Saturday, March 22, 2014

Too Much? Too Far?

How far is "too far"?  How much is "too much"?  Those are very subjective terms in my opinion.  I mean, really, how to you know how much farther you can go if you don't try to go there?

In training, you have to "over reach" so your body can become stronger.   The real key is knowing when to pull back.  When you continue to push, you will get hurt.  But, if you never push, you won't grow as an athlete.  There has to be a balance.

I like to say the balance is between the body and the mind.  If the body is too much in control, you generally won't push past your limits (setting new limits in the process).  The body will cry "uncle" long before it has really had enough.  Hard training "hurts".  But it's a good hurt.  This used to be very confusing for me (okay, it still is).  I have determined it's because I was out of "balance" for so long I really didn't know how to listen to my body in a healthy way.  I couldn't tell if the pain was a "work out pain" that would go away or an injury pain that was a signal for me to stop what I'm doing.  All I can say about that is if you haven't been in the practice of listening to your body, you will not understand what it's trying to tell you.  It's very much like trying to understand someone else's toddler speak!!

On the other hand, if your mind is too much in control you will generally push your body beyond it's breaking point to injury.  I think this is the result of the above (not listening to/understanding your body).  It's like the swing of a pendulum from one side of the clock to the other.  However, it can also be the result of someone who is trying to beat their body into submission.

I have a friend who is an avid athlete, who was injured (an acute/sudden injury) that required surgery.  That friend knew full well "they" weren't supposed to push "hard" but couldn't resist.  "They" pushed hard and got reinjured with a chronic type injury that can only be solved with a long period of rest.  "They" will not take time off.  "They" are increasing "their" chances of damaging "their" body long term.  And "they" don't care.  (I am certainly NOT "they"...I value my long term health way more than short term training.  Okay, at least slightly more.)

When there is not balance there is either injury, or failure to meet potential.  When you allow your body to be too much in control, you won't "over reach" and push your limits out from where they currently are.  Most people have not met their body's potential.  They have met the limit of their mind, or the limit of their ability to listen to their body complain!  They give in, give up, quit early, stop pushing...settle for less than they are capable of.  I get it.  It's hard, especially when you have let your body dictate your life.  But, "brats" can learn good behavior only through CONSISTENCY.

We have to learn where the fulcrum of this teeter totter is.  It's ironic, a pendulum in a clock has to swing from side to side for the clock to keep time.  This mind/body balance requires a pendulum that is very still in the middle, not swinging from one extreme to the other, in order for us to live healthy for a long time.

It's interesting to me...I have begun to learn what "too far" feels like.  Sometimes, like the other day at PT and the next day in the pool, I ignore it and allow my mind to tell my body "COME ON...IS THAT REALLY ALL YOU'VE GOT?  YOU CAN DO MORE THAN THAT!!!"  My body has developed a pretty strong voice that no longer sounds like a crying bratty toddler.  It sounds more like, "Okay...I'm telling you that's enough, but if you want to push, I'll push back."  I had a VERY MINOR set back in therapy and had to back off a few days.  But, I don't see it as a set back.  I see it as a confirmation.  When I thought to myself, "this feels like too much" and "I probably shouldn't be doing this"...I should have listened.

((Now...I know my mother reads my blog sometimes so I need to tell her, "I'm really fine.  I just pushed a TINY bit much and found a limit.  This is a really good thing, because it teaches me how to listen better.  You KNOW I need that!"))

People keep asking me how I tore my bicep tendon.  If I'm being 100% honest, I have to say it was overuse.  But, I can't help but thinking that it was really the bone spurs that caused the tear with normal's just my normal may not look like someone else's normal.  But, in my defense, there are other people who have a way more extreme normal that makes my normal look like nothing.

No one can answer the question "how far is too far to push your body" for you.  Only your body can answer that question.  And only your mind can hear it.  If you aren't sure which side of the spectrum you are on, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I perpetually injured? (yes...usually a sign your mind is in control)
  • Am I meeting what I believe is my potential (no...usually a sign your body is in control)
If you still aren't sure, read this post about my "bratty body" and see if you can relate.

Until next time...  :D

Sunday, March 16, 2014


I seriously can't remember the last time I was able to get a full night's sleep.   I'm sure it has happened since the surgery, but I can't remember it.  Well...until last night that is!!

I think three factors came into play.  In no particular order they are:

1) I did some "PT" right before I got into bed.  My physical therapist (Todd Hayes at Johnson and Hayes) has told me movement and strength are the things needed to get rid of the pain and get me back to doing the things I want to do.  So, I did some stretches and general movement (basically arm swings) right before I got into bed.

2) We sold the cloud we've been sleeping on.  Four and a half years ago my husband and I bought a new generic memory foam mattress.  It wasn't cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't Tempur-Pedic and it was on the softer side of the spectrum.  I loved it.  It was like sleeping on down.  The problem was that after four and half years, the bed had developed a bit of Alzheimer's (it had no memory).  I never really noticed but my husband, who would probably prefer to sleep on a  ROCK, did.  So last week we ordered a new mattress (a Tempur-Pedic that will allow me to sleep on a cloud and my sweet husband to sleep on a rock).  Yesterday, we sold the dementia plagued puff box.  We were going to sleep on the guest bed, but it is currently covered with yard sale stuff.  Instead we pulled out the air mattress.  It's a nice one and was considerably more firm than the cloud.  I don't know if the firmness of the sleeping surface had anything to do with the quality of my sleep, but it was a change, so it made the list.

And, last, but certainly not least...

3) I slept with a pillow under my arm.  A friend of mine who had shoulder surgery last year told me that's what she does to keep from waking up in pain.  (Her procedure was different, but I think the reason it's hurting now is just stiffness in the joint, which would be the same for both of us.)  I don't exactly understand the physiology behind why that would work, except that it's probably like the pillow in the sling I was chained to for eight weeks; it just puts space in the socket.  (That's a guess.)

I'm aware this is an ad for alcohol, and their meaning is not mine, but challenge is the fertilizer of a great life!!  We remember the bumps in the road, not the smooth sailing!!
I did actually wake up three times in the night.  (I think that was all my better half's "fault".)  However, instead of being in tremendous pain (as usual), I was able to go back to sleep two of the three times and only got up the third time because it was legitimately MORNING!!!!!  The sun was coming up and everything!!!  GLORIOUS MORNING!!!

To make things even better, it didn't take nearly as long this morning to get down to a comfortable level of discomfort.  Most mornings I am convinced that I should either call the dr as soon as their office opens, or maybe just start driving to Birmingham right then, because something has gone terribly WRONG.  You would think I would be used to the routine by now, but I am an "in-the-moment" kind of gal (in case you didn't know that already!).

Speaking of "in-the-moment"...Thursday I had a moment that caught me completely off guard.  I was sitting at lunch and my friend asked me how my shoulder was doing and I realized that not only did it not hurt right then, I didn't even NOTICE it...I wasn't even AWARE of it...I couldn't even FEEL it!!!  It was GLORIOUS to feel like a normal person after a year and a half of being in a continuum of "aware of it" up to "wow that hurts so bad I think I want it cut off to stop the pain!".    (I wish I was kidding...)

I think it will be a long while before I'm not aware of it more than I am on the other 99% of the spectrum, but for now I'll take sleeping through the night!!

Until next time...  :D

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Swimming-Just Like Riding a Bike

Photo credit:  Olivia Locher; found HERE

A week ago Monday I was cleared by the doctor to do "anything I want".  I know, he then had to go and add "within reason" but my mind heard "anything I want" and replays it over and over again.  I'm having to very consciously protect myself against the big bad wolf.  On Monday I was telling some athletes from my Spin class about what I had done since being cleared; one of them looked at me and rolled her eyes saying, "and you call that reasonable?" (or something to that effect).  It made me stop and think for a minute.  Well...yes...I think so.

You're wondering now what I have done, aren't you?  (If not, skip this paragraph!)  Wednesday I taught Spin for an hour long (fairly tough) class and did PT (stretching and about 75 minutes of upper body work).  Thursday I taught a 45 minute (not so tough) Spin class and did about 40ish minutes upper body strength training.  Friday I taught a 45 minute Spin class (I'd call it fairly tough) and did PT.  Saturday I ran/walked 3.5 miles (run 5 walk 1) and did some of my PT stretches.  Sunday I ONLY did at home PT stuff (not as much upper body strength).  Monday I taught Spin class (I'd call it moderately tough) and did PT (including 75ish minutes of upper body strength).  Then Yesterday


I'm pretty sure that was the first time in the water since IMLT!!  ((I could be wrong about that, but I'm almost certain.))  I was really nervous about going.  My daughter was laughing at me and said, "okay, just tell the lifeguards to watch you closely since you haven't swam since your IRONMAN".  That made me laugh at myself.  Swimming is like riding a's not like I would have forgotten how!

However, I knew it wasn't going to be totally great when I had a lot of trouble even doing the dynamic warm up.  I was shocked at the difference in the left shoulder/arm.  The really good news is that when I got in and started swimming, other than the pain it felt really good to be back in the water.  My form wasn't 100% spot on, but it really was like riding a bike.  My body got right into the catch/pull groove.  Even better, I haven't lost a lot of speed.  Endurance is nonexistent, but that's to be expected.  I think the best news is that I don't think I feel any more pain today than usual!!

On tap for today is Spin and PT.  Tomorrow is Spin and possibly another swim!  I don't think that's unreasonable at all.

Until next time.  :D

*Did you know it's apparently illegal to ride a bike in a swimming pool in California?!  I found that out here when I was searching for a picture to use for this post.  By the way, the picture used is copy written by Olivia Locher.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Glorious SWEAT!!!

I remember when I made the realization that I'm not a non-sweating hard worker like I had always thought.  When I work hard I SWEAT.  I don't perspire.  I don't glisten.  I pour sweat out of what feels like every pour in my body!  When I finish a work out, I have to hang my clothes to dry before I can put them in the "funky clothes" pile (AKA the bathtub).

Ever since shoulder surgery I haven't been allowed to work out (other than PT and that hasn't made me produce wetness).   That constraint came to a halt at my last doctor appointment!!  (You know the one where he told me I could do "anything I want"!)  So yesterday I got to put on an actual SPORTS BRA and workout clothes (spin shorts) for a REASON and hit the gym.

I was teaching Spin and to say I was nervous would be an understatement.  I wasn't sure what kind of
shape I'd be in after two full months completely off.  Would my butt hurt like a new comer?  Would I be able to spin and talk at the same time?  Would my legs revolt and give out part way into class?  I didn't want to teach an easy class, but the beauty of Spin class is that you are in control of your own bike.  You determine RPMs and resistance.  But, I didn't want to make it easy...and besides a good bit of the class I was teaching was standing and you have to put enough resistance on the wheel to stand safely.  (I could have moved it up and down, but I didn't WANT to need to do that!)

And...I DIDN'T!!  I'm not going to was a mental challenge, but I DID IT!!  And, I poured SWEAT!!!  I was soaked when I got done.  And, I LOVED IT!!!

To make it even better, it was almost a two shower day!  After Spin I showered and ran errands before going to PT later in the afternoon.  I knew I was going to get to work harder so I wore a clean/dry sport bra and workout shirt (something I haven't had to do in the last eight weeks), but decided to wear blue jeans since I was just working my upper body.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I was actually sweating!!!  I wasn't dripping, but I was certainly showing the beginning of a glisten!!

Up for today--teaching another Spin class and at home PT.

I am laying down some bricks!!!

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I'll Huff and I'll Puff and I'll Blow Your House Down

We all know the story of the Three Little Pigs.  The first pig builds his house of straw; the wolf comes and blows it down.  The second builds his house of twigs; the wolf comes and blows it down.  The third builds his house of bricks; the wolf comes in through the chimney.

When I started running, I basically built my running fitness out of straw.  I didn't have a foundation and the "walls" were very weak. Consequently, I ended up getting hurt.    After taking five weeks off, I was able to run again.  I talked about strength training quite a bit, but I really didn't know what to do at the time so I "built my house out of sticks" and simply added biking and swimming to my running.  I thought I was doing well to add yoga to the mix.

Quite a while later I had a little issue with my knee.  (Can you hear the "WHOOSH" sound of the big bad wolf's hot air?)  After the requisite five weeks off, I came back strong at Wet Dog, moving right back into a house of sticks!!

Then this issue hit with my shoulder in September 2012.  Fifteen months worth of issue.  If you've followed my blog for long, you'll know I had surgery January 2014.  Unfortunately, it wasn't five weeks off this time, it was EIGHT.

From the time I was told I needed surgery until yesterday I was making plans about "building my house of bricks" when the time came.  I was thinking through how I wasn't going to start running/biking/swimming right out of the gate.  I was going to work on general strength--core, arms, legs, even respiratory muscles!  No more big bad wolf for me.  Strong foundation and strong walls, that was the plan.

Until I heard, "you can do what ever you WANT to!"

WANT!  What I want is to race McKay Hollow on March 22nd.  I want to start training for another IronMan.  I want to get out on my bike.  That's like when my husband says "what do you WANT to eat?"  What I WANT is pizza, ice cream, Mexican, lasagna, Kit Kat, Nutty Bars...and the list goes on.  I don't WANT salad and grilled chicken.

Pig number one and number two WANTED to have fun.  They wanted to play all day.  They didn't WANT to take the time to build a solid foundation and solid walls.  And...clearly they weren't thinking about the big bad wolf!  Pig number three however took the time on the front end to prepare a good footing.  He properly stacked brick and mortar, and obviously put in a sizable fireplace because when the big bad wolf couldn't blow number three's house down, that wolf ended up in a soup pot!!

I'm not saying I won't be running/swimming/Spinning*, but I can say I will be doing so sparingly while I work on my masonry skills!  I'd rather have wolf soup than be forced to take five or eight (or more) weeks off again!!

Until next time....  :D

(*My surgeon said Spin is okay but no biking right now.)

FREE AT LAST!! (...within reason)

I know it's a bit melodramatic, but have you met me??

I went to the doctor yesterday and his exact words were, "you can do what ever you want to now!"  (That wasn't my surgeon, it was a Fellow who was working with him.)  As soon as he saw the elation on my face, he back pedaled a little bit and had to go and add the words, "within reason".

Two little words--such huge impact.  I mean, really, what does that mean anyway?  My "within reason" probably looks very compared to someone whose only activity is surfing the web.