GRIT Plyo & CXWorx

DOMS_CartoonHave you ever noticed how you come across something for the first time and then within days the same thing crops up in several Facebook/Instagram posts? Is it that you never noticed it before and now do, or is it something newish that is gaining traction, possibly as a direct result of new year’s resolutions? Who knows? So it was for me this week with the term DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness). Never heard of it a week ago. Now it’s everywhere- including in my lower back, butt, thighs and shoulders. Oh yes, not only have I learned a new acronym, and noticed several social media posts from people complaining about it, but I’m living it. In fact, I would say that yesterday, I was hobbling it. Now I have had this before. I just didn’t know it had its own dinky name.

This week’s affliction is a result of back-to-back Grit Plyo and CXWorx sessions (30 mins each) after a two week break. I love these classes but unfortunately there are very few of them on offer so generally I do them twice a month – yes they run weekly but I don’t always make them. I have on occasion run 10km before GRIT though not recently. And I’ve never felt stiff or sore afterwards. I haven’t looked like the people in the videos either mind you. However, this week marked a new version of both classes so I guess that change-up/out was enough to leave me two and three days later with DOMS or as I think of it ‘feeling like an 80-year-old’. Actually, I really hope I feel fitter than I have the past few days if I make it to 80!

DOMS aside, if you’re new year’s resolution is to go to the gym more – or at all – I think GRIT and CXWorx are the perfect compliment to running. H.I.I.T plyometric routines in the former boost athletic performance, and core strengthening is the main focus of the latter. Both really give the whole body a good old work out (so my good old body has been telling me for three days) but are only 30 mins each.

I’m hoping that by tomorrow I’ll feel supple and energetic enough to do parkrun. And then next week, to go to the gym again. It’s got to be easier second time around, right?

 

Doing the Pelvic Tilt

 

injury graphOn tuesday, I ran 12km. It was the furthest I had run in three months. I should have been elated. In just over two weeks I’d moved ‘the maximum distance without much pain’ mark from 5km to 12km. Yet, rather than elation I felt frustration. I’m in the danger zone, the place where the mind starts to get greedy and ambitious, as the legs start to return to some semblance of form. Strangely, when I wasn’t running at all, I was more accepting of my injury. Now I just want it to be gone, and to get back to the level I’d worked up to in May. Having had a taste of running, I want to run full throttle. I’ve started to look longingly at the training plan my coach in KL drew up before I left. I’ve reprinted it, and stared at it several times as if some form of osmosis was going to make me run faster and longer. That’s the training plan that was designed to get me to a PB in the Chevron City to Surf Half Marathon this coming Sunday for which I registered on May 1, just before my ITB decided it had had enough and was off for a summer vacation.

Well I’m months away from being able to adhere to such a plan but I think I may not have lost the chance to do the City to Surf event altogether. I changed my registration to the 12km race over a month ago, not really expecting to be able to participate. And even as I set off on my pre-physio run on Tuesday, I was certain that I wasn’t going to go to the start line in Perth city centre on Sunday. But then, my legs let me go, and I made it to 12, though 13 would have been impossible as my leg had started to hurt after over an hour on the road. I can only make it to 12 by concentrating very hard on fixing the anterior tilt of my pelvis which was most likely at the root of my ITB injury.

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My husband is running on Sunday too, though yesterday he discovered that I’d registered him as a woman, so maybe he’ll get disqualified before he gets to the start line. Oops. My 11-year-old daughter is walking 12km with a friend. Billed as the largest running event in the southern hemisphere, I’m curious to see what an Australian event is like. I’ve never been at a race outside Asia and I’ve a lot of questions that need answering.

For example, will I turn blue at the start line or should I dress warmly and discard old clothes en route? The forecast is for rain so I may be wet and blue before I start. Will I need to take a drink or energy chews – I ran Tuesday with neither – but having never mastered the fuel issue in Tropical climes, I now need to address it here. Do Australians stop to take selfies and update their Facebook statuses only minutes after starting the race?  Will there be long lines for the portaloos? Will I actually make it to the start line? More importantly, will I make it to the finish line?

Hopefully by Monday I’ll have answers to some of these questions, if not all. I will not be racing, no matter how eager my brain may be to do so. My legs (and my lungs) simply aren’t ready. I will try running though, whilst doing a pelvic tilt that hopefully looks less weird than it feels!

ITB Saga continues

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‘She’s chomping at the bit so she is,’ someone said yesterday. I wasn’t anywhere near a racecourse or stables but lying flat on a physiotherapy table. The ‘she’ in question was me; the inference being that I was dying to run again, raring to go as they say (on racecourses). I was near the end of my third physio session in a week and the student physio who had just spent an hour pummelling my ITB and glutes with his elbows was updating the senior physio on my progress. I thought I’d been very good about the whole ‘don’t run for ages thing’ but I guess it’s still obvious that I want to run. Immediately!

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I’ll rewind a bit. Last Monday, I walked the three-minute trip down the road to a physiotherapy clinic I had found online and got an appointment for that afternoon. I don’t know what I expected but I hadn’t really anticipated being told not to run for 6-8 weeks. What?! A week before, in the midst of moving and bidding farewell to friends, pets, and life as I’d known it for four years in KL, I’d cried over the idea of taking a few days off. To be fair, I cried about just about everything that week. But here in Kilkenny, I didn’t shed a tear or even try to appeal the jail sentence. For one thing, the ITB problem had been going on far too long so that even I, obsessive that I am, knew that running wasn’t helping me to get better. It was in fact making the injury worse. The other thing was that the physio’s offer to show me his scar from ITB surgery. Er surgery?! Yikes! OK, a few weeks off didn’t seem so bad after all, even if it did mean missing the half marathon in August and jettisoning all dreams of running in cooler weather, climbing up the Kilkenny Strava ladder. My choice of physio may have been haphazard but I was lucky to end up with someone who not only is a runner himself, but who has also had an ITB injury, though hopefully much more serious than my own.IMG_6540

Unlike in KL, the physios here are not averse to causing pain, and I’ve the bruising to prove it. The idea is to break down the scar tissue on the ITB and promote healing by sending blood to the area through deep tissue massage. There has been no mention of exercises yet though it has been agreed that foam rolling is a great idea. Everyone I mention ITBS to asks if I foam roll. Well I do. And I’ve started to do some body weight exercises on my core, upper body, abductors, and adductors, in the hope of not losing the little strength I had built up, and even perhaps building up some more for when I return to running.

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Physio-inflicted bruising on my thigh.

Initially I thought the timing terrible – to be injured when home, where I have no access to a bike (it has just arrive in Perth apparently) – but I’ve now committed to a routine of walking a 6km loop in the countryside everyday (see photos), and with the glorious summer weather we’re currently having, it’s impossible to feel sorry for myself. Sure, my cardio fitness is really suffering but I’ll just have to accept that. As long as my ass doesn’t go south, east and west too I’ll be fine.

Before I took up running I was a keen walker so it’s no hardship to return to it once more – temporarily – and enjoy the summer weather without breaking a sweat. The ITB feels sore from the physio but other than that, it’s impossible to know whether it’s healing or not. Any temptation to try run is quickly tempered by the thought of the scar on my physio’s knee, which I didn’t look at by the way. Sure, I’m chomping at the bit to get back out there, clocking up the miles again, but I know I need to be patient – or I might end up in the knacker’s yard! Or worse, be forced to become a cyclist!

 

A little bit back, a little bit forward

We’re in Ireland now, enjoying the cooler weather and eating our way through the tin of Cadbury’s Roses my mother has kept for us since Christmas.  I’ve tried running twice but a week’s break has done nothing to improve my ITB. Sigh.

When I left Oslo in 2010, I regretted not having taken photos of the walking loop I loved so much. My ITB injury, which allows me to walk but not run, offered me the opportunity last week to snap for posterity before we left, or at least until my iCloud implodes, images of the Mont Kiara loop. This was one of my regular KL running routes. Here’s a taster of the cracked pavements, traffic junctions, and urban chaos that I came to love so much:

 

I’m sure if I returned to Oslo today, I’d find my old walking loop unchanged except for an imperceptible heightening of the trees, lengthening of the branches. The Tanum area I loved so much is a development-free zone. The same cannot be said of KL. The cityscape there is constantly changing so I’m glad I managed to capture what was so familiar and make digital copies as a reminder.
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And of course, the trick to moving is to look forward, not back. Today, I’m looking forward to my first visit to see an Irish physiotherapist as a week’s break from running has offered no improvement to my ITB problem. I ran 2.4 km this morning – gloriously fast, thanks to the cool climate – but that was all my ITB would allow before stiffening. I’m also looking forward to the arrival of the foam roller I ordered online as it’s been five days since my Malaysian one was packed up.
Other than that, it seems I’d better start looking forward to doing more walking, as after five weeks, this ITB issue isn’t going to be easily resolved. Pass the chocolates.

Before the packers arrive…

This week, the last in our house, I lost two toenails, sold my car, gave away two guinea pigs, and paid a man to stick needles in my hands and feet. First-world problems I know! Only handing over the guinea pigs made me cry though to be honest, tears are bubbling under the surface constantly, partly because I’m not able to run much, mostly because we are leaving. The reason for my running wIMG_6390oes is that my ass is still tight (see previous post). In fact, I have a spastic gluteus medius, which allows me to run around 4km, gets my hopes up that all the stretching and physio are paying off, then on the fifth loop of the course on which I originally started running three years ago, my butt tightens making my ITB feel rigid and causing pain on the outside of my knee. I haven’t run outside this loop around my house in weeks – it feels like months! I didn’t get to do a final run in any of my favourite places. Yes, yes, I know, first world problems! I missed the Cyberjaya Fireman’s Half Marathon and will miss my final much anticipated race, a 10km, this coming Sunday (my last!). Yet, my physio who is trying to release the pesky, spastic glute, insists that I continue to run through the injury. Rest, he says will not help. I should be glad I suppose, but with a life of 5km races stretching in front of me, I’m only partially relieved that the horrifying words ‘ Do not run for a week’ have not been uttered (other than by well-meaning friends :))

Acupuncture is a new departure, though one I wish I had attempted earlier than my penultimate week in Malaysia. I had my first session today and will squeeze two more in before we fly away next Friday the 13th. I can’t tell yet whether it has helped my butt or not, but it certainly was very pleasant to be taken care of for 45 minutes, needles and all. I think it will help my butt. Yes I do.

Tomorrow the packers arrive. I picture them like locusts descending on the house, eager to pack belongings into boxes before I’ve segregated things I still need (my running shoes(!)), and things that I can live without for the next two months (my television, the piano, a very long list of things). Luckily, I’ve opened a bottle of champagne that’s been in the fridge for two years, waiting for a worthy celebration; it can’t be packed so it’s a question of ‘waste not, want not’. As I said – first world problems:)

No running (water) !

So I can’t run today. I just shouldn’t. My foot is as sore as it was yesterday so I must heed it’s plea for rest. But I feel restless. Boy do I really, really want to run! Second to my desire to get out on the road is my wish for rain. We’ve had so little rain over the past two months that water rationing is now being implemented. In effect, this means that since 9 AM this morning, the water company has switched off supply to our area and it will not be switched back on until 4 PM on Tuesday. Then, we will have water for 44 hours before the off-on cycle starts again, all the way to April 1.

My understanding is that there is currently water in the communal tank and that it is up to residents to make this water go as far as possible. The last time there was a two-day water cut off, for maintenance reasons, my neighbours continued to have their staff water their gardens, wash their fleets of cars daily and send litres of water down the drain, literally. I was gobsmacked when I ran – of course – around the neighbourhood through puddles that had come from hoses. When I challenged one neighbour’s driver, as he scrubbed the hubcaps on a Mercedes, he laughed at me. Laughed! So let’s see what happens tomorrow. Even if I can’t run, I’ll walk, like a vigilante water inspector, armed with an iPhone. I’ll be damned if I’m asking my kids not to flush and have the briefest possible showers only for others to squander the precious little water we have. Let’s hope I’m able to run tomorrow to temper my anger somewhat. Or perhaps my neighbours will surprise me and keep the hoses off. Perhaps..

And some good news – I’m very pleased that the Weekly Telegraph has published an article I wrote about how I developed a passion for running mid-life. Please have a look by clicking on this link. Thank you!

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The One Where I Admit That I’ve been Foolish

One of the many things I love about running is how strong and powerful it makes me feel, and the fact that that I always feel better after a run than before one. Or nearly always. Today, for the first time running since my Angkor Wat Half Marathon on Dec 1, I neither felt strong nor powerful, and I finished my run 1km short of my 21 km target feeling sore, worried and annoyed. Annoyed with myself because over the past week I had pushed my pace so hard on three 13, 10 and 10km runs that not only are my legs tired even after a rest day, my foot hurts at the site of my PTT (Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis) injury. Annoyed that I may have been a bit foolhardy. This isn’t good news two weeks before my first Half Marathon of the year, the Malaysia Women Marathon (MWM).

My training program has been flexible to say the least though I do try to alternate easy and hard days and run no more than 60km a week. I love to run every day, and rarely think of it in terms of race preparation but rather as a wonderful experience in itself. The trouble is that in the past two weeks I’ve developed a taste for pushing my pace far more than I ever dreamed possible and this need for speed has become addictive. It’s hubris really, and a desire to feel good about myself, that pushes me to run faster – and of course those little crowns on Strava are also very addictive! And to be honest running fast (for me) felt good!

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But my foot is complaining now so my ego has to take a back seat and I have to rest. I had physio on Friday and though my hamstrings were soft, the muscles in my calves, ankles and shins were very tight and my left Achilles Tendon was screaming (actually it was I who screamed when my PT touched it). The Achilles feels ok today but the right Posterior Tibialis is sore to walk on.

I didn’t write this post to bore you with my injury niggles, nor to entertain foot fetishists, but to serve as a warning against doing too much, too fast. I hated the way I felt running this morning – heavy legged, and ultimately sore footed – and it means I can’t run tomorrow unless my foot feels significantly better in the morning and even then it can only be a short, slow recovery run. I know, I know, I probably shouldn’t run, even if it does feel better.

Exactly four weeks ago, I ran a personal best 21km which inspired hope of repeating the effort at MWM. After today, I am concerned that I may not be able to run the race at all. Another of the great things about running is that you learn a lot of things  – humility, resilience, respect for your body’s power and limitations, and how sometimes if you get carried away, as I have done (a few times!), that a price must be paid. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Tips:

  • So, runners, remember rest days are very, very important so find some low-impact activity to do on these days if you can’t bear not doing any exercise at all.
  • Alternate easy and hard workouts. Hard workouts would be tempo runs, long runs, interval training, hills etc.
  • Strength and stability training of ankles, calves, quads, and glutes is a no-brainer (yeah, I’ve been lax on that one too). The core and upper body should not be neglected either.
  • Stretching out those tight leg muscles after a run is essential to aid recovery and prepare your body for your next run. Not doing so will lead to the formation of adhesions and scar tissue which will ultimately lead to pain. I’ve got into the habit of stretching my calves while I’m waiting for the coffee machine, microwave and brushing my teeth. I assume I’d be even worse off today if I hadn’t.
  • Listen to your body, preferably before it starts shouting abuse at you as mine is doing now.
  • No matter what your race goals are, if any, ultimate responsibility for your health lies with self. Running isn’t bad for you (it’s the best thing evva!), running irresponsibly, as I have done recently, can be.
  • Do as I say, and not as I have done.

Dream, Believe, Become

Yesterday I learned something surprising about running in Malaysia – according to Karen Loh, Race Director, for the Malaysia Women Marathon, only 12% of marathon runners in this country are women*. The numbers are around 23% and 45% for the 21km and 10 km distances respectively. These figures go a long way in explaining why a women-only event such as the Malaysia Women Marathon (MWM) is needed to inspire and encourage women to take up this life-affirming activity. As someone who didn’t take up running until the wrong side of 40, and then only did so with encouragement (cajoling more like) from my sisters, I can attest to the power of community in promoting this very individual activity.

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Yesterday, not only did I get to meet new people in the Malaysian running community, but I also met Kathrine Switzer, at the first MWM 2014 running clinic. Ms Switzer is a legend amongst women runners as not only was she the first woman to register for and run the Boston Marathon in 1967, amid much resistance, not least from the Race Director, but she was also instrumental in promoting women’s marathon running to the point of getting it included in the Olympics for the first time in Los Angeles, 1984.

Yesterday in Shah Alam, Kathrine spoke passionately about the sisterhood of running (including the men who encourage our habit) which she described as ‘women everywhere who become fearless for what they do… who are discovering their bodies, and their own capabilities and their own invicibility that they can do anything.’

‘It’s strange that just putting one foot in front of the other will give you that but it will’. I loved this comment as it really does acknowledge that we runners are aware that our obsession with something as simple as moving our feet might seem OTT (to non-runners) , but the empowerment of that repetitive act is potent.

Kathrine described running as ‘a universal language’ just like music that will make you friends wherever you go. She then spoke about her Boston Marathon experience, which transformed the trajectory of her life, as well as her years working with the Avon corporation to promote women’s races worldwide and put long-distance running on the map as a sport worthy of both genders. Kathrine Switzer’s life mission is to encourage and inspire, which she does by traveling the world speaking and writing, and organising and supporting events such as the MWM.

‘Talent is everywhere, it only requires an opportuntity’ was one of the many nuggets of wisdom Katherine shared during her speech before attendees were given the opportunity to do a short run around the public gardens. We were paced by the MWM mentors who will be providing running clinics in the months leading up to March 16, 2014.

After the run, Ms Switzer very graciously did a photo opp and autograph session with sweaty runners before a short question and answer session. She joked that we could ask anything except seek advice on injuries. The first question was one I wanted to ask myself, given my recent issues – in all her decades running, had Ms Switzer been injured? Only three times in over 50 years was the answer, something she credited to having the good sense to stop running as soon as something started to hurt. Taking a few days off at such times was the the best advice. Cross-training was another point of interest. Ms Switzer said that she does yoga, pilates, and weight work at home with hand weights, as well as a lot of planks and sit-ups to strengthen the core. A very impressive demo of a squat against the wall followed – it’s essential for strengthening the quadriceps, and thus protecting the knees apparently. I’ve done it twice already though couldn’t manage it for anything near as long as the Pro (who was running marathons several years before I was born)!

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Something else Kathrine Switzer said really resonated with me. When the Boston Marathon Race Director tried to physically remove her from the race back in 1967, she got angry. Of course she did! But she couldn’t remain angry for the next 20 miles. It’s simply not possible to run and be angry. The magic of putting one foot in front of the other is not merely the positive impact it has on the body, but the transformative effect it has on the mind.

Hopefully, events like the MWM will encourage more women in Malaysia to discover the magic of running. Come on ladies – 12%? You don’t know what you’re missing!

Want to know more about the Malaysia Women Marathon 2014? Click here.

* around 12% of Full Marathon registrants for the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur are women.

Reclaiming My Runner’s Joy

Last night, after a nine (9!!) week break, I returned to my running club. It was the best evening I’ve had, well, in nine weeks (not counting of course my nights on the sofa watching Breaking Bad).

It was made all the more enjoyable by the fact that despite what I thought were ominous pains in my foot last week, the foot didn’t hurt (while I ran). Funnily enough, it was sore beforehand, when I arrived at Lake Gardens for the running clinic. An hour poised over the brake (mostly the brake) and the accelerator of a car on what in light traffic is a 12-minute journey is bound to make anyone’s foot complain. Right?

Last week, having found Nemo and discovered a rare Irish fish in the sea off the Gili Islands in Indonesia (see photos), I ran 7 km at 5min/km pace on the hotel treadmill. I didn’t ice the foot afterwards as I was too lazy to walk to the bar and ask for some. My foot really hurt. Despite rolling my arch several times a day on a tennis ball and being really attentive to my running form, it hurt. I worried, and dispensed with any intention of running again last week.

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Clownfish off the Gili Islands, Indonesia.

Now while, the downside of living in Kuala Lumpur may be the traffic, one of the many upsides is affordable healthcare. It costs me Rm85 (27 USD/ 20 Euros) for a physiotherapy session that often lasts an hour. On my return from Indonesia, I went for my rehab session expecting bad news. But there was none.

The amazing Akmal released the tension in my arch and toes, and spend a lot of time stretching out my calves and hips. There was no re-injury, just scar tissue which he will continue to work on over the coming weeks while I diligently do my prescribed exercises at home. Ok, well maybe not diligently but sometimes, when I remember, at least. He recommends I see him three times a week. On a per-week basis that’s cheaper than a facial (even in Kuala Lumpur). Sure, it makes me high maintenance, but given the fact that I never actually have facials (or manicures or massages), and that physiotherapy is in fact maintenance, I’m happy to oblige. One woman’s rehab is another’s pampering.

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Irish Buttfish (who appears to be trying to run?!)

So back to last night’s running clinic. We did 8 x 500s, the same exercise we did nine weeks ago. As expected, I’d lost fitness, so my average 500 m time dropped from 1.59 mins to 2.03 but still. I was happy! I managed to complete the 8 ‘sprints’. I had a lot of fun with the other runners. I got great advice on pulling my shoulders back and keeping my chin up when I run. My foot felt fine and I experienced a real post-run high which I can only describe as joyous.

I’m thinking of running the 2XU Compression 15 km race on Sunday as I need to get in a long training run and that’s about as long as I should be doing at this stage of recovery. There will be no PB but after an unplanned five month break from racing, it’s time to be brace and pin on a bib. (And get up at some Godforsaken hour to eat breakfast, drive and find a parking space, go to the loo, to be ready for the start whistle at 6 AM).

As a competitive person, who daily has unrealistic expectations of herself, my instinct is not to run when I’m not at my peak fitness but the rational side of me knows that there is still a lot to be gained from participating even when a PB is out of the question. The atmosphere at races here is always very positive and the race is an opportunity to catch up with a lot of runners I haven’t seen in ages. The route is very hilly so it will be an excellent training opportunity. If I have to run 15 km anyway, I may as well do it in company. And, at the end of the day, even competitive old me has to remember that running isn’t always about racing, even when you’re racing.

On Sunday, I’m going to try run joyously, and celebrate the fact that after injury, just being able to run is a gift. A finisher’s medal will of course make the ‘comeback’ all the sweeter.

Quit at Never

This morning I ran 8 km dressed in irony. I wore my race shirt for tonight’s BSN Putrajaya Half Marathon which shouts Quit at Never from the back. I’d dreamed of showing my back to the majority of ladies running tonight but thanks to my Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis I’m hardly able to run 10 km so racing 21 km is out of the question. Quit at Never? Hell no, I’m quitting before I even start!

20131019-111640.jpgOn the positive side, it’s school mid-term and I’m heading to the beach (where, lesson learned by my Achilles Tendons, I will resist the urge to run). My girls (age 11 & 12) and I are flying to Lombok, Indonesia, a tiny island adjacent to Bali for a few days. We’re going to snorkel, visit some craft villages and chill out poolside away from homework and little brother. Pre-injury, I booked the only hotel on the island with a fitness room so I hope to hit the treadmill a few times to continue the fight back to fitness. Unfortunately, I can’t take my physiotherapist with me – think of the gossip! – but I am still packing for rehab: tennis ball ( to roll out my arch), Theraband (ankle strength training) and aqua belt (to give bored people something to stare at in the pool). I’ll be relying on the hotel bar for ice 🙂

Tonight, I plan to watch the final three episodes of Dexter Season 8 and try not think of all the folk shuffling their feet at the start line in Putrajaya. It’s hardly the stuff of dreams, it may even be the source of nightmares, but when it comes to television box sets at least I’m still able to Quit at Never 😉

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