Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Brief update (nothing to do with pants)

The last week has gone pretty well.

It took me until Thursday to truly get back into the swing of things. For the first few days the intentions were good and I managed 3 trips to the gym but I tended to lapse with food either because I was out with work or because I'd eaten too little during the day.

Since Thursday I've been spot on and have also been slowly upping the cardio element at the gym. I'm now starting off with 35 minutes on the Concept2 then do 35 - 40 on the cross trainer. Its not running but I'm hoping its enough to maintain stamina.

On the running front advice was to drop the running for ten days and temporarily wear heel lifts to allow the tendon to heal more easily. It also means I've had to drop the habit of wearing flip flops or being bare feet a good deal of the time. The lifts and ban on being barefoot lasts for 4 weeks.

This advice came from a podiatrist I went to see. His view was that the switch in shoes was too sudden and almost certainly was the cause of the problems. He couldn't see any issues with regards to range of motion, leg length discrepancy or similar and said that I would be a natural mid-foot striker with a fairly rigid foot (sometimes incorrectly described as a supinator) and that I should always avoid any sort of support shoe. Ironic that in years gone by 'specialist' running shops have advised me to go for support and even motion control shoes.

So, fairly happy but there's a challenge the next few days in that I'm staying away tonight (therefore evening meal in the restaurant and cooked breakfast to contend with) and then Sue and the kids are away for two nights following that. I'm also hardly at home between now and Thursday evening and have an awful lot of work to fit in between. Today's train journey may afford some time to work out some strategies to meet those challenges.

Sometimes I cope really well with the temptations of being away but other times I fail spectacularly. What do others do?

Monday, 15 August 2011

2 weeks in Barbados?

Sorry, I haven't been around for a few weeks.

Initially this was because everything was going along swimmingly. After the 1 mile run I did as the physio had advised and did runs on alternate days of 2, 3, 4, 5 and then 6 miles. All without any noticeable increase in stiffness/pain in the achilles. Sure, the runs felt shockingly hard - I described the 5 mile run as feeling more like a 20 mile run by the end - but the fitness was returning as I could see my heart rate dropping with each run despite the increases in distance. In addition I was eating very well, seeing (unreported but notable) changes in weight, resting heart rate and body composition and was at the gym probably 5 days out of 6.

Then, on the 29th I finished work to begin 2 weeks off.

We can't afford to go anywhere again this year so I knew it would be 2 weeks at home but I had a loose idea of how I expected it to be: sunny with days spent by the outdoor pool at the gym, nice walks in the dales, the odd meal out, maybe day trips to York or the east coast, lots of exercise, some nice little runs. It would still be relaxing, rejuvenating and healthy.

It started well. Over the first weekend I went to the gym twice and did an hour on the cross trainer with each visit as well as doing another 6 mile run on the Sunday and some weights. Two days earlier the physio had 'discharged' me on the basis the achilles was steadily improving. Weather wise there were a few brief sunny interludes amongst the light greyness.

On the Monday I did a shorter gym session then had a rest day on the Tuesday. I went to the library and got 4 new books (yes - a trip to the library really was a highlight of my 'holiday'). Also on Tuesday I had an hour or so sat in the intermittent hazy sunshine by the pool before the rain started.

I ran again on Wednesday first thing though I cut it back to 5 miles as I seemed to have a hint more soreness on Monday and Tuesday. The weather that day was dull, gloomy and grey and my mood followed its lead. I spent most of the day lying on the bed reading.

Thursday wasn't much better in weather, mood or activity and this wasn't helped by by achilles feeling sore once again - which worried me and pulled my mood down further.

On Friday I got up and decided to cut the run to 4 miles as a gesture to the previous day's pain but as soon as I set off everything ached and my achilles had me hobbling. I stopped after about 20 metres; went home and went back to bed.

I felt really depressed and whilst Sue and the girls spent the day by the pool (with the sun making a brief appearance in the afternoon) I wallowed in my pit thinking about injury, weight (my diet absolutely fell apart as soon as the weather/mood changed) and the fact that I was half way through the annual 'big' 'holiday' and the weather had been poor, we'd been nowhere, I hadn't been more than 3 miles from home and the resumption of running had been snatched away. I felt like the previous week had been a waste of holiday and a waste of time.

Although the weather remained overcast and dull I picked up a little by the Saturday afternoon, chiefly because we'd collected a dog that we are looking after for 2 weeks. I took him for a couple of walks and that helped lift my mood. I confess I was quite excited as I'd never walked a dog before! I always wanted a dog as a kid but my parents wouldn't let me have anything other than a budgie! Sue always had cats.

Unfortunately the lift was short lived and the next 5 days saw wet, windy, dark days that mirrored my mood. My abstention from the gym continued, as did my comfort eating of all things sweet, sugary and fatty. Gradually my legs/achilles felt better but I didn't try to run and still spent most of the days lazing around reading. Aside from trips to the supermarket I didn't leave the house. I didn't feel at all rested or de-stressed from work and the feeling that this was a complete waste of my 'holiday' pervaded - the fact that the weather had been the worst of an already disappointing summer and that this would prevent trips out somehow felt preordained.

For some reason things changed on Friday. I think I just felt that whilst the fortnight had largely been a waste I at least wanted to end on a high of some sort. It was still grey and it was still intermittently wet but we made a packed lunch and all headed off about 20 minutes north to do a short walk through/around some forest.

For the rest of the family it wasn't a success. Sue doesn't like walking through forests at the best of times and after all the rain it was incredibly muddy which had Sue and Bethan moaning most of the way around. This probably wasn't helped by the absence of signs in the forest and there being far more trails than those marked on the map (but we only got lost once and briefly at that) and Bethan having lots of pain from wearing boots that were too small.

For me though it was good. I do like forests, especially densely packed ones. There's something about them appeals to my psyche - they're dark but there's still a soft light, they're still, completely quiet, peaceful, dry. In them I feel hidden and safe. How about that for a window onto my state of mind? I also like mud and as we walked I thought how nice it would be to run there.

When we got home I quickly showered and zipped over to Bradford to get a new ( and far larger) pair of trail shorts, then we all went out for a huge Indian meal which everyone really enjoyed.

On Saturday morning I proposed to the family that if we walked on both days at the weekend we could go out for a similar meal on Sunday (so my fortnight ended on a high). Unfortunately Bethan raised objections but a trip to Go Outdoors to get her some new boots (her feet have suddenly grown a size and a half unbeknown to us) did the trick and we went out to Nidderdale for a pleasant 6 miles. Even the sun put in an appearance mid-way round leaving me with a burned head!

Yesterday probably got better still. I was up just after seven AM and went back to the scene of Friday's walk - this time with my new shorts and trail shoes! It was only 4 muddy miles and I did get lost several times on dark forest trails but after the first half mile the achilles felt fine. When I got in I changed and went to the gym for the first time in nearly 10 days. After that we did another 6 mile walk, this time near Grassington, before another excellent meal.

Today the achilles feels OK. Nothing too bad. I seem to have put on 8.8 pounds in 16 days (all that I'd lost in the preceding 2 weeks) but I hope a little of that is just water/food from last night's meal out. The return to work and routine will hopefully allow me to get back to the pre-holiday health routine.