Training Tuesdays: celebrating small victories

I’ve been dealing with injury recovery cycles for over two years. Sometimes I am still shocked when I remind myself that it’s been that long. That’s two years of trying to build up strength, improve my form, deal with imbalances, trying to run then giving up running again, trying to hike then giving up hiking again, and dealing with way, way, way too many days when I’d wake up so sore and stiff that I’d wonder if I’d ever be ‘normal’ again.

Just this weekend I had this small moment that I consider a victory for my chronic injury: I realized that, more often than not now, I wake up without stiffness, soreness or pain. I remember, for the longest time, I’d get out of bed and the first thing I’d notice was that my sciatic was tight or that my SI was stiff.  It was like I had to warm up just to perform basic daily life functions like walking to the bathroom, taking a shower, or getting dressed for work. It became my new normal, and I always hated it. In my opinion, there are few things more frustrating than being told you are doing everything you should be doing to improve your injury and then still waking up sore every. single. day.

Lately, though, the days when I wake up with stiffness or soreness are fewer and farther between.  It happened so gradually that I just hadn’t noticed. I can swing my legs off the bed recklessly. I can get up and walk without hobbling. I can even kick my day off with a workout (though I rarely choose that time of day willingly).  It is both a small thing but also a pretty big thing for the chronically injured. So I’m going to celebrate it today, and I’m going to continue to express some serious gratitude for every pain free morning I notice.

For anyone out there who is suffering from a bad injury, or dealing with a chronic injury that you just can’t seem to kick, perhaps this will give you hope. After more than two years of doing the work, paying attention to what works and what doesn’t, constantly learning from successes and failures and, above all, being patient, I wake up pain-free like a normal person most mornings. It’s slow progress, but it’s progress nonetheless. You can find it too.

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TWIR #107: return of the sunshine!

Guys, I am in love with the sunshine. And my patio. More specifically, I am in love with sunshiny days on my patio. It’s been a great week for patio living. It’s not too hot yet, and the sun doesn’t take over our deck until 5 pm anyway. I’ve even been working from the patio and I’ve got to say that having the flexibility to work from home/on my patio is pretty much the best thing I have ever experienced. I used to feel like I was missing out on nice days while working, but now I feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds. I’m sorry, this is probably making you jealous. That’s not my intention.  I’m just so, so, so much happier when I get fresh air and a little vitamin D.

On to the workouts (which were also pretty good this week!):

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: patio furniture!
Observations: I couldn’t work out Saturday because we had something very important to do: purchase patio furniture. I’m not kidding. And we were successful, which made the rest of the week wonderful.  So despite not having a workout, I declared Saturday a massive success.

Sunday
Activity: hike! driving range!
Relevant Stats: 8.5 km hike + one bucket of poorly hit balls
Observations: OMG, a hike! Okay, it wasn’t really a hike, but it was a) in nature b) in a provincial park and c) over 5 km, so I’m calling it a hike. And it was lovely, with scenic lake views and the smell of ponderosa pines, which I love with all my heart.  And then we went to the driving range, which was my first golf-related anything since December and I hit the ball about as well as you would expect for someone who hasn’t hit a ball since December. Still, it was a day full of fresh air and sunshine and I was very, very content.

Monday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: It felt like it had been a while since I went hard on my legs and glutes, so that’s exactly what I did. I even did these horrible single leg squats with jumps that my old trainer used to make me do. Even though I hated it in the moment, I sometimes force myself to do the exercises she made me do because, when it comes down to it, I miss working with her. All in all, it was a good workout. And just when you think it couldn’t be a better day, our patio furniture arrived! Of course, we had to buy rope so we could hoist it up over the deck railing because it was too wide to fit through our patio door…but I’ll spare you the details of that MacGyver-ing. Suffice it to say, we got it up there and sunset watching occurred. Monday win.

Tuesday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Do not eat two mini pepperoni sticks before you go to spin. Just trust me on that. Despite the unpleasantness of the recently consumed mini pepperonis, it was a great spin. I sprinted and climbed like there was no tomorrow and, by the end, my legs were dead. We capped off the day with some time on our patio and a delightful stroll along the lakeshore at dusk. I think I like this Okanagan lifetsyle.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Hallelujah! No bear crawls were required this time around. However, I did have to do three sets of three tricep exercises, which was pure torture for my arms. I’m also appreciate that my new trainer is not afraid to load me up with weight on the sleds. Even though I sometimes worry she’ll push me too far, as I get better at knowing my own limits, I’m willing to try even more. This week’s sled torture: backwards walking while pulling 150 lbs. Ugh.

Thursday
Activity: spin + strength
Relevant Stats: 50 min. (25 min. spin + 25 min. strength)
Observations: I had planned on a pure strength workout, but had a moment en route to the gym when I suddenly realized I could do some cardio instead.  Since my sciatic felt on the verge again, I opted to mix up some spin with some strength training in hopes it would loosen up my tight glutes and alleviate my sciatic discomfort. And it worked! I did some solid spinning before loading some weight onto my single leg dead lifts, split lunges, and side lunges. It’s always delightful when my theories pan out.  And once again we hit the patio for some late afternoon sunshine. Seriously, how did I survive before my patio?

Friday
Activity: hike + golf
Relevant Stats: 6 km hike + 18 holes
Observations: Well, we wanted to take advantage of a Friday off and the last day of sunshine for a few days, and damn it we did! We kicked off the day with a delightful lake view hike and then played 18 holes of frustrating (for me) golf. One day I will learn how to swing a club properly and consistently. Sigh. I can tell you that 5.5 hours in the sunshine is a bit too much for my pasty ginger self, but having a couple  post-activity beers sure helped.

And now it’s Friday and we are off for some winery visits in the southern okanagan. The weather is about to turn, which I was initially sad about, but then I realized that it really doesn’t matter if it’s raining when I have multiple samples of wine in front of me. Bring it on! Happy weekend y’all!

 

Training Tuesdays: 2 Year Injury-versary

My oh my, how the time flies.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since the day I went for what I thought would be an innocuous 10 km run that ended up turning my workout world upside down.

A mere 6 months after my injury, I wrote an anniversary post lamenting the change to my lifestyle and identity. Little did I know that another 1.5 years would follow, another 1.5 years in which I would continue to experience improvements followed by setbacks, over and over again; another 1.5 years in which I would struggle to work back to even the shortest of runs; another 1.5 years in which I would have to reimagine what an active lifestyle would look like for me.

Then after a full year, I wrote another anniversary post, as if I wasn’t still in the throes of injury recovery. Ah, naivety. Now, a full two years later, I feel so much wiser (about my injury and my fitness, not in general). Though there have been a lot of ups and downs, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to maintain my fitness without further injury. It hasn’t been easy and I still have a ton to learn, but the sum total of my acquired knowledge after 2 years of injury comes down to this:

1. Injuries really can last a long time, and it doesn’t mean you’re weak or lazy: Let’s be honest, sometimes I still struggle with this one, but the reality is that I’ve been working hard to build strength and despite this my injury is not 100% gone.  Some injuries are just more persistent and challenging to address than others.

2. Taking it slow is always the best approach: For the longest time, I was using past injuries as a benchmark for this injury. All my other injuries had healed relatively quickly. Not so this time. I had to take a ride on the patience train and recognize I was in recovery mode for the long haul.

3. Getting to know your own body’s aches, pains and responses is critical: I thought I knew all the early warning signs, but I didn’t. Two years in, I can see most of my injury regressions a mile away. I can tell the difference between pain I can work through and pain that tells me to stop. Noticing that difference has kept me from major setbacks (knock on wood) for most of this last year.

So happy anniversary, you broken old SI. You’ve taught me a lot about myself in these two years, and I’m coming to terms with you more and more every day. Salut!

TWIR #104: I fought the cold and the cold won

By cold, I mean the immune system breakdown kind, not the weather kind…although, come to think of it, it’s also been unseasonably cold this week.  I mean, we had snow Sunday and Monday. In April. In what’s supposed to be one of the warmest spots in the province. Sigh.  But I also have a cold, which is highly irritating because who gets sick during Spring time? And also, I barely leave the house anymore, so where on earth did I catch it?

Saturday
Activity: mini hike!
Relevant Stats: 7.5 km loop
Observations:  If you want tips on hiking, ask my better half. His grand plan was to park by the lakeside bar for our loop hike so that we’d conveniently finish by the lakeside bar, making post-hiking beer and wings so much easier. I can’t say it was a bad plan. However, I can say that I have a lot of work to do before hiking season. This wasn’t even a real hike and I was dying. My legs and lungs are not used to uphill walking anymore.

Sunday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: Easter hunt!!!!!
Observations: Like a five year old, I got to follow a trail of chocolate eggs all the way from our bedroom to our living room, where I then got to hunt for way more chocolate than a 38 year old who only eats sugar once a week should ever have in her possession. It was wonderful.  Sadly, our Easter joy was clouded by the emergence of my better half’s sore throat (his telltale first symptom of a cold) and my broken toe.

Monday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 40 min. spin + 10 min. core
Observations: I had hoped to run this week, but I figured that was asking a bit much of my poor toe, so I opted for spin instead. I killed it on the spin bike before wrapping up my workout with some ab work.  I then spent most of the rest of the day running back and forth to grocery and drug stores to load up on soup and Nyquil to nurse my partner back to health.

Tuesday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: This was my last good workout of the week. I killed my legs and glutes. Like killed them. I upped my weights and did so many sets of step ups and squats and lunges and dead lifts that by the end of the workout, my legs were done like dinner. I’m glad I got this one good workout in because by the end of the night, I felt a little concerned that my immune system was finally crapping out.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: I’m still not sure how I feel about my new trainer. I mean, she’s very nice and all, but I’m not sure about her approach. I really do think that my last trainer’s kinesiology background made a big difference to her approach and ability to guide me through exercises that were targeted toward building strength to support my injury recovery. With my new trainer, I feel like I’m getting training, but nothing customized to getting me back on track. Also, by the end of the day my cold had fully arrived, and so had my partner’s parents, (after offering us six hours’ notice for their arrival, no less!). There is nothing like last minute cleaning and tidying when you’re not feeling 100%.

Thursday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: the cold cometh
Observations: There is no better way to describe how I felt all day than like a sack of crap.  Thankfully, my partner took his parents out for the day so I could sit at home and work while feeling sorry for myself.  I contemplated going to the gym anyway, but every time I stood up my body told me, in no uncertain terms, that the gym would be a bad idea. I dragged my ass through the whole day, including an after dinner social visit with friends in town, and have never been happier to see my bed by the end of the night.

Friday
Activity: cardio warm-up + light strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. spin + 25 min. strength training
Observations: I decided I had sufficient energy to attempt a workout today. All things considered, it wasn’t terrible. I certainly had nothing in the tank as far as cardio was concerned (hence the very short spin warm up), but the strength training wasn’t as terrible as I thought it might be. Now I’ll just wait and see if this was a big mistake for my cold…

Now it’s the weekend and I’m staring down the barrel of a Friday night without wine (stupid cold!). It’s a sad, sad thought for me, but I need to kick this cold before I head to Mexico (for work) on Sunday. Nobody wants to be sick on an airplane. On that note, there may be a bit more radio silence here next week, but I’m hoping I can still pull out a couple of posts.  Happy weekend y’all!  May your immune systems stay strong, and please have an extra glass of wine for me.

Monday Musings: always turn the light on

Easter 2018 won’t go down in history as my first in Vernon or even as the year that, as a 38 year old no less, I insisted that my partner plan an Easter hunt for me because my parents (who usually stage me a hunt) declined our invitation to join us.  It won’t even be known as the year that my partner knocked the Easter hunt out of the park by leaving a trail of chocolate eggs from our bedroom door, all the way down the hallway, and down the stairs into our living room. It should be, but it is not.

Instead, Easter 2018 will go down in history as the year I broke my toe. Because I was too lazy to flip on a light switch.

I will  spare you a picture because no one needs to see pictures of feet on the internet and also, if I’m being honest, it’s not even the horribly bruised and impossibly crooked kind of broken toe. It’s just slightly swollen and with the faintest of purple hues developing around its tip. In other words, it’s not even an impressive broken toe.

Although, as my partner pointed out, it is sort of impressive that I managed to break the toe next to my pinky toe without at all harming the actual pinky toe. It’s somewhat implausible, and yet there it is. But that’s a bit of an aside, my point was that it’s really an unimpressive break. I can still walk* pretty much normally.  I don’t have to suffer the humiliation of some sort of weird air cast. I don’t even have to hide my foot in shame. Totally unimpressive.

Still, it is my broken toe and I’m presenting it to you as a cautionary tale. Next time you ask yourself “should I turn on the light before walking down the staircase?”, do not respond to yourself with a slightly offended “um, NO, I can walk down the stairs in the dark without hurting myself, thankyouverymuch.” You cannot. I cannot. I have the broken toe to prove it. Turn on the light. Just do it. If you turn on the light, you will not ram your foot into the corner of the staircase wall with roughly the same force as a professional football player winding up to kick a field goal.

So turn on the damn light. Save your toes. It is almost flip flop season, after all.

 

*I cannot, however, run, which, to once again be honest, I’m not at all upset about. 

Training Tuesdays: Reintroducing Running

Well, if you’ve been reading my TWIRs you’ll know that I’ve been doing the thing I said I wouldn’t do: starting to run again. It is truly a testament to just how bored I get without variety, and also to my laziness when it comes to driving to the gym on weekends.  Regardless, I’ve been trying to run again, slowly and for short distances, and today I’ll share what the pros (i.e. the internets) suggest as best practice when starting to run after an injury. As an added bonus, I thought I’d score myself on a scale of 10 on how well I did in following best practice.  Join me on this enlightening adventure, won’t you?

Caveat: There are a lot of articles on the internet about returning to running after an injury, and they range from highly detailed and informative to completely and totally useless. Most don’t even take the time to distinguish by type of injury. Thus, I have selected the most common themes from what I deemed to be the cream of the internet article crop.

Start Slow (my score: 8/10)
Apparently, best practice is to start with walking, build up your walking, and then kick running off with just 10 minutes’ worth of running to see how your body responds. Well I completely bypassed that whole walking thing, although, to be fair, I walk every day just in life and that was going pain free so it seemed silly to start there. In fact, I can only presume that advice was meant for those who couldn’t already walk pain free.  When I did start running initially, I was doing well with slow starts, though. Technically speaking, my first running sets were probably 2 minutes (1 lap around the track) followed by some strength intervals before another lap, so I think I followed this rule pretty well *pats self on back*.

Build Slow (my score: 2/10)
The math varies, but for the most part it seems either adding an additional two minutes of running or 10% of distance is what’s recommended, with further additions only if the injury isn’t aggravated. Oops. Even when I was just doing track interval workouts, my trainer so kindly informed me that I should have been adding a max of 1 lap per week, and only if my SI remained stable after that addition. Instead, I added laps with reckless abandon, sometimes adding an extra 3 laps in just one week. Then on my first run out, I went for a solid 5.7 km run, only walking for 30-60 seconds every 7 minutes or so.  Clearly my definition of building slowly is different than a professional’s definition. This also explains why I am not a professional and why my advice is not to be trusted.

Manage Expectations (my score: 9/10)
The long and the short of it here is don’t expect yourself to run like you used to right off the bat.  I’m most proud of myself here because I’ve had a lot of injuries over the years and I’ve almost always been incredibly hard on myself when I can’t bounce back to old distances and speeds. Not this time. You can read about how overjoyed I was to run 5.7 km in 40+ minutes here. That’s growth, my friends.

Build Strength (my score: 10/10)
High on the list of recommendations is to build up strength. This will not only make the transition back to running easier by maintaining some form of fitness, but can also help prevent injury recurrence if you focus on muscles that stabilize your injured area. This has been my biggest commitment over the last 1.5 years. I’ve been all in on building up my strength and, as a result, I definitely see faster recoveries from setbacks. I highly recommend working with a professional if you’ve got a recurring injury. I know I just said my advice cannot be trusted, but this advice is different because this advice is totally sound.

Pay attention to injury aggravation (my score: 6/10)
Notice if your injury starts to flair up or bother you, and reassess your running right away. Well, you don’t say. This falls into the most obvious tip category, and yet I’ve fallen victim to it a million times and I’ve known a lot of other people who have too. We convince ourselves we’re just imagining things, or that the pain will probably go away by tomorrow, or that it’s not really doing any more harm. Before we know it, we’re sidelined again, sometimes with a worse injury than we started with (not that I’m speaking from experience, of course). While I’ve gotten better at recognizing when I need to pull back and lay off the running, I still tend to ignore general stiffness and mild aggravation and push through it. At times, I find it hard to distinguish between run-of-the-mill muscle fatigue and stiffness around my injury vs. injury pain. Also, sometimes I just really, really don’t want to drive to the gym and doing so sounds more painful than my injury flaring up.  Rationally, I know this isn’t true, but I’ve never claimed to be highly rational.

Overall score: 7/10
Huzzah! That’s higher than I thought it would be. I mean, it’s totally average and everything but when I started this post I thought for sure I’d come in at a solid 5. Three cheers for being average! All kidding aside, though, as I continue to reintroduce running, it’s clear that I need to focus more on slow progression and paying attention to those twinges, aches and pains following a run. Otherwise, I will be doomed to driving to the gym and to workout boredom FOREVER (yes, my score for being dramatic would be a 10/10).

TWIR #97: Snow + Schnitzel + Stiffness, oh my!

In many ways, this week has felt all over the place. There was a long weekend, a road trip, a strange week at work, further attempts to run, and further SI stiffness as a result of said running attempt.  And on top of all that, I ate so, so many carbs throughout the week. In other words, I am a creature of habit and as soon as I deviate from my routines, I have no idea what’s happening in my life.  Enough rambling.  Let’s see what the week looked like.

Saturday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: minimal walking, maxium carb-age
Observations:  Road triiiiiip!!! I spent most of the day on my ass, eating donuts (okay, that sounded like I ate multiple donuts, when I promise that I only ate one) and sausage and schnitzel. But we did walk for maybe, like, 2 km so that obviously balanced out the sitting and eating, right?  I know, I know. It doesn’t. The worst part is that our favourite schnitzel place was closed and the place I chose as a backup sucked, which means that I ingested thousands of schnitzel calories that weren’t even worth it. Schnitzel fail.

Sunday
Activity: mini hike
Relevant Stats: 9.2 km, elevation gain unknown (but very moderate)
Observations:  I cannot say this was my favourite hike. We definitely either ended up on the wrong trail or the trail descriptions were wrong about the distance (quite likely since three sources showed three vastly different distances). Either way, we never found the ridge and encountered a river of mud and melting snow for what felt like a solid kilometer, all of which made me grouchy. However, the day was redeemed with the following: outstanding Mexican dinner, mucho craft beer tastings + fudge from a roadside fudge shop.

Monday
Activity: semi planned rest day
Relevant Stats: so much car sitting + border waiting
Observations:  This felt like the world’s longest day thanks to some serious border lines. It shouldn’t have been a surprise as it was a long weekend. When we left the cabin, I was fine with not stopping to hike on Stevens Pass, but by the end of the day I wished we had because sitting for six hours straight is not good. Also, I ate way too many carbs, breaking the cardinal rule that just because you slip a little bit in one day, doesn’t mean you have to spiral into excessive carb consumption.  You win some, you lose some.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: OMG, 5:25 a.m. felt so very, very early. And then my trainer did so many activities that involved me holding a squat position, or that required coordination (of which I have none). It was the kind of training session that made me feel both weak and like a lumbering oaf.  On top of that, I felt a bit stiff from Sunday’s hike, not because it was strenous but because I was careless walking on crappy snow and mud and jolted my body a couple of times. That’s what I get for hiking grouchy.

Wednesday
Activity: running intervals + core work
Relevant Stats: 45 min (8 x 2-3 minute running intervals)
Observations: I cannot explain how excited I was to do running intervals, if for no other reason than to break up the monotony of strength training.  I was still a bit stiff so I took it slower than usual on the old treadmill, but pushed it a bit harder for at least one minute of each running interval. I found mixing running with core work meant my legs had more energy for the running intervals, so that was a win too.  Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

Thursday
Activity: strength training (core and glutes)
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Alas, of course I was stiff from running intervals. I took it a bit easy and focused on very controlled core and glute work, and felt pretty good by the end of the workout. I celebrated with some fantastic aburi sushi at one of my favourite destinations, and tried not to think about the fact that it was probably the last time I’d eat there for a very, very long time…or the fact that I was ingesting more mid-week carbs…

Friday
Activity: strength training (legs and arms)
Relevant Stats: 43 min.
Observations: I know, what’s up with the 43 minute workout right? After a few sets of heavy prowler pushes, the first I’ve done on my own in a long time, I was just done. I no longer feel the need to ride out a workout just to a ensure it’s a certain length. When the old body says ‘that’s enough’,sometimes you just have to call it a day.

And just like that, the weekend is here. We have snow in the forecast (!!!!), which I wanted to be excited about, and yet I fear will never actually make it into the city. This is the one downfall of moving from the suburbs back into the city. We never get the snow. Alas, snow or no snow there shall be some golf watching, some wine drinking, and maybe even another attempted run. Happy weekend y’all.

I’d also appreciate all of you doing a snow dance for me.