Blogiversary!

Well – give or take a couple of days, it’s my first Blogiversary!

In plaster

Breaking a bone in my foot which stopped me doing my favourite workouts was just the catalyst I needed – as I never have been an “ideas woman”, yet knew I needed to blog.

The idea was ultimately to give hope, not least to myself, but to anyone else for whom exercise is a way of life that’s suddenly taken away from them.me-xray-foot

I broke my fifth metatarsal in my left foot falling off the arm of the sofa whilst swatting at the smoke alarm – my boyfriend had been cooking sausages.

Gratitude is no bad thing. Today I just threw on my kit and did what I normally do, just go out for a run. This time last year that simply wasn’t an option.

therapeutic shoe - me
Ugh – just LOOK at that shoe!

We are talking a crazy-sized granny shoe and the geriatric “hobbling” which easily made me appear much older than my years.

And I’m comparatively lucky.

During the course of this blog I featured the story of Austin Rathe, who faced the real possibility of leg amputation after a road accident – and developed his resolve to run a marathon whilst recovering in hospital.

Detail from The Hostile Forces, Beethoven frieze, by Klimpt
Flab fear – I don’t want to look like this

I wanted a dancer who’d recovered from injury – and she came along in the unlikely form of Amber Kershaw, then aged nine, who’d recovered from a broken arm to street-dance on a competitive level.

Blogging is a steep learning curve and I’m still learning.

Part of the fun, of course, is seeing how well each blog post does – it really is quite fun looking at the stats.

In that respect, by far my most successful post was Maxing Out, which featured fellow blogger Christian Boyles, from Illinois, US, of Maxed Out Muscles.

guerrillas shakey selfie
Nerves? Yes! A shaky selfie just before my return to Guerrillas

 

Having suffered depression and flare-ups of Crohn’s Disease he told me: “I wanted to take control of my life and not allow myself to become sick again.”

Another high-hitter was Does Yoga Heal? a Q and A with my yoga instructor Espi Smith.

My inevitable fears over putting on weight led to an article on my pet hate – dieting. And I’ll level with you, the inevitable flabbiness caused by lack of exercise did impact on the choice of clothes I could wear for work in the unforgiving summer.

skeleton pray
Yup, I’ve learned to be grateful

Of course there were land-marks along the way in my recovery – getting the six-week all-clear at the fracture clinic, my return to running – and Guerrilla Training!

And whether I was able to run or not, I kept in regular contact with ParkRun – where, much to my surprise, I returned to do a Personal Best.

In the end it was simply a question of patience and letting the bone recover, as it inevitably did.

But this blog did (and still does , as I have no intention of finishing it) help tremendously.

So it’s true – Time really is the great healer.

Along with blogging!

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Yoga – the Great Antidote?

Yoga is the latest addition to my seemingly Phoenix-like return to exercise.

Lunges like this are a good example of how Yin yoga helps a runner
Lunges like this are a good example of how Yin yoga helps a runner

I went for a run yesterday morning – so after a shower and a change of clothing, it seemed the perfect antidote.

The “Restful Yin” class was ideal – as it involved a much-needed stretch for the muscles I’d used in Guerrillas and running.

Most people are familiar with the idea of yin/yang – with my favourites leaning towards the “Yang” side of things obviously.

But here’s a definition from someone who knows a bit more:

“The term “yin yoga” comes from the Taoist tradition. Yang relates to movement, often repetitive movement, creating heat in the body. Yin is about finding stillness and cooling the body.”  Geraldine Beirne, Yin yoga: be part of the yin crowd, The Guardian, 5 January 2015

12144670_981428748546651_67774216200882240_nIt essentially involves passive stretching – in other words, relaxing into the pose and letting the body weight do the work rather than actively pushing into it.

Breathing techniques also help as you use the breath to intensify the stretch.

Imagine then, what that’s like for someone like me!

The idea of “letting go” is very difficult for someone who’s used to the idea of having to deploy every ounce of their will-power into things like running up a hill or lifting something heavy.11986551_1004413896289678_526541314791483366_n

In other words, most of the exercises I do almost involve “mind over matter” – envisaging what I want my body to do and dragging it along there with me.

And actively welcoming the idea of muscles “softening” – anyone reading this blog knows my opinions on having a soft body!

Nevertheless, the results were fantastic – the stiffness from my more Yang-ish endeavours diminished.

I have deployed yoga as a solution a number of times in the past.12106995_974855809241541_3094067484018509579_n

With the aid of YouTube I have managed to heat a cold living room – and my even colder self – with an Ashtanga session.

And as being able to speak is an essential part of my work I have also warded off being side-lined by whatever “nasty-bug-that’s-going-around” with asanas geared at boosting immunity.yoga-poses-for-runners

My only criticism would be that – in a lot of cases on YouTube – the instructor is far more flexible than I could even hope to be.

Let’s face it, who can resist showing-off if they’re good at something?

So many of the ensuring poses are impossible for me and leave me standing gormless on the mat.

Here’s just one example of YouTube yoga for runners – it’s Ekhart Yoga – one of my most trusted (and less ostentatious) sources.

Believe you me, whether it’s a YouTube front room job or a class, yoga does work!

‘You’re Not The Ride’- My Return To Yoga

A new beginning?
A new beginning?

Standing on one leg is always going to be a challenge for someone recovering from a broken foot – and sure enough, my mending metatarsal reminded me of its presence.

Yesterday I did my first yoga class since the fracture.

I freely admit that, after a period of feeling I was medically forbidden to do any exercises that put any weight on said foot, I am still finding it difficult to get back into the routine of keeping fit.chill homie

A Chakra Balance class marked my comeback at Yogi Smith‘s.

Admittedly I do find what could be defined as the “spiritual” side of yoga more difficult than the physical.

An instructor tells me what to do with my body and I’ll have a go – and what happens after that is not for want of trying.

The class featured a meditation session on what roles the mind and body play – to me, an interesting concept in the whole idea of control – after all, isn’t that the reason you go to any class in the first place? That sense of wanting to control at least one aspect of your life?

Tree pose was always going to be a challenge!
Tree pose was always going to be a challenge!

Do you control your body? Or does it control you?

I found one parallel particularly useful – that life’s fluxuations are like a theme park ride – but you’re not the ride.

My recovering metatarsal made its presence felt during Vrksasana, or “Tree” pose – standing on my left foot.

It didn’t hurt, but I could still feel it was there.

(While the visual truth of the fracture was confirmed by an X-ray a few months back, I could still see the bone’s cylindrical presence there in my mind’s eye).

After the class I told my instructor Espi – she told me that was the bone’s way of protecting me.

You can read more of Espi’s advice on yoga and recovering from injury here.

And here’s a link to her website.

Yoga With An Injury – The Practicalities

At the moment I’m only really able to do restorative/yin yoga, and – as my instructor Espi Smith has pointed out in a previous post, I can not do anything at all which puts too much pressure on the foot.

Don't strain that foot!
Don’t strain that foot!

What I want to do here, briefly (not least because it’s Sunday and outside the sun might even be shining even here in England LOL), is to show how determined people have compromised their practice despite injury.

Despite the benefits of a class, I’ve always enjoyed my YouTube Yoga sessions too – the laptop balanced precariously on the sofa, the living room becomes my Ashram.

And so, once again, I’m looking to YouTube for coping strategies!

Here’s Jordan, who broke her fifth metatarsal (and from the X-ray it looks quite close to her joint), showing her adapted Sun Salutation.

The YouTube description mentions that the injury – sustained four weeks prior to the video – is “notoriously difficult to heal” (tell me about it!).

Needless to say it makes feel just great to see someone practicing despite being in plaster.

Here’s US instructor Lara Falberg showing a seated sequence intended for those who already have a yoga practice and don’t intend to give up because of a fracture.

Judging by a guy calling to her in the background, she’s in her living room too!

She started the routine 10 days after undergoing surgery.

From a personal point of view, the question that begs the asking is: Are both sides of the body getting an equal workout?

After all, if say, it’s your left foot that’s hurt, there’ll be no weight put on that, as opposed to when you do the same on the opposite side. And if you’re in plaster, then there’ll be the extra weight involved in lifting it – again on one side.

In my own restorative sessions just after the injury, I noticed I was a lot stiffer on my left side (all that hobbling LOL).

Not that any of these factors should put anyone off practicing in a modified, sensible and professionally-guided session!

The most determined will always find a way, but yes, it’s all about compromise too.

Does Yoga Heal?

Can I still do yoga? Here’s a Q & A session with my instructor Espi Smith.

Espi says painful moves should be avoided
Espi says painful moves should be avoided

Me: What adaptations should I make to my practice?

Espi: I guess that depends on how you define the word “yoga”. If you are looking at only the asana (postures), they you will need to modify your physical practice to account for your injury. In your case, you should avoid standing and kneeling postures as well as some seated asanas that involve the outside of your foot putting pressure on the floor. If it hurts, it’s a definite no-go!

She uses a greater understanding of internal energetics and anatomy since being injured herself
She uses a greater understanding of internal energetics and anatomy since being injured herself

However yoga is much more than a physical practice, its a way of looking at life. Pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, proper diet and positive thought will all help keep you happy and healthy throughout your recovery.

Me: Anything I should definitely avoid?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

Espi: Anything that puts unnecessary pressure on the foot. Remember to listen to your body and not your ego, if there is pain it’s a sure fire way of knowing that you’re upsetting a part that should be healing.

Me: Do you know anyone who’s survived injury to continue their practice?

Espi: Yes, me! A few years ago, before I’d let go of my ego and gotten over my competitive side I decided that I couldtry and jump from Down-dog to Crow (an arm balance that requires a lot of strength).

Good communication is the key to maintaining the fitness lifestyle
Good communication is the key to maintaining the fitness lifestyle

Turns out I had a lot more momentum than strength. I face-planted on the floor with all my might and wound up in hospital with a neck-brace on and some very worried-looking doctors. Luckily I hadn’t broken anything I just had soft tissue damage.

A positive attitude is important
A positive attitude is important
The injury left me with a huge fear of inversions and arm balances. It took a couple of years of very grounding practice to give me the confidence to practice my arm balances and inversions again. Under the careful instruction of my teacher during my teacher-training, I got back into it.
Me: Can injury make people who enjoy exercise feel cut-off and even make them drop out altogether?
Espi: I think this is very much to do with each individual’s attitude towards being injured. If you see it as being betrayed by your body and allow yourself to feel that you have been kicked to the side-lines then yes, your are likely to become isolated.
It's all about mind, body and spirit (artwork by Molly Pepper)
It’s all about mind, body and spirit (artwork by Molly Pepper)
However, if you adopt a positive attitude, respect the road to recovery and speak to your teacher/instructor about the things that you can still do, then you’ll still be able to enjoy the fitness lifestyle.

Me: How can meditation help?

Easier said than done!
Easier said than done!
Espi: Meditation allows you the time to get out of your conditioned mind. The one that tells you that injury means “being out of the game”.
When you do it, not only will you get the chance to clear all the negative emotions that surround being injured, you also bring a deep sense of relaxation to the physical body.
The muscles and the nervous system will get a well-earned break and this will help to relieve any built-up tension and waste products that come up as a result of injury.
Finally, thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak about this on your blog, Emma. Rest, relax and remember to breathe. You’ll be healed in no time.
For more information on Espi, check out her website here.
 

Way To Go

Hi!

Welcome to Em’s Way To Go – in which I invite you to join me as I explore how to cope when injury compromises your exercise regime/goals.

I like keeping fit. I’m not a leading athlete but I hope to meet plenty of them in the near future to see how they’ve conquered something that goes beyond mere inconvenience.

I also intend to get plenty of professional coping tips!

Please, doctor, pretty please can I run? Yep, that's me - and I'm not even in plaster
Please, doctor, pretty please can I run? Yep, that’s me – and I’m not even in plaster

My story?

Off goes the smoke alarm – I jump on the arm of the sofa, swiping at said smoke alarm like it’s a piñata – anything to stop the eardrum-splitting screeching. Result? I fall off – crushing my foot underneath me.

I know something’s wrong – my running, guerrilla training and even most forms of yoga are about to be a serious no-no for the next few weeks. A conclusion subsequently verified by a doctor in A&E after an X-Ray. Fractured metatarsal.

I can practically feel my cellulite-ridden thighs bulging as I write this.

And those bingo wings of mine are as good as cleared for take-off.

Nobody told Coneygree injury would compromise his chances of success
Nobody told Coneygree injury would compromise his chances of success

So? Surely I’m not alone in all this? Right?

Last November, an eight-year-old gelding called Coneygree was pronounced lame by a racecourse vet at the Plumpton track after a two-year convalescence from injury.

His assistant trainer Sara Bradstock explained: “I said to (the vet), ‘It’s not just any horse that you’re f****** me about with here… ‘

“And do you know what he said to me? He said, ‘He’s had two years off, he’s not worth anything anyway’.”

Reader, allow me to introduce the winner of the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Sara Bradstock didn’t give up – and neither did her horse.

I hope to be meeting plenty of human Coneygrees in this Blog – as they share their stories with me of how they overcame injury.

Meanwhile, if you have an injury recovery story – or any tips – then I’d love to hear from you!