Sunday, March 31, 2013

6.25km and a bike ride :); Happy Easter!

I haven't done more than 5K since January 15th, but I was feeling good this morning after two cross-training days, and plus it was Easter (probably my favorite holiday?) and so I was in a good mood and felt like a longer walk. I decided to do one of my favorite routes for a shorter walk, just out to Liberty Park, around the park, and back. I did some step-downs with the band around my knees to activate my glutes before and during my walk. I stopped each 2km to stretch it, do a few leg swings, and do some step-downs. I focused really hard on keeping my form intact. I had minimal discomfort which felt a lot better after stretching; it's still getting tight when I walk, though not as bad when I really focus on using my glutes properly, especially with my left leg. After my walk (and before as well), I rolled out the piriformis on the medicine ball. Excellent! It just gets it so much better than the foam roller, for some reason.

Here's my Garmin data.
I walked pretty fast; went through 5K (more downhill than uphill) in 29:31, and then finished in 37:22 for 5:59/km with average HR of 148.


Later, after eating a nice Easter dinner (in which I showed some restraint) and dessert/candy (less restraint...but I will use my weekly WW points for that), I decided that biking up to work was a good idea. I had to go up there to set up minipreps and figured I'd bike and get some more exercise. It was delightfully warm at about 70F (21C) and I loved soaking in the sun and the warmth. Easter CAN be cold and snowy here, so I was glad it was so lovely today.

Garmin data for bike ride.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

more cross-training

Yesterday I rode the stationary bike for 40 minutes, did a bunch of PT and weight training, and then I biked all around town. I drove my car to the shop, then biked from there to work, then to a Good Friday service, then to lunch with friends, then back to the car repair shop. Hilly, yet entertaining. However, the road biking does irritate my piriformis a bit, so I decided to do an extra day of cross-training. So, it was off to the gym again this morning for 40 min of elliptical and 35 min of stationary biking.

I think I need another ART session - it just feels like everything is tightening up again. I bought a medicine ball tonight to roll out my piriformis at home (seems to work better than the foam roller), and that helps. I plan to call for another ART appointment first thing Monday morning.


In other news, I decided to re-commit to getting back to racing weight. I signed up on for some reinforcement. Basically, I have agreed to pay my friend Gisela $10 each week if I don't lose at least 0.5 lb each week for the next 12 weeks (it's cumulative, so if I lose more one week and less the next that is OK, as long as I remain on target). If I do lose the 0.5lb per week, I owe her nothing, and at the end of the 12 weeks I plan to reward myself with a couple new racewalking shorts/skorts from Athleta.

Maybe this sounds like a crazy/drastic idea, but I think it's going to be very helpful. I read about it in a book that Gisela recommended, called "Willpower" by Roy Baumeister. It's got a lot of great ideas that reflect the latest psychology research on exercising one's willpower, and I've found it quite interesting and practical. Now it's time to put those ideas into action.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

5K and bike to work

The weather was absolutely gorgeous this morning. It's been unseasonably warm, and I'm not complaining at all! It was cold last week, so this is a welcome change. It was 44F (6.7C) and clear with a little breeze. I wore capri pants, long sleeves, and very light gloves.

Before leaving on my 5K walk, I did a set of step-downs on each side, with the PT band around my knees to activate my glutes, both med and max. I repeated this at 1.67 km and 3.33 km into my walk, along with some leg swings and brief piriformis stretch. I concentrated really hard on using my left glutes in particular while I walked, along with bringing my right leg through low so as to avoid bent knee problems. I also worked on keeping my core strong - lots to think about.

My right piriformis/hip was a little sore today. It felt better after the first stretch at 1.67 km, but it never felt quite 100%. All the same, it didn't really hurt outright, either. It just sort of ached and felt tight. Stopping to stretch helped it a lot, and I didn't have any problem finishing the 5K.

I'm in the habit of a fast cadence from the elliptical and the bike, and I think that is transferring to racewalking, as I walked pretty fast again. My heart rate was correspondingly high. I walked the 5K in 29:39, with average HR 153. Of course, stopping twice to stretch helped me keep going. I wasn't trying hard to go fast, but it happened anyway.

I also worked a bit on my breathing. I had read in Runner's World magazine that a 3-2 inhale-exhale pattern (3 steps inhale, 2 exhale) was beneficial. It is supposed to help you to have a more even foot strike and avoid landing harder on one foot than the other, which makes sense. I figured it can't hurt to give this a try, and might help. It's hard to remember to do it, but I think like anything it can become a habit if I work on it.

After my walk I took the kids to school, got ready for work, and biked to work. It was too nice not to!

Garmin data for the 5K here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

5K outside! :)

OK, so for late March it was cold this morning outside (25F, -4C), but I didn't care much. I was happy to get to walk outside. Walking is hard right now because my muscles aren't used to it and I tire quickly, so it's not as much fun as usual, but it sure beats the stationary bike or the elliptical. At only 30 minutes of exercise, I should probably do something in the gym later, but...well...I may not get around to it. It's Sunday and I need to chill a bit before the busy week begins.

Before I went, I did a set of step-downs with the band to activate my glute med on both sides. I think that is helpful, because then I can focus on using them during the walk. Today while walking I thought about using my glute med, bringing my right hip through low so I don't hitch and drop and end up with bent knee on the right side, and also about using my core to keep my posture strong (especially through the lower abs). I also tried to think about allowing my hips free rotation and extending through my toes, and all the other great stuff I know to work on. Racewalking requires so much concentration, but I think that's one of the reasons I love it. It is never boring!!!

I stopped twice at 1.67 and 3.33 km to stretch and do some leg swings and more step-downs (I brought my PT band and did the step-downs on a curb). My hip did tighten up a bit at first (kind of like on Friday), and so the stop at 1.67km was welcome. However, after that it felt pretty good until about the last 500m when it got a bit tight again, but I was going uphill and I was fatiguing, and I was almost done. It didn't ever hurt - it just got tight. I think that is pretty good progress and I'm pleased.

I will admit that I went a bit faster than I should have, and maybe that didn't help. It was fun to be out there and I couldn't help myself :). I did the 5K in 29:34 and my average HR was a bit high for a short workout at 149, with max of 162. Hopefully coach is OK with that :).

Garmin data here. I like that the Garmin data now shows the weather - it says -4C with 10kph wind, which seems about right, giving wind chill of -8C. Ha! Look, I'm turning Australian...I honestly prefer using the metric system, as a scientist, and I wish we'd just switch already, but Americans are too stupid and too much creatures of bad habit.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I made it to 5K!

I wasn't sure this would happen for a while yet. I figured maybe I'd be able to walk in May or June, but apparently the ART is really helping. I had an ART treatment yesterday from a local guy, and I'd highly recommend it. It's kind of like a sports massage on steroids, and working the parts that most need therapy. ART stands for Active Release Techniques, because the patient is active in the process. You move while the ART therapist is putting pressure on a specific spot or spots.

Yesterday I did the elliptical & stationary bike before the treatment, and no racewalking. I'm racewalking only every other day for now, and gradually upping what I am doing - carefully, very very carefully, so as to avoid re-injury. On Sunday I did 3km total (1km in the morning and 2km in the afternoon), Wednesday I did 3x1km, so today I decided to to try 5km. I did it on the indoor track (211m) at the U, and stopped every 8 laps to roll out my piriformis and hip area on a medicine ball. Other than getting a bit tight, I had no pain, and made it all the way to 24 laps (5.064km). I got to 5km in approximately 30:18, which was pretty fast :). OK, I did allow my heart rate to sit at the mid-150s at the end, but I'm out of racewalking shape so I wasn't actually walking THAT fast.

The best news? I'm feeling pretty good now (late pm). No pain!

After racewalking, I did 15 min on the stationary bike and then did my PT exercises: planks, lower abs, medial step-downs with band at my knees to activate glute med, and lunges around a circle with medicine ball lifts to the side and overhead.

Here's the Garmin data from my walk (24 laps; stopped with Kelly because her knee was verrrry sore :(, then 15 min biking).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

3x1km with breaks!

This morning I managed 3km! I started off warming up on the bike, then did a set of PT exercises (planks, side planks, lunges in all directions, step-downs with band around knees to keep glute med activated), and then I walked 1km (well, 5x211m so really 1055m) on the indoor track. I repeated my PT exercises and rolled out my right piriformis on a medicine ball to release the tightness that had accumulated from the walk, and then walked another km. Finally, I biked a bunch more, rolled out my piriformis, and then walked another km. I could feel it get a bit tight but it did not hurt - the first 1km it gave me a twinge or two of discomfort (1 of 10 on the pain scale?) but on the last two 1km I had no discomfort. I am quite happy about this!

Total biking/racewalking was 45 minutes; the racewalking laps were all 1:14-1:16 except the last one, which was 1:18 (yeah, I got tired - going to take a while to build up my endurance again).


In other good news, I'm going to see a Dr. Derek Parkes, a chiropractor who does ART tomorrow morning at 9. Yay! Found a good one (I hope!) here in town and I'm hoping he can continue the great work that Dr. Nelson Santos did on me in California.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

cool photo

I'm a bit of a nerd. I absolutely love x-rays. Seriously...maybe I should have been a radiologist!

Anyway, here's the x-ray of my L5-S1 assimilation joint. Can you see it? It's pretty obvious even to the novice. On the right side of the photo (my left side) I have an extra bone between my vertebra and the sacrum that is not there on the other side.


In other news, I am quite sore in the legs from the little bit of RW I did on Sunday, plus getting sore from the new PT exercises I got yesterday. I am working to find an ART provider here in SLC - have a good candidate and hopefully can get in later this week, because my piriformis is starting to tighten up again despite the fact that I haven't done any more racewalking. I did the bike yesterday and today, and plan to do some more elliptical tonight while Grace has her skating lesson. Plus I did my PT this morning and did some upper body weights too. I'm going to be a lot stronger after this, which is a nice side benefit.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

a ray of hope

I've been feeling a bit better this week emotionally, and have been getting used to the idea that I might be out of commission for a while. Going to California for the weekend to watch the 20K was a very good idea! I needed the sun, the friendship, the camaraderie of other racewalkers, and some time away from the routines at home. I love my life in SLC, but it was nice to get away.

Watching the race was challenging - not because I was sad about not walking, but because I was BUSY. Seriously, I was doing aid for Ian, Katie, Rob, Kelly, Jolene, Carmen, and one other gentleman (can't remember his name). Plus I was texting Jim about his athletes' performances. He had 4 athletes in the race: Erin, Dave, Kelly, and Pablo. I had a bit of trouble giving him updates on more than just Kelly (sorry, Jim). In addition, I was trying to take photos and video - especially video for Jim. I'll post some later.

I may have been busy but I LOVED it. I loved seeing my friends and cheering for them, and loved watching what little of the race I could :). I had a blast taking photos and video. Of course I would have preferred to walk, but this was the next best thing for sure.

The best news though? After the race I got some ART (Active Release Therapy) from Dr. Nelson Santos (a chiropractor). It was AWESOME. AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!!!! He did 3 different maneuvers (?) on me - one on the right psoas (ouch!!!!!!), and 2 on the right piriformis, at the origin and insertion. Seriously, it took maybe 5-10 min and I felt better than I have in 6 weeks. Then I walked 1km in 5:52 with almost no pain. Later, at Kelly's house I walked 2.12 km with little pain at a 5:31/km pace. Then I got tired and stopped before I could overdo. But it was great. I am hopeful!!!!!!!!!

Tomorrow morning I am calling around SLC to find an ART provider. Right away!

Garmin data for 2.12km here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

more bad news

I saw the doctor today. She is a sports medicine/physical medicine & rehabilitation doc, and seemed quite knowledgeable. She ordered x-rays to rule out a fracture of the sacrum (which I was pretty sure I didn't have), and the x-rays revealed something interesting. No, I do not have a fracture, but I do have L5 (lumbar vertebrae #5) - S1 (sacral vertebrae #1) assimilation, also known as lumbosacral transitional vertebrae, on my left side only. Basically, this means that on my left side, the lowest lumbar vertebra has an extra attachment to the sacrum, which means that I have less flexibility through the SI joint on my left side. The picture below illustrates my condition quite nicely.

Fortunately, it is a rather benign condition, UNLESS you happen to have what my doctor called "the perfect storm", wherein I was 1) recovering from posterior tibialis tendonitis, 2) slipped on porch steps, 3) landed on my left lower back right about L5/S1. Brilliant. She said that because of my L5 sacralization, I probably transferred more force from the landing to the right side of my pelvis, stretching out my piriformis too much, and voila! Injury. That's her guess, and the PT's guess without even seeing the x-ray or knowing of my L5 sacralization. I have a good PT.

So what's the bad news, you ask? Well, the doctor says there isn't anything else she can do medically to make this heal any faster. Nada. Zip. Zero. In addition, she estimates that it will be 3-4 months from the time that I fell until I can actually train again or even think about it. Meanwhile, I need to do my PT and continue with the exercises, and get my cardio from something that doesn't hurt my piriformis.

For those so inclined, here is an article that has more information about LSTV and its clinical consequences. It is pretty benign, with possibly an increased risk in disc issues, but otherwise it is generally not a big deal.


So now I need to make more long-term plans for cardio for the next few months. I'll figure something out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

some thoughts

I've been cross-training daily, from 40 min to an hour, depending on time. Also, I am doing tons of PT exercises. Plus I have 2 PT visits per week and 2 chiropractor visits per week. I actually got an afternoon without anything planned and I just sat and did nothing - read a book, surfed Facebook, listened to the kids practice the piano. I don't seem to have much time for anything else though. That's not a complaint, just a "noticing".

Last weekend Sarah and I took our daughters for a weekend retreat here in town at the Little America hotel. It was pretty nice...the pool is indoor-outdoor and well-heated, with tons of windows to let in the sunlight in the indoor part. We sat and read and relaxed while the girls swam, and swam, and swam some more. It was wonderful.

I'm glad to be back to "real life" too though. Work is busy and interesting right now, and I appreciate it. Routine is good and keeps things going. But I confess I feel a bit lost. I miss racewalking, I miss working out with Kelly, and I am struggling with my eating a lot. I had decided that I'd use some down time from racewalking to focus on eating better, but it's been very, very difficult. Emotionally things are a bit tough right now with the injury and all, and that makes eating well more of a challenge. I haven't given up, but I'm struggling. I am 10 lb above my racing weight and my pants are all tight, and yet I still embrace the food? Why? Habit, known comfort, etc. At other times I'm able to push it away: new habit, known discomfort that will result, etc.

I feel a bit vacant and sad, though not depressed like I felt a couple weeks ago. I hope I am adjusting to life without racewalking, as it seems it will be a while longer. I wish I could find another sport that I'd love as much, but so far I haven't had any great flashes of insight. Part of that is that I haven't tried many new things. I have been taking more figure skating lessons, which is great (I even learned a 1/2 turn jump called a waltz jump), but it's not much cardiovascular exercise, which I desperately need more of. The elliptical and the bike are doing the trick OK, with books and with riding my bike to work more feasible some days now that the weather is better. But they are not racewalking. I tried running, but that hurt my hip just like walking (though it took a bit longer to kick in).

I do feel a bit like I'm in limbo. I am hopeful for tomorrow afternoon, when I visit a sports med/phys med & rehab doc and see what she has to say about my diagnosis/treatment. The PTs have been helpful but this is going to take some time. Darn winter. If only I hadn't slipped on the porch steps. Well, I can't change the past. I have to try and move forward, one step at a time. Probably it's more like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back, but at least I'm moving. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

some unwelcome news

Since I started my blog hiatus I've been pretty depressed. I started to feel a bit better at the middle/end of last week though. I still couldn't racewalk much, but for some reason my spirits lifted a bit, which was welcome.

I started seeing a chiropractor last week on the recommendation of coach and some friends. I figured it can't hurt (too much) and might help. Mostly I don't think it's particularly scientific or evidence-based, but there are reports that it can be useful for musculoskeletal issues so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm still doing physical therapy as well, so 2 visits there plus 2 chiro visits adds up to a lot of time. Plus all the exercises, plus keeping my cardio up both for fitness and weight maintenance. Whew.

Last week I expressed my frustration to the physical therapist about how things were going (or not going, as the case may be). I can walk for a few minutes, but then the pain starts. That hasn't changed much despite taking time completely off from walking in addition to doing everything I'm supposed to. The PT got thinking that something else was underlying the piriformis pain. He tested me and found some positive signs for SI joint dysfunction. He did some manipulations, and got another PT to do some, and it made me a bit sore but not really better. This week he asked a PT colleague who'd been to an SI joint class for extra training to assess me. She said that my sacrum is rotated so that the left side is too far anterior and the right side too far posterior. It seems likely that the fall I took on my porch steps back on February 2nd is responsible for this problem; I hit the left side of my lower back (actually left hip at the top) in just the right spot to cause the sacrum to get out of alignment. Heck, I'm lucky I didn't break anything...but I'm actually not sure this is any better. Regardless, the PT gave me some exercises to try and realign things, but they are running out of ideas. They want me to go see my doc since I never saw her for this problem and see what she can do for me medically - i.e. imaging, medications, injections, whatever. I called the doc to make an appointment but can't get in until April 2nd. Yikes.

So now I'm pondering things. Looks like it's going to be a while until I can even think about racewalking again. A good long while. There may not be much anyone can do for this beyond exercises and time. Perhaps lots of time. I'm hoping it won't be a permanent problem. I'm really trying not to let my mind go there. However, I do need to figure out what to do in the meantime. I can't do the elliptical and stationary bike forever - it's just not that fun. My boss suggested bicycling; it's not warm enough yet but soon it will be. He also suggested martial arts. Not sure I'm up for that or that it will be enough cardio. It doesn't hurt a lot to run short distances, so I might be able to run. Maybe. But that seems risky. Swimming is OK but I don't love it. I'll have to consider this ... right now I don't feel up to making decisions about much.

I'm mentally doing OK and hoping I don't start to feel depressed again. Somehow I don't think I will. I'm committed to finding a way to muddle through. I haven't gained any more weight, though I haven't lost any either. I guess that's a good start, but I need to get my diet back to where it needs to be, which is challenging when life is a bit out-of-control. One step at a time.