Category Archives: Injury

Stretching and strength

Some of you might remember that I had a terrible time late last year with my sacroiliac joint (the joint where the lower back meets the hips). Well, it’s playing up again. It’s threatened a few times over the past twelve months but somehow I’ve managed to stave it off. But not this time.

My sacroiliac joint ligaments are loose. I’ve had all sorts of tests and seen specialists. The results are always the same: a loose sacroiliac joint. The bad news is that it can’t be fixed. The good news is that I can’t make it any worse. I like the good news part.

I aggravated the joint last week when I stepped off a log awkwardly and jarred my back. I have been to the physio and that helped a bit but I know from experience that only two things will make the pain go away: time and core strength.

So today, instead of going out riding, I have spent an hour doing crunches, plank, leg raises, push ups, squats, lunges, stretches and have rolled my calves. It’s been a few months since I did any strength exercises so I’m sure my performance will improve too.

Total: 1 hour strength and flexibility.

5km run

After two weeks off, I returned to my marathon training program this morning.

The run I went on this morning was lovely. I just did a slow 5km. I’m not aiming to break any records or run any PBs at the Brisbane Marathon so my approach to training is quite relaxed.

I enjoyed the run. It felt good to be out sucking in oxygen and watching the morning go from dark to light.

Total: 5km mixed terrain run

Crazy rest day

I’ve had to take some rest time last night and today. My right calf was tight and sore all yesterday, with some tension also in my right achilles. I iced it during the day and last night. It’s not painful anymore today but I can still feel the tightness spreading to my right shin. I’ve looked at my monthly stats and have done a lot of mileage this month for someone who’s meant to be easing back in after a lengthy period of injury so decided a few days rest wouldn’t hurt.

Mind you, today has been crazy anyway. I caught a 5am flight to Canberra so left home at 3:15am. And now I’m at the airport waiting for a 7pm flight back home, so I won’t be home until about 8:30pm. In between, I gave a major presentation for work and sat an online university exam. Now I’m going to settle into a few hours of listening to the Scout leader training eLearning modules.

Tomorrow is Scout water activities camp – no doubt it will be a lot of fun for us leaders too. And then Sunday Whoops Witch Way has the iAdventure Sprint Adventure Race. It promises to be a hilly course.

*sighs* … At least the stressful parts of today are over … What a double whammy – public speaking and an exam.

Total: Rest

Rest day and shin splints

I decided to take a rest day today and to go cycling tomorrow morning. I was going to do things the other way round but what’s the fun of life without some spontaneity. The rest day has been fabulous. I slept in a bit, went to work and am about to go home to chill out until my partner gets home from late shift.

In other news, my shin splints are causing me a bit of bother. Despite all the physio I had in the second half of last year, they are now worse than I can ever remember them being. (Note, that’s definitely not a criticism of the physiotherapist who was really great).

It hurts to walk when they aren’t strapped though I am running pain free during my weekly trail running sessions when the shin is strapped. Clearly, the lengthy period of rest from running didn’t do the trick so I’m not entertaining that idea again. I’m not going to run more than once a week though.

I’m stretching my calves three to five times a day, doing my trigger pointing and also rolling the calf out on my foot ease at least every second night. Hopefully it helps stretch the muscle so that the pressure is taken off the connective tissue around the shins.

I am in two minds about going back to physiotherapy. I spent well over a thousand dollars there in the second half of last year and am no closer to a cure. I’ve had periods where the pain has gone so it might help but every time the pain just comes back. Actually, what happens is that when my shin isn’t sore, my sacroiliac joint plays up. And when my sacroiliac joint isn’t sore, my shin plays up. So there’s definitely something cyclical going on.

I am considering buying a pair of compression garments to wear when my shins are most painful. Perhaps it will provide enough support to relieve the pain in my shins. The only thing stopping me is not knowing whether they will actually work or whether I’ll be throwing more money at something else that doesn’t quite work.

I’m not upset at the situation. In fact, I’ve had shin splints since I was 17 or 18 years old so I’m sure I can continue to live with them. My biggest concern is that they turn into stress fractures. But hopefully with my training focus shifting to cycling and paddling, rather than running, the risk of this will be reduced.

So that’s it from me on this rest day. If anyone has any ideas for my shins, I’m open to suggestions. Tomorrow morning I am getting back on the bike for one last ride before my 200km night Audax cycle on Saturday. I’m a little nervous because there’s 2,500m of climbing and I’ve never ridden more than 160km before.

 

Got shoes will ride

Have shoes will ride
Bike ride, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Do not fear going forward slowly, fear only to stand still”. I read it this morning on Fit for a Year’s blog. It was exactly what I needed to read at that moment. So, while my partner (who is on an inspiring journey to health) went out for her 4km morning walk, I pulled on some clothes, my bicycle helmet and my new, as-yet unworn mountain bike shoes to tag along with her.

By the time I reached my partner she was already half-way through her walk and I fear I scared her when I cruised up alongside her on the gravel road. For the next 2km I cruised slowly alongside her as we talked. It felt so good to be back out on my purple monster. My sacroiliac joint seemed to handle the gentle cycling movement well and I arrived home half an hour after I left feeling refreshed, relaxed and positive. I only rode 5km (I did an extra loop while waiting for my partner to walk along a stretch of footpath too narrow to share) but it’s 5km in the right direction.

After my ride I went out to the proverbial coffee with my running friends (I say proverbial because I drank chai tea). They realised I was slipping into depression so staged a well-timed and perfectly executed intervention. There was no heavy talk. Just “what’s going on with your back?” and “are you able to start exercising again?” and then stories about their adventures. I never realised they are off to do their first triathlon on Sunday 16th December; a sprint distance event to boot. They’ve been training hard and are excited. I can’t wait to stand on the sidelines and cheer them on.

I’m learning important lessons through this difficult period. Today’s was about the power of friendship. Tomorrow morning I will be taking a short ride with one of my other running friends. At coffee this morning the girls told me that I should join her as she’s new to cycling and would love company while the rest of the group take off on their harder triathlon training ride. J is even going to stop by my place with her car so that me and my bike can get to the ride (I don’t have a car but am not yet ready to cycle the 10km each way to and from the ride).

Total: 5km cycle, a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.

First session of the new year

Sun salutations

Sun salutations

Today is the first day of my journey to running a 100 miler. At this stage, that’s my ultimate running goal. The distance is calling me the way The Landy is called by Everest. I’ve spent the full southern hemisphere spring in rehabilitation mode but since this morning my physio and I have switched to ‘moving forward’ mode.

I have to give Paul Trevethan at Body Leadership Australia a big shout out because he’s been wonderful. From the moment I walked into his clinic he listened to my needs, fears and frustrations. He’s responded to my text messages asking for help and he’s squeezed me in when I’ve urgently needed his healing hands. He’s never told me I couldn’t do anything but has been honest about the areas of my body I need to look after (and he’s never said “I told you so” when I failed to listen).

Tonight I did my stretching routine for the first time since October. I also did two rounds through the Hatha Yoga Sun Salutations. I only did them gently and tentatively but it’s a start. I start yoga classes on Tuesday 18 December and have already told my instructor about my SIJ so she’s going to help me avoid exercises that might flare it up.

I have also done three sets of five exercises each of my pilates exercises: setting my stomach, clams, knee raises, rocking my knees side-to-side and hip raises. My core strength is terrible. But I am practicing these basic moves until I start pilates classes on Monday 17th December with my physio’s wife (also through Body Leadership Australia). The great thing about taking pilates classes with my physio’s wife is that she will know my limitations and core strength needs.

My physio is looking at ordering me a sacroiliac joint brace and has taped me up in the interim. It’s all systems slowly shifting into “go”. I’m being careful not to overdo it and will continue to be guided by both my body and my physio. But it feels good to be making the first step towards my 100 miler goal. A goal that might take a while to reach but one that promises an interesting journey.

A diagnosis

I went to a specialist this afternoon. He performed some tests and confirmed that my injury is a sacroilliac joint dysfunction. My particular version of the injury is excessively loose ligaments in the right sacroilliac joint. It is likely that I actually suffered the injury as a child or teenager through a hard impact (though I don’t remember any hard impacts other than knowing that I once fell off a rearing horse) and that my legs tightened to compensate. With the treatment to my legs, which have loosened, the sacroilliac joint has lost its artificial support.

The specialist recommended prolotherapy. Actually, he wasn’t interested in discussing any other less expensive or invasive options with me, leading me to form the conclusion that he was just churning people in and out for money. In fairness, I only met the man once but as soon as I started asking questions like, “Is the treatment permanent?” and “What other options are available for treatment?”, the specialist seemed annoyed. I have done some reading about prolotheraphy and am not convinced about the science; it seems a little like quackery to me but that’s just my personal opinion. The fact that the specialist said I’d need a refresher treatment every two years was enough to make me realise its just a bandaid.

The good news is that I can’t make the injury worse by running, cycling or kayaking. I can only aggravate it so that it causes pain. I spoke with my physio (who is an incredibly patient man who I actually trust and who I know has my best interests at heart). Tomorrow we will put a plan in place for forward progress. This plan will include pilates classes and changing my running technique to reduce the pressure on my body.

My personal plan is to include aromatherapy, yoga, core strength and massage into my routine. I am also going to look into a lumbar support for when I run, hike and kayak. In the worst case, I’ll switch from running to cycling. But I’ll cross that bridge if I get to it.

In the meantime, I bought myself a copy of Ride by Josh Kench. The blurb on the back and flicking through a few pages inspired me so I’m looking forward to reading it. Who knows what crazy ideas I might come up with as a result 😉

Let’s end the pity party

Everyone has pity parties sometimes. It’s a normal and natural part of being human. We want things to happen easily and quickly. But sometimes they don’t. When we are hurting or afraid our pity parties sometimes take on a tantrum-like quality. It’s like we revert to childhood and to rolling around on the floor threatening to eat worms. It’s not very dignified and it’s difficult to come back from a tantrum. But the measure of one’s strength and courage is not their ability to avoid the pity party; it’s their ability to recover from it. It’s their ability to say, “No! I am going to fight this fight! I will not quit!”

I have spent the past two weeks feeling sorry for myself. My old anxiety disorder has been forcing its way back into my life. I let my guard down while things were good and forgot to protect myself when things got tough. That’s the nature of anxiety disorders, they creep up on you and then cut you down like a sword strike to the backs of your knees. Once you are down, it’s difficult to walk again. So you start to crawl. And you look up at the world around you and feel so small for not being able to walk with them. It takes deep resolve and focus to grab hold of a railing to lift yourself back up into the sunshine. But I’ve been there before and it’s worth it.

Being injured has made me scared. I’ve been scared I’ll never heal. I’ve been scared I won’t be fully productive at work again. I’ve been scared that I’ll lose myself back into the grip of anxiety that I used to live in. I’ve been scared I’ll regain all the weight I worked so hard to lose. I’ve been scared I won’t be able to enjoy the company of my running friends. I’ve been scared I won’t get that seratonin hit that comes with pushing through the wall in an ultra marathon.I’ve been scared I won’t be able to ride my bicycles again after spending lots of money fixing them.

I’ve also felt guilty. I’ve felt guilty about the $250 a month physiotherapy is costing me. I’ve felt guilty for spending lots of money fixing my bicycles and then not being able to ride them. I’ve felt guilty about the angry and miserable moods my fear has caused. I’ve felt guilty about not performing well at work. I’ve felt guilty for not being a better role model for my employees. I’ve felt guilty for not being more available to my son and grandchildren. I’ve felt guilty for not repairing the relationship with my son after we had a major argument on a day when we both felt vulnerable. And even worse, I’ve felt guilty for feeling guilty.

Fear and guilt have built inside me until it’s become a crippling anxiety. And that’s only fed both the fear and guilt.

But I don’t want to go back there! I am not merely the sum of the races I enter or miles I run. They are things I do for enjoyment. Yes, they are a big part of my recovery from anxiety. But there are things I can do right now to fight both the injuries and the anxiety. I always knew it was going to be a long slow road to recovery when I started getting treatment for my shin splints. Fifteen years of muscle tension doesn’t just disappear overnight. I just wasn’t prepared for my back to go. So I didn’t mentally prepare for a recovery period that included a second round of pain.

Now that I know these things, I can decide to take steps to take charge of my body and mind. I can become a Body Leader rather than someone who lets my moods and lifestyle react to my body’s signals. Because my body’s signals are signs of how well I am treating it and I need to listen to them and take proactive steps. I won’t perfect this skill overnight. I’ve got to see it as part of my ongoing development. But I can take small positive steps every day.

I took a day off work yesterday. I was a cranky so-an-so all day, though the 40’C (104’F) heat didn’t help. But I did take some very positive steps:

  1. I went to my Australian aunt for Chinese medicine treatment and I asked her to explain what she was doing, why she was doing it, and how it can help me
  2. I got an xray of my lumbar spine to make sure there are no bone issues, which there aren’t
  3. I bought a jar of St John’s Wart to help break the cycle of anxiety and depression; while drugs or herbal medications might not cure the causes of the anxiety, sometimes it’s necessary to get some relief to help you think clearly and retake command of your body and mind
  4. I bought a jar of cod liver oil because my Australian aunt recommended it for joint health and to help reduce inflammation
  5. I didn’t cancel my physio appointment for Thursday (one of my self-destructive behaviours is that I walk away from professional help when the going gets tough so I fought the strong urge to just cancel the appointment and walk away).

Today I am working from home. I am going to take some more small positive steps to help me take charge of my body and mind:

  1. I am resting my body instead of going walking with my partner because I haven’t tried full rest as a treatment option yet
  2. I am researching aromatherapy treatments for my back, calves and mind; I love aromatherapy and believe it can be a helpful tool in both physical and emotional healing
  3. I am making enquiries with a local yoga instructor about her classes; my muscles are too tight and my core weak so I need to take proactive steps to help with those things
  4. I am designing a bar table style desk to use at work so that I can stand part of the day instead of having to sit
  5. I am getting my work done today
  6. I am going to the movies for a few hours with my partner because movies are one of my favourite sources of inspiration.

Most of all, I will not push everyone away from me like I always have in the past. It’s my go-to response. My big goal for this week is not to use it. I will go to physio tomorrow instead of cancelling. I will go to the bakery on Saturday morning at running club instead of being absent. I will phone my mate to see what he’s doing on Saturday afternoon instead of pushing him away.

I will fight back. I will take one positive step every day to control my responses to negative stimuli such as anxiety and injury.

Get me off this *&%^ing roundabout!

All I’m going to say is that after a weekend without back pain, I have come home from work today in so much pain that it hurt to get changed out of my work clothes.

I am fed up with this roundabout of hope and pain! And I am even more fed up with writing / moaning about it.

I no longer know what to do about it. I am going broke paying for weekly physio and am frustrated that it isn’t fixing the problem. I can’t keep up this lack of exercise because my increasingly flabby stomach and tight pants is upsetting me.

I desperately want to stay positive but right now I am depressed, angry, frustrated and totally demotivated. Some days I just want to go out there and be self destructive. I want to go out and thrash myself on my bike or running and really do an injury. I mean, if doing the right thing isn’t fixing this injury then what harm can thrashing myself do.

I realise this is just stupid so I won’t do it. But it’s just my way of saying I’ve had enough. So until it’s fixed, I’m going to stop blogging because I’m sick to death of writing about it. I want to keep my blog and writing positive. But I’m so fed up, tired and frustrated that I have reached my limit.

So until my back is better, stay safe out there and have fun. I’m going to try to focus on something other than exercise for a while in the hope it takes my mind off things.

 

Taking things easy

I’ve not had much to report the past few days because I’m trying to take things easy. I’ve been working from home so that I can stand at my kitchen bench instead of sitting at my desk. This has been relieving some of the pressure from my SIJ. I have also seen a fantastic lady who does Chinese medicine, including cupping, remedial massage and acupuncture. I think that, combined with my ongoing physio treatment, has helped a lot.

I am no longer in continual pain, having now three specific pain points that flare up with specific activities (such as moving from sitting to standing or riding my motorbike). I hope this is a good sign.

I think my excessive walking the past few weeks is partly to blame for my back not healing as quickly as I would like so I have just been doing a daily 3.5km walk with my partner on flat ground (I am on strict instructions not to walk hills). I have also done a bit of geocaching on my motorbike with short 500m – 1km walks to find caches.

I am hoping to stick with this plan for the next week or two in the hope my SIJ finally settles down. I will have to actually go to the office tomorrow and a few days next week. But I am going to balance this with some work from home time. I am also going to buy myself a fit ball in the hope this encourages me to improve my posture and take walking breaks away from my desk.

All-in-all the current easing status of my back pain has helped to stop the black dog from dragging me away. I am starting to get back in control of my emotions and feel positive again. The decision to focus on adventure racing next year is a good one for me: I love racing and it gives me something healthy to focus on. The thing I have missed the most since my last race on 26 August is the feeling of being a race participant. And I just can’t wait to get that buzz again. Even if it will end up costing me many dollars to enter all those races. It’s still cheaper and more fun than psychotherapy 😉

I hope to have something interesting for you in the coming weeks. My physio is quite keen to get me back out on my bicycle or doing some light running as soon as possible. He’s going to help me work on an improved running technique too, which is super exciting.