Category Archives: Reflections

bodyboss

I have started a new fitness program.

I know. I wait for your unmitigated shock to pass…

A friend and running mate decided to try bodyboss, so we, her running club, decided to go down with her.

bodyboss is a exercise program delivered via a booklet (physical or online) heavily pushed on Facebook. Most simply, the program is high intensity interval training (HIIT). It advertises as a quick 30 minute workout 3 days a week. What it neglects to mention is the 10 minute warmup and cooldown that bump it up to pretty much an hour.

The entire deal is 12 weeks long, and I am about 2 and a half into the process. So I have done enough to taste the workouts but not enough to truly gauge the whole system.

With this much of a taste, I can say that it fucking sucks.

I hate interval training. I also hate jumping and planks. That is literally what these workouts are. Almost all the are. 7 minutes seems like such an innocuous commitment, yet during the intervals, it turns into a damn eternity. I sweat and struggle and swear so much. There is no high; there is no rush. There is only pain.

Like barre, nearly all of the exercises also irritate my hamstring. After a year and a half, every twinge just stirs a rage of frustration and hopelessness. I have to modify many things, just to continue to acquiesce to the injury.

And so far, I feel no results. I have been working out daily and doing barre multiple times a week, so while I struggle with the workouts, it is not a huge difference to do them. I get sore sometimes but not often. If anything (despite also tightening my diet), I feel fatter.

But it has only been two weeks.

Stay tuned to see what I have to say after 12!

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Accepting Limits

Happy anniversary to my hamstring injury! August 5th marked one year since the day I tore my hamstring doing the splits after a dance class at the gym. In that split second of blinding pain and squelched panic, I never would have imagined the long journey here. I remember thinking that a 6-week recovery would have been unbearably long.

How I have been humbled in this year.

I am not patient. Not in any way in life. In fact, impatience could be considered one of my defining attributes. Yet this injury, with its stubborn and unrelenting control, has tamed me. As much as I imagine I can be. I have learned about myself, my body, my mental strengths and weaknesses. I have been trapped in physical and emotional discomfort and forced to deal.

Not unlike learning to be bipolar all over again.

I think it was when I reached my PRP injection that I fully appreciated respecting my limits. I do not have the concept mastered. The muscle memory to my impulses tempts me to constantly push too hard, ignore the pain, revolt against the restrictions of healing. Yet I am learning to perform my cost-benefit analysis on a longer timeline.

Do I want my hamstring to heal back together? Do I want to run now or for all the years after this? Do I want the constant pain?

The PRP injection, placebo or not, reduced my pain greatly. The relent on my nerves brought back a measure of clarity and logical thought. It all seems easier now that I do not feel so desperate to escape my damaged skin. I can be persuaded to obey with the carrot of recovery dangling on progress.

With progress on the leg and a return to some measure of a fitness routine I can live with, I turn my mind now to continuing to heal the damage of my pseudo eating disorder. The symptoms surged when I gained weight during my “rest period” after my injection. I found myself riding a familiar binge (all the food) and purge (all the exercise and none of the food) cycle.

Yet instead of falling into this trap again, I am going to apply the lessons learned at the mercy of my hamstring and accept my limitations. I am going to stop punishing myself with food that only leads to weight that I punish myself more for. I am going to stop trying to hate my body because it is the wrong numbers. I am going to focus on my health, my strength, my happiness and hope that my flesh follows the suggestion.

Overall, I am going to draw the line here, between my head and my heart, and accept my limits.

 

Christina Bergling

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Chasing Myself

I am chasing myself.

I cannot believe it took so long for me to see it, so ridiculously long to realize the pattern. I am caught in a vicious circle. I see that now. All along, I thought I was reacting to circumstance when really I have been manufacturing the scenarios and chasing myself. Over and over again.

What is the cycle? What is the self-made trap? What is the terrain of the depreciating circuit I keep running?

Step 1. I get fat. Maybe it’s because I just had a baby. Maybe it’s because I am nursing an injury. Or maybe it’s just because I have an emotionally abusive relationship with food.

Step 2. I react to getting fat with overreactive depression, heated frustration, or some combination of the two. I make a bunch of extreme resolutions and empty commitments while I mentally abuse myself.

Step 3. I begin with ravenous, obsessive commitment. I work myself out nearly to death. I eat exactly on plan, often bordering starvation.

Step 4. It works. The weight comes off; the work pays off.  I am euphoric with success as my wounded self-esteem begins to recover.

Step 5. I relax. I loosen the leash. I let myself side step the diet, take rest days. I fall under the delusion that I have made it and can calm down on my campaign.

Step 6. Backslide. Backlash. I rebel against my own rigid design. I tell myself I can’t tell myself what I can and cannot eat. Like a rebellious teenager, I make foolish and self-destructive decisions. Let the binging begin!

Step 7. I get fat. Again.

And repeat. Repeat. REPEAT.

What I was failing to really accept was that Step 6 is all me. My youngest child is nearly 3 years old now. It’s not babies anymore. Or even my gimpy thyroid. Aside from having to behave for hamstring rehab, it is not even the exercise piece. That is always on high. It is ME.

What I realized is that my motivation might not be my long-standing, pervasive self-destructive tendencies. It might not be my last lingering addiction. Instead, what dawned on me is that I might need the struggle. I might need to always be obsessively driven and pathologically motivated to lose those pounds, regain that time, get to that distance. I might be addicted to the carrot.

Why I can’t just improve from a healthy place instead of restarting? I have no idea, but I believe we mentioned my self-destructive tendencies above.

Yet something about the idea rings true in my head. When the epiphany hit me, something just clicked into place. I keep manufacturing these scenarios. I keep manipulating myself back to the beginning. I am the warden holding all the keys to this cyclical trap.

I don’t exactly know what to do with this new knowledge. I don’t know how to break free of my little cycle. Well, I mean I know how, but I don’t know how to keep myself following through. Otherwise, I am just in Step 2-3. I need a sustainable solution. I need to fix the fracture in my brain and behavior.

I am not used to breaking cycles. Cycles are my life. Extremes are my familiar. I have learned to embrace them, rather than fight them, but they never go away. I apparently suck at riding this one. Maybe identifying what I am doing wrong is the first step. I hope so. I need to find a middle ground between my rigid resolve or excessive backlash. I need to just live between those two, where there is no sin to rebel against.

My hamstring is on the (slow) mend, so I am back to my exercise routine. Half-assed though it may be. That is helping with sanity and rationality. I just need to reign in the eating roller coaster. Long term.

It would be nice to not be my own enemy for once.

Christina Bergling

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On Recovery Running

Calm down.

You cannot sprint off into the pace and distances you left before the injury.

Calm down.

You cannot run like the past weeks, months, and pounds never happened.

Calm down.

It is OK to be winded and weak and dying. It is OK for the pain to still crawl up the back of your leg and nestle firmly in the root of your hamstring.

Calm down.

You are still recovering.

Calm down.

Do not make it worse.

Breathe. Just run. Gently. Just enjoying being able to run. A little.

You’ll get back, just like you have before. Running will still be there.

Calm down.

Baby steps. Baby little zombie turtle wogs.

Take what you can get. You will find the float again some day. You will sprint again some day.

Today, calm down.

 

***

 

I am trying to be good. I am trying SO HARD to be good. I am trying to run infrequently, short distances, and slowly. I am trying to modify barre classes to avoid the exercises that aggravate my hamstring. I am trying to not work out every day or twice a day.

I am trying to temper myself. So far, I think I am managing to tame my obsession, but I am struggling on the mental side of it.

I feel that itchy, uncomfortable anticipation experienced in the race chute all the time. Those terrible last seconds before the start gun. Those wretched little pregnant eternities. Yet I feel that all the time. Restrained, held back, contained. Like I’m coming out of my skin.

Getting back to some exercise has helped, but babying the leg still gives me this trapped feeling. The benefits I glean from exercise come from pushing myself to my brink, from making it hurt until the endorphins wash over my brain. I can’t do that yet, so I’m just left feeling perpetually unconsummated.

I’m trying to think of this as an investment in my body. I am trying to process it as purchasing health on the other side of this injury. Yet, with my mental balance in free fall, I am finding it challenging to sell these ideas to myself.

Patience. Breathe. Calm down.

 

Christina Bergling

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Reading Running

Yes, I am in running withdrawals. I have not run, jogged, wogged, anything in weeks. So, instead, I read about running (or listen to books about running – I have no time to actually read these days). I just finished What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murahami.

I loved this book. The memoir is unraveled with such an effortless honesty and authentic humor that I was more than content to listen to the random interconnected fragments of life stirred up by marathon training.

I am no marathoner or ultramarathoner or triathlete like Murakami. I am no professional novelist like Murakami (yet). Even on my best days, I am just a zombie turtle wogging along and a horror writer on the side of being a mom and a software engineer. Yet, Murakami ruminates on such universal truths about running and writing and the relationship between the two that it resonated deeply with me. At times, I could confuse his voice and his words for my own. I laughed when he irritated me when he was being and talking like me.

This book helped me understand myself better, as both a runner and a writer. I suddenly saw the correlation between long distance running (yes, I am considering 10-13 miles distance running) and writing a novel. Murakami identified connected traits and attributes of both that categorized me so well, made me see myself more clearly.

As I listened to Murakami discuss both how he became a runner and a writer and how he was currently training for the New York City Marathon, I became awash with my own nostalgia about my journey with running and how it intersected so many points of my life, how it defined so many parts of me. I was entertained by Murakami’s story, but I was also able to wallow in the pleasant memory of my own.

The book inspired me, both to be more persistent and more lenient, to push myself and appreciate myself.  And it made me want to run again, be back with that version of myself.

While reading (listening) about running exacerbated my withdrawals, it also pacified them in a way. I felt closer to the activity, reassured that it didn’t dry up and vanish in these brief weeks away, confident that I can return and retrain back to my mediocre performance but obsessive commitment.

Deep breath. Take care of the body and the mind. Then find my way back to the trail.

Christina Bergling

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Plasma!

Three weeks ago, I received my platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection into my relentlessly injured hamstring. This came nearly on the day of nine months since the injury. It still unnerves my mind to consider all of these months of constant pain sprung from one split second of lifting my hands as I was doing the splits. Yet, after so little change so many months, this procedure was hope.

As a recap, a PRP injection includes removing the patient’s (my) blood, spinning it down to the platelet-rich plasma, and injecting that mixture directly into the injury. This is said to stimulate the body’s own natural healing. The procedure itself is brief and out patient.

The procedure was uncomfortable, as advertised. I bent over an exam table, a hole strategically cut in my awful paper shorts. My doctor’s assistant dug the ultrasound wand into the flesh of my buttcheek as the doctor struggled to make the tip of needle appear in the field. He did not find it quickly or easily. Zings and flares flashed over my nerves as he moved the needle side to side and poked it deeper into my joint.

I just breathed and tried not to focus on the pain. The pain snapping at my spine, riding my synapses in waves. My body flinched and jerked involuntarily. I tried not to focus on the detached way the doctor worked on me like an inanimate pig carcass and his assistant called me sweetie to compensate.

The pressure increased as the small amount of spun down plasma was deposited directly in my injury. Then it was over. Of the variety of medical procedures I have had, this was definitely not the most painful. Unpleasant for sure but at least brief.

The worst part of the whole experience was trying to extract information from my doctor. Throughout his minimal appearances in my treatment, his (and his assistant’s) bedside manor have been lacking. Or I have failed to communicate my symptoms, like, at all.

I initially sought treatment because of my pain level. I was functioning fine, still able to be active. It was the pain. I told that to my primary care doctor then this orthopedic. I told them the persistence of the pain was affecting my personality and causing negative behaviors like yelling at my children too much.

And yet, this orthopedic treated me with the passing attention I would expect if I came with a mild ankle sprain. I had to fight to explain my symptoms. I had to nag to get any information on recommendations on recovery or activity. I had to get pain medication from my other doctor. He just seemed to not really take me seriously, either because he thought I was exaggerating or because he thought my injury was trivial.

In either case, it made the treatment and interactions in the office unpleasant and less fruitful. However, I was willing to indulge his medical expertise. He seemed knowledgeable enough, and it would have cost months to get a different referral for my insurance.

When I initially researched PRP injections (I had to Google on my own since my doctor provided zero information or expectations), I learned that the procedure actually stimulates inflammation in the injury to inspire your body to heal it. And since inflammation is the source of most pain, the information forecast a pretty miserable couple weeks after the injection.

However, I did not live up to that prophecy. It hurt, yes. I was exceptionally uncomfortable for a couple days but neither as much as I expected nor more than I had grown accustomed. Plus there were finally pain meds to take that miserable edge off.

But did it work?

I have just completed my two weeks of rest. Two weeks of zero activity. It was rough mentally. But, over the weekend, I was able to begin gently moving again. I have gone for a walk. I have taken a barre class.

And it is feeling better. Day by day, very slowly and incrementally, it is feeling better. I am not cured or fixed, by any means, yet the pain is retreating. I have pain medication that I am not even taking. I still have aches and zings and soreness, but I am not crying from the severity. I am not miserable and bitchy all day long.

I can feel myself starting to surface again under this injury.

I wish it was just cured. I was wish I was just fixed. I feel like I have earned it after this long. Yet it is happening painfully slow for my lack of patience.

Now the challenge is to temper myself. Every day it hurts less, I want to go run a half marathon (and I did not want to run another after I ran my first). So, prior to being liberated, I laid out a gradual plan to return to my normal activity level. I had to make it up myself since my doctor provided absolutely no post-procedure instructions. I had to interrogate his assistant for the slightest guidance then still just guess for myself.

I am on week 2. Two gentle workouts. A couple days ago, I went to barre for the first time. The origin of this entire mess.

I have not been active for really a month. In that month, I have put on about 10 pounds. Yes, emotional eating as I pouted over being inactive played a large role. Yet, it turns out that all my obsessive working out did serve a purpose; it was showing. I just did not notice until I stopped. Now I have to do all that work again, without being fanatical, without reinjuring myself. I am hoping that challenge will teach me to be more accepting of myself, to live with more balance.

My recovery starts over now. Not the nine months of suffering behind me. It starts over right now.

Right now, things are improving. Right now, I can get back on track with my eating and start easing back into activity. I can start fresh and maybe find some sort of sustainable balance this time. I wish I did not have to go back to trying to slim down again, but maybe this time I will appreciate where I was.

I am SO looking forward to getting back to running. It will be short and slow to start, but it will be far better than the nothing I am at right now. I want that time back. I want that sanity back. I want to feel like myself again.

Christina Bergling

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The Next Level of Failing Recovery

What I would not give to finally be able to write a damn post about running! For a running blog, this has been a sad string of whiny rants about not running for the better part of the last year.

And well, fuck. It’s only about to get worse.

The hamstring saga continues, unfortunately. I have failed spectacularly at physical therapy.

So injury in August. Initial doctor in January. My insurance company rejected the request for an MRI, so I was sent to the orthopedic in January. I almost immediately started physical therapy and went once or twice a week until the end of March, when my therapist and I agreed that I was making no progress if not deteriorating further. So I was sent back to the orthopedic who requested an MRI that my insurance company decided to bless this time.

Last week, I went for my first-ever MRI. Even as they were just imaging my hips and pelvis, leaving the crown of my head outside the torturous and constricting tube, it was a remarkably unpleasant experience. I do not like confined spaces, particularly those that restrict my arms. I would not call it claustrophobia. Perhaps a manageable discomfort. I also do not do super well holding still, much less utterly and completely still.

So I lay in the tiny tube, where it felt like I could headbutt the top of it. I breathed through my discomfort and the constricted feeling steadily climbing my limbs. As I held still longer and longer, I lost feeling in my hands. I had to peek through the bottom of my eyes to assure myself they remained folded on my chest. Yet even through the unrelenting slamming noise of the machine, I kept dozing off. Yet I could not be trusted to remain still while I slept, so I kept wrenching myself out of the twisted nightmares reaching up over me.

(not my MRI image)

The half hour dragged on in a shapeless and oppressive blur. Thankfully, my tech was very communicative. Between each set of images, he informed me of the duration of the next set and the total time remaining. That gave me landmarks back into reality. I held completely still, bobbed up and down on the sea of my subconscious, and made it.

The MRI revealed that I have a partial hamstring tear. (Pause for my complete and utter lack of surprise. Wait a moment for me to scream how I said this in August. And December. And January.) My doctor told me they would like to try plasma-rich platelet (PRP) injections as the course of treatment.

(definitely NOT my hamstring)

I had never heard of PRP (and my doctor and assistants are relatively terrible at communication), so I have done a fair amount of research online. To summarize, they will draw some of my blood, spin it down, and inject the platelet-rich layer directly into the hamstring injury. This should cause inflammation to go into overdrive and Wolverine up my body’s healing measures. It’s also supposed to hurt like holy hell for the first two weeks due to how inflamed it will be.

I read mixed reviews online. Studies that confirmed it accelerated healing and recovery effectiveness. Studies that claimed it does absolutely nothing compared to other therapies. People who swear by it and worship the results. People who scoff at or hate it. Thanks, Internet, for your reliable ambiguity.

Yet, at this point, I will try about anything. The pain is near constant and continues to interfere with my life, as simply as restricting activity and as grandly as influencing my behavior and personality. It has been almost 9 months with minimal improvement; I am over it. Depression is starting to creep in, flood and blur the edges, capitalize and take over. I feel it taking root in my brain, planting its awful seed in all the fissures the pain have created.

Besides, my doctor informs me the only other measure we can try involves completely severing the hamstring and reattaching it. I want no part of that very major surgery.

So the PRP injection is the next step. Once my insurance blesses it. Even if they do not, I may just pay for it. I need some sliver of hope.

What I have not been able to ascertain from my doctors or physical therapist are rules, boundaries, suggestions, advice, ANYTHING at all about what activities I should or should not be doing. The answer has been consistently vague.

“Don’t aggravate it.”

“Don’t do anything that hurts it.”

Aside from the fact that by personality defect alone I will push right through both aggravation and pain, activity has not hurt this entire time. It has felt fine to be active during the activity. If not much better than rest. Yet, clearly, that was not the case. I just want some definite answers. I get the liability portion; I get the variability between patients. But come on! Give me something.

So I stepped outside the therapeutic relationships and sought wisdom elsewhere.

Running has felt pretty good all along. No hamstring pain, no twinges, just perhaps extra pain after. Yet my logical brain has snagged on how it could be good or even ok for the injury. Besides, for all those months, I didn’t know what was really wrong. Yet now, running is off the table. NO RUNNING until it recovers.

I have trouble even typing that because I do not know how I am going to do it. It sounds silly to be so attached to an activity, but it has been my lifeline to sanity for so many years now. Even though my fitness has diversified over the past couple years, running has always been there; it has always been my guaranteed hit of endorphins.

No yoga either. The other activity I have used almost exclusively for the effects on the mind rather than the body.

SHIT. How am I going to hold my shit together?

I have been given permission to walk (in short strides) and dance (minus specific movements) and maybe barre (skipping key exercises). It is better than nothing, but I just do not know how I am going to maintain the balance I have cultivated through exercise when I am not allowed to push myself past my edge. My sanity is created by completely exerting myself, completely wasting myself in a workout to leave only the high.

I do not know how to moderate. In life.

I mean I’m grateful that it is not more restrictive or that my injury is not worse. Initially, I thought I would be 12 weeks with zero activity after the injection. That idea nearly sent me into a panic attack.

I am just trying to process how I am going to do this, what all it is going to mean. Ultimately, I will do just about anything to recover, to make the daily constant pain go away. Yet, a very nagging part of me is still lamenting what it is going to cost.

So expect even more posts not about running but more about not being able to run.

The saga continues…

Christina Bergling

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