Tuesday, 16 July 2013

So I have a labral tear; I have some questions.

8 months to find this out.

I could go on; trust me I've got a lot to say on the matter. Like for example, me telling three highly trained individuals (physio's) on three separate occasions that I strongly believed they were overlooking something - for none of them to listen; not to mention issues with my GP and similar with the NHS.
And it's still not over. I'm being referred to Glasgow General for my treatment plan as Dumfries Royal Infirmary doesn't have the skill set required.
So anyway, the whole thing has irked me somewhat! The injury happened as a result of an awkward fall during a run and because no-one has listened to me in the time since, it may develop into a more chronic problem with age; think hip arthritis and then replacement!
Looking back over the last 5 years, I've actually had 15 different running related injuries;
Sprained ankle; grade 3 (both)     (historical and recent)
Jumpers knee (R)                          (when mileage is increased dramatically)
Upper back and neck sprain        (this tends to happen when I include heavy weight training)
Quad strain (R)                              (minor problem, happens a relatively few times)
Hamstring strain (R)                     (minor problem, happens a relatively few times)
Achilles tendinopathy (both)       (plagued me for years when just resuming running training)
Posterior impingement (L)          (picked up as a football injury and remains to this day - meaning I have had
                                                       to give up fell running)
Achilles bursitis (L)                     (3yrs ago whilst trying to battle through above injury)
Planter Fasciitis (both)               (usually whilst recovering from a long distance event)
Hip flexor (psoas) strain (R)       (frustrating; happens towards end of speed phase)
ITB Friction (both, mainly right) (happens with high mileage, painful, especially the rehab)
Hip bursitis (both)                        (only occurred recently due to incident which caused.....)
Hip labral tear (R),                        (tried to run for 3 months with this due to misdiagnosis)
and of course.....toe nails falling off  (regular occurrence with long distances)
My mate Rob thinks I have a propensity to attract injury i.e. that I have poor biomechanics. That may be the case but I just think I'm unlucky. This injury is a good example, so too is the posterior impingement. That said, there definitely appears to be a biomechanical deficiency with my right side.
No-one likes getting injured and anyone who has read this blog will know that I have turned every stone looking for answers regarding how to avoid and inevitably deal with them; it would clearly be advantageous to get to a stage where I can just train without the burden of constant injury avoidance.
Having said that, relative to where I was 5 years ago, before I took running seriously, I’m content with what I’ve done and I dare say, if I have to give up running, then I’m sure I’ll reflect on this period of my life with some satisfaction. But there will always be that question. So;
1.       Does anyone have words of wisdom they would like to share with me?
I’ve done my fair share but to date the level of feedback has left me questioning why I write this blog. I fully believe in the power of collaboration as I know many others do e.g. John Kynaston and Debbie Consani. I give advice in the absence of strategy but for every likeminded individual (willing to share) it seems there are 50 or more who only ever want to keep. And don't get me started on those who leech off the insight of others only to palm it off as their own! I get between 50-300 readers per post (and I know that is miniscule) but I need help here; how about it?
2.       Should I simply give up running?
This has crossed my mind and I think that may have been slightly transparent throughout some of my most recent posts. However, as with any love affair, breaking the ties is a very difficult thing to do. I have invested a huge portion of my life and what little finance I have over the last 5 years. To cut it all adrift now would be heartbreaking but perhaps it is the ONLY avenue left for me? Then again, it might be of use to know that I have already prepared my plan for a gradual return to running once I have this labral tear taken care of. 
3.       Does anyone know of someone (a consultant) who might help me?
My thinking here is that there must be some kind of special sports injury consultant somewhere in this country who knows exactly what I should do to fulfil my running potential. They can cast their eye over my history of injuries and ‘hey presto’ I’m given some magic remedy! Surely? For example, what is with this tape more and more people seem to be wearing over certain muscles and joints? (I know what it is, I just don’t know if it will help me).
The only thing I have not done is to have my running gait analysed. So once I am able to run again I will arrange this. Aside from that, I really don’t know where to look or what direction to take. I'm also planning to get a pair of five fingers or barefoot trainers and use them to go walking in - often.
The real issue is that I don’t want to go through another lengthy period of training for it all to come to nothing again. Surely that’s understandable, especially with two young kids requiring more of my spare capacity. But by the same token, I’m loathed to give up running unless I know I have done everything to keep the dream alive.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Losing fitness; a benchmark

bear with me, stats are at the end and are precluded by the descriptor........
Once upon a time fitness consisted of being able to train 5, 6 or 7 days per week (depending what I was training for and what stage I was at) sometimes twice or thrice on particular days, with no adverse side effects. We’re talking between 10-20 hours per weeks, though there was a time when I trained 30 hours in a week. Ironically, there is the very strong possibility that my fitness was, in fact, adversely affected by this volume of training.

Fitness is based on your genetics, perceptions and motivation to make improvements. It is different for every unique individual. So if you’ve ever trained and become fit you know that the journey was painful; staying fit, not so. Highly motivated individuals flirt with overtraining more than they ought too and losing fitness becomes something to dread. Ultimately some people are more prone to losing fitness in a quicker fashion than those more fortunate.
Back in November of 2012 (7months ago) I picked up a mysterious hip injury. I ploughed on for 3 months doing everything I could to rid myself of it. In the end I (temporarily) gave up running and with that my goal to take part in the West Highland Way Race which takes place less than a week from now. The latest on the injury is that I am to go for an arthrogram MRI soon. Anyway, when I dropped the running, I contacted my GP and told him I was willing to un-cancel a scheduled Hemorroidectomy.

From that point onwards I was unable to make any plans as I didn’t know in advance when the operation would take place. So I took to circuit and weight training and continued with static cycling (turbo trainer) to replace the running in the hope that I could retain most of my fitness. Nevertheless, my training volume dropped by more than 50%. So in effect I was on a downward spiral from this point – in terms of losing my aerobic and muscular conditioning.
I was operated on the 18th April. I feel somewhat qualified to discuss this as I have had three procedures in the last 16 years; twice for a Hemorroidectomy and in between (3 years ago) for what is known as a ‘banding’.
I don’t have much recollection of the first operation or the recovery period after it. However, on the basis of my being physically active whilst in the Army and the fact that the hemorroids were kept at bay for nearly a decade, I have to assume that there were no complications.
This time around, things have been different. I had three large internal hemorroids removed. In the past, the procedure involved stapling the wounds closed; now they are left open (apparently they heal better this way). The wounds are in a location which have restricted my recovery as well as would have been expected.
I’m sure you can imagine the type of pain one has to endure after this operation. Needless to say, all forms of physical activity were initially ruled out. Rather naively, I gave myself two weeks to recover before I ‘cracked-on’ with my training – as was the case with the banding.
I say it was naive of me but I’ll never really know. The surgeon certainly sided with my optimism but neither of us banked on the stenosis that occurred. Why would we have? When I was informed of the possibility of complications I completely rule them out. Wouldn’t you? 
Anyway, I want to keep this on the thread of fitness, suffice to say that the spasms I endured lasted for approx’ 6 weeks and the stenosis meant that I was in constant pain and unable to do very much. I was able to do something though and here (at the end of week 6 - post operation) the journey to fitness began.
First foray – cutting the grass - at the end of week 6, I plucked up the courage to dabble with my first bout of activity in 6 weeks; the lawnmower was put into action and I cut my back gardens grass. Believe it or not, I had DOMS (in my hamstrings) for 4 days after that!

Second foray - during the seventh week, I managed three four-mile walks and one lower body weights session. Here’s what that consisted;

·         3x20 Bulgarian split squats (body weight)
·         3x20 squat jumps (body weight)
·         3x20 standing calf raise (body weight)
·         3x20 clams, and,
·         2x60seconds plank.

I suffered with DOMS for almost a full week after that! And to think that sort of workout would’ve been a lunchtime warm-up for me not so long ago.

Third foray - into week 8 and after the DOMS subsided I went for a 4 mile run. However, I was determined to keep within my heart rate zone of 75% and that meant breaking the jogging up with equal periods of walking. At least I now had a very tangible benchmark; 10.50 minute miles!

As a frame of reference it should be noted that I have never gone longer than two weeks without doing some form of physical activity, that is, never in my entire life. This 6 week layoff, therefore, presents itself as an opportunity. I have made some recordings;

Before op’
Body fat
Muscle content
Water content
Left upper arm
Right upper arm
Left upper leg
Right upper leg
Left calf
Right calf
Resting heart rate
4mile run at 75%
7.30m/m (pb)
30min TT at 75%
12km (pb)

NR = Not Recorded
TT = Turbo Trainer

So what do I take from these statistics?

No.1 – despite being practically immobility for 6 weeks my legs have not changed shape at all. This has been a useful lesson because it had been previously suggested to me that my hip injury may have been caused as a consequence of having over developed upper leg muscles. That may still be true but I was assured that my post operative layoff would address this problem. It clearly has not.

No.2 – my aerobic capacity has dropped off a cliff, quite literally. Losing over 3 minutes per mile from my running is a real shocker but at least I have an indication of where I’ve been before which will remain as something for me to strive for once again.

No.3 – I’ve lost a lot of mass from my upper arms. Why loads from my arms and nothing from my legs? I don’t know.

No.4 – I’ve started to record my body fat percentage with a set of EKS scales borrowed from a mate. I think this will be quite useful for future reference.

No.5 – perhaps I am more naturally suited to cycling, certainly with my legs being more muscular relative to the remainder of my body it would seem to lend credence to this theory. What do I think about this? Am I likely to take up cycling? I don’t think so.

I’m at peace now with the fact that I’m never going to rival the best of any running club but the freedom and joy of trail and mountain running, either solo or with good company, is unparalleled. For this reason I’m going to use this blog to track myself back to fitness.

I don’t know how long it will take but I have a few goals;

1.       I will learn and undertake a more natural way to eat, one that is more in tune with an ultra runner’s needs.

2.       Increase my upper body mass. My thinking is that I’ll look like more of a man for one thing and I’ll get back to the type of body shape I had in my later years of my military career. The other side to this is that I hope it will bring about more balance to my body composition and thus will mitigate the complications of my over developed legs. I welcome any observations on this, though having said that, advice from other runners is depressingly non-existent most of the time.
3.       I'm going to get my gait analysed at Hampden Stadium sports injuries and health clinic (assuming I get running fit at some point in the future) because there has to be something in the passing comment of most people that I have run with i.e. that I have a strange way of running!

4.       I aim to build up to doing lots of stuff at a slow pace with the odd bit of training done at a high intensity. I’m also going to get used to lifting heavy weights at least once a week. Once I’m content with my ability I’ll step the training up to be more structured in aiming for a particular event – I’m not pinning myself to anything just yet, for a couple of reasons which are about to be divulged.
The stenosis is a serious problem, one that I will require another operation for. I am due to return for a general anaesthetic appointment soon and will know thereafter how much longer I will be out of action for.
And my hip injury! The orthopaedic has told me that I either have a degenerated psoas or a labral tear. If it’s the first, I’ll never run again as there is nothing anyone in the world can do for me. If it’s the second he’ll do key hole surgery on me and I’ll be out of action for a few months after that!

So the next few months will be interesting!



Sunday, 3 March 2013

A question of class

It's been almost 5 weeks since I stopped running. In that time I've inevitably been reflecting on something that just will not go away; will hard graft and determination ever be enough or do I need talent for this game? I think I have my answer.


I'm in my mid 30's, married with two young kids, have a full-time job and have been studying hard in the last 4-5 years as I bid to become a chartered building surveyor. In that same time period I have taken up running and have very little history in the sport apart from the requirement to be relatively fit whilst I served in the Army for 9 years.


What was the point of that last paragraph? Think about someone you know who might be in similar circumstances. When I do, I can think of no-one else mad enough to take so much on. Well, maybe both Consani's but I'll come back to why I believe it may work for them.


Looking around at big running events I see all age groups and people from all walks of life but a closer look reveals something interesting. Without being disrespectful to those not mentioned here I believe that most of those who take it seriously are broadly categorised as:

·         ‘the young without kids’,

·         ‘the same age as me without kids or kids who have grown into adolescence’, and,

·         ‘the older without kids or with kids who have flew the next’


My relationship with running has been a torrid affair, probably in no small part due to my self-demanding and competitive nature. Looking back there is a recurring theme; injury, illness and a dogged determination to keep trying.


Early last year I told my wife that I was going to give the running one last chance. So after 4 years of refusing to spend any money on running (because we had none), I persuaded my wife to let me spend what little savings we had for a training programme from an ultra running coach and a tailored nutrition programme from a nationally recognised body. In addition, I invested in 'all the gear' and any injury prevention gadget I could get my hands on and bought a whole host of books to inform my brain.


Prior to starting the training I was as primed as I had ever been. Then 8 weeks into the programme just as I was beginning to pat myself on the back for finally 'doing things properly', I got injured! Again. I ploughed on for 3 and a half months, trying this and trying that and then just got to the stage where I had to hold my hands up.


In the 5 weeks that have past I have honestly not missed running. I don’t know if this is because I am 5 weeks into a new thing which will be reported on in 7 weeks time or if I have genuinely had enough of the struggle.


In times like this I ask myself what it is that I truly miss about running. Without question it is the freedom of running trails and in mountains and in putting myself to the limits of my potential. These are things I cannot do injured BUT they are the very things I know I must keep aiming for. For this hard graft and determination are all that are required.


The problem with this comes when you enter events and undertake challenges which have time limits and are flooded with other ‘competitors’. You are provided with a tangible record of where you stand - ultra’s are fantastic at exposing you for who you are. Excuses only wash for so long. So with the thoughts of the last 5 weeks spinning around, I read this blog by Andy Bowen.


I have my answer. Allow me to summerise; class is permanent, form is temporary.



Sunday, 27 January 2013

I'm out

There are a variety of ways I could’ve begun this post but the title pretty much sums it up. I’m out; completely out of 2013 – as far as running is concerned.
The notion doesn’t sit very well with me but I think I’ve got to the stage when I have to be realistic as opposed to optimistic. For 12 weeks now I’ve done everything to rid myself of my mystery hip injury and it shows no sign of abating. If anyone doubts this please refer here. I say mystery because one day it refers over the left trochanter, the next the right and the next the right groin – though the vast majority of the time I feel as though I have a tight groin – like every minute of the day. The only thing left to do is ask my GP for a referral for further up the chain – which is what I have now done.

I’m not going to drag this post out with an in-depth analysis of what I think went wrong and what the experts have thus far told me. The long and short of it is that I am still injured and I am unable to freeze time to allow it to heal – so that I can still take part in this year’s events.

I’ve already pulled out of the Calderdale. The fling is 3 months from now. The only way I would commit to that now is if my injury miraculously cleared up today – and it hasn’t. I went for a gentle 4 miler this morning and bang - within 20 minutes it started niggling again – spreading out from the groin. A sure sign that all is not right especially when one considers the lack of running I’ve done recently. Call it what you will; the last straw that broke the camels back.

So, considering I need to take a complete break from running I think it’s sensible to un-cancel my Hemorroidectomy. That will take place up to 3months from now and has a 6 week running lay-off thereafter. Perhaps it is a little clearer why I have said that 2013 is a complete wipe out? And that’s not counting any prognosis of the latest mystery set-back.

Yeah sure, I could have the op’ and do some build up to the WHW, Devil’ and High Peak 40 but I don’t want to just complete them. I know I can do them…..with injury. That’s a story I’ve lived. I want it to be different now; train properly and avoid injury.

Anyway, I’ve emailed the organiser’s/directors of the three races held over the West Highland Way and informed them of my decision to pull. I’ve been putting it off for weeks and today I just felt it was time I called it.

Where does that leave this blog? I’m a long way from finishing my four pillars of ultimate performance and reading this now I understand that it would seem how delusional I might seem. All I can say is that I don’t doubt myself. It may be that I am not destined to run and that I have wasted a precious amount of time simply trying to be more mediocre than before.

If that’s the case then so be it, time will tell. I intend to deal with this properly when my body lets me. And as there is still so much for me to share I will resume the blogging when the time is also right.


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Strength workouts for runners

Each of these sessions should take no more than 20mins to complete.

A few years ago I learnt a couple of things about weight training that have stayed with me ever since. Before I go on I’d like to share them with you;

1.       When you train one part of the body during a session you must also train the opposite part. This ensures your training remains balanced. For example, if you intend on a bicep session you have to do the triceps too; chest and back etc.

2.       The only body parts/areas that should be trained on consecutive days are the abs (core) and the legs. This ensures adequate recovery and as we all know it is during recovery that improvements in fitness are made.

3.       Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to consume masses of protein either pre or post workout. As an endurance athlete you need 1.3g of protein per kg of body weight every day. Body builders need approx’ 1.7g per kg of body weight. The difference is more subtle than manufacturers of ‘muscle building’ supplements would have you believe.

I use free weights. However, you can use your imagination and utilise your own body weight, household items or pulley machines at your nearest public/private membership gym.

Many of you will be familiar with the terms ‘reps’ and ‘sets’, so I’ll not go down that road. Broadly speaking you should be looking to do 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise – with a weight that you struggle to do 15reps with.

Now then, having said that, I do something slightly different; I perform each exercise immediately one after the other and then that whole session counts as a set for me. I’ll then rest for a minute and repeat the whole thing again. I do that three times in total. Does that make sense?

I got this tip from the book; the 4 hour body. Essentially, it gets my heart rate pumping a lot more than it would do otherwise, it saves me loads of time and it turns my body into a ‘fat burning furnace’ when I’m at rest.

Our focus is on all body strength. So there are 3 upper body workouts and 2 lower body workouts. As said beforehand, Olga gave me the basis for these routines but I’ve subtly changed them to suit.

Note; if you aren’t familiar with these types of exercise and you feel you might want to give them a try, why not take a note and google or youtube them. That’s what I do, if I can’t visualise something.

Upper body 1 (chest and back)

1.       50 dumbbell jog swings

2.       Decline bench press

3.       Wide arm overhand pull-ups

4.       30 Decline bench sit-ups

5.       Bent over row

6.       30 decline bench twist-sits

7.       Underarm pull-ups

Upper body 2 (arms)

1.       EZ bar curls

2.       20 Tricep dips

3.       Hammer bar curls

4.       Decline bench overhead tricep press

5.       Dumbbell curls

6.       Lying cross over extensions

Upper body 3 (shoulders)

1.       Overhead barbell press

2.       Hammer bar curls

3.       Decline bench overhead tricep press

4.       Alternate overhead dumbbell press

5.       EZ bar shrugs

6.       Bent over rows

7.       Punch bag – all out for 30secs

Lower body 1

1.       Dumbbell squats

2.       Deadlifts

3.       Bulgarian squats

4.       20 Standing calf raises (with 40lb pack on)

5.       40 seated calf raises (40kg on knees)

6.       Hamstring curls (inverted on exercise ball)

Lower body 2

1.       Single leg squats

2.       20 clams

3.       Reverse dumbbell lunge

4.       20 standing calf raises (with pack on)

5.       40 seated calf raises (weight on knees)

In a future post, I’ll show how these are included in my programme but essentially I’ll get through all workouts within every two weeks. I also sprinkle in other strength related workouts in that same time period and in a future post I’ll log what those are specifically. For now though they relate to;

        I.            Core workouts

      II.            Plyometrics

    III.            Physiotherapy workouts

    IV.            Intense circuits