Back to It (again)

The latest road to fitness has proved to be a bit of a bumpy one. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that, nothing has been easy with running since I started again in 2011. Injury after injury should have put me off, but I guess that just shows what sort of a person I am. Stupid.

Persistent…determined, both far better words, but anyone who doesn’t learn from their ‘mistakes’, if I can call injuries that, must be a bit stupid. Or at least a touch mad. I settle for that. I’m a bit mad.

However, I’m back to it with a 2 mile treadmill run this morning. Plantar Fasciitis is a real enemy of mine and this time it actually lasted a good couple of months. At its worst point I even decided to go to the doctor, but events took over and my focus was no longer on a foot injury. That paled into insignificance. Sadly my wonderful father passed away following an all too short battle with cancer on Christmas Eve and his passing just brought me to a very abrupt halt in many, many ways.

Running has always been my time for mindfulness, long before it was trendy to call it that. I used to call it “Me Time” and on long runs especially I’d sort out a myriad of arguments and problems, chuntering away to myself as I ran along. These days, as my runs are far shorter, I have to pick my battles. Today I chose to run with no distractions and just let my mind wander. I’ve no idea where it went. I’ll go and look for it later. Where did I leave it, I wonder?

Today the weather is gorgeous here in Dumfries, with clear blue skies and bright, warming sunshine, and I’m away to have a quick shower before going back into the cabin where my treadmill lives and ignore it and start painting instead. The treadmill has seen me through almost 400 miles and its starting to show its age, squeaking like a demented rat at every footfall.

It does help to keep the other rats away though. That’s got to be a bonus!

 

 

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Not my first, but My First 5k

If you don’t follow this blog normally, or don’t know me, then you’ll be completely confused by this blog title. Apologies for that!

In January I got my long awaited spinal fusion, wherein four screws were drilled into my lower back to give my back more stability. Up until my spine started to collapse I’d been an ardent runner, running beyond half marathon distance, and, post-surgery, I had to start off by simply learning to walk any distance again.

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These shoes haven’t seen the light of day in three years!

A couple of months ago my neurosurgeon finally gave me permission to start running again. And that meant starting again. And that’s exactly what I did.

Today I completed my first 5k run in almost three years and not only did I do it outside, but I chose to run it off road, on the trails behind my home.

So what, I hear you ask? Well this was my first outdoor run since restarting, all of my other runs have been on my treadmill. I promised to start running on even and level ground and the trail, whilst fairly level, the trail isn’t the treadmill.

 

 

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Those who follow my painting will recognise this scene.
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Murphy couldn’t believe his luck! 3 miles of smiles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can report, however, that all went well! I ran with Jeff Galloway’s Easy 5k app, set to 1:1 Run:Walk ratio and it was auto set for an easy run. It wasn’t the fastest 5k ever, but that doesn’t matter – speed will come with practice. I’m just happy to have a) covered the distance and b) run outside, with a huge smile – no matter how tough I found it at times!

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Two Lovely Miles

Last week I managed to run Two Lovely Miles.

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It’s quite a thing for a starter-againer, like me, to be able to run further than the end of the street! I’m still running on the treadmill, but I’m slowly building up the distance and really enjoying the buzz of seeing more added each run.

Although I’m looking at the miles, I’m actually working in kilometres because my trusty treadmill, upon which I’m running exclusively at the moment, is all European and modern, like. Rather than try and convert things as I go, it’s easier to post in metric. Today I’ve just run 3km, which sounds much further than I actually ran!

I’ve discovered that I’m happier as a morning runner, rather than as an afternoon or evening runner, which is ok so long as I don’t pound the treadmill too much and disturb neighbours! A former neighbour actually once ran out into his back garden, wondering what the strange banging was coming from our cabin at the end of the garden and if I was OK! I must be heavy of foot when all the time I thought I was a fairy-footed! My Dad always used to call me Fairy Elephant for the way I went up and down stairs!

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By this coming weekend I should be up to 2.5 miles, so now I’m wondering about the possibility of a 5k race to give me something to aim for beyond managing to run 3 miles. I briefly considered the Edinburgh Winter Run in January, but the fact that you ascend and descend Arthur’s Seat during the race probably isn’t really what my neurosurgeon meant  when he said run on level and even ground!

the-festive-five-1024x1024.jpgWomen’s Running magazine is running a virtual 5k called Festive Five, but I found myself faltering when filling in the application form and wondering if I wanted the medal or just the chance to run a 5k race and, perhaps surprisingly considering that I have a page here dedicated to my race bling, I actually think it’s having a chance to just run with others which is more appealing. I might change my mind, but I think I’d rather run a race and get a T-shirt than run a virtual one and have to prove I’ve done it. It’s food for thought.

 

 

I hope you’re all still there…

It’s been ages since I last posted. Last time I was rejoicing at being able to walk again and how much difference it had made to my life.

Last week I met with Mr Khan, my consultant surgeon. He asked the usual questions and then announced, completely unprovoked, that he felt that it was maybe time for me to start running – if I wanted to.

IF. I WANTED. TO.

I stayed very calm, thanked him, and then, on the way to X-Ray, I did a Happy Dance in the lift.

Since then I’ve restarted my running. I’m following the 5K program designed by Jeff Galloway. His training plans have worked so well for me in the past, allowing me to train up to a good half marathon pace, so I trust them. It’s slow going, but after a week I’m already up to a mile and a half. It sounds nothing when compared to the 17 miles  I used to be able to run, but it’s a mile and a half  more than I could run last week!

I don’t have any ambitions, other than to be able to run 3 miles. I’ve promised to take it steady and I’m running on the treadmill so that a) I’m running on cushioned and even ground and b) if I get into difficulties, I’m only at the end of the garden!

Honestly, just being able to run again is just wonderful!

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Progress Report! There is Progress!!

It’s been a very long time since I last reported progress, so I felt it was time to do so again!

Since I last posted I’ve had, and been discharged from, physiotherapy, I’ve been up to Edinburgh and seen my surgeon and I’ve started back to work. I’m now at 14 weeks post-op and the change in me is quite astonishing really.

I can now walk for a very long way without any problems, unless you count losing my sock and shoe in a muddy puddle. My hip/groin/leg pain has 99% gone. I still get a slight nagging right at the top of my left thigh, but nothing in comparison to the searing pain I used to get pre-surgery. I have a long and well-healing scar from my bra strap to my knickers – a reminder of where I’ve been, like a sticker you put on your car when you’ve been to Blackpool! I still have some ache at the site of surgery and I’m still a bit stiff, so doing ordinary things like getting dressed is still a contortionist’s dream. If I get down on the floor, I can’t get up unless I’m hanging onto a piece of furniture. Sadly I didn’t discover that until I was already down and then had to crawl to the nearest chair! You live and learn.

The surgeon was really pleased with my progress. He was happy for me to start doing more than walking and suggested pilates, swimming and cycling. But not running. Not yet. Until my bones have fused with the help of the rods and screws, and aren’t likely to be jarred by anything high impact, I can’t even think about running. I try not to, anyway.

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These are the bits of tin holding me together!

I started phasing myself back into work at week 6 post-surgery with an hour a day for a week, then two hours daily for the next week, then four and then, finally, six hours. It meant I could gradually get used to driving and being at work again. A few weeks later I still get really tired by the end of the day, especially ones which have seen me either spend too much time in front of the computer or too much time standing with customers.

Thanks to the advice of a friend, I was put in touch with Access to Work,  which is run by the UK’s DWP and is aimed at keeping self-employed people in work when they are struggling with a disability. Although I’m post surgery, my recovery will take a year and having some guidance about how I should be sitting, lifting, standing etc. is really important. Last week I was visited by an assessor and I’m waiting on the results of his report. I only wish I’d known about Access to Work before my op.

The biggest change has been in how I am feeling. I no longer hurt, so I look better. There is no pain etched on my face, where it used to be. We went for a weekend away recently and I could again go out for walks and appreciate the countryside from the pathways, instead of the car or the mobility scooter. I can even walk to the pub! And, because I’m mobile, I’m starting to lose weight.

It’s these small things, ordinary things, that are now so precious to me. Being able to walk hand in hand with my husband, being able to walk the dog, being about to do the shopping – these things were either an effort or impossible before.

My grey world has at last become far more colourful.

The Bionic Woman

I grew up in the 1970s, watching such TV delights as Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, The Six Million Dollar Man and its spin off The Bionic Woman. How little did I know, as a skinny ginger-haired kid, that I would too be bionic!

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I closed my gallery for Christmas on Christmas Eve and I was, by then, totally exhausted. I couldn’t stand for any length of time, and I couldn’t walk at all without pain.  I was hoping for a surgery appointment in the Christmas holidays, but with no date appearing,  I rang the Admissions Clerk a couple of times and explained that, as a self-employed person, I needed a date and an early one at that! Having been given (and then turned down) a date previously which fell in the week before Christmas, my by far busiest week of the year, I didn’t want to keep my gallery closed any longer than necessary. To their credit the date came through the fairly quickly after that.

I won’t bore you with the details, but watching this video explains the surgery I had.

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Short story – I am now bionic. Fact.

I don’t remember much of the aftermath; I went from recovery to the high dependency unit thanks to low blood pressure. I do remember trying to focus on details of the room, which changed as more and more lights seemed to be put on around me, but I don’t remember much other than the constant nurse checks. Once my BP increased everyone seemed to relax!

I came out of hospital four days after being admitted. All I had to do was prove that I could walk to the toilet, go to the toilet and navigate the stairs. It was a little earlier than I’d anticipated,  my husband had even booked work for that day, but the junior doctors seemed happy.

People now seem split into two groups on discovering that I’ve had surgery; half think I should be in bed all of the time and the rest think that’s you fixed,  why aren’t you in the pub?

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Truth is, my recovery consists of walking, sitting and lying down. I am currently paying the price for over-estimating how much I can comfortably walk. I thought it was more, my body says no! So, without pain afterwards, I can probably walk a third of a mile without issue. I can sit down for up to an hour and a half in total, yes in total – in a day! The rest of the time I’m lying down. I might be doing abdominal exercises, I might be resting on my side, I might be posting on Facebook or doing my blog. I might be sewing, doing my diary or watching TV, but all of those things I can do lying down! What will change over the next few weeks is how much more walking and sitting I can manage.

Some things I’m not allowed to do at all, like anything involving bending. I can’t put on my shoes. I can’t hoover. I certainly can’t load and unload the washing machine, make a bed or put my socks away in the bottom drawer. I can’t drive. I can’t catch a bus. I can’t put the dog’s lead on, unless I can coax the dog to jump to a surface at my hip height!

This will all improve and by 8 weeks I should start physio again, appointments permitting. I should be starting back to work at that point too. By then I should be able to walk three miles. That’s a lot of shoulds.

My only worry at the moment is that besides the back pain, which is understandable, I also have nerve pain on my outer lower left leg. I can’t bear to have it touched, or for the bed clothes to even brush it. If I wear close fitting leggings or long socks, it’s bearable – but it’s there. It feels as if a layer of skin is missing and the nerves are exposed. I’ve got the same thing to a lesser degree to either side of the surgery site. I’m hoping that this is temporary. In any case it’s better than I have had and I’m grateful for that.

Does anyone else have experience of spinal fusion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Up

My updates have become sparse of late; I’m busy at work and tired when I get home and, honestly, posting updates here, when I’ve got little to say about running, is sometimes a step too far. And I apologise for that.

That makes it sound as if I’m being negative about everything and I’m not, not at all. I’m so annoyingly positive I think I’m starting to get to my husband, who is naturally not quite as positive. I look past the surgery to the days when I can walk without pain, really walk – up hills, over dales, along all the forest walks I so miss. I’m now waiting for the letter to tell me when my surgery is due. I need to know.

Hubbie says I’m to make sure my will is up to date. I’m sure that’s from a practical point of view and not that he’s envisaging death on the operating table. Pretty sure any way. It’s something we’ve talked about for a while because provisions we’d made for our children when we first made a will are no longer necessary. I’m sure my son, now 24, knows exactly who he wants to live with and it’s definitely not his dad! I’ll do my will, if only to give hubbie one less thing to worry about.

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We rarely think, when injured or ill, how that affects the people around us. I’ve gone from being a really fit 50 year old to a disabled 52 year old. And, as you know, it happened BANG, like that. Hubbie used to ferry me around from race to race, standing at the start and the finish to watch me go and, eventually, come back. He didn’t get the whole fitness thing; being able to lift a Scotch Pie from the fridge is exercise enough for a working man. I did get him running at one point – I think he was missing me when I was training as much and decided that if I was out, he’d come with me. He was good too. He did two races and, despite declaring his impending death as we slogged towards the finish line, he came close to running a sub 30 minute 5k.

When he was brave enough to admit that he wasn’t enjoying the training, I put away my whistle and clipboard and he accompanied me on his bike, becoming my Semi Silent Coach, who delighted in cycling behind me and “just watching”. It was like being chased in slow motion by Benny Hill on a bike.

Now he’s the guy who helps lift my mobility scooter in and out of the car, tries to park as close to the shop we need as possible, watches me grimace when the pain catches me out and worries about what could go wrong in a few weeks. I love him for all of those things. And I worry only about him and how he’ll cope.

This week I received my Blue Badge, the accolade of disability. I have been determined, under strict criteria, impaired enough to warrant an award. I carry my Blue Badge with me everywhere, waving it at imaginary wardens. It will help and I am determined not to abuse it, as I see others do. I shall not abandon my car anywhere and plonk the badge on display before I leave declaring “I’m allowed, I’m disabled!” I will not park all day in disabled spaces. In my world, that’s just taking the piss. I will use my badge with discretion and not so as to annoy the hell out of everyone around me.

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This weekend I’m setting up a new exhibition at the gallery. I’ve suddenly become all sensible and decided that, in order to set it up without hurting myself, I’ll close early and take my time. I’ve even turned down the offer of lunch so that I don’t put myself under additional pressure. I am learning to cope with this, just in time for it all to (hopefully) end! Typical, isn’t it?

We learn from the things that affect us, no matter how slowly.