Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Learning as I go

I left for Shetland on Sunday, with my running gear optimistically packed in my bag.  I'd had a couple of satisfying pain-free jog/walks over the previous week and was looking forward to continuing my progress while away.  The flight was delayed by an hour and a half but I had fortuitously been booked into the Executive Lounge by my employer; several G&Ts and a bunch of mini-muffins later, the fact that I majorly twinged my calf as I tried to fold myself into the airplane seat didn't really distress me.  (It is perhaps worth pointing out that my twinge was solely related to the seat pitch & the contortions that it takes to fit someone of slightly above average height into a space meant for someone with really short legs, and had absolutely nothing to do with the G&Ts.)

A rearrangement of work commitments meant that I left work a bit early on Monday and got to the teeny tiny Lerwick gym well before the after-work crush.  Because I ran on Sunday before I left for the airport, I only used the elliptical trainer and the rower and then faffed about with the weights for another 30 minutes because I wasn't about to pay £6.00 to use the gym for only 40 minutes of cardio.  No pain during any of it.  Whew.

My legs were a bit tired on Tuesday - blame it on the leg extensions and leg curls - but I figured that a slow 1.5 mile jog/walk would be okay.  And it might have been, if I had been able to find anywhere flat and out of the wind.  I had completely forgotten that, no matter which direction you go in Shetland, you are going uphill and into the wind.  By the time I was five minutes and one hill into my run, my calf was aching each time my foot hit the ground.  The headwind meant that I struggled to use my new Chi technique; I felt off-balance, clumsy, and heavy.  I was pleased, though, that I listened to my body and walked as much as I needed to rather than pressing on through the calf ache.  And, after a couple of minutes of walking and then VERY SLOW jogging, the pain went away.  I walked up the rest of the inclines on my route, shuffled slowly on the downhills, and was glad when it was all over.

Not my legs; nice socks, though.
I don't think that any harm was done.  I wore my compression recovery socks that night, including to bed - yes, I aim for glamour at all times - and felt fine this morning.  Unfortunately, I twinged my calf AGAIN as I squeezed into the airplane seat for the journey home - it's a bendy, twisty movement that causes the problem - so there's a bit of a residual ache.  Hello again, compression socks!

So what have I learned?  My calf is better, but not better enough for hills (or even slight inclines).  I might be better off doing fewer leg weights on the day before a run.  Running into the wind is a bitch.  Twisting leg movements are a definite no-no.  I may not be doing proper Chi Running but whatever I am doing is different enough from my usual running style that, when I don't do it, I really notice the difference.  And compression socks rock.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Almost like old times

Having vented my frustration at my ever-expanding catalogue of injuries a couple of days ago, I am now a bit embarrassed to say that I seem to be better.  Just like I have no idea why everything hurt, I have no idea why everything suddenly doesn't.  But, on this gloriously sunny and warm and windless day, I wasn't about to waste time puzzling over the contradictory signals from my body...I went running.

Almost all of my rehab jog/walks have been on the treadmill - I feel safer there - but today I jogged/walked for 2.5 miles OUTSIDE!  Ten minutes walking up the hill to the road at the top of the farm lane, 22 minutes jogging/walking (3.5 minutes jogging, 30 seconds walking), and then 6 minutes walking up the hill back home.  I practiced keeping my core muscles (such as they are) strong and my legs and arms relaxed, tried to maintain good posture (I have a tendency to curve my lower back so that my bum sticks out), and experimented with increasing my cadence rather than my stride length (all as discussed in the Chi Running book). 

I have no idea if I'm doing this Chi thing right or not but I'm convinced that I can tell the difference between my usual plodding heel strike and running in this newer, more relaxed way.  It's now eight hours since my run and my calf isn't hurting, nor is my hip.  Something has changed; if I only knew what it was, I could keep doing it.

Physio update:  I had a review with Julie the Physio today.  She's pleased with how my calf is healing; the adhesion that she could feel three weeks ago is almost gone and there was barely any pain at all when she dug her fingers into the injured spot.  She watched me run on the treadmill and promptly gave me all the reasons why I will never be a marathon runner, which centred around my structural abnormalities.  I've apparently developed functional abnormalities to cope with the structural ones and, while the functional problems can be addressed to a certain degree, I'm stuck with the structural ones. 

She didn't say not to train for London - just as well, because I wouldn't have listened - but expressed her opinion that I'd be better suited for half-marathons and 10ks.  Surprisingly, I'm not demoralised or upset by this; rather, I just have an intense urge to prove her wrong!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Everything hurts (sometimes)

The last couple of weeks have been a struggle on the jogging front.  The ache in my calf comes and goes.  My achilles tendon has been grumbling.  And my gluteus medius is so tight and painful that sometimes it hurts to walk.  The only consolation that I take from this is that the jogging itself feels okay.  It's once I stop that everything starts to hurt.

I have no idea what is going on.  I had almost three months off from running - surely that should have been enough time for things to heal?  I've had moments (no, I've had DAYS, WEEKS even) when I've thought that my body is saying loud and clear that my running days are over.  If I can't manage even one mile - and that is all that I'm doing at the moment, still in a jog/walk pattern - without sending my entire left side into a spasm, what am I doing even thinking about training for a marathon.  From where I am right now, it all looks pretty impossible.

But fear not, Incredibly Stubborn Woman is not giving up quite yet.  Some hope remains.  Purely by chance, I discovered that stretching my obliques also eases the pain in my glutes so I'm doing oblique stretches multiple times/day, and it seems to be paying off.  I've added heel drops back into my repertoire because this keeps my achilles tendons happy, but this also may be the reason why my calf has been aching a bit more.  It'll adjust.  I've started wearing the KT tape on my calf again, and it really does help; I might need to try it on my glutes as well.

And then there's Chi Running.  The tagline on their website is 'Focus your Mind, Engage your Core, Run like the Wind!'  Given that I have a grasshopper mind, no core strength to speak of, and currently walk faster than I can run, this approach seems tailor made for me.  Basically, it seems to be about running without muscle stress and tightness, having good, efficient form, and using a mid-foot strike.  These things come naturally to some runners, but not to me.  I'm not going to give a big explanation here - you can read about it yourselves if you are interested - but I am intrigued enough by it to have bought the book and signed up for a Chi Running workshop in June.

I've also let go of the idea doing a half-marathon in the autumn.  I was starting to feel like I needed to push myself faster than my body is able to manage in order to be ready in time, when what I really need to do is go at a sustainable pace and give my body the time that it needs to get properly strong. 

More patience.  More being sensible.  More stretching.  A bit more patience.  I'll get there.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Small steps in the right direction

Yesterday's brief jog was on the treadmill at the gym.  Still only two minutes jogging/one minute walking for a bit more than a mile, but at an actual jogging pace.  And, again, nothing hurt.  I felt a bit of stiffness in my calf at one point and, unusually for me, slowed down a bit rather than pretend that nothing was happening.  The stiffness immediately stopped and I was able to speed back up a bit with no problems a couple of intervals later. 

I had a massage appointment with Adam after work today.  He was pleased with how much less tight my hamstring and calf are and, even though there is still a residual sore spot in my calf, he agrees with Julie the Physio that this is an adhesion that will work itself loose with stretching, massage, and actually using the muscle.

I mentioned to Adam that my gluteus medius, at the point where it attaches to the iliac crest, was feeling quite tight again.  This is the same pain that sent me to Claudio in the first place, well before any calf or hamstring strains, and I'm annoyed that it has resurfaced with only a very little bit of running.  Adam identified general tightness throughout the muscle and did his sports massage thing on it.  This hurt, but not as much as it did when I first started seeing him; at that point, he couldn't even touch that area because it was so sore. 

A chocolate-cappucino blancmange.
The massage must have worked to relax things because towards the end, Adam announced that my glutes were now like a blancmange.  He immediately backtracked and apologised for comparing my bum to a wibbly wobbly pudding, and I graciously forgave him (although it did cross my mind that it might be time to reduce the quantity of cake in my diet).  I left in good spirits , with some KT tape applied to my calf, and in possession of yet more stretches, this time to target my glutes.

So what's next?  For now, I'm just going to stick with my mile jogs and not even think about the 10k, two half-marathons, and marathon that I plan on doing in the next year.  Slow and sensible, that's me!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A long-winded post to say...

I ran today!!!

Yesterday was my second appointment with my new physio, Julie.  (Jan the Physio is on sick leave and Julie is her colleague.)  I was apprehensive about starting with someone new and initially feared that this apprehension might be justified, as Julie's instructions to add in 50 calf raises/day left my injured leg in spasms from mid-thigh to mid-calf.  But I persevered in my usual brave and stoic manner, and quickly was up to 100 calf raises/day with no pain and no cramping.

My leg was feeling stronger and healthier, too.  There was only a minimal pulling sensation very occasionally by the time I went to Shetland at the beginning of this week where, of course, I promptly re-aggravated things on the stationary bike at the gym.  No idea why this happened.  One second I was happily pedalling away at low resistance; the next, my hamstring tendon and calf completely seized up.  I immediately stopped - if I've learned nothing else from this injury, it's STOP when something hurts - and walked back to the flat.  For the next two days, I could feel a low level ache in my calf most of the time and depressed myself with visions of any return to running being put back yet another month.

My next purchase.
I expressed this worry to Julie at our appointment but, after a thorough examination of the offending muscles, she didn't think that I had done any further damage.  Her hypothesis is that, as the microtears of the original injury healed, they left behind scar tissue which has resulted in adhesions between the muscle fibres, hence the feeling of pulling and cramping when the muscles are stretched.  It's only in one area that she can feel a small lump of scar tissue; this will be for Adam to address at my massage appointment next week.  In the meantime, she had me hop on both legs, hop on just the injured leg, jump with both legs ('Jump higher!  Higher!   Don't be such a girl!'), and run in place on a rebounder.  Nothing hurt. 

Julie's attitude was, 'You won't know if you're ready to run until you actually try running.'  So I left with instructions to try a 2min jog/1min walk for one mile on a soft surface and to be guided by my body, not my head, as I increase time and distance over the next two weeks.

And that is what I did today.  I have a fierce sore throat and a developing head cold but nothing was going to keep me from giving this a go.  I walked a half-mile to the local sports field as a warm-up and then, with a prayer offered up to the running gods, started to shuffle at a faster-than-walking pace.  Two minutes passed and nothing hurt/tore/spasmed.  In fact, my calf felt pretty good.  By the end of my mile (or rather, 15 minutes as I have no idea how far each lap of the small playing field is), I was moving at a jogging pace - still really slow, but it was definitely more than a shuffle!  I walked the half-mile back home, was tempted to try some more jogging on the way, but resisted the urge.  A slow and sensible progression, that's my aim.

I never thought that jogging for a total of 10 minutes would make me feel so happy!