Thursday, 27 September 2012

Everything Zen

I started yoga to avoid getting dumped again by a physiotherapist.

(birthday card from the cats - the Lea family cats celebrate all major holidays)

I am not a naturally calm person. Thinking about being calm and relaxed ends up stressing me out more than my natural (high-strung) state. I grew up on Saltspring Island, with more than my fair chair of chanting, bongo drums, auras, and guided meditation.

The injury
During the lead-up to the Vancouver marathon, my weak core muscles caused a nagging hip and knee injury. I was able to keep training through and run a good race, but I was in some type of pain on most of my runs.

When I first became injured, I was lucky enough to know Allison: a wonderful physiotherapist, a member of my running club, and a member of my marathon pace group. Luckily for me (not so much for Allison), I had her phone number. When the side of my foot became too painful to ignore, and when my google searches became increasingly disturbing, I texted her:

"my foot hurts - the internet says it could be a subluxed cuboid - can you help me?"

Physio #1
Allison fit me in that evening, late, after the end of her normal day. She got me in good enough shape to run, and sent me home with athletic tape and a sheet full of exercises. For the next several weeks, I got up, did my exercises, taped up my foot, and hoped the run would be relatively pain free. I saw Allison regularly, and started to feel better.

Injuries don't heal in a straight line - there are relapses, and bad days. During the final build-up to the marathon, a group of us arranged to meet at 7:30am and do a 35k long run. The night before, I went out with a girlfriend. We stayed out far too late and drank far too much wine. I woke up, 5:30am, still drunk, with a throbbing foot (okay, maybe also a throbbing head). My immediate response? Clearly, to text Allison: "my foot hurts do I run?". Despite being woken up by this text, Allison gave me good advice (tape it, advil it, run on it, deal with it later).

End of physio #1
The next week, Allison referred me to her husband, Ramsey. (Allison claims that this referral was due to my schedule and her upcoming week's vacation, but I still believe the early early not-so-sober texts played a part.)

Physio #2
Ramsey immediately noticed my complete lack of core strength, and demoted me to remedial exercises. He also let me give him a text message update after every workout, and went a long way towards reassuring me that I would not be crippled for life. He allowed me one text message after each workout. My message pretty much stayed constant: "It hurt a bit? Sort of? Then stopped. Then started. WHAT DO I DO?"

I realized I could not be the world's neediest physio patient forever, and needed to take back responsibility for my own injury prevention.

try it - you'll hopefully like it (and if not, you're still signed up for 3 months)
Post-marathon, I was left re-learning how to walk and how to build up my very low alcohol tolerance. This coincided with the end of my audit busy season. All of a sudden, I had more time than I knew what to do with. The best answer to this situation: sign up for a three month unlimited yyoga pass. I had gone to exactly one yoga class in the previous six months - and I didn't hate it. This was reason enough to get an embarassingly teal yoga bag, unearth my $20 mat from winners, and started showing up.

The first class I went to was a morning core class. It started with about five minutes of sitting, cross legged, with the instructor talking. I quickly became impatient for the actual sweating part of the class to start. Five minutes later, I only wished for more talking. I DNF-ed pretty much every set of core exercises. While my fellow yoga-ers were lowering their legs in an alarming, shaky manner, the instructor had me doing thread-the-needle hip opening exercises. It was a humbling experience: not being able to complete a one-hour yoga class after completing a marathon. So I kept going. I do power, I do hot, I do flow. I fall sideways, I fall forwards, I see spots during back bends.

yoga studio #2

remedial hips
I have tight hips. As long as I run, they will remain tight - yoga is pretty much a war against attrition.

Where yoga really has helped me is the core - having more strength seems to keep my hip from getting too painful. As an added bonus, the extra strength seems to have helped my trail downhill. I also did crow pose for my parents, and I really think they were impressed.

I came here for a stretch, not inner peace
A lot of the classes I do are the power, or ashtanga classes (I tried Hatha. It was supposed to relax me. It made me more and more uptight.) In those classes, breathing is really important. The point is to breathe through a difficult pose, breathe through the shaking, and find a sense of stability through discomfort. Sometimes the teachers say to find space - to relax into the pain. They tell us to think of an intention - something to focus on, to think about. I could choose "peace" - but let's be realistic. Some days, I say "heal", some days, "strength."

When I have my Thursday VFAC workouts, and the pace starts to bite as we do the last interval while the moon rises over English Bay, I tell myself: "commit". And for whatever reason, lately, it works. I commit to following the shoes of the person in front of me, I commit to the pace - and I try to relax enough to keep going.

I don't know if that's the peace of transcendence I'm supposed to find, but it's been enough, so far.

A month ago, my physio pronounced me healed enough to only come on an "as-needed" basis. I haven't been back since. I haven't physio text messaged (drunk or sober) least early July.

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