Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Its coming down like stair rods...

...and the sky is the colour of slate. Really mixed weather - an hour ago there was a thunderstorm and 10 minutes ago it was sunshine and white cloud. Should add some variety to tonight's run anyway!

Physio appointment last week brought good news. Firstly I seem to be a little less tight and a little stronger, secondly I am doing the exercises properly (though there are a couple I could sharpen up by slowing down) and finally my aims of a 'racing season' in the autumn should be achievable without too great a risk of injury.

Carrying on with the same exercises and with the addition of 3 more for the next 3 weeks then its back again. Running wise I still should try to stick to the 5.5 mile limit, at no great pace and not on muddy trails but the physio did say I'd be ok to start going out on club runs again - as long as I run with one of the slower groups at first just to limit distance.

And that's where I'll be tonight. In the rain!

The runs for the last week have been fine except for last Friday's fall. I'd never fell while running until earlier this year when I slipped on a rock but I've now doubled my tally.

I went out in road shoes, not really appreciating how wet the towpath was from a couple of days of rain but fortunately also wore a long sleeved top. At one section of path there are a number of pieces of brick/hardcore poking through and somehow I very slightly caught the toe of my right foot on one and went hurtling forward. It seems I tried to land on the inside of my left instep and fell onto my right side - leaving some slight scratching to my calf and hands, bruising to the thigh and left big toe and a bloody lump just below my right elbow - all hidden by mud until the post run shower. Funnily enough I didn't feel a thing until I got back into the car a mile later (at the time I was more annoyed that I hadn't thought to immediately pause the Garmin!) but it did break my rhythm for that last mile.

Beyond that I did 10k on the Concept 2 on Saturday (as well as a bit on the cross trainer) and then did another canal side 5.5 miles on Sunday followed by the latest Dales walk - Kettlewell to Starbotton and back via a climb up Cam head - about 6 miles.

Weight still fluctuates within the week but is generally falling - 2lb off last week overall. Definitely feel and look better for that.

Its still chucking it down though...

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I smell bacon

Yesterday I had a binge and this morning the tempting smell of other people's bacon cooking is wafting up from the kitchen.

Sounds terrible huh?

Its not so bad.

After 4 weeks of pretty much universally clean eating the bacon doesn't have too much effect on me and whilst last night I went overboard (a bowl of all bran, 2 wholewheat granary bagels and 2 bowls of granola, nuts, yoghurt and dried fruit) it wasn't anything like the chocolate and toast centred mini binges of the past. This morning's weigh in may be a bit on the high side due to 'food in transit' but by tomorrow it'll all be gone.

Weight loss wise things have slowed a little. Week one gave the huge loss of over half a stone, week two over 2lb, week three a fraction under 2lb and week four just over 1lb. I'm happy with that. I certainly look noticeably slimmer and clothes are looser. To some extent that's what its all about but I do want to lose 'weight' too - purely for the running times. I'm relaxed enough to feel I'm very much on the right track and it'll all happen in time though.

Running wise I've been sticking to the physio's limit of 5.5 miles, and no muddy trails but if anything I've been a little less frequent than her limits. I ran the day of the appointment on the 11th and 4 more times since. I'll also go out later today. The runs themselves have felt pretty good - no great advance in pace but I'm increasingly feeling comfortable with faster pace (if that makes sense?).

They don't seem to have caused any major pain either. I tend to be a bit sore afterwards but that has pretty much gone by the following day.

I've also been to the gym fairly regularly and have started to row again as a supplement to the cross trainer. I used to use the rowing machine a fair bit and actually owned a Concept 2 for a couple of years until 2005 but haven't done anything since. Again, it feels like progress - I'm doing something 'new' and pain free and its noticeably easier now than it was 10 days ago.

The physio's exercises have been mixed. There's one that I can't do - it requires a step I just don't have and there are a couple of others where I'm not certain that I'm doing them right as they feel strangely easy. I've missed 2 days where I should have done exercises but work/life got in the way - or more accurately I've allowed work or life to get in the way - but overall they have got easier and I've tried to add in elements of them to runs or walking (such as clenching glutes and core as I go) and doing some supplementary exercises I've found or have been told about on a few days. I feel like I'm a little stronger.

Its back to the physio tomorrow and I'll have a number of questions - what's the long term plan and prognosis, am I doing the exercises right, should I be feeling any pain during or post run, exactly when should I feel the correct muscles fire and does clenching them while active actually help? She's going to love treating me!

Lastly, we've also been walking in the Dales the last 3 Sundays. Nothing too arduous but enough to add a bit of variety to the exercise regime.

Last Sunday was climbing up Pen-y-ghent, which was surprisingly easy to climb (as in my legs felt no great challenge) but a bit hairy in the last bit when you literally climb on hands and feet up the last hundred metres of steep, wet, and occasionally loose stone with a significant drop behind you, all the time buffeted by quite a strong wind.

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Mary Whitehouse philosophy AKA Keeping it clean

I said the weight loss was under way again and that I'd update soon didn't I?

Well, with my customary efficiency here's the update...er...several days later.

Without running to give me structure and discipline I'd been struggling not to gain weight again. Since October my weight had gone up through missing the expenditure of calories running gave and through the wallowing in chocolate fuelled self pity.

That maybe gives an insight into my character: one of all or nothing. Once running was off the agenda I went to pieces, and without some new philosophy to throw myself into I struggled to stick to doing the same old thing in terms of calorie control. Remember that, I'll return to it lower down.

I'd heard loosely about clean eating and was aware there were some adherents on weightlossresources.co.uk that had had some really impressive results - see JAG's blog from the followers list (I know, if I wasn't a Luddite and/or lazy I'd have linked to it) - but the wholesome white picket fences, bleached teeth and apple pie on Sundays American-ness of the presentation of cleaning eating websites put me off looking further.

Towards the end of February I decided to look a little more and on the back of that ordered a clean eating recipe book and 'Clean Eating for Men'. They weren't difficult books to read and the principles could probably have been covered in a few pages rather than being wrapped up within the schmaltzy overblown presentation present in the second book, though I recognise the author has a living to make and books will make far more than pamphlets.

However, the core principles were something that appealed and I decide to give it a go - if nothing else as a kick start for a few weeks.

I immediately loved it. The recipes proved to be really, really good and got me using some new ingredients as well as creating some interesting new dishes. The eating 6 smaller meals a day proved easier to accomplish than I'd expected and meant I never felt hungry; in fact I seemed to be permanently in a state of having either just finished a meal or was just about to start one.

As well as the regularity of eating changing there was also the requirement to increase the amount of protein eaten as well as an avoidance of processed foods wherever possible. This meant eating more fruit (dried and fresh) than I normally would, nuts and seeds, wholemeal granary bread and brown rice rather than their refined alternatives, lots of unadorned cereals, lots of lean meat, lots of peanut butter instead of spreads etc.

In fact one really surprising feature was that many of the clean, wholesome foods I've been eating lately are exactly the sorts of things I'd have previously avoided because their calorie count seemed too high: dried fruit, peanut butter, lean meat. Instead I'd have had low fat crisps, weight watchers 'cookies', diet pop and squash, awful tasting 'diet' spreads, lower calorie sweets etc, none of which offered much nutritional value or proved very satisfying.

Having been struggling to sleep for a few weeks I also dropped tea and coffee at the same time, so I'm caffeine free now.

So, for the last two and a half weeks I've eaten 95% clean, with the other 5% being a Horlicks light or Ovaltine light as a late evening snack most days.

The results have been impressive. Firstly its enthused me, second its got me feeling better, thirdly I'm sleeping better, fourth my overall health seems better, and finally I've lost weight well:

After a week I'd lost exactly 8lb and the body composition measurements told me virtually all of it was fat. Second week the loss dropped to 2.4lb, again virtually all fat, and after 3 days of this week its down another 0.4lb but I suspect I'll see a sudden drop over the next 2 days. Clothes are markedly looser and I look far slimmer.

Remember I said I was all or nothing, in terms of character? Well, far from a kick start I can see myself sticking to a clean eating philosophy permanently. There will doubtless be days where I won't or maybe can't stick to it entirely but I'll work round those but sweets, chocolate, biscuits and the like feel like things I can happily move to the 'no thanks, I don't' list just as I did with alcohol.

The verdict

I did 2 more runs before going to the consultant: 8 miles on Saturday and 9 miles on Monday, sandwiching a walk in the dales and an hour in the gym on Sunday. No major ill effects from any of it. In fact, not much impact from the 9 miles (or 31 miles in the 7 days before the consultant appointment) at all.

The appointment itself was relatively uneventful - no need for scans, a basic Q&A on symptoms and a less unpleasant than I expected inversion of my scrotum! In and out within 10 minutes - which equated to about £20 a minute. Nice work if you can get it.

Consultant's view was that it was a sportsman's hernia but that it wasn't yet bad enough to require surgery so he referred me to another physio in the hope of correcting it that way. He said he didn't know the physio who had initially treated me but recommended me to one that he used "when I want it doing properly".

Managed to get a swift appointment and spent an hour at the physios yesterday morning. I've got to say she was excellent. She was experienced in the condition, clearly understood biomechanics in relation to sport and was the first person to truly explain what she found and what the impact would be.

First half hour was spent in assessing muscular imbalances, comparative leg length, checking for flexibility or tightness and so on. After 10 minutes I thought I was fit for the knackers yard: my glutes didn't readily fire (especially the left), my glutes were relatively weak compared to related muscle groups, I had tightness in the left hip, core muscles could be stronger, and my left side was generally far weaker than the right.

Having said all that in some areas I had excellent flexibility and good muscle length - just that this was juxtaposed with areas of weakness and tightness.

All this meant I was recruiting the adductors and muscles around the groin, especially on the left, far more than I should and that was causing the problem - they were being asked to do the work of bigger muscles. This was seemingly triggered by the change in running gait with the toe off point now being behind my centre line (though in fairness to Chi running it does say posture is vital, including fully engaging the core, and I hadn't really done anything other than speed up the leg turnover).

The physio's view is that I'm ok to carry on running but must have a day off in between runs and go no further than 5/5.5 miles for now as she doesn't feel injury wise that I'm strong enough to do more. I also need to stay away from twisty trails or mud under foot.

Looks like I need to go back fortnightly and will move through a plan to get the correct muscles operating, strengthen them, and stretch them, starting with static exercises before moving on to running based ones as, again, she feels I'm not yet strong enough to do more without risk of aggravating the injury.

The exercises I have are fairly tough. The piriformis stretch is painful, another difficult to tell if I'm doing correctly and collectively they all left me feeling quite sore in the left groin by yesterday evening.

I also did a 5.3 mile run along the canal that was quite brisk compared to those I'd done in the previous days, so I do feel my running is starting to come back.

Overall - pretty optimistic.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Probably worth me noting down the weight changes over the last few months and most importantly giving myself a record of how they made me feel.

Back in early October I was a fraction under eleven and a half stones but after a month off from watching what I ate, and to a large extent running, I'd put a stone on. Early November to early December arrested the progress and I managed to lose 4lbs but switching off again for Christmas meant I hit the new year comfortably over 13 stones. January was hit and miss (mainly miss) and by the time I got into the second half of February I peaked at 13st 8.6lbs - over 2 stones heavier than the autumn.

Aside from the numbers on the scales, what were the results?

- Most of my clothes no longer fitted, so I had a pretty restricted wardrobe
- I had to spend about £100 on 'temporary' clothes
- If I looked in the mirror I saw belly, love handles, fat legs
- I also saw a disappearing face and hated it
- I was low on energy
- I didn't feel flexible or athletic
- I'd started to plod up stairs rather than run
- I was subconsciously looking for ways to take the easy way i.e. car
- I felt embarrassed to meet people that I hadn't seen for a couple of months and tried to avoid it
- I felt embarrassed to talk about myself as a runner as I felt I no longer looked like one
- I felt pretty low

Good eh?

You might think seeing and feeling that way would have jolted me into action but it was almost the opposite. I couldn't run, I was worried about needing an op, frustrated that I wasn't getting the problem diagnosed quickly let alone addressed, felt bad at the effects of the weight gain etc. Add to that the usual worries and winter and it wasn't easy.

Whilst I'd have a day or days where I stuck to my weight loss calories I was just as likely to have a day where I ate badly and then compounded it with 5/6 chocolate bars and a big bag of sweets, even though I'd reached the point in early January that I was absolutely sick of them.

I'd provide enough material for a psychologists conference.

Still, I turned a corner towards the end of February. More on that later.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Injury update - running again

Well, its a sort of injury update anyway!

I had an ultrasound scan in January but all that showed up was that I didn't have an inguinal hernia, which I pretty much knew anyway, and my groin remained sore.

Once the icy weather passed (we had thick snow on the ground from 15th December to 17th January constantly) everything settled down with the pain largely gone, though I wasn't doing any running.

I had managed to get a temporary gym membership which helped me start to get back into the exercise routine by sticking to the cross trainer and avoiding irritation but its really not the same appeal as getting out running somewhere - despite the increased opportunities to stare at the lycra clad bootys of attractive lasses.

I digress.

Once the scan's results were collected the GP referred me to an NHS physio. The guy I saw was great and genuinely wanted to help but the intervention of the pysio team seems to be mainly a way of delaying people joining the very long queue to see a consultant and he advised me that it would be late May before I'd get an appointment.

He couldn't confirm Gilmore's Groin but accepted that I showed the symptoms and also felt that I possibly had an accompanying adductor tendonopathy and attempted to treat the latter with some simple exercises. After a few days these restored some flexibility and didn't aggravate anything too much so I was advised to try running.

I managed two easy paced 4 mile runs which gave mixed results. On the one hand they felt really hard work (like a 10 mile race) and my quads were sore for a couple of days after; but on the other they didn't give a terrible response pain wise and at least I was running!

That meant alot. For pretty much 3 months I'd felt a fraud describing myself as a runner or seeing others out running, and to actually get out there again was fantastic.

The physio suggested I try to run 'as normal' and see whether the problems were fading away or if they would come back once I ran more typical mileages or with greater regularity. I felt hopeful.

I couldn't test that hope for another week as a virus/ear infection/sinusitis left me struggling to sleep and feeling really rotten. Once that was over I started again and in the last 8 days have ran every other day doing 4 miles, 5.25 miles, 6 miles and 7 miles.

Unfortunately, since after the 5.25 and particularly the 6 mile run I've felt rather more sore and I'd expect that to get worse the longer I carried on and especially as speed and distances increased.

Looks like I'll need the op. I'm generally getting to grips with that idea (despite spending the last couple of months petrified at the prospect of a general anaesthetic) and now my only worry is that the op wont work as there only seems to be a 90% success rate.

Still, I've dilligently (or anallly depending on your view point) typed up my own full 'case history' and I'm off to see a consultant privately on Tuesday.

I'll run twice more ahead of then and will keep you posted!