Running Can Be a Pain

Running with pain is a fact of life if you have a chronic inflammation like arthritis.

Two weeks ago I found out arthritis is the cause of pain in the hip (only about 9 inches away from being a pain in the ass). I stopped running after that, doing cycling on my trainer and resting while I re-grouped.  Bike trainers are great torture machines if used correctly. I just put it in a resistance gear and pedaled for a while.

kirby kineteic trainer

Since I was out of town on business this week, I decided to take a few days off. Usually running is my mainstay workout when I travel, but not this time. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I’ll wrap them in a future post.

On Friday I worked at home and decided to take a short three mile run after my calls ended at 2pm. I’ve been running in minimal shoes – sandals and zero lift/low cushion shoes with flexible soles. For this run I reverted to my technical running shoes – a pair of hardly used Nike Vomero’s to get the cushion that they offer. Most of what I read about running with arthritis is that you need more cushion.

I ran the three miles, feeling a tinge of the inflammation with each step of my right leg. I focused on staying as smooth as I could, not overextending my stride and not worrying about speed. It felt good to be out and running again, even with the pain. Here’s my SportsTracker output.

Photo Sep 20, 3 33 34 PM

It’s a mixed box of information for me. I ran the distance and finished feeling no worse than when I started. I also ran one of the slowest average speeds I’ve ever logged. Although speed isn’t why I run, it is the barometer I use to gauge how good my fitness is.

Later that afternoon my inflammation rose to a level that I hadn’t felt for a while. I hydrated and took some ibuprofen and waited for the morning.

The pain was still there, so I iced it with a package of frozen peas. It is a perfect ice pack. I prefer organic frozen peas (just a joke).

fozen peas

The icing helped immensely and saved me from cycling into a “can never run again” depression. This reminded me that maybe there are simple things to do to abate the discomfort and gain some control back. I will ride my bike today and continue to stay mobile because that makes it all feel better. Most of all I am determined to find a path forward that includes running and cycling and keeping in shape.

Fortunately, my mind has no symptoms of arthritis (no more than normal) so my creative writing continues and is getting better. My writing reminds me that from any starting point it takes a discipline and persistent desire to continue to improve. Writing also reminds me that every endeavor is never perfected and always offers improvement and discovery if you keep working at it. I know from creating a novel (several actually) that you don’t control the plot. The characters and context take you where they need to go.

With arthritis I have a new starting point for my athleticism. A wicked twist in the plot of my running life. I need to listen to my body and context and I’ll work it out. And I will learn a lot in the process.

As always, I am interested in what you have to say. Send me an email or post a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Run Free and Smooth.  

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Run on National Running Day!

June 5, 2013 is National Running Day!

I run...

I encourage all of you to get out and move. It doesn’t matter how long or how fast (a walk is just a leisurely run). Go solo. Go with friends. All I ask is that you smile while you run!  It’s about having FUN!

I’m going to do a very short run. I’ll tell you why.

The day before National Running Day I got a nice cut on the bottom of my foot when I stomped on a nail head on the deck. The string of invectives that followed the cut would have made my friend AJ Aalto proud, even though I lack her innate creativity for slang.

It means I have to lay off training for a while. That will be hard to do because I am just ramping up and it has been fun feeling the form come along.

I’m not that anal about my training, except I just publicized that I am running the Fairfield Half Marathon in 18 days. I know that if I try to run before the cut has healed it will open up again, sending me back to day one on the recovery calendar. The cut is right on the bottom of my foot on the outside of my forefoot (the ball of the foot). That just happens to be the place that hits the ground first with every stride.

My impatience has me looking at the tube of Rhino glue in the cupboard.

Photo Jun 04, 8 07 00 PM

Don’t laugh. I’ve done it before, but not on my foot. Did I mention that men are generally stupid and that we apply the same technology to our bodies that we do to broken furniture? Air guns and shelac go a long way in remedying what ails you. Really. I’ve seen the staples doctors put in incisions and my Porter-Cable staple gun can do about the same job.

The good thing is that we won’t use those same curative methods on our spouses or significant others. But, beware ladies. We might do try some of this on our kids.

Funny how these blogs take on a life of their own. It’s like most of my writing. I start out with a hint of an idea and where it goes surprises me.

When you put your feet in front of each other today and run down the driveway or across town, think of me with the tube of Rhino glue in my hand while I do the risk analysis on whether I’m being stupid or brilliant.

And…

RUN FREE!!!

What is in a Smile?

They say that three’s a charm. This is my third attempt to make this post.  It helps me prove the point of the post, though.  Read on…

I wanted to make a short entry about the importance of smiling.  Figuring the best place to start was with some facts I decided to get the specifics about smiles.  What I wanted to find out is how many muscles it takes to smile.  You know the old adage about smiling taking fewer muscles than frowning? Well, it turns out that is bunk. I hate to upset all those motivational speakers, but, it just ain’t true.

The human face has 43 muscles.  Don’t ask me why there is an odd number for a symmetrical face. To add to the confusion, there were other numbers referenced, but 43 seems to be the most common so I’m going with it.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

The real issue is defining what a smile or frown really is.  Is it a slight curl at the edge of the mouth? Is it an elegant curve of the lips? Is it a full toothy expression? They all fit the description and when you see one version or another you know if people are smiling or not.

I thought about it a bit and realized that the face is a complex system of muscles. In any complex system you can’t just change one thing. From that view, any smile or frown is going to use all the muscles to some extent or another. A smile will use those muscles differently than a frown, but they all come into play.  I smiled when I had that idea. Then another idea hit me.

I’m a runner.  I know that muscles need to be exercised and when you start working them they get sore.  How often have you heard people say that they had had such a good time the night before that their muscles ached from laughing so much?  If you don’t smile often, then that actually might happen.  Same with frowning, but you don’t hear people talking about muscle aches from too much frowning.  Usually, they are bitching about something else.

So, it’s not about the muscles.  It is about the smile.  In all its varieties. Smiles are powerful.  Smiles are healthy. Smiles make other people feel better.

That’s when I remembered something from my first full time job after college.  I worked for ATT when it was a monopoly and they were the only ones who controlled 800 numbers. There was a job, a Phone Power Specialist, whose focus was on how to use 800 and toll numbers most effectively.  Our rep was Johnny Smith and he used to tell the call center agents he trained to smile when they talked to customers.  He said “They can hear your smile.”  I loved that line.  And it is true.

Even today, when we type to each other instead of talking, if I smile while I type, like I am now, the words that enter the screen are more positive and paced with greater excitement.

So, here’s your assignment.  Sometime during the day today you will be faced with having to deal with angst or anger or frustration (especially you parents). When you feel that well up in your mind, take a breath, stand with good posture and smile.  It just has to be a little bit of a grin. When you do, the issue will seem to take on a different face. You’ll be able to handle it better and the people around you will think you have your shit together even if you don’t. That ‘s what I did after the second attempt to make this posting work ended up with a blank screen!

Smiling is natural to me. I am not a comedian, but I love to twist reality for my own fun and pleasure. People seem to like my company and I think it is because I smile and create smiles. I am an introvert and my smile (facial and vocal) has been my greatest weapon for dealing with some of the side effects of introversion. People like to see you smile when you are their leader. If you do, they feel better.  Maybe that’s why we fear aliens.  They don’t smile much.

Give me this example. Life is hard work. We were evolved to be hard workers. There is joy in a job well done. When I am on a long run and it starts to feel like it is more of a workout, I smile.  When I do my form adjusts to normal, my stride evens out and the road disappears. I remember the pure joy of movement even though I am running long miles.

Life may be hard work, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun.

Keep smiling! Run Free!

NOTE: no emoticons were harmed in the creation of this post.