The Rehab Diaries: Placeholders

Let’s not kid ourselves, as I mentioned briefly several days ago, being benched with an injury can lead to feelings of isolation and restlessness, as often, our running partners are our support system, running itself is a balancing force and stress-reducer, and sometimes, we don’t realize how large a role our fitness plays in our lives until we’re rehabilitating from an injury and thus, prohibited from it.

My old running pal, Lydia, broke her leg a while back and was completely laid-up and off running for several months. Anytime she felt restless, or blue, or blah, or excluded from running with her regular running group, or when she just plain missed running, she did a very funny thing, and just today, she emailed to remind me of her trick. It’s very silly, but that’s part of the point. What did she do, you ask? She watched the opening scene from Chariots of Fire because, she says, “It is as flippin’ close to running with a group as you can get without, you know, running with a group.”

As I said, it feels a little silly to hear the themesong, as most of us probably have so many comedic associations with it by now. But in any case, Lydia has a point:

The Rehab Diaries: Tips To Address The Injury, Discomfort and Sleep Quality Connection

200140664-001When you’re uncomfortable, it’s hard to sleep. Duh. When our bodies are using energy to heal, the shift in the various physical processes make for disrupted sleep. And, what’s worse, a few nights of poor sleep because of discomfort from an injury leaves the body less-able to heal, then the injury keeps on as a source of discomfort, which leads to more sleeplessness and blah blah blah. You see where this is headed. Nowhere pretty, that’s where.

So, let’s review some healthy sleep habits to have in mind for times of injury and discomfort, for periods of insomnia and, well, just generally. Because good sleep is good for you. Not just good for you, but essential for health.

1. Limit caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evenings. Better yet, eliminate it after lunchtime, or entirely.

2. Lay off the sauce. Seriously. Passing out cold after a night of cocktails seems like deep sleep, but nay. It’s not going to be good sleep, and it’s not terribly helpful in the hydration department, either.

3. Don’t run wild right before bed. Keep it mellow in the evening, and wind down, easing yourself into a peaceful, sleepy state in the hours leading up to going to bed. Do get some sort of exercise during the earlier part of the day for optimal sleep, though during periods of injury that may not be possible or limited. Not the end of the world. That’ll come in time.

4. Try to sleep on your back. It’s the ideal sleeping position for your spine, your organs, bodily processes, all that good stuff. I know, easier said than done, too, but possible. I retrained myself to mostly sleep on my back in about a week, and it was no big deal. Give it a whirl. Shove a pillow under your lower back and/or knees if you need to, but give it a try.

5. Try to keep a regular sleep/wake schedule.

6. Minimize noise, light and excessive temperatures at night, though some experts insist it best to keep a room between 65 and 70 degrees to promote good sleep. Try, also, to avoid checking mobile devices and illuminated clock displays for the time, which can interfere with circadian rhythms and thus signal to the mind that it’s time to wake up.

7. If, after 20-20 minutes of trying to fall asleep, get up and do something low-key to switch your mind off instead of letting it race on and on about the sleep you wish you were getting. Repeat as needed throughout the night.

The Rehab Diaries: Fight The Bonk

rehabilitationWhen recovering from an injury, we are confronted with just how large a role running anf fitness plays in our lives. For many of us, a strong and healthy sense of well-being is highly intertwined with an active and healthy lifestyle, in whatever form that may take. And, many of use rely on running and gym time as our number one activity for stress reduction. When injured and ordered off of activity, it can deal quite a blow to a person’s sense of well-being, bring about a restless feeling, a decrease in ability to cope with physical or emotional stress, or, technically speaking, welcome in a big ol’ case of the blahs.

In the fifteen days since a car accident did a number on my hip and lower back, I’ve been limited to only physical therapy. Is that sufficing as my euphoria, my balance, my workout, my feel-good, my stress-reliever? Even with a great upbeat physical therapy team, doing all of my prescribed activity homework and with working hard at each appointment I can honestly say: Hells to the no it does not. In fifteen days, here is what I am learning about keeping one’s lid on during long periods of mandatory rest.

1. Don’t put all eggs in one basket. We’ve all heard this one and we all know it’s true in almost every situation. Yet, we often ignore it. I’m asking you– nay, pleading with you– to have some healthy interest that can be done at rest.

2. No pain, no gain doesn’t really apply in physical therapy. Yes, one must work hard in physical therapy appointments and do at-home activities as prescribed to see results. True. But, when re-strengthening to rehabilitate an injury resist the urge to “push through it” and blah blah blah. Listen to your body. An injury that lands your butt in physical therapy isn’t the same as a stiff calm muscle that warms up by mile five.

3. Work your butt off. This might sound counter to item 2 on this list, but it isn’t. Listen to your body, use your head, communicate with your physical therapist, show commitment and work your butt off. Also, ask your physical therapist regularly during your rehabilitation about other activities you can safely do, or other areas of the body you can safely strengthen.

4. Communicate with your physical therapist. I can’t stress this enough. Just mention new stuff, changing stuff, improving stuff, things you notice in your day-to-day routine and identify and break-down movement patterns. It matters.

5. Spend time imagining your wins. Sounds hokey, but it’s not. You’re presumably going to be resting a lot during your rehabilitation, so use the time to your advantage and imagine yourself having small successes– in physical therapy, when you return to training or at your next race once cleared for activity again. It might feel silly at first, but mental preparation is no small feat.

6. Do homework to stay in the loop. Check out fitness events, races, various training approaches, expos, lectures, seminars, books, workshops and all sorts of things so you can (a) not feel excluded during your rehabilitation and (b) channel your energy into getting some serious research done.

7. Expect success but plan for setbacks. This one is the hardest, because we so badly want to think positively, but I’ll admit that I didn’t plan for my first of now two setbacks in physical therapy and the first one really got to me and made me crabby. Sometimes, when working to re-strengthen one area, the body will counter-act and attempt to balance itself out, or another muscle group will be working overtime to compensate for the injury and begin to show signs of fatigue or injury. Or, sometimes, a phenomenon called “retracing” can occur during the healing process that involves the body backtracking to the point where it started to lose function before it can heal. Whatever the case, it sucks hard but the best way to deal with it is to accept that it may happen, and when/if it does, remind yourself that your body is shifting and healing and getting stronger.

8. You might feel like crap, but don’t eat like crap. Healthy, nutritious food is super important when healing from an injury. So, while your inclination might be to order in comfort food, fight the urge to do it too often during you rehabilitation. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods and try to add anti-imflammatory foods as needed, too.

The Round-Up

calNovember was, to say the least, a rather lively month here at Bonkless!

We ushered in the month with the Presidential election, and I had the most heart-warming conversation with a little old lady at my gym that served as a beautiful reminder that it’s never to late to try something new. A bonkfighter we know had a little mid-race water-stop mishap and prompted me to examine water stop etiquette. I think most of us were still processing the Chicago Expo Recap megapost and all of its treasures when the Airport Gyms post was honored with a mention in a Wall Street Journal blog, Middle Seat Terminal. We met and chated with Jeff Clark, the marathoning truck driver, who is taking the health of the North American trucking industry very personally. We then took a trip to Pittsburgh, and though it wasn’t an ideal trip for me personally, as I left more than a little banged up and had to leave behind a very wrecked car (not my fault). But, the fact remains that it’s a lovely place to visit, and I imagine it’s an excellent place to do some hill work (Just watch out for something popularly known to the locals as “The Pittsburgh Left”.. bonk!). Finally, we finished out the month with Thanksgiving and the general feeling that people came out in record numbers for Turkey Trots across the country. And we like that!