Re-learning how to run – AGAIN

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Some of you may not find running once a week (or more) in 2018 impressive, especially since my max has been 5k. For me, it’s been a show of strength, both physically and emotionally.

Until grade 8, I thought I wasn’t an athlete. I had been told by classmates for too many years that since I had asthma, I couldn’t do sports. No teacher built up my confidence about team sports, so I still avoid them. School also doesn’t support the types of athleticism I loved (ballet, downhill skiing, and outdoor sports like hiking and canoeing).

In grade 8, my gym teacher looked at me and said, “Janessa, you can run.” So I did.

Every gym class in the spring we did laps outside, and I kept up with the boys who were in competitive soccer. It was the best feeling, especially when I won 400m or 800m sprints. In grade 9, I got to try hurdles. It felt like I was flying. From then on, whenever I’d be stressed, Mom would tell me to put my running shoes on, and I got that runner’s high. It was the first time that I was proud of my “thicc” legs. I began to regularly run 5ks, and loved it.

When I was 19, I was an idiot and slipped my L4-L5 disc lifting canoes. Since then I spent hours doing physio, crying, gained weight, went through a severe depression, and lost running- one of my favourite ways to de-stress. I had an amazing physiotherapist during my undergrad, who focused on getting me strong enough to re-learn how to run, but I didn’t take it to heart. I would skip working on core, and every time I’d run, I’d cry. I wasn’t running as fast or as hard as I wanted to, and some days I’d get 2k in and my back would hurt.

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I stopped for a long time, and focused on powerlifting. During my first year of my Master’s program, I realized that I was lacking in core strength that was preventing me from getting my lifts heavier. I started researching what was the best for core strength for powerlifters, and got strong at that. No more low-back pain.

I had a single, scary thought in fall 2017.

I wanted to run again.

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I set myself a goal of re-learning how to run in 2018. I had to run at least once a week, even if it was -20*C outside, no matter what distance worked for me. I also signed up for a MEC fun run April 15.

Progress was slow. I ran 7km/h, it took me weeks to get up to 5 k, and I still can’t run 5k unbroken. I didn’t get that joy when I put my running shoes on, it was just to prepare myself for the race, and because I wanted that runner’s identity back.

Things changed on April 7 when I decided that instead of running a 5k, I wanted to do sprints. They were hard. It hurt so much the next day. Bu

 I felt like I was flying again. I cried on the jog home.

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The next Tuesday, April 10, I went for a lunchtime 5k. I ran 2.5k unbroken, faster than 6km/h. I enjoyed it.

Today, Sunday, April 15, Nic and I ran a 5k MEC Race. It was very, very windy and cold, but it was my first time running 5k unbroken in years. I’m super proud that I did it in 29 minutes, and can’t wait to get down to 25min. I definitely thought I was going to pass out the last km, so I’m very thankful that Nic ran beside me the whole way to keep me going faster, and kept encouraging me. (Sorry you didn’t get a great time 😉 )

Tips for re-learning a sport:

  • You might not be the same athlete you were before your injury. That’s okay. You probably don’t even remember how hard it was to get to the level you were before. You have a second chance to be good at the sport, with more information about how to do it safely. Be humble about it. We all start somewhere.
  • Never stop your physio. Ever. Incorporate it as much as possible. I have to do core bracing, so I do that as I’m going to sleep. I make sure that my core exercises are at the end of every powerlifting session.
  • Warm up properly. I have some weird stretches to do before my lifting sessions, and that’s great. Don’t be embarrassed. My only excuse is when I’m panicked to find a squat rack 😉
  • Surround yourself with knowledgeable people. My chiropractor knows what’s wrong with me right away, and is a runner, so she has lots of great suggestions.  Ask lots of questions of people who are better at the sport than you are. I send my lifting videos to a friend, and post them on my public Instagram.
  •  Take time to recover, and vary your activities and intensities. While I was training for this race, I’d run home 5k at a slower pace, and do 2.5-3.5k runs at a faster pace. I also train at the gym 4 days a week, so my legs can get banged up. Lots of epsom salt baths, yoga, and foam rolling. When you’re starting over you need to make sure you take care of yourself.

Good luck!

We can do it!!

The past month for my back injury – rehabbing all over again

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or know me personally, you know that I’ve been struggling with a back injury for about 4 years. It comes and goes, and right now, it’s gone. I had been doing really well since the summer, and had even gotten to my goal of deadlifting 105lbs by December 1st, something I thought would be near to impossible for me to do.
Turns out, I was probably right. Since then, my back has been pretty bad. Some days I just lay in bed with my electric heating pad, and the days I worked I had to sit down at the front desk and drug myself on Aleve.

Just looking at this picture of what I carry in my gym bag makes me sad. I wish I got to do that again.

I’ve had a lot of baths recently which always helps calm me down, relax my back, and prep for some gentle yoga. I’ve also been using the heck out of my foam roller and softball to get at the knots. 
I really want to feel better soon, my energy gets so low when I don’t get to do physical activity. Monday afternoon I plan on going to my gym’s yoga class, hopefully it’ll be good for me. I need some endorphins up in here. 
The next steps for me will be lots of healing yoga to bring back some strength and movement, and then once I’m ready for weights again, work on my physical strength, not going for numbers like lowering my body fat percentage or how heavy I can squat or deadlift. 

Living with a Back Injury

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A few years ago I “slipped” a disc in my lower back, or lumbar spine. I was lifting canoes at my summer camp, by myself, thinking I was “all that” for being strong enough to solo the canoes. Unfortunately, I bulged the disc between my L4-L5. For weeks I couldn’t move well, and for a couple years I wasn’t allowed to play sports or do much physical activity. I put on some weight, and wasn’t very happy.  I find joy in being physically active and seeing how far I can push my body- I had pushed too hard, and in the wrong way.

I took my physiotherapy more seriously, and this past year went to the gym a lot to ensure that I was building strength in the areas I had been missing before. I’ve been feeling really great, and am so proud to say that I am so much stronger than I was before the injury.

Every once in a while, I get a flare-up, and until you’ve hurt your back, you don’t know how bad it is. In case you have injured your back in some way, I have some tips here on how to calm your back and maintain the health.

1) Gentle stretches and yoga
If I’m in a flare-up, there’s not much I can do with my body. I revert back to the smallest physio exercises I have been given over the years (generally really small cobra push-ups) so that I maintain some movement in my back.
I like to find videos on YouTube geared towards lower back injuries, because the instructors often give you ways to edit your regular practice for those tight spots. I’ve included this awesome video from Yoga By Adriene. I discovered her through this specific video, and have loved taking her wisdom to the rest of my practice: doing flat-back during Sun Salutations? I’m keeping my knees real bent so that I don’t flex my back unnecessarily.
Hopefully you’re seeing a physiotherapist who has been able to discover how your injury is related to your other muscles. Often my butt and the fronts of my hips tighten up, which stresses out my lower back. When I do low lunges, that helps give my back space.

Yoga setup in the living room

 I love how calming our living room is. The apartment is so light and bright, and having that peaceful place to recover and do my physio.

My ASUS laptop and a fresh smoothie for this morning’s practice
YouTube Workout Tip: I like to know how much time is left on the videos, so I always put it on “cinema” mode, that way it’s large, but you still see the time listed at the bottom. Yeah, I got lots of motivation. 
2) Medications
I love Aleve. It really relaxes my back. Obviously I limit how much I take it, but when I’m in pain, that baby fixes it. 

3) Bathtime!
I do like to take baths to relax, and as long as you have a good setup for your injury, they’re great to make your muscles calm down. I also like to use those heated electric pads times when I don’t want to get in the bath.
Bath essentials
My baths aren’t that long, but I do make sure I have epsom salts, as well as a bubble bath (my favourite is Lush’s The Comforter).
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Our claw-foot tub is phenomenal

4) Relax

Take it easy during your flare-up. Even though I hate sitting still (or lying on the floor while slowly stretching my back) for a while, and taking time away from the gym, it’s important to let yourself rest. Recovering from injuries requires a lot of patience. I don’t have that. 
5) Be self-centered
People who haven’t been injured won’t understand what you’re going through, but don’t let that hold you back from resting and taking care of yourself. Say “no” to activities that you would find super fun, but might hurt yourself doing. It’s not worth it in the long run. My biggest fear is hurting myself so badly I’ll need surgery, or I won’t be able to walk again. What a great downer to end on, right?

Take care of yourself.