Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Attack! Attack!

Very sorry for the long absence, I've been so overwhelmed with work and recovery from injury, I've barely had time for anything else. 40 hours a week of work is not that bad on its own, but I was also trying to get in all the pilates, physical therapy, massage, pool running and weight training I have to complete in the picture as well, and it left little time for anything else. But I have a whole week off from work, and I'm able to focus on one or two things now, rather than a dozen. And I've learned things.

Things I've learned #1...The cause of nerve pain is rarely where the pain presents itself. Go look for it.

So the injury has been improving. As one symptom is relieved, two others show up, and its been a bit like peeling an onion. I think we are getting to the heart of it, and I'm pretty happy with my recovery these days. The ART massage has been doing its job of releasing my psoas muscles, and my muscles no longer tighten up when I run. I'm still getting some nerve pain in my left groin, so we've added a lot more work with my lower back and hips. Chris has been stretching me on a chiropractic adjustment table that really is The Rack. Once I'm strapped in, he extends the table to stretch my lower back, and then there is some serious muscle grabbing around the muscles at different points of my sciatic nerve. The pain presents itself in my left groin, but Chris says this is a lie (see above). I was skeptical the first few times he tried it, but it definitely helps. After the treatment, despite a little residual pain for the next day or so, I feel better. By day three, I feel 100%, and can do my PT without nerve pain.

Things I've Learned #2...Your body is not Jenga; You cannot pull blocks from the foundation and expect the structure to stand solidly.

I keep whining about work. They worked me too hard, too many hours, I had to grab my workouts when I could. These things are all true. But I cut out the wrong workouts. I cut out a lot of my cross training, which was....core work.

A lot of the reason my groin hurts is because my core has been weakened from sitting such long hours. I'd skip cross training, cut back on my shorter runs and then expect my body to handle a long 8-10 mile run with no foundation laid during the week. My hip flexors and quads would have to put in too much effort to compensate for my weakening core, and it just puts too much strain on muscles that are being asked to headline, but were designed to be in a supporting role. So I've been focusing on building up my core. A lot. Its been a little over two weeks, and we are already seeing improvement. The pain is mild enough to run through, and I am building my mileage back up on a steady clip. A month ago I could barely run a mile. Two weeks ago I could run 4. Last weekend I ran 6 with the juice to run more. Its hard to hold back when I feel things improving, but dumping on mileage too soon will strain the muscles again, so we're adding a mile or two every few days to see what happens. Tomorrow is going to be 6-8, and Saturday we will try for 8-10. Baby steps.

Things I have learned #3...Stretch. But don't stretch too much.

I like yoga. I like the strength and discipline it takes to do well. I like being able to turn my focus so strongly to my body for 90 minutes, and let my breath guide me into every pose. Yoga is awesome, but in my experience it comes with two problems.

Yoga in NYC is competitive. I know, I know, its not a competition, but honestly, the intense way so many New Yorkers practice, it can be hard to find a class that isn't about focusing on pushing to the most advanced level you can reach. If I weren't training so heavily for this race, I'd be happy to challenge myself a few times a week, but right now I need something to compliment my running, not conflict with it. I may need to (gasp) go back to a gym based yoga class that is designed for athletes because...you can overstretch.

I never thought you could, but every time you hyper extend a muscle, you weaken the fibers. Ideal flexibility is relative to your sport. I was stretching too hard, and that made it easier for the hip flexors to become strained. But if you DON'T stretch, you are creating tight little muscles that have less ability to recover and are more likely to tear. My hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, calves and ankles all need to be kept loose, but bikram yoga level of stretch is out of the question for me right now. I'm still trying to find the right balance. And I'm still trying to find the right yoga class, so if anyone knows of a great restorative class that doesn't happen in the middle of the work day, let me know.

Things I have learned #4...Hey Lady. This ain't a runway and you ain't a model.

I walk funny. I'm 5'11", and like most tall people, I've been told throughout childhood to stop slouching to hide it. When I wear heels, I can tower over mere mortals. Kind of fun, but it means sometimes slouching down a bit to hear shorter people at a noisy party (seriously, watch any tall person talking to a shorty when standing too close to them in a noisy, crowded room). First my parents, then my friends, and then my husband ALL have nagged me to stand up straight. But that would mean people would notice me more, and so I still wanted to hide, so I developed The Supermodel Slouch. Hips forward, back a little concave, shoulders back. Its the bored runway walk of the model army, and I am captain of the auxiliary civilian brigade. My new pilates teacher is a former runner, and she noticed it immediately when she put me on a treadmill. 'Oh my god, you run like a model.' This is indeed hilarious, but I can't supermodel my way through a marathon, so we're using the magic of pilates to help get my alignment back on track.

My deep water running classes have also been a big help. You are wearing a light flotation belt, which helps you stay afloat, but if your form is not perfect-you start to sink. I like the immediate feedback of possibly drowning. I also like the way a 45 minute workout can make my whole body feel super toned with no joint soreness, so I think deep water running will be staying on the training roster even after I've fully recovered.

Things I've learned #5...Stop. And breathe.

I've developed a daily meditation practice that has seriously changed the way I live my life. The short way to describe it is; the world is an easier place to operate in, and I'm an easier person to know. Daily meditation gives me the space I need to respond rather than react, and just that difference has made life more enjoyable. It also makes me more aware of patterns and habits, which is a great way to track how my body is responding to training. Unfortunately, when I was working so hard, I dropped meditation as well. If I had kept it up, I might have felt these stresses coming on when they were more manageable. But I didn't, so now I'm picking up where I left off, and have noticed that it really has helped my recovery. Of all the work I've been doing to get my strength back, this is probably the most important. Being aware of everything that happens in my body and in the rest of my life is key to understanding what went wrong. Running without an ipod has been a form of meditation. Being in the present moment, listening to the breathe, tracking the pain, and trusting my body to tell me when to push through it and when to stop has helped me get back on track more quickly than if I had JUST rested. Many injuries require complete rest, but in my case that would have relieved the symptoms and not the underlying problem.

I recently read an interesting article on injury in the current issue of Runners World magazine. The author has pain similar to mine, and can't seem to find the whole answer to complete recovery. I noticed there was a bit of controversy in the comments section about how he finally got himself back to 100%, but I have to say that what he found didn't surprise me. Injury doesn't always happen because of one specific physical trauma. You have to look at it from all angles. Our bodies and minds are not two separate entities, they work together. The overworking of one can contribute to the weakness and injury of the other, much like the weakness of one part of the body can cause injury to another. It all comes together, so we have to take care of the whole package.

I loved the quote at the end, and his take on it.

The French General Ferdinand Foch is credited with sending this message back to headquarters during the 1914 battle of the Marne: "My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack." That's the attitude. You can rest. Rest is good. But don't surrender. Don't ever give up. Attack! Attack!


  1. many thx, Rob! Injury sucks, but it has taught me a lot.

  2. aaron and i ran four today together, we're still about two months away from our half-marathon (at altitude, and half uphill/half downhill) but we've started to take it seriously. well, i have. aaron truly doesn't need to :)
    i think it's awesome how fully committed you are and it's great that the team for kids thing has turned out to be so cool.
    keep up the grrrreat work. you're an inspiration xoxo

  3. lindsay,

    you and aaron have inspired me. I tell my running friends/coaches about aaron all the time. they know him as 'sub 3'. every time I think about how hard this is, I remember how hard aaron pushed, and it helps me keep going.

    wish I could do the half with you! next year?