Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Update on chiropractic ... and pain

If I hadn't experienced this myself, I wouldn't have believed it. In fact, I almost didn't believe A. for the past year, as she ever-so-gently encouraged me to consider it. (She knows that with me, the harder you push, the more I resist... She knows this because she's much the same way... And that's one reason we are friends.)

She would slip a reference to the conversation here and there... Tell a story... Make an off-hand comment. And finally, once almost all other options were exhausted, I said, "OK, OK, I hear you! Give me the number for your chiropractor, already!"

I went. I blogged about the initial experience. It was horrendous. I called A. and asked, "What kind of witch doctor did you send me to?" She did her best to calm me down, which was hard, considering the amount of pain I was in.

I called the chiropractor on it, too. "What have you done to me?!" I demanded. He calmly explained that the initial adjustments were actually quite gentle... My reaction was uncommon, but not unheard of. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "I know this will be hard for you at the moment, but I'm going to ask you to trust me and stick with me. We'll get through this, but it's going to take time. I need you to just trust me."

I almost walked away. But I didn't. I agreed to trust him... or to try... at least for a while.

Now, it's been six weeks. And I'm glad I didn't walk away.

It got better after that... And has been getting progressively better ever since. I am still injured but overall, the pain is greatly reduced. My performance in the gym is better than it has been in months. My range of motion and the feeling that my body can actually move again, are better than before I was injured. Overall, I am feeling better than I have in a long, long time.

The injuries seem like just that now: Injuries.

Injuries heal.

I was thinking about all this yesterday, as I was lying on the table at the chiropractor's office. I lie face down, relaxing before it's my turn to be adjusted. I feel his hand on my neck, as he greets me, running his hand down my spine. I grunt when he gets to the usual hot spot. He works out the knot and then has me lie on my side.

As I lay there, in a fetal-like position, with my own arms hugging me, he tells me to relax. This is necessary to make the adjustment properly. I have to surrender my physical self and let him roll me towards him and do his work. Even though it feels like I will roll off the table and clunk with a thud to the floor, I have to trust him not to hurt me or let me fall. And I do.

After the adjustment, I feel great... as has become the norm.

I told him yesterday, "If this is what 'normal' feels like, I had forgotten."

He said, "After you were hit by that car, you had a lot of pain. You just learned to live with it, so pain became your 'normal'. After a while, you don't even realize that you're in pain any more... until it's released."

As I reflect on previous blog posts, I feel myself nodding as I start to realize that my inability to "feel" (as in, "feel" my way through exercises, know how to "feel" if I'm doing an exercise correctly or not, and even to "feel" pain) were all connected... A certain numbness or inability to feel... correlated to blocking out or normalizing pain as a way of living.

I am beginning to understand -- on a very physical level -- that it doesn't have to be that way. "Normal" feels way better than "numb".

Having said all that, I have been "feeling" a heck of a toothache these past few days. I think I have a cracked filing. I have my doubts about making it through any more dental work without anaesthetic (as I have done since I was 16) ... I normally would just block out the drilling. I wonder if I could still do that?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Small victories

I’ve been plagued with one injury after another for the past 7 months. I’ve been patient. I’ve obeyed doctors’ and other professionals’ advice. I’ve gone from hopeful to depressed to downright sobbing. I’ve tried to start running – even walking – a few times (with the nod of approval from a health professional or two), only to have to stop dead in my tracks due to pain of some sort or another.

I have not given up… but despite the fact that injuries have kept me grounded, I have a few things to celebrate. They’re small… but worth sharing.

At the end of my 6 week yoga class I was able to get into -- and hold -- a “tree” position. If you’re not familiar with this, it is a one-legged balance position, where the foot of one leg rests on the inside of your standing thigh. The arms reach out, and then up, fully extended over your head with palms together in a prayer-type position. Then… you hold.

I’ve seen this done… and never even come close to it… until last Wednesday. I was amazed that I not only got my self into the position… but I maintained it… for a good long time.

I was very pleased. (I have signed up for more yoga.)

This week, for the first time since January, I was able to manage 40 minutes of “land cardio”. I am thankful not to have to be in the pool any more for my cardio. It’s not that I don’t like water… I just like land better. Nevertheless, I have had to take it slow. I promised myself that whenever I felt even the slightest twinge in my knee or leg, I would stop whatever I was doing. There were days when this meant a 5-minute warm-up on the bike and that was it.

Slowly, I have been adding a minute here and there… On good days, I push a bit more… but trying not to push too much… Finding the balance.

The day before yesterday I did 40 minutes (20 on the bike and 20 on the elliptical). No pain… anywhere. That is the key here... The last time I logged that much time was in January... And I wrote in my comments that my knee was very swollen and sore. But now... no swelling and no pain. I even worked up a sweat... and it felt great.

Today my back is a bit sore, so I took it easy... But still, no knee or leg pain!

These are minor occurrences… For some people, they would be so incidental that they wouldn’t even merit mention. But in between the tears and the ice packs, these small victories are what warm my soul and give me hope.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blueberry grunt (Yeah, baby!)

So, Robb got me thinking with his last post about food... and in particular, blueberry grunt, a delicacy from my native Nova Scotia... and one of my personal specialties.

Living in Alberta I don't make it often, mostly because blueberries are hideously expensive here... and they're big, fat cultivated (comparatively tasteless - IMHO) blobs from B.C... Not at all the same as the small, succulent ones we used to collect in buckets as kids back home.

For years, I mourned the lack of decent blueberries here, but finally I just let it go... edging my attention ever so slowly to what Albertans love most - beef... As exercise became more a part of my life, so did beef... There was a time I could have cared less about beef, opting for chicken or fish (love a good halibut) ... but slowly, I have become converted; to the extent that any special gentleman in my life quickly learns that chocolate will get him a polite thank you, but a good steak will leave me completely blubbering.

Now, if there was a way to get a good N.S. blueberry grunt AND a perfectly BBQed piece of Alberta steak in the same meal, I'm sure I'd be in heaven.

All this got me thinking (and salivating) about local delicacies... What reminds you of "home"? What local dishes do you enjoy most? What leaves you "blubbering"?

And finally... just because of the name "blueberry grunt", here's a groaner for you:

What did one strawberry say to the other?

"If we hadn't been caught in the same bed together, we wouldn't be in this jam!"

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Shoe denial

In my training session last week we chatted a fair amount about injuries. My trainer said he had suffered with foot injuries, too and found one factor was shoes. He said he had to buy new shoes every six months. I have heard that before. In fact, I planned on it... when I was running.

But I sat there nodding and thinking quietly, "That's nice, Chris, but it doesn't apply to me. I haven't been running in these shoes... Not really, anyway. I got them in the fall... about the same time as I got the knee injury... and have hardly run at all."

Today I was at the gym, noticing my shoes... A few plastic bits on top have cracked, the lining is worn to threadbare inside and they were looking... well... saggy. I shook my head and said, "Girl, you are in such denial. You SO need new shoes!"

Running or not, I walk a lot in them... and work out in them six days a week for a couple hours a day... They get used on cardio machines, weight machines... they have jumped on the bosu numerous times... And outside the gym, they've been walking all over campus... through malls, through parks, and... well... all over the province, actually... They're not completely worn out... but you can bet they don't exactly have much support or cushioning in them any more either.

I sighed.

How can you wear out a pair of running shoes without actually running in them?

I'll just go have a look, I thought. I won't buy anything... I don't really need them yet... Not till I'm back running. (Denial is a happy, happy place.)

So, I went to my favorite store for shoes... Forzani's on 4th St. I go in. I scan the wall with shoes. The clerk comes over to me, looks at my feet (stuffed in my worn out runners) and says, "Looking for replacement shoes?"

"Umm.... Just looking, really." But she knew. She took one look at my feet and knew. Replacemenet shoes needed. Denial in process. We chit chat... running, injuries, the weather...

Then... I see them.

They had MY shoes on sale. I swear by Sauconys. I was fitted with my first pair a few years back, long before I ever started working out... I just wanted something good quality that fit well and so forth. I've never looked back.

Sale. Good sale. Getting rid of old stock to make room for new versions, kind of sale.

She hauls my shoe off the shelf. I look at it. I look at my feet. I see the difference. I sigh and say, "Size 8."

She comes back with them and as I'm taking my orthotics out of my old runners to try in the new ones, she says, "You have othotics? You shouldn't be wearing a stability shoe! The shoe you have is designed to correct pronation... Which is what your othotics do. If you wear a stability shoe with orthotics, it can cause over correction! That could be part of the reason you're still injured, actually... I'm not a doctor, of course..."

Why hadn't anyone (othotics maker, physio or anyone else in my battery of health professionals) mentioned this before? And don't you love how people always add in the disclaimer about not being a doctor, when you and they both know full well that they probably know exactly what they are talking about? Sad, really, that people have to do that...

"I just got the orthotics in April," I say.

She continues, "You need a neutral shoe."

"O.K.... I'll try one... But I'm pretty used to these ones I have now," thinking about how comfy they are... How I am not ready for any kind of new shoe at all, really... I like the ones I have... They fit like a dream.

She pulls down another pair of Sauconys for me to look at saying, "I'll get you an 8 to try."

Moments later she's back. I try them.

Heaven. Pure bliss... Much, much better than my trusty old saggy ones. And $20 cheaper than the pronation control ones, to boot.

"I'll take them." I say, as I am walking around the store, adding that they actually feel much better than the ones I have on.

"I'm not surprised," she says. "I think you'll find the neutral shoe works much better with the orthotics."

I leave with the Saucony box tucked under my arm, thinking that despite not wanting new shoes... despite being in denial... despite not being a big fan of the "new runner" look (too white!) ... that I was lucky to find a sale... especially on Sauconys... and even luckier to find a sales clerk who knew her stuff... and how this is a good sign... Running shoes for running... Soon, precious, we'll be over the injuries and testing you on the roads... Soon.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Where did the week go?

What happened to this week? It just zoomed along and suddenly, it’s Friday!

So, here’s what I’ve been up to…

Doing the happy tax dance

Well… not yet… but almost! I have been a bad, bad girl… I have a small business and I’m horrible at doing my books… and filing my taxes. Over the last little while, I’ve bought many cups of coffee for my book keeper and finally this morningI took all the paperwork for my 2003, 2004 and 2005 taxes (both personal and business) to the accountant for filing. Here’s hoping I don’t owe any money or that interest will be piling up… but I am guessing that won’t happen. Anyway, it feels great to have that weight lifted off my shoulders!

Research and school work

I am working as a research assistant for a prof in Education. I have been busy getting surveys off to school principals, arranging and conducting in-person interviews with research subjects and doing a literature review on bilingual and immersion education.

As for my own research, I am working on my first paper for publication. It’s part of my class that ended in April, but everyone was told to continue to work on their papers to get them ready to submit to a scholarly journal. My class mate, Steamer, and I both “hit the wall” after classes ended and just couldn’t cram any more into our brains. This week there was some mutual ass-kicking happening and we both got back to reading and writing for school.


Things at work have slowed down considerably… until today, when we got word that one of the major funders who provided the means for the extensive renovations of our centre will be on site at the end of the month to conduct an audit. This means getting everything ship shape pronto. Our Director is on sabbatical, the Acting Director is leaving for an overseas trip this weekend and the Assistant Director is on holidays until July… So, I was told today that for the last week in June the head of another department will take on the director’s duties… but until then, I have been appointed as acting director. It could be a quiet week… or it could be a super busy week as we get ready for this audit… I guess I will find out when I get in on Monday!


Once again, I am working with my trainer again… with my number one goal being to get over these injuries and get strong to run again. Having said that, the injuries continue to nag a bit, though certainly not as bad as before. I can say that we are making progress… though it is slow. The plantar fasciitis is highly annoying… but as usual, I am being good and not doing things to aggravate it. I am thoroughly enjoying the yoga class I am taking and hope to sign up for more next month… The Pilates class is not so great, but I might give it another go (with a different teacher) at some point in the future…

So… that’s life in a nutshell… I’ll make a point to be more diligent about blogging next week… And I’ll definitely let you know when those taxes are officially done and mailed off!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Happy fitness anniversary

This week I celebrated one year of a changed lifestyle. It was about a year ago that I started going to the University's fitness centre. It was housed in a racquet centre at the time, due to renovations. That first day, it took me a good 10 minutes just to find the door in.

I thought it might be a sign from above that maybe I was not supposed to get fit after all. But somehow... I doubted it.

I celebrated my "one-year fitness anniversary" last week by trying something new: wall climbing. I took a 2.5 hour workshop on the basics of wall / rock climbing and learned how to set up ropes, tie in and belay. (That was a new word for me. No, fellow runners, it does not rhyme with "relay", but is instead said "buh-LAY"... means to help your partner up and down the wall by managing the ropes.)

I had a blast! And was hideously sore the next day!

A quick re-cap of the past year in review:

  • 6 dress sizes lost
  • 23 personal training sessions completed
  • 52 weeks of consistent training
  • 1 new-found love of running

  • 2 injured knees (patellofemoral syndrome)
  • 1 knee recovered
  • 1 compartment "like" condition in right lower leg - mostly recovered
  • 2 vertebrae discovered with bone spurs
  • 1 case of plantar fasciitis

  • countless fears overcome
  • numerous new friends and running "blogger buddies"

Not a bad way to change a life, really... even with the injuries.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Broken stride, broken heart

So... I guess I blogged about getting back into the walking program too soon.

Went to the doctor today. That heel pain?... Yeah... it's plantar fasciitis.

Ice. Exercises. Shoes with orthotics all the time (even in the house!)

Definitely no running.

Cut out the walking routine.

I am thinking of curse words in various languages as I write this....

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride

OK, so I have a confession.

My chiropractor put me back on a walking program over a week ago. I haven't blogged about it because I didn't want to get all excited and then have it deflate on me like a big balloon... like before.

The trip to Toronto did put a bit of a monkey wrench in my routine, but I think I got in my fair share of walking across the York U. campus and through airports, so I'm not really concerned.

The good news: I can do it! I can go for at least 20 minutes without pain!

Naturally, I bumped it up to 35 minutes and my knee got puffy. I mean... it was only almost double the original 20 minutes, so I don't get why there would have been a problem. (Duh! Silly Sarah!)

I iced it when I got back to the fitness centre and then went and did my scheduled leg workout. No knee pain at the end of the workout.

Anyway, I'm back to 20 minutes 3 times a week. It's good. It's really, really good.

The deal is: no hills. Not for now. I can handle that. The area around the gym I go to has some fairly flat terrain, so I just go for a walk every other day before I do weights. It's not exactly a cardio workout, so I get on the bike on the off days, just to keep up the cardio.

I have started with some weird pain in the bottom of my right heel. The chiro says to have it checked by a podiatrist.

And my right calf is puffed up again, but I think we've figured what causes that... I overcompensate with my tib anterior for what my quad muscles should be doing. Once we get the quad muscles firing properly on a regular basis, this should subside. Dr. Mike, the chiro, has been helping with this... The lower leg is not nearly as swollen as it used to be.

And squats. I did my three sets of ten (each leg) one-legged assisted squats yesterday and I tell you... all modesty aside... they were damn near a thing of beauty -- at least compared to what they were like before. My knees are tracking much better than they ever have. My butt muscles are not seized up like they used to be, which of course, made the squats almost impossible. My legs are much, much stronger.

They're not perfect, but then again... my idea of "perfect" is rarely met, so I think we are safe to say they were fairly good.

I can't stop thinking about my (ex-)physiotherapists words, "If you can't squat, you can't run."

I can squat now, dammit!

I will take it slow, but I swear on heaven and earth... ain't nothin' gonna break my stride!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Inner Knowingness

My house mate, Leah, uses the term “Inner Knowingness” to talk about something that could be described as a cross between intuition and the kind of knowledge or awareness that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book, Blink.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this idea… Inner Knowingness. In the past few years, I have come to trust myself much more than I ever have before. Of course, I’m still human and have a good many flaws… accepting them without hating myself for them is part of the journey, I guess.

I have never thought of myself as being particularly diplomatic. Actually… I can be as stubborn as a mule and as un-gracious as a bull in a china shop. The fact that I know I can be this way – and truth be told, it is my natural tendency – has caused me to try to overcome it in my adulthood… to try and smooth the rough edges and soften my approach.

For a few years, that led to a good deal of dishonesty… I was more willing to be diplomatic than honest, in an effort not to be… abrasive, shall we say.

Then I began to see examples of people around me who could manage to be both… directly honest and yet gentle. It is an approach I decided to try. It meant a few things:

  • Surrendering my need (or desire?) for people to like me.
  • Surrendering my need (or desire?) to “be the good guy”.
  • Having the courage to say what needed to be said.
  • Being motivated by honesty and a desire to “do no harm”, rather than my own emotions. (It’s easy to be “honest” when what you really are is angry… Yet, to set the emotion aside and observe the situation gently and without judgment is a whole other deal.)
  • Committing to being as honest with myself (and about myself) as I am with others.
  • Deciding to accept, without judgment, others’ honest expressions that are also rooted in the idea of “do no harm”
  • Above all else, trusting myself and my “Inner Knowingness”.

Am I this way all the time? Hell, no! Can a person be this way all the time? I think so... but I'm not there yet.

Having said that, you know when something is not right. You know when something needs to be said and is not being said. You know, deep down, when you’re motivated by your own emotions, rather than a desire to be helpful… and “dis-interested” (which is different than not caring).

Most of my friends and family know that can count on me when they ask for an opinion or advice. I tell them what I think, even if I don’t agree with them, or it’s not what they want to hear. Sometimes people get pissed off, but I think it’s more about not getting what they want than anything else.

I have also had to be brutally honest with myself in learning this process… My own commitment to fitness and health has been a good test of that. More than once I have had to say to myself, “Sarah, you need to keep your food and activities in balance… You’re not eating enough…” or on other days, “Sarah, you’re slipping and going back to old eating habits. Get back on track…”

The knee injury has forced (or “invited”?) me to get honest about pain. I hate admitting pain of any kind and yet… until I (fairly recently) started getting in tune with the pain I felt in my knee and leg, I got nowhere with my healing process. Now, things are coming along slowly… but it is sloooow.

I have questioned whether the reality that I hate that I feel pain isn't part of the problem? Maybe learning not to hate it is a key part of the process I just haven't gotten yet -- or only recently started to twig into?

It certainly is a process… learning to trust the Inner Knowingness… Learning to listen honestly and speak without interest or agenda. For me, the quest to get healthy and strong has been a vehicle for me to deepen my understanding in this area, which falls far outside the threshold of any track or gym… and yet… maybe not?