How to Handle Injuries and Training Set Backs

Well, as I stated in an earlier posts, January didn’t exactly go to plan. My back strain certainly brought all activity to a screeching halt, but it also made room for catching up on some blog projects, reading for fun and the much sought after and usually neglected, sleep. 

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The Monday following my back strain was spent working from the horizontal position on my couch and icing my back in ten minute intervals. Luckily, I improved to the point where I could drive my car the 30 minutes it takes to get to work and the rest of the week I went to work. Aside from some pain after sitting for long periods, I felt OK. I have an icepack and a full bottle of naproxen in my office, so I made sure to use them liberally. 

My chiropractor gave me a test to administer to myself to establish whether I was healthy enough to restart physical activity:

  • bring your head to your chest. If you can feel pain in your back, you still need to rest. 
  • If that doesn’t hurt, sit in a chair and lift your “good leg”, if you can feel pain in your back, you still need to rest. 
  • Then, I have to do the same with the “bad leg”, and yep, you still need to rest.

I’m not going to lie, being injured is pretty much the worst. I hate not being able to move and do things that I love. Unfortunately, I am quite injury prone and am pretty familiar with coping mechanisms, so I took some time to think about my own coping mechanisms and decided to share them:

Swimmy’s List of How to Cope With An Injury

  1. Buy a big ice pack & ibuprofen 
  2. Use it as an excuse to catch up on non-training related things – tackle a few recipes that have been hanging out on your Pinterest board for way too long, make a date with an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile, or catch up on your DVR. You will have a lot of free time on your hands, so try to fill it with positive things to keep you mind off of the pain and make the most of it.
  3. Reduce stress levels, immediately – Many of my injuries are usually brought on by high training volume, but the thing that puts me over the edge is my stress level. After several painful episodes I’m in the process of adjusting my thinking to be more positive, remember to laugh and do whatever I can do move, even if it means just walking at a slow pace on a treadmill. 
  4. Lean on your fellow athletic friends – If you are an athlete, chances are you have an army of friends who have also been through the same trials and tribulations with injuries that you are experiencing. Lean on them. My husband’s high school head master has a saying “grief shared is divided and happiness shared is multiplied”, remember that good friends are there for you no matter what.
  5. Keep the dream alive – Don’t throw in the towel the second you have an injury. Take time to rest, recover and how you can take steps to avoid the injury in the future. You might not be able to start exactly where you left off with the injury, but you can always tweak your plan and make things work within reason.
  6. Take it as an opportunity to adjust your training moving forward – if your body is hurting, it is probably trying to tell you something. Listen to it! Take this as an opportunity to change things up a bit and try out (within reason) a different approach. Maybe it requires strengthening your hips and glutes, a huge weakness for women! For me, it’s making sure to stay on top of my core strength to support my lower back.
  7. Investigate methods to help you stay injury free after you heal – I am a big fan of trips to my chiropractor for ART, regular stretching, foam rolling and rehab exercises. Clinical massage therapy, regular hot yoga or pilates classes are other great options. Researching these options will keep you optomistic and excited for what lies ahead.
  8. Embrace the Journey – Everything happens for a reason, even crappy injuries. Take time to step back and process what you have learned about your body’s limits and how you can make sure not to exceed them as you did when you sustained the injury. My most recent back strain has been a real wake up call that I need to handle stress management significantly better or I’m going to be in trouble.

Dealing with an injury is hard when you love moving, sweating and racing as much as I do, but don’t give up hope!

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What are your techniques for dealing with an injury?

Arizona Trip Recap & Quitting the Whole30 Early

Ahhh, vacation!

After a few delays in Boston I finally arrived in Phoenix just after 10pm (midnight in Boston time, ahh!) and immediately felt the warmth of the air and it put a huge smile on my face. YES.

Our first order of business was a blissful spa day at the Well & Being Spa at the Scottsdale Princess Resort.

After changing into robes and a wonderful massage, my mother and I spent the day catching up and relaxing before our afternoon mani/pedi’s in the salon. I have always wanted to do a spa day with her and I’m so happy I finally did! The only down side is that now I want to do it all over again. Sorry, savings account.

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The spa complex at Well & Being was unlike anything I have ever seen before: several large pool, whirlpools, waterfalls, saunas, steam rooms, work out areas among other options. A member of the staff said that the facility alone is 4,500 square feet, wow! My mother had never had a massage before, which as a nearly 67 year old woman is hard to believe. Her massage therapist told her “we all treat our things better than our bodies, just think of it like an oil change for your car” She makes a good point, doesn’t she?

Trying out the GoPro šŸ™‚ Nice skinny arm, mom!

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 We left the spa refreshed, big smiles plastered on our faces and feeling a little more spiffy after our massages, healthy lunch, whirlpools and mani/pedis! I highly recommend this spa to anyone looking to do a day like this in the Scottsdale area, it was fantastic. 

Quitting the Whole30

After day one in Arizona I made the decision to end my quest with the Whole30 15 days early. Everything was going very well, except for the fact that I was having some GI discomfort caused by something in the diet and I really wanted to enjoy my much needed break. I rarely “quit” things, so this was hard to do, but I am so happy I did. There are a few culprits I suspect are to blame for this reaction: 1) this is all part of the plan and my gut is “healing” itself, 2) the increase in meat in-take was a bit of a shock to the system, 3) Coconut milk. This is the only thing that I added to my diet during this time, so naturally I would suspect this, 4) I wasn’t drinking enough water. I don’t think this is humanly possible since I have been accused of being “addicted to water”, but perhaps with the diet changes my body needed more water. Most likely I think it is probably a combination of all 4 factors, but the one that stuck out to me was coconut milk in my coffee.

Even though I ended the formal Whole30 program while on vacation, I still maintained a diet as close to the Whole30 as possible, with the exception of coconut milk in my daily coffee. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has fresh almond milk so I opted for that and felt a million times better after the first day. Has anyone else ever had any strange Whole30 side effects? I am planning on restarting at day 1 with the Whole30 at some point in the future, but I would love to do more research.

Whole30 Pros

  • I was able to kick my coffee sweetener once and for all. Huge win. I have wanted to do this for a long time.
  • I am 100% lactose intolerant and really should never eat it. The Whole30 confirmed that I really should just never eat cheese. When I do, I make myself miserable.
  • I will most likely never eat corn again. 
  • I really don’t miss processed/fake foods. Not that I ate too much processed food before the Whole30, but knowing that I couldn’t eat it during the program made me blind to it around me.
  • I miss carbs like toast, but I can easily live without them.
  • Feeling “lighter” and less sluggish is pretty great.

Whole30 Cons

  • Constant food preparation necessary. NEVER ENDING CHOPPING.
  • Difficulty eating out, especially while on vacation. Especially in a city with so much Mexican food!
  • The amount of meat I had to consume on the program. Now I know to expect this, but it was a bit of a shock.
  • My coconut milk reaction. 
  • Having people react “OMG you do not need to diet!” 

I look forward to starting the program back up again, but for now I’m enjoying my semi-Whole30 diet until I decide when I’m going to officially get back in the saddle. Luckily, ending the Whole30 early meant that I felt better and really enjoyed the entire trip. 

The next day we ventured to Sedona and stayed at The Enchantment Resort, per the recommendation of a few people that we met. All I can say is: WOW.

The scenes driving into Sedona are breath-taking….

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 The view from our balcony at the Enchantment

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 Hiking in Boynton’s Canyon on the Enchantment property

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I couldn’t get enough of the surroundings and forced my mom into hiking two days in a row. She was a trooper and I *think* had a lot of fun. It was such a treat to get outside during the winter months and get some vitamin D!

We left Sunday afternoon after grabbing lunch in downtown Sedona. What an adorable little town. We got back just in time to watch the Patriots game and go out to dinner in Scottsdale. 

On Monday, since my back had seemed to settled down, despite all of the time spent sitting while traveling, I tried my hand at my first run back since before I strained my back on January 2. What an accomplishment! I decided to run with my Garmin to track my heart rate and tried my hardest to make sure it did not go over my MAF. Since I have been relegated to minimal physical activity, rather than feel frustrated with starting from scratch again, I focused on enjoying the feeling of running again.

Sun on my face. REAL sweat. Endorphins. HAPPY PLACE.

I knew my pace was dreadful, but that wasn’t the point. Staying healthy and having fun is the point! I ended up covering 3.3 miles and my back felt great the entire time. Mission accomplished.

Scottsdale parks, with a view of Camelback Mountain in the background

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Running in shorts. In January. BLISS!!!

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After my successful run, my mom and I went to Last Chance, aka the scariest shopping experience of my life. It is a Nordstrom close-out store and people throw elbows and have zero regard for personal space or human decency when they have a prized pair of Tory Burch heels in their sites! Close-out shopping agoraphobia aside, I ended up scoring some great deals on work appropriate shoes for next to nothing and even a pair for my husband. To decompress, my mom and I had lunch at Chelsea’s Kitchen and I had the most delicious brussel sprouts and roasted chicken salad. Hooray for healthy options. That afternoon we went to the Desert Botanical Garden, which was full of more varieties of cactus, aloe and agave than I ever knew existed.

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On Tuesday, after another successful slow and steady MAF run of 3.5 miles around the parks (and a “holy S%&# I just ran two days in a row!” moment), I showered and kicked around Scottsdale and then went to the airport and we were on our way back to Boston. I was so happy that I was able to experience a small slice of my brother’s life in Arizona, the pampering of the spa, beauty of the outdoors in Sedona and the fun quirks of Scottsdale. I can’t wait to head back!

The only regrets of the trip are that:

  • I didn’t plan to run the Arizona Rock & Roll race while I was out there! I will definitely be trying to plan a return trip around that race next year.
  • I never got the chance to scope out the IMAZ course, mostly because my mother didn’t find a lot of interest in that, I wonder why?!
  • I somehow do not have any photos of my shy older brother we were visiting.

Huge wins:

  • Coming back to craziness at work (not awesome) and feeling refreshed and relaxed (awesome).
  • Creating new and positive experiences with my mother.
  • Checking out a new area of the country.
  • Feeling great after a few days of misery related to the Whole30.
  • Finally being able to get out for TWO pain-free runs!!!
  • I can now get back to blogging about actual workouts, rather than dreaming about it!

Have you tried to Whole30 and had a similar reaction to mine? I would love to know! What are your favorite tips for recovering from an injury?!

The concept of “rest”

I have approached that time of year where I have to utter that dreaded four letter word:

REST.

For those who know me well, and quite frankly those who know me via the inter web know that I don’t sit or rest well. My mom said this about me when I was a baby, and I guess it’s a skill that I simply never learned.

The thing about participating in endurance sports is that you push your body to the limit, sometimes it gets angry with you. That happened in March when my hip began to hurt so much that I physically could not run, never mind sit for long periods in the car or at a desk.

After months and months of rehabbing and a misdiagnosis, I found the cause of my problem: my lower back. I won’t bore you will specifics (if you are curious feel free to ask!), but the pain I was feeling in my back was caused by an issue with a disc in my lower back, so I started treatment for that with the help of my miracle worker chiropractor and magically things started feeling better.Ā Finally, I was able to run pain free, for the first time in months and even though it wasn’t advisable during my treatment, I was able to keep up half ironman training and successfully complete the race pain free with a smile on my face.

Once I bid adieu to triathlon season (tear), I made a promise to myself that I would slow down and rest. Even though it is eating a bit of my soul, I know that this is a good thing for my body and future athletic pursuits.

Mentally, I know it’s good to take a break from the grind of constantly peeling out high mileage.

When I say “rest”, I’m not completely checking out from the gym, swimming or running; I’m just doing workouts at a much lower intensity. I’ve been enjoying my quick 3.5 mile runs around my beautiful neighborhood in this delicious time of year.

I’ve reacquainted myself with a contraption known as the elliptical or one of my favorite calorie burners, the “big step.” I’m still finding joy in the pool and sweating it out in spin class, the only difference being, these activities max out at 30-45 minutes and include a fierce menu of stretching and icing afterwards.

So what am I doing with all of my free time?

Making delicious dinners with Foxy:

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Has anyone tried Dave’s Gourmet Butternut Squash pasta sauce? It is UN-REAL! Pricey, but definitely worth it.

Spending time with my adorable nieces and nephew, though I would like to do more of this!

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Enjoying fall in my neighborhood on beautiful days like this one:

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Enjoying delicious beverages (who am I kidding, I did that during training too :))

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Icing other sore and tired body parts with interesting compression devices. Pashmina anyone?

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and lastly, I’m still keeping my athletic goals in my mind by catching up on blogs and watching some favorite motivational movies

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In addition to all of this fun, I’ve been scheming a really fun adventure and a few exciting side projects I hope to share in the next few weeks.Ā 

What are your favorite “off-season” activities? Do you have any suggestions for me?Ā 

Back At It!

After a brief hiatus and injury scare, I’m back to running! Leading up to the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon my left hip really started to bother me. I took a few days off of running in the beginning of the week in favor of cross training, and decided that while it might hurt during my half, I would deal with the ramifications afterwards. The race obviously went well, but the pain only increased as the week went on. crap, crap, crap.

A week after the half, I was setting out for a 15 mile run when my hip was hurting so much that I decided to cut it off at mile 8. Luckily I felt strong throughout those 8 miles, but the pain was so bad that I knew I needed to pump the breaks. I knew it was the right decision, but I felt deflated going into a long weekend in North Carolina for Foxy’s college roommate’s wedding weekend. So, I made the decision, to take a full week off and ice the #$&! out of my hip. The decision to rest didn’t come easily, and over that week I felt exhausted and just plain depressed. I started having nightmares of last year’s Chicago marathon training cycle that ended before it could ever get off the ground, mostly because my PT was too cautious and held me back for so long that when I got back into training I was way too far behind. It was a tough week, full of QT with Aleve, ice bags and frozen veggie bags and than I have experienced in a long time. Hello Ice, it’s been fun, but I think I’m ready to say goodbye.

Luckily, Lizzy put me in touch with her amazing PT, and he cleared me to run, the very day after my appointment. I was actually so surprised that I almost thought he was joking with me.Ā The diagnosis? Mild hip bursitis and an extremely tight IT Band. If I played it safe, I would be back in no time. All of a sudden “crap, crap, crap” turned into “YES, YES, YES!”

Leaving the appointment I felt a sense of relief and empowerment which was a stark departure from the feelings of the 7 days leading up to that day. Yes! I will 100% run 26.2 miles on 7/31, and I am going to have an amazing time while I’m at it. Tomorrow morning I head to my PT for the second time, in hopes that I am cleared to run double digit mileage.

Thank you to Lizzy for putting me in touch with the miracle man & all of my friends for helping me keep the faith! I’m definitely not out of the woods yet, but I will be foam rolling, icing, stretching and ice bathing (for the first time…I need your help on this!) until July 31st.

Since I was able to get back on the road over Memorial Day Weekend, I thought I would share a beach photo from my beloved beach at my family’s house Cape Cod. This summer marks the 50th year that the house has been in my family, and it is the year of many, many improvements that I can’t wait to share. Most of all, there is one thing that really can never be improved, and will always be my sanctuary…

How do you cop with injuries? I end up taking them too hard and hiding from the blogging world from a bit, which is something I vow to change!!

(NOT so) Patiently Waiting For My Knee to Heal

This is me, obviously unhappy about the current state of affairs

As you probably have noticed, I haven’t posted in a few weeks. Sadly, that’s because my worries of a knee injury came true and I have been unable to run since mid-July šŸ™ But wait, you are probably asking, aren’t you supposed to be training for a marathon?! Yes, I am. And I’m doing my best to keep up my aerobic endurance by exercising on the elliptical, swimming and taking exercises classes. I will absolutely, 100% be running Chicago on 10-10-10, COUNT IT! I can’tĀ guaranteeĀ a best time, but I will certainly be running 26.2 through the streets of Chicago šŸ™‚

Luckily, my injury, while it is a hugeĀ inconvenience, is not that large of an issue in the grand scheme of things. What I worried was aĀ meniscusĀ tear, was actually just bothersome kneeĀ tendinitisĀ and some meniscus deterioration, whatever that means! Anyways, for the past few weeks I haven’t been running, but instead I have been busyĀ diligentlyĀ doing my knee exercises. Fingers crossed that I will be back up and running on July 30th, so on that day I ask that you send some good vibes my way! For those who have knee issues, I will be documenting my knee exercises (however awkward they may be) on the blog and sharing them with you. They’re relatively easy and can be done at home! Even if you’re not injured they are great exercises for strengthening your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and other little pesky leg muscles.

This injury also means that I have to bow out of the Marathon Sports 5 Miler, which is taking place in Weston, MA and several of my favorite Boston based twitter/blogger friends are taking part of! Good luck to @ninaruns @reallynotarunnr @petfxr @bostoncardiovet andĀ @foodtorunfor! Kick butt and PR’s to all of you šŸ™‚ I’m sorry that I can’t join you, but I look forward to partaking in the festivities next year!