Tuesday PT and run

Today I went to a session of PT. It’s starting to worry me — kind of the same old thing, and while it feels good when I’m there, I’m not noticing any effects that last longer than a couple hours or the end of the day. I realize that PT is a slow, gradual, cumulative process… But I am impatient and in pain.

After PT I went for a run and it was probably the worst run I’ve had all season. My body has been teasing me with the threat of getting a flu – I’ve got a cough in my lungs and aches and chills, but I basically told it NO today and went to run anyway. Well, it turns out, whether it was the flu or allergies or what… I had a huge asthma attack at mile 3.

However. I’m proud of myself, because instead of just calling it quits and being depressed about the run, I walked off until I could breathe and then ran another 1.5 miles. Slow. Easy. Very slow. So at least I got in 4.5 miles, even if they were garbage trash miles. I’m proud not because they were good miles, but because I made myself finish the run after the asthma attack, and because I made myself take it slow enough to not die again.

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Weekly update

I’m declaring myself back in the game, tentatively. Here are the things I have going for me:

  1. The physical therapy seems to be working – slowly, but maybe
  2. Even if it isn’t, I want to gently get back into weight lifting while I am still attending PT so that if it does aggravate my neck, I can get guidance
  3. I am really loving the pool
  4. The Akron Marathon Relay is at the end of this month – motivation to get back into things
  5. an upcoming trip in October being more motivation to knock off a little of this fat.

This week was another slow one, but it sets me up nicely for next week. Tuesday I did just my PT. Friday morning I got up and ran 5 miles easy, followed by PT. Sunday (today) I ran 3 miles of negative splits, then did the leg press and a set of kettlebell swings, then swam for 25 minutes. It felt great and I don’t think it aggravated my shoulders too much.

This week I’m hoping to work out Tues and Wed – one day I’ll do a longer run (4-5 miles) and the other i’ll do a 30-min swim followed by some light weight lifting. Friday I’ll do a long run and Sunday I’ll do what I did today. That’s the plan, anyway; cross your fingers that I have no other setbacks.

Absence, Injuries, Illness – and me

I’ve gone from almost-every-day posting to almost-no posting, and here’s why. Last week Tuesday I was struck with a fever completely out of the blue – about 102-103F – and Wednesday I woke up with swollen tender painful red streaks down my left side. It turns out I had a skin infection – the cause of the fever – which moved into my lymph nodes and, well, my left breast. The infection is what caused the fever. I’ve been on antibiotics since Wednesday, and I do seem to be getting better, albeit slowly; the fever is long gone, but the red streaks and marks are just now starting to subside.

I do not necessarily know what caused it, but I wanted to post a mention of it, because there’s a decent chance that I got it from the Warrior Dash. Please note that I’m not saying “The Warrior Dash gave me an infection / got me sick” or “You shouldn’t do the Warrior Dash because it’s full of filthy illness.” All I am saying is, if you’re someone whose immune system is already a little compromised, and you’re prone to getting sick and getting infections and fighting these things off, you may want to take extra care at the Warrior Dash because you’re going to be swimming through untreated lake water and crawling through what is probably germ-filled mud. It’s just a word of caution! My guess is many people (who have normally working immune systems) won’t even have to worry about it. No one else in my group got sick at all.

So that experience had me flat out in my bed for 2-3 days last week, for starters. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be running very much while fighting an infection with antibitics anyway.

In the meantime I also started physical therapy. I went once last week and was thoroughly unimpressed at the session: I got almost no relief out of it and was instead assigned some seemingly useless exercises to do every hour (nearly impossible at the job I work).  I did the exercises when I could, but didn’t think they were doing much, and was overall discouraged and irritated. However, I went back yesterday and found the session a lot more relieving. I was given 15 minutes wrapped in a hot pad to start; then I did some actual exercises with the therapist (an arm bike, which was actually pretty funny, because it feels really dumb to pedal a bike with your hands; then some weight exercises for my shoulders and traps – which were extremely low-weight versions of exercises I had already been doing in my heavy weight lifting period, which implies that maybe trying NROL4W was a contributor to this problem in the first place). Then afterwards they put me on traction for 10 minutes. Can I be in traction every day. Oh my god, it felt so good. They put a clamp around your head and basically pull it upwards from your neck at a set pressure for some time, then relieve it, then do it again. Holy shit. It was amazing. I’m not sure how much lasting relief it will provide – and the problem isn’t entirely in my neck; it’s in my shoulders and upper back too – but I feel the second session was a lot more promising.

So between the infection/fever and physical therapy, I have not had a lot of time or opportunity (or, to be honest, motivation) to work out very much. On Friday morning I did go to the gym and run a fairly easy 3 miles followed by a 20 min swim, which felt quite nice, but I haven’t done much of anything since then. My company is hosting a lot of interview candidates this week so I am not sure I’ll have time to do anything until tomorrow or Friday.

I am pretty much resigning myself to not performing very well on my part of the Akron Marathon Relay. The rest of my team is fighting injuries too, so I don’t think I’ll necessarily be hardcore disappointing anyone, but it is pretty demotivating to look back through the recent history of this blog and see how much time I have lost to injury and bullshit.

I will continue to run: I have three Fridays before the race, on which I can do the 7-mile loop near my house that I’ve been using, and I’ll put in what miles I can on the other days. After that race is over, however, I may need a very long break from both weightlifting and long running until I can heal the damage I’ve done to my body. I’ll need to make a plan to move forward, because otherwise I won’t do much of anything. :/

Week 07 Summary; Week 08 Plan; Doctor Update

Week 07 Summary: 14.7 miles (4.5 mi speedwork Wed, 7 mi LSR Fri, 3.2 mi easy Sun) plus abs on Monday.

There was only one weight session in Week 07, and that’s because on Thursday I went back to my doctor’s office to go over my x-rays. The x-rays report that I have arthritis in my spine. The degeneration is what’s causing all of the nerve pinching and the tense muscles. I also have arthritic degeneration in my toes, so I guess it isn’t a huge surprise to hear that it’s in my spine too. It’s depressing and scary, though: depressing because there isn’t much you can do to fix arthritis; you just have to avoid aggravating it or setting it off ; and scary, because I need to confirm that it’s osteoarthritis and not rheumatoid arthritis (RA is an autoimmune disease which might explain some of the other things I’ve been suffering with over the years, but can be fairly debilitating).

When I asked the doctor what this meant for working out, he told me that I could continue doing anything that didn’t hurt, but that he recommended avoiding heavy weightlifting (especially upper-body, anything focused on lats or traps) and high impact (running or high intensity cardio).

There’s irony here:

  1. I’ve been lifting heavy a) because it’s the most efficient way to build muscle and b) because it’s a proven way to stave off osteoporosis in old age.
  2. I’ve been running a) to keep up cardiovascular health and b) to improve (to what extent I can) my asthma.
  3. #1 and #2 are apparently what is ‘causing’, ie. setting off, my arthritis. These “good-for-you” exercises are actually acting as trauma to my body. So what I’m gaining in one place I’m losing in another.

I want to talk about this at some point on the blog, because I feel like this is an important place I’ve found myself: This is why it’s so important for us to define health in a way that makes sense, for each body. People have talked for years about how heavy weights are the only way to ‘get slim’, to the point where it can get very judgy or preachy. And here I am, evidence at 30 years of age that not everyone can do “the best” workout.  Is heavy lifting still “healthy” for my body if it keeps me hovering at a 5 on the pain scale of 10, if it aggravates my neck to the point where I can’t drive a car? I don’t think so, but I think the industry has a ways to go until that message is received.

So based on that, what’s gonna happen during Week #08?

  • Technically it’s a rest week for me; also, I’m doing the Warrior Dash on Sunday 26 August. However, I still want to maintain running fitness. I did ~15 miles last week; I’m going to aim for 12.6 this week as a rest/race week. 4.5 miles of easy speedwork, 5 miles easy on Friday, and then 3.1 miles at the Warrior Dash.
  • I won’t be weight training this week either. If I have a free day I may try to do some core work, but I also won’t beat myself up if I simply take it as a rest day.
  • I’m going to try a new gym that has a pool. I haven’t talked a lot about it here, but I was a state-level varsity swimmer in high school and I have always loved swimming. And when you’re looking at low-impact cardio and muscle-building activities, I’m not sure you get much better than swimming. I have a couple free trial passes to a new gym that I’m going to try twice this week (Mon and Thurs) and if I like the rest of the gym and the pool, I’ll be doing a 3-month trial period and incorporating lap swims and intense pool cardio into my overall workout plan.
  • Physical therapy. The doctor prescribed some PT for my neck, and I’m super whiny about it, because PT is expensive (especially on my insurance :/ ) and time-consuming. But I need to go if I ever want to figure out what’s wrong with my neck/shoulders/back.

I’ll update as I can. Has anyone gone through PT before? Any words of wisdom?

 

Week 07 Progress

Monday:

On Monday I hit the gym to do weights. I specifically didn’t want to work my upper body (see Tuesday), and I didn’t want to do too much with my legs because I was still sore from Sunday’s run, so I focused on core: abs and back. I did both machine weighted exercises and some bodyweight moves.

Tuesday:

On Tuesday I went to see my doctor about my neck/back/shoulder issue. It isn’t that I don’t trust chiropractors – I just don’t fully trust chiropractors. I decided that after six weeks of up-and-down-but-constant-presence pain, I should see my doctor in addition to the chiro. He took some x-rays, gave me an NSAID, and wrote me a script for physical therapy which I had originally planned to ignore.

Today the doc called and said he wanted me to come in to discuss the x-rays. So I’m going to assume he found something.

Anyway, I didn’t really feel right doing anything on a day I’d had x-rays, and I’d worked out Sunday also, so Tuesday was a rest day.

Wednesday:

Today I did a tempo run. 4.5 miles total, with 0.75mi warmup, 3 miles medium fast, and 0.75mi cool down. It sucked. I’m horribly out of shape at speedwork. I had to stop halfway through the tempo and walk it out to avoid an asthma attack. I really need to focus on running. I’ve got a 7.5 mi race in about 6 weeks!

Chiropractor

I had my first real visit to a chiropractor yesterday. It turns out that what I have in my neck and shoulders that’s making it lock up with intense stabbing pain is an inflamed pinched nerve; it becomes aggravated due to misalignments in my spine, and it becomes inflamed, and then gets pinched between bones or ligaments or tendons or whatever is hurting that day. At least I’ve had it explained to me. Still don’t know what sets it off – my guess is stress – but I know what it is.

My feelings on the chiropractor are mixed. Of course I’m simultaneously trusting and leery of doctors – especially ones trying to sell me a treatment program upwards of $3K – and I won’t know for a few days whether this has helped or hurt. He cracked my neck and upper back – or, sorry, ‘realigned’ (dude, it felt like cracking, I can do that for free, yo). Then I got a short massage from the therapeutic masseuse and a short massage from electronic stil pads which was really cool. It felt different afterwards – I’m hoping “different” will mean “better,” since “similar” has meant “painful” for the last four weeks.

I’ll see in a couple days whether it’s improving or not. I’m not unwilling to go if it’s helpful; I’m just leery of treatments I have no experience with.

I know this has been more or less a workout blog so far, but I want to point out two things. Health is more than working out; it’s a whole-body situation, more than what you do in the gym and what you eat. And many people out there have injuries and disabilities; I want to share mine, to let people know that even if you have limitations, you can still have strengths.

Week 03: schedule change up and Worrying Important Thoughts

Two things to talk about today.

First: I ended up having to go to work today. Today’s supposed to be my day off. But a meeting was scheduled for the afternoon, there was no warning and no other time to re-schedule it, and I didn’t really have a choice. So instead of spending the morning painting in the basement and the afternoon relaxing and doing my long run, I spent the morning painting and the afternoon at work. It was a bad meeting with bad news: a really stressful discussion that left me feeling super angry and upset, very personally frustrated and stressed, and also overall exhausted.

It was already late in the day, I was upset, and I’d completely thrown off my eating schedule: so I decided to skip my LSR. Instead, I’ll get up and do 75 minutes of running tomorrow morning. There’s a birthday party tomorrow night, so I could probably use the extra calorie burn tomorrow (I know it’s all the same; just saying mentally).

So. That sucks. But one of the biggest things standing in the way of consistency for workouts with my is my job, and it always has been. Some days work just robs me of the will to do anything that isn’t “watch stupid shows on TV” or “play PS3”. That’s my life. I need to learn to deal with it. Not necessarily by forcing myself to run – by doing an honest survey of my state and deciding at to do instead.

(today’s answer was a double gin and tonic.)

The second thing on my mind is just as bad.

So I have some sort of pinched nerve / muscle strain in my neck/shoulder area. I’ve had it for three or four years now, but it has always been intermittent: it shows up, starts to hurt, I put a hot pad on it and treat it really well, and it goes away. Maybe a couple days at the most. If I don’t start babying it – hot pad, ice, Advil – it gets to the point where it quite literally feels like someone is jabbing a red hot knitting needle directly into the space between my neck and shoulders. I can’t even turn my neck (therefore can’t drive a car, cant get to work). It always eventually goes away – usually the stiff sharp pain only lasts a day.

I’ve currently been fighting the pain for about four weeks now.

It hasn’t gone away.

I can still function, so I’ve been – not ignoring it, but sidelining it. I’ve been using my hot pad almost daily; I get neck rubs from friends whenever I can; I even went out and bought a new $60 pillow for extra support to try to help it. But it isn’t going away. In fact, it’s gradually getting worse. It’s driving me to the point of constant stress and almost tears. I can’t sleep. I can barely sit comfortably.

About, say, 5 weeks ago, I started seriously adding heavy weight lifting and Body Rock to my workout regime. Both of which are heavily upper body related.

I don’t believe it took me this long to put it together. I think somehow in my head I was thinking, working out will make it stronger! I’ll get better! or some kind of similar logic. Like, strengthening the muscles around it would obviously help put back into place whatever is so fucked up, help settle whatever the problem is, help balance out the obvious imbalance.

Maybe I’m fucking causing it.

Because it has never stuck around this long without any relief. Ever. In five years. And while I’ve done upper body workouts before, sure, this is my first time in a really long time consistently lifting hard, doing compound weight lifts like squats, deadlifts, etc, and combining it with pushups and planks and all that. And of course now it’s all that I can think of.

So. As of right now I’m taking a week off of weights and BodyRock. Next week is a rest week in my running training plan, so I’m going to make it a rest week overall: no lifting, no body weight exercises, nothing but easy runs.

It might do nothing; in which case, obviously, I need to go to a doctor. But it might get better. In which case I should probably also go see a doctor, but at least I will know.

It’s a big derailment, but I’m trying to be okay with it. I have to do it: the pain is getting to the point of unbearable. If I watch my diet and continue to run, I shouldn’t set myself back too much.