Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back at It [The Lab]

Towards the end of last week, I found myself back at the physical therapy clinic after a week long vacation.

I was closing in on a month of doing nothing in the world of exercise. I found myself wondering if and when I'd ever taken such a long break before. 

After going through the paces of heat, warm up, deep tissue massage, excercises and ice, I asked my physical therapist a question -

Can I go back to yoga?

To which he nodded his head yes. 

After doing a whole lot of nothing as only a blob on the couch can, I could finally do something. 

The next day, I walked back into The Lab. The instructors were surprised to see me and asked where I had been. It felt good to be back in the studio.

I grabbed my mat and prepped for class. As I sat on my mat (which I leave at the studio), I realized just how much it smelled. I know I sweat a lot on it, but holy sh-t. I'm surprised the instructors stop by to adjust me with that smell radiating off my mat.

Mental Note: Take mat home and wash it.

I reminded myself that I may have lost some of the strength and flexibility I'd built up before my injury. I asked myself to not be frustrated by this. Injuries happen. People can recover from injuries to become bigger, better athletes.

Not that I need to be any bigger/taller, but you get the point. 

Then class began. I had missed the pace of the class. The warmup. The music. Stretching and strengthening both sides of the body. Then the peak pose. I wondered if I would be able to do it today.

I stayed away from some of the poses that I remember being painful before I started PT - standing splits, warrior three. When you're hanging out in downward dog waiting for the next cue, sometimes these now-impossible poses seem to last forever.

"Just be happy you're here." I remind myself. Don't get frustrated.

Class then moved out of the peak pose (and deep hip pose which I babied) and over to the once-dreaded, but now much-beloved wall. Ah yes, it's inversion time. One of my favorite parts of class. But after not doing an inversion for a month, I wondered what I could still do. I did just a few, taking my time to not pull too much on my right hip. They were not my straightest, lightest or longest-balancing forearm balances, but they were a place to start.

It's ok, I'm happy with that today.

Working my way back to the strength I had here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Early Morning Run [Inspired by Social Media]

Training changes a normal person into a strange, somewhat complusive, maniac.

Regardless of social engagements, vacations or weather conditions - long runs must happen.

Somehow, somewhere, your few mile jog after work went away, and you welcomed long runs into your life. Long runs are big time commitments. They are a multi-front (and not to mention a well coordinated) effort.

In the time some of your friends watch their favorite movie (or find themselves pulled into the magnetic force of a four-hour replay of Shawshank Redemption on TNT - admit it, it's happened to all of us), you're doing one thing - running.

But you're not dreading it. You're planning it. 'Cause this sh-t's gonna happen.

Camille is my cousin. She is training for her second Chicago Marathon. And nothing - I mean nothing - is standing in her way. She recently posted this on Facebook, to which a few of her runner friends and myself replied.

To us, this is completely normal (and I'll admit it - I miss it):

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Orthopedic Visit

Early Tuesday morning last week, I headed over to my appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.

After going through a month of PT and an inconclusive assessment from my GP, it seemed like time to take that next step. 

Walking into the facility reminded me a bit of a high end DMV. Lots of chairs. Every walk of life. A good amount of people standing in line or filling out paperwork. These people are all hurt (or were) and are seeking a recovery plan. 

I am quickly moved from waiting room to exam room where I'm asked all the usual questions. The assistant leaves and I'm left to sit for quite awhile. I find my mind wandering as I entertain myself with my phone -

What if what I have is a serious injury? What if this is the end of my running career? 

The doctor comes in. He seems like a nice enough guy and knowledgable. He takes a look at my hip and asks some questions, then sends me along for a x-ray. 

I return a few minutes later for more waiting. The doctor seemed to think it wasn't anything serious in the initial review.

Ok, good...I wonder if I can just go back to working out soon then? I hope he knows exactly what the problem is when he comes in so I can stop looking up hip pain on webmd and scaring the crap out of myself. 

Soon thereafter, but not soon enough for my wandering mind, the doctor returns. His assessment is similar to my GP and PT - a muscle strain. It could take some time (months even) to heal. He advises me to "take it easy."

But I've already been taking it easy. I'm a blob on the couch. 

He confirms no running or yoga for a few weeks. Oh, and that walking thing - I should do less of it and walk slower.

I can hardly believe this. Walk slower? 

I didn't think it was possible to do less, but somehow, that's what I'm supposed to do. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Repeat After Me: NO Running!

July 3rd was a great day.

I sort of ran. As in, I did more than walk.

That was a great 30 minutes.

After a long holiday weekend and a 11+ hour round trip car ride, I came home Monday sore and tight again. Going backwards in rehab isn't fun.

Wednesday I came home from work restless and decided to give the old track routine a try again. I was being optimistic I could build on my last session's success.

July 9 was pretty much a workout fail. Frustrated and slightly embarrassed, I finished the last 5/8 of the workout walking.

I headed to my PT the next morning. As I laid on the table with a heating pad on my hip, the therapist asked how I was feeling. I didn't have much good to report.

I told him about my workout fail, to which he replied "I think we need to cease all running for three weeks." He must have sensed my opposition, because as I started to explain further, he said "Repeat after me - NO running for three weeks."

"Ok, ok.." I said as I repeated what he said. Somehow, PT has made me feel like an elderly person and a grade school student all in one.

A few minutes later, I mentioned how I was scheduled to run the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon in a week and a half. The PT just smirked at me. He knows I can't let it go.

But I'm going to have to sit the race out in wine country. It's going to be a hard one to miss. I had the opportunity to run it in 2012 with my friend Brian. It's one of the most memorable races of my life. At the same time, I have to listen to the professionals (no matter how hard it is).

For the last few years, the Chicago Marathon has sold out at a capacity of 45,000 runners. Following the race, statistics are shared in the media as to how many runners started the race and how many completed. I've always been surprised by the huge disparity in runners who started the race (usually around 34,000-ish) vs. the 45,000 registered runners. How are 10,000 people not showing up to the starting line each year?

Now I'm getting a glimpse of where some of them may have landed - limbo PT land.

Tuesday I'm off to see an orthopedic surgeon to get his assessment. He's a team doctor with the Bears, so hopefully he's familiar with whatever it is that's going on with my hip!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Irresistible New Shoes

Two weeks ago, June turned into July. How is it July already?

I entered into my third week of physical therapy.

I could have guessed I would be impatient when it I heard the advice "take it easy and let your body heal." "Take it easy" isn't welcomed advice when you're already a few weeks behind on your training schedule. My PT advised I could run or do yoga if I could "do so without pain," but after dealing with this injury for a month going full steam, I knew I would need to tread lightly on that advise. 

So for over two weeks, I didn't work out.

Within a few days, I felt like this -

Going from 6-7 workouts a week to zero is a shock to the system. I find I'm not sleeping as well and have a harder time focusing as I continue on a hybrid of the marathon to couch program. 

Right before I started PT, I'd stopped in Universal Sole to grab a new pair of shoes. They were out of my size that day, so I gave my information to be called when a shipment came in. A week later, my shoes had arrived, but I wasn't ready to pick them up. I knew once I had them I would want to run. So I waited. 

That Thursday, I felt relatively good following therapy sessions earlier in the week. It was a beautiful morning and I'd taken the day off work. I just couldn't resist the new shoes sitting on my bench. 

I laid out an easy workout. I would walk over to the track a few blocks from my house and try our really slow running. If it bothered my hip, I would stop and just walk for awhile. 

As I walked over to the track in my new shoes, I was excited to try out the experiment but at the same time tried to prepare myself for the worst. I could go there and not be able to run ONE lap. If that happens, I can't be mad about it. Being mad doesn't help the injury heal. And if that happens, I can't cry about it because other people will see you and that will just be embarrassing. 

So I found a good song on my iPod and I started at a slow running pace, just above a fast walk. It felt good to be moving. I ran for 12 minutes and then walked for 2. I focused in on my hip. Was it more sore now? Was I in pain? I seemed ok, so I ran for another 8 minutes, then another break. Second check in - still seeming ok. Then finished off with a five minute run. 

Under normal circumstances, this is barely a work out. But on that sunny Thursday, it was the closest thing I'd had to normalcy in awhile. And it felt good.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Taking a Break

We all have our routines.

Our get ready for work routine.

A wind down for bed routine.

And likely, a workout routine.

Over the years, my workout routine has changed. From early evening tennis practice in high school to late evening runs in college, then on to trips to Lifetime Fitness in Orland for lifting, yoga, spin and/or a date with the elliptical. 

When I moved to the city, I opted to live close to the lake. The lakefront path would become my gym that year. In the years that followed, thousands of miles have been run on that path in the early morning hours. 

Running along the lakefront has become synonymous with my city identity. Yet lately, I've been spending a lot less time on the path, and following mid-June's PT assessment, no time on it at all. 

At first, taking a break was something I had elected to do. I wanted to do challenge myself with a new workout routine (and to be honest, I wasn't the least bit interested in outdoor runs this past winter). But more recently, I had plans to get back into my good, old summer routine on the lakefront. I was finally getting the bug to run again. 

But with this hip flare up, I'm holding off on training, at least temporarily. 

Electively taking a break is different than an injury breaks. No one requests an injury break. But as June turns in to July I'm trying to stay optimistic about what the future holds and what the next steps are. In the meantime, it's awfully strange to be sleeping in past 5am on Saturday mornings.