Tag Archives: running

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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Pills and Needles

Pills and needles. My life has become pills and needles. Who knew a hamstring would take over my life so completely? Who knew doing the splits after dance would land me here over seven months later?

My hamstring therapy has been unsuccessful to say the least. As per the last update, I went to the orthopedic, got a steroid shot directly into my hamstring, and was referred to physical therapy for dry needling. Since that point, I have continued the dry needling sessions, been started on pain and anti-inflammatory meds, and have started massage therapy in my physical therapy sessions.

Briefly, it appeared as if all the therapies and treatments were helping. The first few rounds of dry needling seemed to loosen up the injury. The first few days on the medication included relief. However, after the initial effect, things always deteriorate back to the same baseline. It is as if my body has a quota of pain, and despite any efforts or temporary improvements, it always returns back to that default.

The pain is exceedingly relentless and inconvenient. Whenever I sit up or stand. Whenever I try to lay down. Whenever I roll over in bed. If I move just a certain way. To me, it feels like my hamstring itself is snagged on something up near the attachment to my pelvis. If I move or activate the muscle just the right way, the pain is a horrible ripping zing, as if it was pulled too tight or at the wrong angle.

And yet we continue on this way.

My activity is unaffected. I continue to run and barre and dance as I would. Mostly because it does not cause pain. My hamstring does not hurt when I run or dance, though certain positions and transitions in barre will solicit that zing. Plus, I am simply over it. Nothing I seem to do makes it better or worse, so I have almost resolved just to live my life with it however I want. Adapt right over it.

But this does not feel normal to me. While horrible inconvenient and frustrating, the timeline of the injury is not really my concern. I can live with it still healing after seven months. My concern comes from the fact that it is not improving. At all. It alarms me that it has baselined at this very uncomfortable and unsatisfactory place. I cannot live with this being the new normal. I need some glimmer of hope that this will pass and it will indeed get better again.

My physical therapist does seem frustrated. And confused. Yet I don’t know how long we will just apply new therapy attempts until he resigns to sending me back to the orthopedic for the MRI. And even if I get the MRI, it may show absolutely nothing helpful.

I feel trapped by this injury. I appreciate that I am mostly functional and am able to plow through the majority of it, but the pain is definitely a factor. I went to get the medication because the pain is influencing my behavior, my mood, my personality. The constant pain signals agitate my brain, shorten my temper. I do not like who it makes me, especially as a partner and mother. I cannot afford to be a bitch all the time because my leg hurts. Not to mention how distracted it makes me in my work.

The situation needs to change; however, I do not know how much I can do beyond wait and see. I feel like every update I write on this topic sounds identical. It hurts; nothing is changing; I can’t do anything. Yet that is where I am.

I stopped taking the medication. Since it seemed to stop serving its purpose, I did not see any reason to put the extra chemicals in my body. I will continue with physical therapy and trust my therapy. I will torture ball and foam roll and stretch on my own to help loosen up the tension around the pain. I will try to rest and try not to aggravate it–no promises.

It has to help at some point. Right? RIGHT?


Resolutions

Ah, the new year. An arbitrary revolution of the calendar that gives us the illusion or the excuse at a fresh start.

I have made many resolutions over the years, mostly of the extreme or self-loathing variety. Not all of them are precipitated by the new year; that just presents a convenient excuse to brand intention into my brain. Over the course of my “fitness journey” (read: whole damn life), I have made countless goals and resolutions. And each time I fail at them or they turn on me, I tell myself that I have learned from them; that I will get it right next time. Yet, instead, I seem to find a new way of getting it wrong, another unique way of pushing it too far and perverting the intention to masochistic proportions.

So I am accepting this quirk in my pathology, this extremist tendency of mine. I am acknowledging and embracing it. I am changing my resolution paradigm. Instead, I am going to keep it simple. My goal, my new year’s resolution as it were is: BALANCE.

That’s it. Balance.

(Potentially the hardest thing ever for me, by the way.)

I want to find the compromise between a hardcore diet and binging on food. I want to exercise from a place of health, loving my body, and enjoying the activity rather than to punish my body. I want to find a way to pursue my goals while also appreciating where I am.

Balance.

I think this idea has become especially important as I recently decided to return to therapy. I have not worked with a therapist since I was pregnant and post-partum with my daughter, over 5 years ago. Yet, I very lately plunged into a bought of body dysmorphia so strong, so persistent, so pervasive that I felt compelled to reestablish a clinical lifeline.

Generally, when I am managing my crazy, I can diffuse distorted thoughts by analyzing them, dismantling them, and applying logic. It may not necessarily cure or alleviate the feelings, but generally, it brings me back to perspective enough to ride it out while preventing behavioral consequences. In this particular round, nothing had any impact on the thoughts. I could tell myself that it was physically impossible to gain any significant amount of weight overnight, yet I just continued to obsess, fixate, hate myself, plan how I would punish myself.

It was alarming enough for me to decide to do something different. It has been over two years of unhealthy obsession disguised as health and recovery. I need to break the cycle and actually create balance in my mind more than anywhere else.

I am also changing my fitness regime with the new year. After two years of being devotedly dedicated to the gym, I am dropping my membership. My favorite zumba teacher left. They dropped the hip hop class I enjoyed. I went from attending 6+ times a week to maybe 2. It is simply not worth the investment. Plus, it is time to spice things up.

In the spirit of enjoyment over punishment, I am trading the gym to return to belly dance. I am also diving into my new barre addiction. And, hamstring willing, I want to get back to more running.

I guess my new year’s resolution is to have no resolution, to learn to let go. To find my balance.


Jingle Bell 5K

It is that time of year again: the time to freeze our bells off running a 5K in the variable Colorado winter weather.

On the morning of the Jingle Bell 5K, I woke up feeling rather awful. My head was splitting; my stomach wound in agitated knots. I felt hungover without the benefit of getting drunk the night before. I also dressed for a balmy 40-50 degree run and was instead greeted by a penetrating frosty bite on the air.

In short, I was simply not feeling it.

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My daughter and I began with a visit to Santa, where I asked for a healed hamstring for Christmas. Then the kids’ race was first. My daughter again asked to run without me, which left me feeling some combination of proud and a little hurt. I know she ultimately does not want me to run with her because I push her, don’t let her stop, don’t indulge her crying. Maybe I’m too hard on a 5 year-old.

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But she does great without me. Without me, she ran the full distance at a good pace. Maybe I bring out the whiner in her.

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After the kids were whisked away to the warmth by grandparents, Trisha and I settled in to run our race. We decided to just stick together and just run. No striving, no PRs, just running.

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And we just ran. We chatted about nothing. We watched a fight ensue over headphones versus stroller running (like really? Merry Christmas, guys). I didn’t think about pace or if my muscles were burning or if I could breathe right or if I was keeping up with other runners. I didn’t think.

I floated the majority of the first half. Just floated right along, which is extremely strange for me in the opening mile. A little exertion warmed me right up, and I was shedding layers in no time. My hamstring had ached in the morning yet felt better on the run. It would balk from time to time, twinge at a certain stride, yet overall, it hurt less to be running.

We ended up laying down a great race. At the Great Pumpkin 5K (October), I ran a 37 minute 5K. At the Turkey Trot 5K (November), I ran a 35 minute 5K. At this Jingle Bell 5K, we did a 34 minute 5K. So, even though my injury persists and my running regiment has gone to hell, my pace is steadily improving. Perhaps thanks to all the cross training. Whatever it is, I will take it!

(Also, turns out the Great Pumpkin was also my 50th race; that happened when I wasn’t paying attention.)

I was extremely pleased with the run overall. Our time turned out awesome, but it did not even really matter. It was running with a friend for the sake of running, and the simplicity was so enjoyable after so many months of over critiquing myself.

It felt free.

 

**Hamstring update**

I finally folded and went to the doctor for my hamstring. These near five months later. The pain had escalated to the point that it hurt to sleep, hurt to sit in a chair, hurt to stand up completely straight. That constant pain started to affect my mood and irritability levels, which in turn got taken out on my family, so steps needed to be taken.

In all honesty, I went to the doctor just hoping for some Vicoden or any other pain killer that would make it stop just for a little while. Just one night of being able to roll over without whimpering. Just one day of not cringing and hobbling around. The doctor, not too surprisingly, decided on a different course of treatment.

Rather than pain killer to mask the discomfort, he gave me anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the inflammation and hopefully promote healing. The first couple days, it felt like a cure. My leg felt completely like mine again. My flexibility returned. My body felt normal. I could have vibrated out of my skin with relief and excitement. It took every ounce of my considerably weak self-control to not overdo it and leap directly back into full force exercise. I wanted to run a marathon and climb a mountain.

Yet, as the dosage of the medication weaned off the nine day burst, the pain returned. First, it was just twinges again, just the wrong movement or wrong angle. Now, completely off the pills, the leg is slowly creeping back to where we began. It is still better. My flexibility remains vastly improved, but it is worsening by the day.

My ultimate gauge, the line I had in my mind to mark where I was, had been if I had the painful hitch when I stood all the way up. Until today, I was short of that. Today, it started to hint. That stab in my buttcheek as I step out of the car, that hiccup in the fluidity of standing.

I hope I’m not regressing fully. It was so nice to taste recovery. If nothing else, it gave me a little hope, reminded me of what it will be like when it doesn’t hurt every day.

I am scheduled for an MRI next week, so we will know more then. Though my money is on, “hey it’s torn or whatever, just let it heal and do some physical therapy. Oh and pay us $1,000 for the MRI.”

Either way, I can run, and my fitness feels on point lately, so it’s good enough for me. I have found a way to make myself sane around the injury, and at some point, it has to get better.

 

Christina Bergling

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