TWIR #57: You Can Do a Lot on a Sprained Ankle

I often benefit from minor injuries. I realize this sounds like an odd statement, but they ignite some sort of stubborn, inner flame in me, one that causes me to rebel and say “I can still do stuff!!” Don’t mistake this for pushing the limits and furthering damage to an injury, mind you. I’ve learned that lesson painfully and slowly over the last year. I am just so, so, so terribly familiar with sprained ankles that I know what I can and can’t do with one.  This week, I attacked my seemingly small range of possible workouts with a level of commitment that I rarely show for…anything these days! Let’s see what I got up to.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: big win = avoiding mid-day fish and chips
Observations: I was a bit of a sad panda care of my stiff ankle so my boyfriend took us on a field trip to Steveston where we went for the world’s slowest walk. My biggest accomplishment was resisting fish and chips, a feat only accomplished because I had a big enough breakfast that I wasn’t hungry.  I was less successful resisting treats from a heavenly smelling (think: butter-laden air) bakery where I acquired both a pain au chocolat (which turned out utterly mediocre) and a double-chocolate cookie sandwiched with salted caramel buttercream (which turned out to be every bit as delicious as I’d expected). All in all, an excellent rest day.

Sunday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 65 min., mostly upper body
Observations: There was no more avoiding exercise. After the day prior, a double pastry day with far more sitting on my ass than I usually allow, I needed to hit the gym.  Thanks to my trainer, I have an absolutely massive repertoire of upper body exercises to draw from. This workout was proof that you can work up a good sweat with strength training, even if you’re really only working your abs and arms.

Monday
Activity: cardio warm up + strength training
Relevant Stats: 20 min. spin bike + 60 min. strength
Observations:  I was feeling confident in my ankle’s healing and decided to test it out on the spin bike. It held up, even with standing sets, but I didn’t push too hard with speed or resistance. I also tested the old ankle’s response to dead lifts and squats, both of which were fine. Side lunges, on the other hand, were not fine. Damn you lateral movements.

Tuesday
Activity: cardio warm up + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. stairs + 15 min. spin bike + 45 min. strength
Observations: En route to meet a friend for a lazy beach stroll, I stopped at the gym and fit in a decent workout. I tried stairs but found that, with any speed or resistance, the ankle wasn’t loving it. I wrapped up my cardio warmup by hopping over to the spin bike. I have to say, though, my upper body and shoulders were definitely not happy with me about three consecutive days of  strength training.

Wednesday
Activity: cardio warm up + personal training session
Relevant Stats: 10 min. stairs + 60 min. personal training
Observations: One of the good and bad things about commuting downtown for my personal training sessions is that I have to endure rush hour.  It’s good because I inevitably arrive downtown way earlier than I need to, which forces me to go to the gym first, but bad because that means I sometimes show up to my trainer already tired. Thankfully, this week I only had 10 minutes to spare before my training session. I thought my trainer would take mercy on me because of my ankle, but she showed surprisingly little concern. Sure, she stayed away from jumping, but I still had to dead lift 100 lbs and I still had to do single leg dead lifts (extra fun on a wobbly ankle, I assure you). Plus, she integrated a new arm/shoulder exercise which made me question whether I have actually made any progress with my upper body strength. Bless my trainer for always finding a way to make me feel like I’m still the weakest human on the planet.

Thursday
Activity: spin + strength
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 50 min. strength
Observations:  Though I loathe the location of the spin bike at my gym, it’s becoming one of the few cardio options for me at the gym so I sucked it up and gave it a go. After a half hour, I switched over to strength and killed my arms and shoulders yet again. I was able to do more leg and glute exercises, for sure, but I’m trying not to load too much weight on my poor ankle quite yet. Of course, after this workout I was positively starving and finished my lunch with a “dessert course”–a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch.  So….you win some you lose some.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I learned a very important lesson today: do not go to my gym at 9:00 am on a Friday. Everyone is either coming out of a fitness class or milling about waiting for the next spin class and it is a zoo.  For the first 15 minutes I had to horde any available equipment, which amounted to a 30 lb bar and one mat. Thankfully after 10 minutes the masses cleared and I fit in a decent workout, which I then followed with 16 km of walking. But don’t worry, I completely negated it all with a giant pecan ganache brownie for lunch. Balance.

Another week is done and all I can say is:

I’m looking forward to a rest day tomorrow during which my exhausted shoulders and arms may recuperate from the barrage of workouts they faced this week….oh, and we’re going to restock our wine collection so that will also make up for a tough week of strength training. Yay wine!

Real Talk Thursdays: I’ve been completely frivolous this week…and I haven’t felt better!

This week is the first week that I have absolutely no meetings, phone calls, or interviews. This should be anxiety-inducing since this means zero work prospects. Even worse, I haven’t done a single thing other than send one email to a company I’ve been chatting to about contract work.  That’s right. I am unemployed and I sent one email this whole week, booked zero meetings, and have generally done absolutely nothing related to my career.  Instead, I have been entirely frivolous with my time.

If you don’t believe me, here’s just a smattering of the utterly unproductive and largely unnecessary things I have done so far this week:

–watched 9 episodes of Nashville, 4 episodes of Cake Wars and, for reasons I don’t at all understand, 2 episodes of LIVE with Kelly.

–made “freezer waffles” (i.e. waffles that I freeze for future consumption), banana cookies,  lemon squares, and mini lemon blueberry buttermilk cakes

–gone for multiple mid-day walks often accompanied by phone conversations with my parents (perks of retired parents: they can actually talk on the phone mid-day)

–met a friend to wander the beach and get gelato (though, much to my anger and in contradiction to their posted hours, the gelato place was not open…I have still not recovered from this)

–fell down the rabbit hole reading Ask Polly posts , which led me down another rabbit hole reading Dear Sugar posts. Couldn’t. Stop.

So yeah, that’s a whole lot of me doing whatever I feel like doing in the moment, all of which are things that are most certainly not going to help me generate an income any time soon. You’d think I’d be a ball of anxiety, starting to panic perhaps, feeling all sorts of discouraged and crappy about things.

Nope.

I have to tell you that this is the first week in a long time that I’ve felt good. It’s the first week that I’ve had energy, that I haven’t dragged my exhausted ass to bed at 9:30 or taken a late afternoon nap. I’ve gotten less sleep and feel way better. I’ve felt calmer and, dare I say, happier.  The only thing I can attribute this to is that I’m not filled with dread knowing that I have to go out and essentially try to convince people (and myself!) that I’m interested in my profession. It’s delightfully liberating so, as much as I should probably be infinitely more productive, I’m just going to allow myself to enjoy these few days of frivolity entirely guilt free.

Mid-Week Tangent: Meal Planning (and money saving) Like a Champ (Part I)

I would be lying to you if I said I started meal planning in order to save money, reduce food waste or to eat better. These are just happy byproducts of a more selfish goal: my commute time was about to triple and I didn’t want to have to think about meals when I got home from work. But once I got started, I couldn’t get over how much money we were saving and how little food we were wasting.  We’ve actually high-five’d at the dinner table when we’ve realized our home-made dinner cost less than $5 per person. I also find it strangely gratifying to go from having a fully stocked fridge every Sunday to a barren wasteland of a fridge when the next Saturday rolls around. We use everything we buy, and I’ve gone from going to the grocery store almost every day to maybe twice a week.

If this sounds exciting to you–and it won’t for everyone–I’m about to kick off a two-part post on meal planning. Today’s post is all about the mindset, or terms and conditions as I’m calling them, that I think are necessary to stick with meal planning and reap its benefits. Next week I’ll be back with a nuts-and-bolts ‘how to’ post. Let’s get planning!

First things first…terms and conditions

It may seem odd to talk about meal planning and mindsets.  Most of the time we jump right to the ‘how to’ part.  The problem with that is, at its heart, meal planning is a behaviour change and behaviour changes are mostly about mindset changes. The execution part is going to be more successful if your head’s in the game. In other words, if you want to stick to meal planning, you’ll probably want to agree to the following terms and conditions:

1. Get over your commitment issues: For a meal plan to actually save you money, you’re sometimes going to have to eat things you don’t really feel like eating.  There will be times when it’s  tempting to order in, go out, or hit the grocery store for something else. Resist the urge! You don’t really want to throw $10-50 down the drain nor condemn that beautiful head of lettuce to a slow, wilting death do you? I didn’t think so. To save money meal planning, you’ve got to be okay with the trade offs. In this case, your trade off is that lovely instant gratification to which we’ve all become accustomed.

2. Plan ONLY for your cooking style and level: This is the age of the foodie, and with that can come immense (and largely self-inflicted) social pressure to cook elaborate and beautifully plated meals.  That’s all well and good if you are experienced in the kitchen and have a passion for cooking.  If you don’t, it can be intimidating. Meal planning will only work in the long run if you are selecting meals that you are able and willing to prepare, and that include foods that you genuinely enjoy eating. Everyone may tell you kale salad is the best thing since sliced bread (and I might tend to agree) but if you hate kale, I can tell you you’ll be ordering a pizza before you know it. Similarly, if you hate doing a ton of food prep, making that recipe with 19 different ingredients, all of which need to be chopped in a different way, is never going to happen. Once you get comfortable in the kitchen and with sticking to a meal plan, spread your wings,  diversify ingredients and become more elaborate. You gotta walk before you run.

3. Repetition is your friend: Yeah, yeah, variety is the spice of life and all that jazz. Let’s face it, though, most of us are stuck on repeat when it comes to our dining options, whether it’s cooking at home or eating out. I used to think that was a bad thing, but when it comes to meal planning repetition is your friend.  Why? Ultimately, to save the most money with meal planning, you’re going to want to buy in bulk when you can and build multiple meals around the same ingredient. If you’re cooking for one or two, meal planning also means leftovers.  Really, no matter how you slice it, you’re going to have repetition with meal planning. If you can be at peace with this, you’re more likely to succeed. I like to think of repetition like the old friend who you never tire of.  If you legitimately crave a ton of variety in your meals, you can still meal plan, but you may not save as much money doing it.

Thank you for indulging in my need to explore the philosophical side of almost any issue. Next week I’ll be back with Part II, which is the part most people will actually care about: the brass tacks of how to start meal planning.  Stay tuned.

Trail Tuesdays (it’s new!): Being Prepared for Injuries on the Trail

It’s time to rebrand Tuesdays. Let’s be honest, I’m no longer even contemplating training for an ultra. My “training” these days is focused on the little things like, you know, having a normal, functioning body. What I am excited about is hiking season, and it’s safe to say I know a hell of a lot more about day hiking than I do about running.  Plain and simple, you are in better hands if I write about hiking topics.

Today’s topic is being prepared for the unexpected hiking injury. Clearly I have injuries on the brain these days, but as I get ready for hiking season, it’s a good time to refresh our gear and make sure we’re ready to hike safe.  I used to be the poster child for the ill-prepared, the girl who hiked with absolutely no gear, but at least now I’m reformed. Learn from the error of my old ways and go into the wilderness better prepared do deal with the unexpected.

A quick note: these suggestions are really geared towards dealing with injuries on the minor to moderate side of the injury spectrum. Major injuries are a whole other beast and, in many cases, my suggestions won’t be enough to cope with the big stuff.

Preparing for the Unexpected:Hiking Edition

1. Have a Safety Check: For the love of God, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return, and make it someone that will actually pay attention to whether you return at that time. If you get happen to get injured badly enough that your ability to hike out is compromised, this is the best way to ensure that someone actually looks for you. I used to do only do this for solo hikes, but I’ve started to let people know even when I’m hiking with others. As I get older, I’m learning you can never be too safe.  If you don’t believe me, just watch 127 Hours.

2. Portable Cell Phone Charger: You won’t always have cell reception, but on many popular front country trails, you might be surprised at how well your phone works. If something happens while hiking, it pays to have a small, portable phone charger in case your battery gets low, particularly if you need to use GPS apps (they can really drain your battery!) or make an emergency phone call.

3. Tensor Bandages: The number of times I had to hike at least 5 km on badly sprained ankles before I started carrying Tensor bandages is astounding. Tensor bandages are going to make a world of difference for the bulk of common hiking injuries involving knees, wrists, and ankles. Carry a couple. They’re small, light-weight and pretty versatile.  You’ll still be in pain if you’ve pulled a muscle, sprained a limb, or (heaven forbid!) suffered a minor fracture or break, but Tensors will at least provide a little bit of extra stability in the short term.

4. Sturdy Poles: I hate carrying poles. I almost never use them for hiking unless I’m terrified while descending or crossing snow patches, so more often than not I leave them in the trunk of my car. I am still guilty of this, by the way. However, any time I’ve had a knee or ankle issue on the trail, I’ve wished desperately that I had my poles with me for some extra support.  Don’t be like me. Carry your poles. If you buy retractable poles like mine, you can clip them to the outside of your backpack and you’ll forget they’re even there.

5. A PROPER First Aid Kit: I used to carry nothing, then upgraded slightly to a small plastic container stuffed with bandaids, some gauze and a small set of scissors. It wasn’t until recently that I went with a full-blown outdoor first aid kit. They’re surprisingly compact and have most of the things you need to take care of everything from blisters to wounds. I believe mine is quite similar to this one.  What’s important is that your kit has more than just bandaids–look for a range of bandages and gauze that will cover larger wounds.  Just a couple years back, I was hiking with my parents when my mom slipped on a very steep section of trail.  Her hiking pole was looped around her wrist and, when the pole jammed into the ground, the handle actually hit her forearm with such force that it peeled back a sizeable chunk of flesh. Sorry for the gruesome mental picture there, but suffice it to say that without proper bandages, medical tape and antiseptic wipes, she would’ve been quite an infected and bloody mess by the time we got home.

6. Ibuprofen & Antihistamines:  Ibuprofen is a wonderful thing. Not only will it ease pain, but it’s actually an anti-inflammatory, meaning it will bring down swelling caused by inflammation.  Alternatively, acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, will help the pain but will do nothing for inflammation and swelling.  It’s also great to have a couple of antihistamines kicking around just in case you have an unexpected allergic reaction to plants or insect bites.  I wish I’d had one the time I was stung by a wasp and became convinced that my tongue was swelling and my breathing becoming laboured. Though neither of which was actually occurring, you don’t always know what you’re allergic to in advance. Barring a severe allergic reaction, an antihistamine is going to keep things in check until you get back to the trailhead.

It can be tempting to think this stuff only applies to backcountry hikers on long excursions, but I assure you this is just as important for day hikes. I’ve had my share of minor injuries hiking, and all of them have occurred in the front country and on 20-25 km day hikes.  Don’t let distance and location fool you. Accidents can happen anytime so hike safe! And happy Trail Tuesday!

Monday Musings: on metaphysics of injuries

If you read Friday’s post, you’ll know that I have yet another sprained ankle. It’s not a particularly bad one judging by the relative lack of swelling or bruising.  Then again, the one thing I’ve learned about ankle sprains is that after a few of them they don’t swell or bruise as badly.  I used to think that was a good thing when, in reality, it’s just a sign of really bad damage. This is all rather beside the point of today’s post. The point is that my ankle is sprained again and the timing is…interesting.

I was in the midst of a really great run (in the sunshine no less!) when my ankle crumbled beneath me. I could easily look at this from a purely objective standpoint:  I wasn’t paying any attention to the ground, I stepped awkwardly on a rock, and I have weak ankles from past injuries. Long story short, I could just say it was bad timing and clumsiness and call it a day.

Or I could look to metaphysics, which would hold that there is powerful connection between mind and body. Metaphysics provides a more holistic view of our injuries, emphasizing that there is an emotional or psychological root to virtually any physical issue. Where it gets really interesting, to me at least, is when you look at the metaphysical causes of ankle injuries.

Ankles, you see, are critical for a sense of grounding, stability and mobility.  Ankles literally support us and propel us.  Ankle injuries can occur when we feel unsupported, either by others or by our own beliefs; and they can be a sign that we aren’t willing or able to move forward, particularly when moving forward means a change in direction or taking a stand.  Bet you didn’t know how much you need your ankles just to hold your shit together, did you?

This isn’t the first time that I’ve read up on metaphysical causes of ankle injuries (or any injury for that matter), but I was reminded of it on Friday as I killed time icing my foot. What I found particularly interesting was that, just as my ankle decided to go in a different direction than the rest of my body, I was grappling with how to get out of a potential commitment to work I didn’t care about and wondering what I would possibly do in its place. In other words, just as I was agonizing over my crumbling beliefs and fear of moving in a new direction, my poor ankle, that pillar of stability and motion, crapped out on me.  If that’s not a powerful mind-body connection, I don’t know what is.

This is all endlessly fascinating to me, except for the part where I realize that essentially I have to figure out a way to fearlessly forge a new direction for myself…That part’s a little less fascinating, but I suppose eventually I have to tackle the bigger issues, don’t I?

TWIR #56: Evil Ankle Strikes Again

As predicted last week, my week of workouts got off to a pretty poor start care of my parent’s visit. It’s not really fair to blame them. They would’ve been fine with me ditching them for a workout or two. Nonetheless, the weekend turned out to be a write-off.  I tried to bounce back during the week but I have to admit my motivation has still been lacking.  I consider myself fortunate that I’ve built a strong, habitual pattern of working out or I’m sure I would’ve abandoned exercise entirely these last few weeks. As it is, the quality and duration of most of my workouts isn’t what I hoped it would be by now. And then, then there was the whole ankle thing….

Let’s get this over with.

Saturday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: 16 km of walking + one gelato + fish and chips
Observations: Well, at least I walked a lot right? Just ignore the fact that we had waffles for breakfast, that we ate gelato mid-afternoon, and that I ate my weight in fish and chips. Oh, and then there was the wine…So, yeah, all that walking did nothing.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: 12 km walking + deep fried pickles
Observations:  Once again, there was a lot of walking…but coupled with a lot of eating and drinking. There was another big breakfast (eggs and home-made hot cross buns). There was beer and deep fried pickles. There was apple crumble with ice cream. On the plus side, despite having a giant basket of Easter candy (that, yes, my parents still hid for me), I didn’t touch a single piece!

Monday
Activity: cardio warm up + strength
Relevant Stats: 25 min. stairs + 45 min. strength
Observations: Determined to get back to exercise, I got up early and hit the gym. I fit in a pretty decent workout before heading home, hosting lunch for six, and then cooking one last family dinner while my parents were in town. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice it was yet another day that revolved around food. What can I say? My family likes to eat.

Tuesday
Activity: Run!!!
Relevant Stats: 7.75 km
Observations: I had a couple important meetings in the afternoon and wanted to clear my head with a nice little run.  It worked. I was sluggish all morning but managed a decent run. My legs felt like lead for the first 20 minutes but I ran them into submission.

Wednesday
Activity: cardio warm up + personal training session
Relevant Stats: 20 min. spin + 60 min. personal training
Observations: I got to my trainer’s studio way early so I hit the gym for a bit of pre-session spin. Of course I did this on the day when my trainer had me doing 100 lb deadlifts and RUNNING with 110 pounds on the prowler. Oh, we also did more hanging exercises, which I despise, partly because they’re giving me calluses on the pads of my hands. Blech.

Thursday
Activity: cardio + strength
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 30 min. strength
Observations: It was a miracle I made it to the gym. It was a total sad sack day for me, and I wanted nothing more than to stay home all day doing absolutely nothing. However, I had a meeting I had to go to, so I figured I might as well work out beforehand. It wasn’t a great workout, and my legs and arms were still killing me from my personal training session, but I did it.

Friday
Activity: Run(ish)
Relevant Stats: 7 km + 1 rolled ankle (wah waaaaah)
Observations:  I was feeling good today. I was having a great run, in fact. The sun was shining, the air was warm, I was finally running without a jacket (!!!!) and it was glorious. Until I turned my ankle on a rock and catapulted myself forward. Thankfully no one was around to witness the spectacle as my arms windmilled in efforts to keep me from bailing. The only thing that saved me from a total face plant on the gravel path was a wooden post. I was able to brace myself against it. Damn you weak ankles! I suppose this means a week or two without running. Just when I was feeling good about things…

As I sit here RICE-ing my sad ankle, I can only give this week a:

 

 

Thursday Real Talk: it’s not all sunshine and roses

You may have noticed that I’ve been writing less this week. I didn’t post on Monday even though I had a draft that I could’ve tidied up quickly. I threw together a post for Tuesday purely because I felt pressured (entirely self-inflicted) not to miss two days in a row.  Yesterday, I sat down to write a post and, after completing two partial drafts on completely different topics, abandoned all hope of pulling together anything good. And today, today I wrote another two partial drafts on different topics, neither of which will see the light of day any time soon.

What’s at the heart of this? It’s not a lack of interest in writing for this space. Writing is still one of the things I love to do most.  It’s that my mental landscape is so completely occupied with career-related questions that I haven’t been successful in clearing out the tiny generative space that I personally need to write for this blog. In other words, I’m squelching my own creativity because I’m stuck in a downward spiral of career confusion.

Namely, I have no idea what to do with myself. I cannot remember the last time I got excited about a prospective opportunity, and by ‘excited’ I mean curious and interested, not jumping with joy. For the better part of a year, I’ve been tossing my resume out into the ether, meeting with employers, talking to prospective clients and networking my ass off and I cannot recall a single conversation that had me thinking ‘Yes! This sounds right!’ For some reason, this week more than ever, I’ve felt the troubling weight of this realization: I do not know what I want to do.

I have a small handful of potential work opportunities on the go and not a single one sounds genuinely interesting to me.  In fact, one potential opportunity, for which I’m supposed to ‘audition’ by delivering a portion of a workshop next Tuesday, is actually filling me with the same dread that I felt before I started my last job. I know it’s a bad fit already but, without having viable career alternatives in mind, I feel like I have to keep moving forward despite everything screaming in me to cancel, cancel, cancel. I’m conscious that I’m repeating my old patterns but, as they say, the train is in motion and I’m not sure how to bring it to a halt.

I am frustrated with myself for not being able to figure out an alternate course of action for my career.  I pride myself on being competent, thoughtful, reflective and, above all else, capable. I’ve always made things happen for myself, taken care of myself, and kept myself in a stable and secure position. For the first time,  I’m in a state of total uncertainty and I don’t feel entirely capable of identifying my direction.  It’s not a comfortable feeling for me, and it’s definitely putting a damper on my creative flair.

So there’s that. I have no answers. I have no great wisdom. I have nothing to offer except some real talk on where my head is at these days, and I can safely say that it’s not all sunshine and roses.