Running: The Slow Road to Recovery

NOTE: This blog post is not intended as medical advice, nor do I represent myself as a medical professional. Please consult your doctor or health care professional if you feel pain, fatigue or discomfort when practicing any sport.

It is a blow to the ego to know that in 2014 I was able to run 21 kilometres as I prepared for a half-marathon, yet in the years that followed my distances kept getting shorter and shorter.

In those years, I was frustrated with myself when instead of shaving seconds from my personal bests, the durations of my runs were steadily getting longer. I often asked myself if this was what it meant to be over 50.

For someone who isn’t a jealous person by nature, I admit I felt envy in seeing my Facebook friends sharing their athletic accomplishments and their new personal bests.

For someone who was an active participant in a running club, I felt like I was letting down the team when I just couldn’t keep up… or even to make it out to a get together because I was too embarrassed to admit I had slowed down so much, compared to what I was able to do.

When someone would ask “How is the running going?” after years of saying I was sidelined due to injury, it felt like I was making excuses when my body just wouldn’t cooperate, no matter how many times I tried.

And then it felt worse when people stopped asking how the running was going.

It’s not that I cared what people said, it was the frustration of the disconnection between mind and body. The motivation was there, the mind wanted to go for a run, but the body was talking back in the form of pain.

It didn’t seem to matter how slowly or how gradually I tried to get back into running each season, I couldn’t break the 4-5 kilometre barrier without aggravating my iliotibial bands (“IT bands”) and being sidelined for several weeks at a time. To play it safe and to not risk injury, I stayed away for long periods.

For someone who always made exercise a priority, I didn’t want to admit defeat and change sports, because I loved running so much.

But in the endless winter of 2018-19, my longing for running kept growing, as did my determination to find a solution. When the neighbourhood sidewalks were repeatedly covered by ice and snow, I decided to use the time constructively to find a solution.

I know that looking for medical advice on the Internet is not necessarily the wisest of ideas, but there had to be a reason why my body was rebelling, beyond the fact that I was over 50.

I wasn’t looking for a quick fix or the one magic exercise to make it all better. For the persistent pain I was feeling, I knew that I needed a more strategic approach, and I was certainly willing to take the necessary steps to get me back on the running trails again.

In my research on the trouble areas, the word “fascia” kept coming up. Once I started reading and understanding what it was and how it worked, the answers started coming. It described perfectly the issues I encountered with plantar fasciitis, shin splints and the IT bands over the years, each of which I had dealt with individually, when a more holistic approach was probably needed.

I have not been compensated for saying this, but this is the video that helped me: https://essentrics.com/page/productdetails/all/Aging_Backwards_Connective_Tissue_Workouts.htm

Finding a connective tissue workout that focused on releasing the fascia, slowly and gently, seems to have helped. Even before hitting the running trails, my body was feeling more limber and less constrained. The “gumming up” of the fascia, as they call it, had crept up on me so slowly, I didn’t even realize I was constrained in the first place.

With a different approach to training underway, I started walking. Over that first month, I slowly worked my way back up to 5 kilometers, while listening carefully to my body to ensure the legs were fine.

With confirmation that I felt pain-free (where I used to feel my IT band issues) and while still ensuring I was doing connective tissue exercises in between walks, I decided to take the first step in running.

While keeping in mind that this is still a work-in-progress, I have slowly stepped up the mileage from 2.0 to 2.3 to 2.5 to 2.75 km, with 3 or 4 days between runs to properly recuperate and to continue my fascia releasing exercises.

Along the way, I am not looking at speed, I am not looking at completion times, and I am not competing with myself. The goal here is to get the mileage in, slowly, and to not feel pain. This is the rebuilding phase. So far so good.

And along the way, even in short distances, I am feeling the pure joy of a great run again, enjoying the fresh air, the sunshine, the delicate aromas of spring and early summer and the feeling of my body in motion again.

Plus, I am giving my body the same TLC I was giving it while training for the half-marathon, in the form of good nutrition, proper rest, proper sleep, proper hydration and gentle stretching not only before and after the run, but on the rest/recuperation days as well. That seems to work for me, but every athlete needs to find the recovery routine that works for their body.

As much as my enthusiasm is kicking in and I’d like to do more, I have to hold myself back. But that is already a fantastic sign… if hope and enthusiasm for the sport is kicking in and the body is starting to cooperate again, then I am already doing considerably better than I was.

I am not saying that workouts focused on fascia and connective tissue are the answer to anyone who has suffered IT band issues. I would just suggest that this is an angle to explore with a health care professional to try to get the body cooperating cooperating and on the road to recovery.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Why Car Sensors Make Me Jumpy

When I bought my car, it was with the intention of finding a new vehicle that wouldn’t be any trouble for my last couple of years of working and commuting.

My previous car was 7 years old, with just over 100,000 km on the odometer and starting to get to that point where it might need significant maintenance or even replacement. The problem is that with car issues, you’re never really sure when or where that will happen, often with little or no advance notice.

I didn’t want to be “that guy” stuck on the side of the highway, blocking traffic during rush hour traffic, annoying people and being on the receiving end of people showing me their middle fingers. For my own peace of mind, a newer car was the solution.

However, as much as I love the smooth ride and the peace of mind from knowing that the car is not likely to need fixing anytime soon, my car’s dashboard has seen the sight of my own middle finger (but not when I’m driving, of course).

The reason: the sensitive car sensors.

In the short time I have had the car, I have had the experience of several dashboard warning lights coming on, beeping loudly, to announce “issues”. Continue reading

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Why Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun

Much like most people, over the years, I have indeed used the expression “it’s like watching paint dry” to describe an event that might be considered boring. But based upon my recent experience, I might reconsider my use of the phrase. I just don’t agree with its accuracy anymore.

In this year’s round of spring cleaning and home projects, I decided to get some painting done.

As much as I love the whole ceremony of painting, in recent years, time and energy have been in short supply.

Plus, my body just doesn’t seem to respond well to weekend paint jobs without complaining in the days that follow. Between working muscles that don’t usually get used in that way and with arthritis starting to drop in unexpectedly, it was time for me to (reluctantly) look into hiring a painting company.

Upon finding a highly recommended team of painters, I decided to put their professional expertise to the best possible use. The first project was one set of walls I haven’t done since I moved in: the walls around the staircase.

I don’t know what the actual height of that area is but I do recall that the few times I tried to dust the lighting fixture or to try to grab the cobwebs in the corners, I felt like the Roadrunner’s archenemy, Wile E Coyote, trying device after device to extend my reach to get the job done.

When I was finally successful in completing the task, it was usually followed by a visit to the medicine cabinet for some internal and/or external approaches to pain relief.

I decided that for this paint job, the extent of my involvement would be to tidy up before, to remove my personal effects from the painting area, to set up the cat in another part of the house with food, water, litter and favourite toys, and then for me to sit and relax.

I admit that it felt like I was going against nature to be sitting, sipping coffee and clearing content off the PVR, while the painters were hard at work. I truly had to supress my natural impulses to pick up a brush and to help them.

But when the aroma of the ceiling paint starting wafting toward the living room, I knew I had made the right decision.

When they invited me to check in on the progress, my heart was pounding with joy to see the wall starting to get restored to its original beauty. That was when I knew I had made the right decision and that my investment in professional painters was money well spent.

A few hours later, it was time for the big reveal. I felt like I was on one of those HGTV shows, as all I could say was “Oh my God”, staring at the walls in disbelief, marveling at the beauty of their work.

When they had left, I parked myself on the top step of the staircase and sat there, literally, watching the paint dry.

As I breathed in the aroma of fresh paint and stared at the walls, I felt a range of emotions. Boredom was definitely not on the radar.

I felt a sense of accomplishment. The task which got consistently pushed down the to-do list over the years was finally done, even though I didn’t do it myself.

I felt amazement that the bumps and scuffs left behind by 33 years of home owners and renters were completely erased as the walls were restored to their unblemished beauty.

I felt gratitude in thinking that whenever I decide to put the house up for sale, this monstrous task won’t need to be done again.

I felt relief in thinking of the physical pain I spared myself by having a team of experienced painters (who probably know better how to avoid the strains I would have experienced) take care of the walls and ceilings in areas I could not easily reach.

I felt pure joy in seeing how one coat of “Cloud White” paint in one highly visible area makes the whole house look better and fresher.

After this wonderful experience, I also felt encouragement that I have found a painting company I can trust for future painting jobs.

While some people might think that watching paint dry might be boring, I think they need to look a little harder to find the joy, the satisfaction and the gratitude that comes with freshly painted walls.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Goldilocks and the White Socks

Regular readers of my blog are probably familiar with my adventures in shopping that involve a lot of research, testing, comparison and disappointment that often sound like a story about Goldilocks.

When some products are too big, others are too small, and over the course of multiple shopping trips, I hope to find the one that is just right.

One such situation these days is my hunt for white socks. All I am looking for is plain, white, mostly cotton, athletic-style socks for very casual situations. Sounds simple, right?

For some reason, manufacturers and buyers for stores don’t seem to be on the same wave length. Plain white socks are hard to find.

For years I was able to find them here in Canada at a well-known store (that shall remain nameless). One day, I bought a pack of three pairs that left me with the impression that they had changed. The answer came a few washings later when the elastics completely gave out and the socks were falling repeatedly. This didn’t happen before. Someone must have changed the “recipe”.

I switched to another brand that was available at that time, which lasted a few years until they discontinued the men’s small size and carried only “one size fits all”. Continue reading

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When My Retirement and Writing Dreams Got More Vivid

In February, there were two news items that hit the airwaves that made me feel goose bumps all over:

On February 19, 2019, it was the headline “Netflix to Open Dedicated Production Hub” followed closely on February 28, 2019, with the article “And, action! Filmmaking complex gets go-ahead”.

Regular readers and close friends know that my big plan for retirement is to write. The form of writing I might consider has yet to be determined. But I am convinced that once I have developed a few of my story ideas into outlines and then into drafts, the most appropriate format might become self-evident.

But if I listen to my gut now, something tells me it might be more along the lines of television, plays or movies, more than novels, just given the time I have spent studying television, as opposed to just watching it.

Plus I have always been fascinated by the process of making stories come to life in the television or cinematic medium, to the point of volunteering for my local community television station 20 years ago, and staying with it for 3 years.

Working in a creative medium with other like-minded people was an experience I will always fondly remember. At that point in my life, I didn’t realize the extent to which I was missing a creative component. When I found community TV, things really came together. Continue reading

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10 Things You Must Never Do at a Comedy Show

Over the years, I have had the great pleasure of attending many stand-up comedy shows. I have always been a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine and that a good dose of belly laughs can be a welcomed break from the seriousness of the world.

I have been most fortunate in being able to catch a few shows a year, whether they featured major icons of comedy or rising young stars who were able to successfully guide us into taking a step back and have a chuckle at the silliness that surrounds us.

I would even add to the mix certain musical artists who share so many funny stories between sets of music that you aren’t sure whether you saw stand-up comedy with a side order of music or music with a side order of stand-up comedy.

Either way, I am most grateful for the artists who have the knack for telling a funny story and made a few hundred or a few thousand people laugh. It’s an incredible talent and a joy to behold!

To me, the show that will always be remembered most fondly is a Just for Laughs Gala in Montreal hosted by the legendary Joan Rivers, a couple of years before her passing.

But over the years, I have had many eyeball rolling moments at audience members. I often ask myself if they’ve ever been to a comedy show as they seem to break every unwritten rule about attending a comedy show and in some cases, annoying the rest of the audience.

To help set the record straight, here are my suggestions of things you should NEVER do at a comedy show: Continue reading

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When the Cat Asks for a Massage

I think I’ve created a monster!

When I adopted Ivy the Wonder Cat, naturally, she was guarded when it came to where she would allow herself to be petted by this new stranger. But as we got to spend more time together and she realized that she had nothing to fear with me, she started trusting me more and letting her guard down.

At first, I could pet her back and perhaps the top of her head, but that was it. If I pet her anywhere else, I risked getting bitten.

As she warmed up to me, her head became welcome territory as she loved getting massaged behind the ears. Then she started presenting her chin as she liked a little scratch there from time to time.

When she realized that I was a willing participant in indulging her requests for attention, the “rub my belly” days began. Whether I was just coming out of the bedroom in the morning, or coming home from work, she would collapse to the floor like her joints all gave out at the same time, roll over on her back, front paws up in the air and present her belly for a gentle tummy rub.

What surprised me was the slow evolution with her allowing me to go near her paws. As I discussed in my post about challenges in trimming my cat’s nails, she has never been fond with me touching her paws, even if I didn’t have the nail clippers in my hand. She took a long time to warm up. Continue reading

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