bike from Father Christmas for himself. Then the bike sat in my back room while I waited for my husband to come home. Yes, this is most unfeminist of me but if you’ve seen the garage where the tools are, and where my husband does his wood turning, you would know it was safer for me to just wait.

I was wondering whether it would be a five minute wonder. I wondered whether I would back out in fear and return it. I have to admit I am terrified of riding the roads on a bike and having it sat there meant put up or shut up. I had to face a fear I’ve held on to for a very long time.

The first ride I did I happened to be chaperoned by my 6 year old who has NO FEAR OF ANYTHING (life really does change when you get ‘the fear’). We stuck to safe paths and he chattered while I wobbled like Bambi on wheels.

The next day I scarpered for a longer ride before he could sense that there was an impending bike ride on the horizon (seriously that kid loves a bike ride). I got my balance (and my courage) and bit the cycling bullet. And I think I’m now hooked.

I have never felt so invincible and yet so vulnerable at the same time. Tell a lie, I did have a similar feeling to that when I was pregnant. Maybe it’s the knowledge that your body is doing something rather amazing that makes you, well me, feel that way. A combination of what for me was the unknown combined with the excitement of my body doing something utterly different. It was exhilarating to hear the orchestra of wind around my ears building to a crescendo as I descended a hill with the air swirling around me.

It was simply amazing and I didn’t fall or get scared by cars (ok maybe I did for the first 10 minutes). I was out for an hour and I came home wobbly legged and deliriously happy, a feeling that I haven’t been able to get from running because of all my niggles. It was the most satisfying hour of exercise I have had in months. It was an absolute dream.

I’m not giving up on running but I really needed something to give me the endurance and training base that I’ve been lacking through being injured. Now that I have my cheapo bike ‘Paula’  (don’t ask, the name occurred to me on first sight) I can do that while gradually building the running back up. Plus after only a few rides I’m actually looking forward to going out and riding ‘her’ *add canned laughter here*. But don’t worry running, this is just something I need to do so I can come back to you with open arms.

13 minutes And A Bit Of Resolve

13 minutes. 13 minutes 44 seconds to be precise. This was the length of time I ran for this weekend. This paltry little, not even 15 minutes, was my achievement on Saturday afternoon. Could I have run further? Yes probably. Why didn’t I? Because I’m taking my own advice for a change.

I love my job as a physiotherapist and I really enjoy treating runners: assessing them, getting an idea of the problem list, identifying the systems and possible tissues that are a problem, treating the mind and the body and rehabilitating them back to doing what they love doing the most. About a month ago I was told by one runner I had treated that I was ‘magic’. After a 3 month lay off with injury he was pain free and was running comfortably once more. I’m not boasting, this is what I’m sure loads of physio’s will hear once they’ve got someone better. It’s a response of relief and happiness and pleasure that a problem has gone. Most of it was probably what he did at home himself and I always remind patients that what they do outside of seeing me is probably way more important than the things that I do during a session.

I was really pleased, as I always am when a runner tells me they are back training, but I also felt a bit sad. Why wasn’t I back running? I was helping other crooked runners so where was my good running karma?

I sat back and reflected on what I had been up to for the past few months and why it was preventing me from running. Firstly I wasn’t actually taking ANY of my own physiotherapy advice. Here I was in clinic telling individuals to rest and yet I wasn’t resting my injured Achilles. I was trying to cheat my body, which was never right, and I was trying to train over the top of it. There was a period of over training and a period of a type of training that wasn’t right for me. I was self treating but not applying the right principles for the right stage of injury. Why was I doing this? Short answer: Panic.

With the Virgin London Marathon in April and all the training programmes starting from 16 weeks out, I think I went into a bit of a tailspin. The irrational panicked running side cancelled out everything else and all I could think about was the running that I wasn’t doing. Checking the training plan and ticking off the runs that I hadn’t done or wouldn’t be able to do. From somewhere deep within though after I saw that runner in the clinic I did have a bit of an epiphany. I needed to do things differently and treat myself a bit more objectively and more kindly than I was. I also had to try to be less emotional.

So I called on the sensible side of my brain and had a chat with physio colleague who told me what I probably already knew. I had likely given myself an acute tendinopathy which needed time to settle. But hearing it from someone else made all the difference. He also uttered the golden word: Rest. I needed to allow the healing process to take place. Stop over loading tissues that weren’t ready and cross train in a way that wouldn’t aggravate symptoms. I got myself reacquainted with my aqua belt and the turbo trainer and managed a few core exercises. And most importantly NO BLOODY RUNNING!

I have managed to stick with this for a good few weeks and I found bit by bit that I had a symptomatic improvement. I could heel raise on the bad side. I could start to do a few repetitions of heel raises on that side. I could jog on the spot with no pain. And the painful spot that I could squeeze in the mid portion of my Achilles tendon was no longer painful. I had become a bit obsessed with doing my own little squeeze test and I was becoming more and more hopeful as this painful symptom seemed to settle.

Towards the end of last week I started to feel a little bit more confident and I decided to try a cheeky jog. But, with huge restraint on my part, I made my jog a tiny one miler round the block, close to home. It felt weird and also brilliant to be in running trainers again. My somatic focus was still firmly on what was happening at my left foot and ankle but I was pleased to find it didn’t feel weak or sore. I could easily have gone further. But I didn’t. I came home and waited for the next 48 hours to see if the response would be a latent, painful, swollen tendon………….it wasn’t.

Yet I wasn’t about to start doing cartwheels and go out for a 10k. No. I gritted my teeth and yesterday I ran for 13 minutes and 44 seconds. I have no idea if it was more than a mile or less. I dare not run further because I didn’t want to cause any unnecessary inflammation. And besides I had the turbo trainer if I really wanted to train for longer. Again I have waited the last 24 hours to see if anything happens, checking that old painful spot and seeing if my functional tests are ok. So far, not too bad. But I’m reluctant to boast or say that I’m back running. And to over compensate, today I sat on the turbo trainer for an hour and fifty minutes. Ouchie.

I have no idea whether I will indeed make it to the start line in April. I am flying by the seat of my pants right now. I declared today that if I do make it I will run London in fabulous gold spangly Kylie style hot pants. I had a shit year in 2013 with injury but the truth is that I haven’t really helped myself. I stopped listening to my body and have tried to force things. I have re-evaluated a lot of things and there are some changes that I really need to make and I’m finding that what I’m doing now is weirdly more difficult than just trying to train over it. I’m having to use some resolve in order to fix this problem.

I need to thank Liz Goodchild for giving me the inspiration to think of that word: Resolve. Resolve seems to be my word for 2014 to replace the namby pamby whinging I did about my injuries in 2013. Looking back whinge was definitely my 2013 word.  Whinging is too easy but maybe it’s a been a process that I’ve needed to go through.

Whether I get to London or not I RESOLVE to find a solution to my injury, I RESOLVE to stick firmly with a course of action in the process and I RESOLVE to pull on the stronger points of my character to do this. Here’s to 14 minutes of running in just under 48 hours time. Fingers crossed *squeezes Achilles tendon for luck*.

Image from muscially.com

Help! Fear of Cycling!

So with being injured I have been trying to keep up my fitness by training in other ways. CrossFit has been part of that, mainly because lifting weights seems to help with the frustration while also making me feel a little bit like Wonder Woman.

Lego Wonder Woman was so strong she could whip metal chains using just her hair.
Lego Wonder Woman was so strong she could whip metal chains using just her hair.

I have been aqua jogging and I managed an hour session which was great. While I was doing it I thought it was really easy but afterwards I felt that lovely achy limbed feeling that you get after a decent run. Plus it had the bonus of being an hour work out without having to stop due to pain. Aqua jogging is a complete hassle though especially with two children on summer holiday. There is no way I can go to a pool, leave them in a creche and go off on my own. They would go potty as they both love the swimming pool. So I’ve been thinking of alternatives that would fit into my life the same way running always has and cycling seems to be the obvious choice.

I can ride a bike no problem. I have the old primary school cycling proficiency certificate so I know I’m qualified (that’s a joke by the way). I ride up and down the road teaching my son to ride his bike. I’ve had sessions sitting with the bike on the turbo trainer but in this heat it’s really not appealing to sit indoors on a bike that should be moving outside. So I should probably take my bike out for a spin. The only problem is I’m a bit terrified of riding on the road.

So what am I actually terrified of?

  • cars whizzing past me on the high speed limit roads.
  • cars going past me on the small one track roads where we live.
  • cars being impatient with me.
  • other cyclists being impatient with me.
  • forgetting what to do when I come to a junction or a roundabout.
  • falling off and hurting myself or the bike breaking when I’m far from home.

I’m sure I’m building this up into more than it needs to be but I’ve built it up so much in my mind that me actually going out on a bike seems like an impossibility. A few times I’ve intended to go but I’ve actually chickened out and made an excuse to do something else. I really want to give it a go because I think it would help me get over this injury and I really believe I would enjoy it. So how do I get over this fear of getting out on my bike?

Not quite a bike built for two.
Not quite a bike built for two.

P.S I know I’ve been wanging on about being injured on my running blog but I came across this lovely blog by Eilish McColgan. She’s been struggling with a stress fracture and I know we are worlds apart in terms of running and ability but it was a relief to read that I’m not the only one who gets obsessed with running when they’re injured!

This Injured Runner

So what did this injured runner do this week?


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!

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.


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.