Time To Deal With That Annoying And Persistent Running Injury Once And For All

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time now, in response to a few runner friends wanting to know how I finally beat an injury that kept me from running for months. Long story short, I wasn’t able to run more than a couple of miles without experiencing sudden pain. One or both my calf muscles would cramp while running, and lock up in spasm.

After seeking opinions from a few different practitioners (who mostly agreed that the absence of muscle, ligament, or tendon damage suggested referral pain), I opted for ongoing therapy with a holistic physio/massage therapist.

During our initial sessions it became evident that my muscles were in a fixed state of tension; what I was asked to do to help remedy that was completely unexpected, but I was at my wits end and willing to try anything.

My therapist, it seems, was quite intuitive, and picked up on things about me that I had not revealed but which she somehow knew. She was also from Europe, and according to her, culturally conditioned to not hold back the punches!

In her opinion, I needed to let go of “internal junk!” My muscles, she said, were in a fixed and constant state of tension because it had become a defense mechanism. It was, she believed, my way of subconsciously protecting myself from getting hurt, hence the resistance she met with each time she attempted to loosen my overly tight muscles. I had been tensing them for so long that I no longer recognized when they were not relaxed! From her practitioner’s point of view, massaging me was like trying to undo the most stubborn of shoelace knots!

There were a few specific things she suggested I do on my own, outside of the physical therapy applied in-clinic:

  • Meditate…… although for me that happened on my runs, since honing in on my state of awareness while staying still is something I struggle with (one day I’ll try working on that).
  • Journal my thoughts and emotions, especially those that came up while running, as that’s when my deepest self-reflections typically surface.
  • Read, review, then later address my journal entries! I had become skilled at getting stuff out of my head, but that’s where it ended. My therapist suggested that the same toxic emotions kept resurfacing because I never really attempted to address them. Until I was willing to do so, she gambled that I would remain “stuck,” with my muscles unable to loosen and relax.
  • Learn to differentiate between actual and perceived pain; in other words, I had to unscramble the messages in my brain that had me believing my pain was real. Laugh if you will, but my therapist encouraged me to “talk to the pain!” I was to acknowledge it whenever it appeared, but no longer accept it as a threat. I was to talk it down, so to speak, and say things like, “Thank you for letting me know that you’re there. You’ve done a great job at trying to protect me, but actually I’m fine, and nothing bad is going to happen. So for now, I’m going to keep running.”

Sounds a bit out there, right? But I can say with absolute certainty that the day I first ran without any pain at all, was also the day I instinctively knew that my calf issue was a thing of the past.

I could, if I wanted to, attribute my recovery to the physical therapy applied……….which by the way included:

  • Postural awareness and correction, with a specific focus on fixing an anterior pelvic tilt and rounded upper back
  • Lower back/core strengthening
  • Deep tissue and trigger point massage
  • ART (Active Release Technique)
  • Temporary adherence to a Walk/Run training plan

………however, none of the above techniques were any different to those I had already tried. What was different, was the shift in mindset that occurred after following all the mind-therapy “stuff.” Once I became aware of that shift, I somehow knew that my runs would be pain-free.

There is a lot of new and fascinating stuff coming out now on the web about psychosomatic pain and what one might subconsciously be doing to “feed” such pain. Running Coach David Roche, for example, wrote a very insightful article in which he said:

The body is complicated, which makes sense because life and the universe are complicated. If the body handled stress in a straightforward, predictable way, it would be entirely out of character for what we know of existence. The unpredictability is especially evident if you zoom in and view training on the small-scale. Great workouts can come out of nowhere, as can injuries and three-hour crying episodes and the worst runs of your entire life. There’s a lot of noise mixed in with a little signal.

If you’ve been struggling like I did, and your injuries haven’t responded to conventional physical therapy treatments, then maybe it’s time to consider that your injury is a physical manifestation of accumulated stress, and if so, then perhaps it’s also time to look at alternative forms of treatment. I did, and it’s now nine months that I have been running without pain, just saying…..

When Our Kids Fail……

Last week my teen experienced a couple of disappointing setbacks; one was of an academic nature and the other had to do with a dance audition. She’s a sensitive soul, so it hurt me to see her have to deal with the pain of failure and rejection. I wanted to tell her not to worry, and that in my eyes she’s super smart and talented. But, I also never want her to feel that her self-worth must be determined by her ability to produce certain outcomes. No, I’d rather she accept her failures for what they are and know that they are stepping stones to whatever is next.

Fortunately, I’m well acquainted with the sting of failure, so I was able to offer what was hopefully some sage advice. I mean, if not for my past failures many of my successes may never have been realized. So, drawing on a couple of recent experiences, I shared with her how at first the sting feels unpleasant, but as the pain subsides it gives way to a clearer view and understanding of what just happened.

With fresh eyes and a less clouded perspective, it’s then easier to discern if continued effort and persistence is worth it, or if maybe it’s time to completely move on. There is after all, often a fine line between knowing when to keep working on something and when giving up is actually the better/healthier option.

Thankfully, our heart-to-heart helped her to find the clarity and peace of mind that she needed. She was able to make choices that personally, I am proud of. Additionally, she understood and accepted that although failure and rejection sucks, it’s not personal! It’s not about her, it’s about her work/performance. And that revelation alone, small as it was, provided the greatest comfort.

Your 2019 New Year Resolution Tips – Tip # 3

Here it is ladies, the last of my New Year Resolution Tips for 2019. This one has to do specifically with weight loss and fitness goals, since those two seem to always be at the forefront of most women’s minds.

“I want to lose x-amount of weight in x-amount of weeks,” or, “I’m determined to exercise five days a week,” is what I have been hearing a lot of lately. Not surprising either, since I work in a gym and have been meeting lots of new prospects lately, all wanting 2019 to be the year that they get “into shape!”

love that intentions have been set, but from my experience few will achieve and maintain either of the above goals, and here’s why:

  • The weight loss goal will fail because the end goal is too far away, and people are generally not motivated by delayed rewards.

  • Or, maybe the end goal (desired amount of weight loss) is within reach and able to be accomplished. That’s great, but keeping it off is where the success will likely end, since the focus is always on getting the weight off, not keeping it off (if it were, so many women would not be repeating the same goals year after year).

  • The exercise goal will also fail – if the bar is set too high. Setting too high expectations of yourself does nothing for self-esteem. Because, as slip-ups start to occur – and they will – self-esteem progressively drops and the desire to quit (and try again next year) becomes stronger than the desire to keep going.

  • Additionally, if the exercise is too-much too-soon, the likelihood of crashing and burning is significantly greater, and often the momentum to get going again doesn’t happen until…..you guessed it…..next year!

So, what to do:

 

  • Break the big goal down into bite-size goals, and celebrate every milestone accomplished. Get your focus on losing just 1kg instead of 10kg, and then another 1kg, and so forth. Learn to enjoy the process as much as the outcome.

  • Turn your goal statement from one that has a finite ending, to one that leads to rituals. In other words, have intentions of making your new habit changes a lifestyle, not just a means to an end. Willpower doesn’t last; rituals do!

  • Don’t set a bar at all; simply determine in your mind to own up to the intentions you’ve made and take some action. If at first it’s only once a week that you get yourself moving, take it and celebrate it. And if every day is jam-packed and you can’t find a spare hour, then find a spare 20 minutes. Lose the all-or-nothing mentality! Do something; but don’t do nothing

  • Visualize and weigh up the outcomes of pain versus pleasure; the pain of doing something less enjoyable that gets you closer to your ideal “you,” versus the pleasure of doing what’s most comfortable but accepting a less optimal version of “you. Which do you want more?

 

 

Your 2019 New Year Resolution Tips – Tip # 2

I don’t know about you, but when I run and see my shadow, I like chasing “her.” She’s always one step ahead, and impossible to catch, but I like trying anyway. The other day she caught my attention again, but around this time of year her appearance is always a stark reminder of another year passed by. She had me questioning who she was, and if she was the same girl whose footsteps I followed last year, or was she someone different?

The thing I love about her is that she can be whoever I want her to be. At the start of each new year I enjoy reflecting on previous paths travelled, and in my mind’s eye I visualize the next journey and destination. I transfer my hopes and thoughts to a vision board so that I don’t forget, and then I start the chase all over again.

I challenge you to have a little fun with me. Determine who you want your shadow to be, set a course for her to run in 2019, and then smile every time you see her because she is beckoning you to follow!

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Lessons Learned From My Runs – Lesson # 2

I usually look forward to the end of my runs, especially when I have worked hard and know that the last kilometre or two is along an easy, flat stretch of road. But I don’t always take the easy road home. Every now and again I choose another route that requires me to finish on a hill. On tired legs and pre-stressed lungs, it takes a lot of grit and focus to finish with a moderately hard climb, and I never enjoy it!

If you’re wondering why I choose to make things tough for myself, I do so for two reasons: the first is because I have run enough races by now to know that they don’t all end with a cruisey fast flat or downhill slope, and second, I’ve learned that these types of runs do wonders for character building.

There have been many periods throughout my lifetime where certain trials have forced me to dig deep and find the mental grit needed to get out from under whatever hard rock I’m under. During those periods it’s always been liberating to finally see a light shine through, but it’s often required a final hard effort to break through and let all the light in.

 

Your 2019 New Year Resolution Tips: Tip # 1

A few years ago, I was asked by the Marketing Manager of Health and Fitness site top.me, to suggest just one key fitness resolution for the New Year. I recall thinking at the time that it would be difficult to put all of my tips and ideas into one small basket. I still think it’s a difficult assignment, however looking back at what I wrote I’d probably write the same or something similar today; check it out below:

  • If I were to suggest just one fitness resolution for the New Year, it would have to be one with a two-fold approach. It sounds a bit like a cliche, but I’d first recommend visualizing what your lifestyle would look like if you were in the best shape of your life. What would it take to achieve that lifestyle, and considering all the influencing variables, then ask yourself if such a lifestyle were really possible? If not, go back to the drawing board and paint another picture, the “next best” scenario. That’s part one!

 

  • Second, take another look at the picture you’ve just painted and if “getting there” requires setting the same goals that you traditionally set yourself every year, then maybe you need to get even more honest with yourself and ask if that’s really what you want. Because if you’re going to simply go through the motions of setting the same old goals, knowing that next year brings with it another opportunity to “try again,” you’ve already lost the battle.

Get real and honest with yourself, because once you have decided what you most care about, you’ll stop sabotaging your goal efforts and start taking small, intentional steps that each day, move you a little closer to your desired lifestyle.

 

Give, and RECEIVE compliments!

The other morning I ran past a man who looked to me to be homeless. When I got closer, I gave him a friendly smile, not expecting more than a smile back in return. He surprised me though; he not only returned a friendly smile, he also cheered me on. 

“You’re strong girl! You go!”

I could tell by his smile and tone of voice that his comment was sincere, and meant as a compliment. I smiled even bigger and yelled back, “Thanks!”

That exchange reminded me of a conversation I once had with a good friend. We talked about why it is that women – in general – have a hard time accepting compliments. And at the end of that conversation we made a pact to start smiling and saying “Thank You” to every compliment given. 

I don’t always get it right, but two reasons in particular motivate me to keep trying:  

  • Accepting compliments is actually good for my well-being! Whether I believe the compliment to be true or not, it doesn’t matter. My natural response is to either transfer the praise back to the person giving it, or to someone or something else. But I’m training myself – and you should too – to celebrate and be grateful for kind words said about, and to me.
  • In accepting compliments from others, I’m also contributing to someone else’s wellbeing. Imagine if I shot down every person who tried to compliment me; what a killjoy! But show them that their words have helped to make my day a little brighter, and I guarantee that I’ll also make their day a little brighter.

 

I challenge you to start owning and accepting whatever positive observations are made about you, because in doing so you are helping to maintain a positive cycle of energy (and wellbeing) that both you – and your complimenters – will benefit from.

In The Spirit Of Christmas, And Kindness……

Most charity and donation pages start with an intro that says “I need your help,” but I’ll be honest, I don’t need your help. I am however, asking.

Four years ago, myself and good friend Anna Boom, helped to raise funds for a member of our women’s trail running group. This member’s son was diagnosed with leukemia while living on one of the US military bases in Japan, and sadly, passed away before he saw his 9th birthday. The money that Anna and I were able to donate didn’t save his life, but it helped by contributing towards ongoing medicals costs. We didn’t do much but we did something, and as little as that something was, it helped.

I have an opportunity to do something again, this time for a member of the gym I work at; his name is David Pretorius, and in 2010 his three children were in a horrific head-on car collision.

His eldest daughter Alexandra, survived the crash but still deals with significant emotional trauma. His four year old son, Adam, lost his life on the roadside in front of his sisters. And his middle child, Holly, somehow miraculously survived but is now confined to a wheelchair, for what doctors say is forever.

David is not buying into that prognosis! Ever since that day, he has been raising money to help support the Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility at Auckland University, through the charity of which he is now a trustee, the Catwalk Trust (www.catwalk.org.nz). He is whole-heartedly committed to serving this cause, and driven by the ground-breaking work they’re doing to get people (like Holly) walking again.

I want to help. I have always made the claim that “I run because I can!” What I am inferring, is that I am mindful of and grateful for a body that functions and moves as it should, and I do my best to not take that privilege lightly. In line with that mindset, and the gift of being able to use my legs – to run, walk, move about freely – I am running the entire Auckland Half Marathon series this summer in the hopes of raising money for the Catwalk Trust.

In the spirit of Christmas and kindness, please consider coming alongside me to support my efforts. For every half marathon I run (there are five in the series), I am donating $50. But you can donate as little or as much as you like, and for just one race or all five. Any amount will be received with much gratitude, and it’s as easy as going here to my charity page and clicking the ‘Give Now’ button.

Thank you in advance, and from myself and all those involved with the Catwalk Trust, have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

it means a lot!

My Greatest Strength Is My Greatest Weakness

Looking back at my childhood, I remember sitting up straight at weekly school assemblies, hoping to be noticed and commended for being such a good kid. I also remember hoping that I’d be one of the few kids to receive an achievement certificate; I’d work hard all week to try and get my name on the list of recipients. Most weeks my hopes were fulfilled, and I’d run home, eager to show my parents how smart or good I had been.

Even before I was old enough to attend school, that compulsion to learn and achieve was already apparent. At age three, when my mother would help my older brother with his homework, I’d plant myself squarely beside them, listen very intently, and shout out the answers before my brother could respond. I was up to speed with his level of homework because while he was at school each day, I wiled away my hours at home playing educational games with my mother (who by the way, was a trained school teacher who loved to challenge me as much as I loved being challenged).

But getting back to that compulsion – or whatever you want to call it – I’d argue that it has become one of my greatest strengths, since it’s rewarded me with the accomplishment of many goals. Unfortunately, it’s a strength that happens to also be one of my greatest weaknesses.

Because I feel compelled – most days – to do and achieve so many things, and often all at once, I struggle to tone it down and take rests when it’s obvious that rest is needed!

I’m working on it though……..

 

Lessons Learned From My Runs – Lesson # 1

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have no trouble relating to the following scenario. On many occasions, when I have started to tap out and flatline on a run, the sudden appearance of another runner has been enough of a stimulus to snap me out of it. Simply being alerted to the fact that a fellow runner is either directly ahead of, behind, or across from me, is a sure-fire way of getting me to re-focus and put forth my best stride and effort.

Beyond running, and as I consider my workplace for example, I believe I work as hard as I train; that is, I work hard but struggle to remain fully committed all of the time. There are days when motivation is lacking, or days when my mind drifts and work output is reduced to “good intentions.” I guess that’s normal, but could I be a better and more productive worker if every time I started to lose interest, I forced myself to imagine a colleague working nearby in the same office space as me?

I know it shouldn’t really take someone else’s presence or observation to prompt a greater effort from me, but if it helps to produce a more exceptional performance, then heck, I may as well use it as a tool.