DISASTUH!!

Such a melodramatic title for a subject that’s probably small potatoes to most runners but nonetheless, it’s stopped me in my tracks (and running shoes). Whilst I joyfully reached the halfway point of my C25K programme, I also hit upon another, much less popular, milestone – an injury.

As I completed one of the five minute non-stop runs of that day’s programme, I felt a stiff ache in my left hip. I ignored it – I have weird sensations in my hips all of the time, thanks to having SPD in each of my pregnancies. The left side in particular will do things like pop in and out of the socket all of the time. It doesn’t cause any pain or problems elsewhere and I just carry on doing whatever it is I was doing. Which is what I did during this run. I expected it to ease off as usual but this time it stopped abruptly as soon as I felt a cramping pain in my left calf, as though the stiff ache had transferred from my hip to my calf.

Although it was sore, it wasn’t painful – I stopped for a few minutes to stretch it out and then continued on my run. Admittedly the ache was enough to slow me down and give me a hobbling sort of gait but I could still run and walk, which was a relief as it meant that it wasn’t a calf tear or a higher grade calf strain. I’ve torn a calf muscle before (the same one) it was a *completely* different experience – much more painful, unable to even walk, trip to A&E required and using crutches afterwards.

Run collage

I finished my run and got back home. Naturally I immediately looked at the stats for my run and compared them to the previous one, which had been my best so far (this is a sign of my burgeoning running obsession, I think!) and felt so disappointed. I had covered less distance, falling below 4k again, and my split times were slower. You can see from the picture above – on the left is my ‘best run’ and on the right is my ‘injury run’. Now ignore how rubbish the stats are! I know that they are going to look ridiculous in comparison to the stats of experienced runners with higher levels of fitness, strength, and endurance – but they are *my* stats and I’m proud of them! They improve every time I run and they are better than the stats of every person who’s still sitting on their couch….remember, don’t let anything dim your shine!

Once back home, I looked up all the information I could about what was happening to my calf. I’d already ruled out a significant strain or tear, and I was also able to rule out sciatica. I was looking at a calf strain, and a fairly minor grade 1 strain too. I was so relieved as I researched stretches and treatments for calf strains UNTIL I read that even a minor grade 1 strain could take 7-10 days to heal, and that running should not be undertaken again until the strain had fully healed. Not a bit better, or better enough to run slowly, but FULLY healed.

Now I know that it could have been a lot worse and that many, many people have injuries that require extensive rehabilitation and lengthy periods of resting but I still reacted like a big baby. “I wanna do my runs! It’s not fair! I was just starting to like it! Wah wah wah!” Luckily, my adult inner self appeared and reasoned that okay, this is bad luck and sucky timing *but* if you want the injury to go away completely, you have to let it heal completely before you run again. Attempting to run again too soon will either land you right back at square one or make the injury significantly worse. And you’ll be out of those running shoes for a lot longer than 10 days, missus!

So here I am, moping at home, doing my stretches and taking ibuprofen, and using heat lotion, and digging out compression bandages for later. It does suck but it’s the right thing to do. After a few days and once my calf had improved noticeably, I tasked myself with another activity; it would get me out and about, raise my heart rate, keep me active, and is quite important to me. I volunteered to deliver campaign leaflets for the Labour Party in my local area. We have a local election on 4th May ahead of the general election in June and as a dues paying Party member, I wanted to do my bit. So check me out below – I’ve put my favourite trainers on and I’m ready to hit the streets! I’ve clocked up three hours of walking so far, up many many hills and steep driveways. My calf isn’t complaining at all so I’m hopeful that it will have healed completely by ten days. Which will be on Monday. Monday 1st May. Not that I’m counting the days on the calendar or anything.

leafleting

So then, what have I learned from this experience?

  • patience really is a virtue, especially where injuries are concerned. As frustrating as the short term may be, think long term – what’s going to be much better for you usually involves a bit of a wait.
  • don’t let anything dim your shine (again)! Your achievements are yours to be celebrated by you, no matter how they compare to other people’s performances or even your own performance previously – today you went out there and you did the thing. YOU DID IT.
  • I might be becoming obsessed with running. Just a bit.

Happy running!

Advertisements

WOAH We’re halfway there….WOAAHH!

Yes I did just quote a Bon Jovi song and no, I’m not even sorry about it. This is something of a triumphant post and so deserves a fist pumping kind of introduction. I finally made it to the halfway point of the Couch to 5K programme! Not only that but the amount of times where I think I’m going to die have decreased – it only happens once on a run now, instead of every two minutes. I’ve also noticed that I’m not wheezing and panting quite as much as I used to – that feeling of my lungs being stuck in my throat is beginning to fade away.

theviewfromthetop

I am actually enjoying running now. I can feel and see progress. Check out the picture above – that’s how much further I was running up that hill and away from the village where I live. To look back at that view was hella rewarding, I think about when I first started the programme and all the doubts I would have – “you’re never going to be fit enough to do this! You can’t even run for two minutes straight – what the hell are you doing? You’re too old to be doing this!” etc etc. Yes, those lovely little head demons really like to pop up and give things a stir. In the past, this would have been enough to floor me and cause me to give up (I make no secret of the fact that I have struggled with severe depression and anxiety in the past, and I’m aware of it’s ever lurking presence) but not this time. Not Today Satan! To quote one of idols, Ms Bianca Del Rio. I tackled my head demons and I refused to listen.

When I found my running sections tough and thoughts about stopping or giving up popped into my head, I told myself over and over “you CAN do this!” I reminded myself that I’ve given birth and been in labour for hours with no pain relief and I did that. I got through it. “You CAN do this!” I distracted myself with more pleasant thoughts, things like what kind of dress I will wear for an upcoming family event, how I’ll probably have to buy a new one if I keep running because I’ll have lost weight and will have a bum and legs to be proud of. I designed the dress in my head and thought about colour schemes and what would go with my fancy posh shoes that I’ve yet to wear. Before I knew it, the nice American lady was telling me to slow down and walk.

It probably sounds daft to most people but that was a little breakthrough for me. Self-belief isn’t something that comes easily to me but when I can do it, it works wonders. I also found that distracting myself from negative thoughts was very helpful. Just silly little things like counting how many lampposts I passed during each running section and comparing the totals, or looking for a landmark in the distance and telling myself to keep heading for it (“get to the chopper!!”). This is probably stuff that other people do *all* of the time but it was new for me. And it got me through it. The days of battling with myself over whether I could run non-stop for a minute and a half were over – now I was running for a whole five minutes non-stop and LIKING it.

Admittedly, there was a setback during my final run of week four but that’s for another post and I’m not going to let it dim the shine of something I view as a personal achievement. Never let anything dim your shine! Instead I will summarise what I’ve learned as follows:

  • you are capable of doing more than you think
  • your head demons only take up space and control if you let them
  • focusing on a positive goal that works for you personally will help, whether it’s a nice new frock or a big tasty dinner or a luxurious soak in the bath when you get home…
  • this is YOUR time to do something YOU love and you DESERVE it so be kind to yourself

Happy running!

Couch to 5K – this is how it starts…

Right then! I’ve installed a C25K app on my phone along with Map My Run, and I’ve dug out my old pair of ‘outdoor trainers’. I live in a rural area surrounded by farmland, so you don’t have to go far before you encounter a lump of manure in the middle of the path. So it seemed sensible to wear my tatty old trainers rather than a nice, newer pair. Right? Wrong! More about that later, as it wasn’t even my first hurdle…

My first hurdle hit me straight away, as I stood in my open doorway with my trainers on and my phone in my hand – where was I going to run? Where could I go? How could I avoid being seen? How could I successfully negate the perils of receiving shouted abuse from white vans (this is an actual thing, believe me)? I know I’m not alone in this. Lots of people, especially women, feel very self-conscious when they first start running or doing any form of exercise outdoors. You feel exposed and vulnerable, and on display. You worry that you’re going to look awful as you pant and stagger your way along your chosen route. You fear the judgement of those you pass – the looks, the stares, and the comments. It has happened to me and to many people I know. What one person might think is a witty little aside, a bit of humourous badinage, a spot of ‘banter’ perhaps (side note: using the word ‘banter’ to excuse something you’ve said is a sure-fire sign that you are an utter cock womble) will actually be a knife to the heart of the person who is putting themselves out there and doing something challenging and difficult. That kind of bravery deserves a bit of respect, not an insult shouted from the window of your vehicle as you drive past.

I didn’t yet feel confident enough to risk open public areas. So I chose to begin my running along the little country lanes that exist around my home. Most of them are flat and even but the longest one is actually up a very steep and high hill. As C25K always begins with a five minute brisk walk as a warm-up, I decided to begin with ascending the hill for my warm up. After which, the programme alternates between running for 1 minute and walking for 1.5 minutes six times. I knew it might be a challenge but I reasoned that it would give me a kick start where building a bit of stamina was concerned. And it did! I wheezed and I panted and I stomped my way up that hill as far as I could. I aimed to get to the point where the app would notify me that I was halfway through my run, and then I would turn and begin my descent and getting back home. I did it! I pushed myself and made myself keep going until that little ping sounded and the nice American lady’s voice told me I was now halfway through. I turned, ready to start going the other way, and then I saw the view. From the point I had reached on the hill, I could see the village where I live way in the distance – the houses looking like tiny square specks. I was shocked and also pleased by how far I’d come. I had to take a picture, obvs, and have shared it here for you. Through those trees and all the way down the hill and around the houses and a little more to the right, was where I started my run. I felt a burst of pride in my chest and forgot about how much I was wheezing. It felt *good*.

upthehill

Oh yeah, back to that other hurdle – my knacked old trainers. They felt fine to run in and weren’t uncomfortable at all but after my second run I noticed a strange dark bruise that went along the outside of my big toe. I didn’t know how it got there – I hadn’t bumped or banged my foot into anything. It had to be my trainers. I had originally intended to get all the way through C25K before investing in decent running shoes; I now realised that my plan was a bit silly. Decent running shoes are a must – at least as decent a pair as you can afford. I gathered lots of advice and information and identified my way forward as visiting a good sports shop, having my gait analysed, and then investing in the best pair of running shoes that I could afford. But that would have to wait for a little while, as funds couldn’t quite permit that just yet. Instead I read a lot about pronation and stride and what types of shoe cater for which kinds of feet and I settled on a stop-gap until I could get my gait analysed. Two days later, I was lovingly cradling a brand new pair of Mizuno running shoes. I felt the difference immediately during my very first run wearing them – they were light, springy, comfortable, and I felt like I was running on air. And my old tattered ‘outdoor trainers’ went straight into the bin.

So, the moral of this post should be:

  • start out with doing what you feel comfortable doing and run where you feel comfortable running;
  • set yourself a little challenge and allow yourself to feel proud when you achieve it;
  • look after your feet! You only get one pair and if you destroy them, how will you run? D’oh!

 

As I was saying……

How many first blog posts have this title? Thousands I bet. My beginning might go back a little further than most, however. After all, this blog is about my journey as an older woman with four children rediscovering her love of running. Because I did it once before.

17andrunning

Back when I was 17, my uncle got me into running. That’s him in the photo, with me on the left. Note the authentic working class wallpaper in the background. He was a running fanatic – he regularly ran marathons, started up a running club at his place of work (the world renowned Dunlop’s Aerospace; he even designed their logo), and organised heaps of events to raise money for charity – the 24 hour relay-a-thon sticks in my memory. So it was only a matter of time before he passed the running bug on to me.

We would run along the canal system of inner city Birmingham, which could be surprisingly beautiful and serene in places, with wildflowers sprouting up and holidaymakers taking canal boats along the water. Of course there was also plenty of broken glass and other hazards to keep an eye out for but overall it was straight and flat and even and good to run along.

I became quite fit and strong and developed something of an endurance level. My legs took on muscle definition and became toned and lithe – something that was new to me, having always had a thunder thighs kind of physique. I found myself being able to run for long distances and enjoying it – no longer feeling like my lungs were in my throat and I was about to die. The bright red face calmed down. The panting and wheezing eased off. I actually really enjoyed going out and just….running.

Then a couple of things happened. Firstly a knee injury. My right knee just decided it didn’t want to work any more. It was swollen and painful and made a worrying crunching sound. At the time, the only medical advice and treatment available was resting it and wearing a tubi-grip bandage. So that’s what I did. Then the second thing happened – I discovered cider and boys. That pretty much distracted me from ever getting back into running properly, something I’ve always regretted. I especially regret my uncle’s obvious disappointment – I think he had had hopes for me as a runner.

During the years that have passed since then, I’ve had a recurring dream. In my dream, I’m running through a field on a bright sunny day. I’m running fast but I’m not out of breath. My legs are slim but strong again and they carry me effortlessly past groups of people who all smile and wave hello as I run by. I wave back and shout greetings (yep, I’m definitely not out of breath in my dreams). The sun is warm and I am happy and all seems right with the world. I always wake from this dream with a pang of longing. Really longing to be that fit woman again, who could run in the sunshine and smile. Whilst wearing shorts!

So now, all these years and four children later, I’ve decided to try again. I don’t have the confidence or certainly the fitness that I had when I was 17 but I will find both again. I am slightly more risk averse than I was, so I will be taking it gently to begin with by starting with the Couch to 5k running programme. I say gently because I am ever the optimist! This is where I start my journey from puffing red faced tortoise to smiling lithe-limbed hare.

In the beginning…..

How many first blog posts have this title? Thousands I bet. My beginning might go back a little further than most, however. After all, this blog is about my journey as an older woman with four children rediscovering her love of running. Because I did it once before.