Revelation on the Run: Am I Just a Masochist?

Hello, it’s me -sorry to disappoint, I’m not Adele. But I’m temporarily ending my hiatus from blogging. Truthfully, this is the amalgamation of the musings of 3 separate post-runs within 2 weeks. I thought I could publish this after the first time I wrote it, but I didn’t think it was good enough and had more pressing things to do. But alas, third time’s the charm. So here we go.

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Photo Courtesy of Gerry Brady (CC BY-ND 2.0)

MASOCHISM – noun

According to the Oxford dictionary: “(In general use) the enjoyment of an activity that appears to be painful or tedious”

I think the ultimate question that all runners will ask themselves one day is: am I just a masochist? It may be when the alarm goes off in the darkness of the supposed “AM”, first 5 minutes of a freezing/raining/hailing/snowing/etc. run, amidst a long run, last lap of a mile repeat… you name it. At some point, every runner will ask themselves this very question, especially when they secretly take pride in the “my sport is your sport’s punishment” slogan.

I could come at this question from a bunch of different perspectives, but I’ve only got less than 15 minutes. So let’s just get to my endorphin-driven epiphany.

I’m not talking about any specific sort of physical pain. I don’t enjoy the onset of a blister or jolting moment of a muscle strain. As I can finally comfortably call myself a “recreational athlete” in post-competitive life, especially as I’m not committed to any competition this year, the question is, why do I crave being short of breath, doubled over, and questioning life? Is it the endorphins? Feeling of accomplishment after overcoming a physical challenge? Ticking a check in a to do list? Burning calories? Getting some much needed oxygen to my brain after long bouts of studying?  I’m not that familiar with the neuroendocrinology of exercise to know whether there’s a dose response, i.e., more of X produces more of Y, between exercise intensity or duration and all the “feel-good” hormones, e.g., dopamine, serotonin, endorphins. But I’m sure, instead of a puke-worthy 800m repeat workout, anyone could opt for an easy run, let alone an easy walk to reap the same mental benefits.

As human beings, we crave sensory feedback. It connects to the whole debacle of needing to feel sore in order to feel like we’ve achieved something from our workout. And it’s something that is always challenging to explain to clients that don’t understand that feeling “the burn” especially for “core exercises” isn’t always indicative of productivity in strength progress or what have you. I think it highly depends on both your short- and long-term goals, e.g., I’m not going to push it hard in this tempo workout because I need to be ready to actually go “balls out” in tomorrow’s track workout. My short-term goal is to put in quality work without taking away from the more important workout tomorrow, while my long-term goal is to peak for races later in the season.

As athletes, we know the pain cave, the dark place. Some fear it, but inevitably welcome it because it means that we are pushing our body to its limits. A former teammate of mine began to return to running by going at it on the treadmill after school without any specific goal but to run herself to the ground so it felt like she did something.

In this video featuring the 2015 CrossFit Games champions, Katrin Davidsdottir says, “[I try to] maximize the effort that I put into everyday so when I go to bed then I know that that was all that I had.” While Ben Smith, who owns a box and programs his own workouts which entails fitting as many workouts in a day as possible, says, “I just train til I can’t anymore.” (For fun, I think if I did CrossFit, I’d also be a little overdramatic like this.)

My run today (2nd of 3 that led to the completion of this blog post) was an interesting one. I was tired enough overall that for once, my mind was blank and I just cued into my body every once in a while, especially once I picked up the pace. But it was likely one of my best runs in speed and mileage in quite some time. I could attribute it to a number of factors, such as an extra hour of sleep after baselining 4-5 hours of sleep every night the last while, a cold but sunny morning, some optimal combination of coffee and breakfast. But I think a lot had to do with wanting to push hard in order to deal with my stress of late. I felt more drive and vigor to push the pace. It wasn’t like I wanted to outrun all the things on my infinite to do list. It wasn’t like I wanted to make myself hurt on purpose. It wasn’t like I was trying to reach some goal within the run, distance-wise. I just wanted to feel. Something. Feel something purely physically stressful and not mentally stressful.

This isn’t limited to running either though. At the gym, call it a “finisher”, “metcon”, etc., putting some combo of exercises together at the end of my workout in an AMRAP-fashion (as many rounds as possible) allows me to physically give it my all that day. Being an endurance athlete for so long, it’s something familiar to me. Something maybe even that feels within my control. Because I know I can handle it physically when it seems that it’s questionable whether I can handle everything else in my life. But that pain from physical exertion -I know I can handle it because I’ve done it before. Maybe it’s just a safety method to say that if everything else fails today, at least I know that I gave it my all in my workout and can validate my self-worth and efficacy. It sucks in the moment and I may even doubt whether I can do another rep, but it reminds me, both physically and mentally, that I can handle the worst.

So call it my sick, coping method. Call it my own medicine to keep me sane and healthy mentally. Though in my experience with anxiety and depression and hearing from my own friends, if you’ve tread too far into the waters of that realm of mental malaise, then exercise may not even feel the same anymore; the “cure-all, feel-good” hormones either don’t get produced sufficiently or your body can’t respond to them. Think of it as Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in the brain, where receptors don’t seem to respond to the hormones or neurotransmitters. (Though be weary that I have no scientific evidence to back that up, I just made that up on the spot as an analogy.) But luckily, lifting and especially running has been a way for me to cope this semester. People can say, “Oh, well at least it’s a healthy way to cope, it’s not like you’re smoking.” But when individuals appear to eat “healthy” with lots of vegetables and lean protein, or exercise quite devotedly, by no means does it reflect a healthy relationship with their body and that practice.

I run because at its purest roots, the sport never changes; no matter what age, fitness level, stage in life, etc., that you start your running journey on, on any given day in any location in the world, it can take you to new heights that you never would have seen, nor thought possible to accomplish otherwise. And I think in this way, your relationship and reasons for running is dynamic throughout life. True runners may breakup with running for a while, be it of choice or not, and come back to it years down the road to gain different things from the sport.

I wouldn’t call myself a true masochist, but through exercise, I can test my pain tolerance for the day to see if I can come out of the pain cave okay. It’s a reminder to myself that withstanding discomfort and stress in life, I can do this. For once, that is my relationship with running; it’s my form of therapy.

An Injured Athlete’s Mindset: A Bipolar Beauty and Beast

Photo by Andrew Mason obtained from Wikimedia Commons

“When we define ourselves by what we do and what we accomplish, we set ourselves up for a difficult moment when we can no longer do and accomplish what we used to.” – Jason Dorland

Take out 15-20 hrs of training/week. Turn down 2 coaches for lifting and running. Scratch the 1 race that I’ve been dreaming of for 8 months. Take away running, riding, lifting. And swimming, which my shoulders haven’t earned back yet. All of which have been taken away from me, completely out of my control. So after deducting all of that, what do you get? An athlete that’s been called to pursue other things but one that will always chase after the dream. That sounds pretty optimistic, right? Well, it took me almost 2 months to get to this place of mind.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss running every day. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t itch to run and hear nothing but my breathing and footsteps. When I’m walking home without heavy bags on my back and in my hands, and the air is warm and welcoming to my skin, I reminisce how this, this is the perfect summer weather that I’ve always run in. When it’s raining and kind of humid, or when it’s 9pm and actually perfect for a run- I remember when those would be the exact times and conditions where I’d be running. Even when it’s been rainy, I reminisce the wet slogs out there. And I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss it.

Being injured sucks. It’s simple as that. Always has, always will. I’ve come to realize that this summer, is my summer of injury. It hasn’t been easy but I’ve realized the curse that comes with being a driven athlete. Through my story so far, I might be able to share some things to help give insight to those that know, treat and are the injured athletes.

MY STORY
My timeline begins from the fall of 2014. I had just finished my first sprint triathlon in early September. Things weren’t perfect heading into the race, as I spent most of my training in the pool and bike. I wished that I had done more brick workouts, and especially spent more time honing my running speed. School and work limited my training, so that was that. But worst of all, I came back from a family road trip and had this weird pain in my right shoulder in extension and external rotation. I got treatment for what I could, with a week or so left, was all taped up and didn’t feel the pain when I swam on race day. So that was all good besides maybe some nutrition issues that led me to wanting to puke my guts out right after I got out of the lake, and it didn’t stop until an hour after the race. My next goal was just to get healthy again, as I discovered that I had dynamic instability in both my shoulders, but worse in my right. From there, I looked to try to figure out what was the next race that I could do. I was hungry to return to focusing on running since I hadn’t gotten in much running in the summer, so I looked to Squamish 23K at the end of August 2015. It was a perfect challenge and I was excited.

Fall and spring semesters were incredibly heavy and I knew I wouldn’t truly be training for Squamish until spring exams were done. I only had time and energy to hit the gym, so that’s what I did, 2-3 times a week in both semesters. And I also began to work on improving my olympic lifts, getting help from a coach. I’ve always loved lifting weights, but I’ve always done it for the purpose of performances external to the gym. Everything I’ve done in the gym has always been geared towards becoming a better, stronger and faster runner. For the most part, I never lift or do core work just to do it. It’s always been done for the purpose of becoming a better athlete in my sport. So even though I could only hit the gym, I still had one goal in mind: feeling strong while racing Squamish 23K.

In the spring, even though I did revel in the fact that my shoulder stability was increasing and lifting PRs came steadily, what motivated me all the time, even during my studying, was my dream of being free in the summer and running. I dreamed of runs feeling easy, rhythmic and smooth. I dreamed and craved of ripping off 400m repeats and cranking out mile repeats. I dreamed of slogging on double days and getting winded from a hard long run. That’s what kept me motivated through assignments and exams. I was dreaming and waiting to feel like a runner again. And I waited for 8 months.

I thought this random foot pain, that I experienced when I started to run again, was a simple fix, like the other times I randomly had a localized niggle in my foot. I thought it’d be a done deal within a treatment, just like the other times. It appeared to be a more complicated issue, stemming from studying and writing papers for a couple of weeks without a physio appointment. I was all twisted, my left glute wasn’t firing as well as it needed to be, and it seemed like a simple loading issue that caused my foot pain. Unfortunately, as the pain subsided and problems were fixed, my walk runs still brought on burning fatigue in my left arch. And hearing about the permanent laxity or instability in my left hindfoot left me in despair and confusion. (I have a blog post in my drafts vault that addresses this in greater detail in relation to footwear and how I may have to retract my mission to transition into minimalism.)

Nearly a month ago, I left a free and very brief injury assessment with a pedorthist at a complete loss. So much so that I went crying straight to my coach. (Not actually crying, but theoretically, pretty much.) This sudden pitfall left me to face my demons again. The same ones that tormented me in my grade 12 year of track when I struggled with a mysterious posterior knee issue for 6 months -until it turned into a full blown grade 2+ hamstring strain. 3 days before city finals.

Adding insult to injury (well, injury to injury), out of the blue, I flared up my ulnar nerve pretty bad from a harmless, routine workout at the gym. It was the worst flare up since my initial nerve entrapment 2 summers ago. This put riding on my road bike to work out of the question.

In this spiral of troubles, I learned that there are two faces in every injured athlete.

Note: Of course, I’m making sweeping generalizations about all athletes. But from my former track teammates that are still varsity athletes or former varsity athletes, I’ve seen this in them as well and I’ve discussed it with a couple of friends also currently injured.

THE BEAUTY
The injured athlete is a beauty that practitioners love. He or she will follow your instructions and do your prescribed exercises and stretches. We tell ourselves that if this is what we need to do to get ourselves back to doing what we crave and love, then we will do every single rep that you tell us to do. We will face the monotony that is rehab, but we will always get the work done.

I ask myself, “How bad do you want it?” And I’ll grab my theraband or what have you, and I will make sure that I don’t miss a day of rehab. Because each day is a day to get myself that much closer to running again. If you love your sport enough, you’ll be alone pool running in the dive tank or at the public pool with kids splashing and seniors swimming. (Interestingly enough, I’ve been accompanied by several injured track athletes in the pool this semester.) Every day is a chance for a comeback to erase the misgivings about your body.

The beauty tries to stay truthful, patient and optimistic. And tells him or herself that, they’re getting stronger each week and will soon return better than ever.

THE BEAST
Once an athlete realizes that he or she is out for more than 1-2 weeks, it’s a depressing blow to take. It requires time to digest and accept. I’m sure I could list out distinct phases, but the beginning will always be slight denial where you’ll come up with an arbitrary number of days or weeks that it’ll take before you’re back in your sport. The imaginary number comforts you. When things aren’t progressing as you wish they did, then things start to get iffy. It’s a dark cloud each day when you are constantly reminded by your body that you’re not healthy yet. The beast easily gets jealous as others are carefree and able to be active. The beast loathes that his or her body keeps failing.

Once time stretches even further and the injury is so complicated that it can’t really be defined into a number before you’re back, questions start. Questions appear to determine what you could’ve done to prevent this. Questions appear to determine why this happened. Questions appear to determine whether your body was meant for this sport or not. Questions appear to determine if this fight and push to return ASAP is even worth it anymore. It gets tiring each day to be so optimistic and to be checking your progress, only to be let down every time. Questions appear to determine if you should just -let go.

WHAT IT’S BEEN LIKE
Since it’s summer and I’m not in a full load of courses, I definitely have more time on my hands. So I notice that I actually have free time, which was supposed to be filled up by running. It wasn’t supposed to feel this way, because I was expecting time to become relevant to running, like back in highschool and in my first year of university on the track team. Each day would be dictated by running: easy day and strength, intervals or hills day, long run day or recovery day. How I ate, what I ate and when I ate would be dependent on each day of training and each workout. Take out that training and routine… and everything comes to a standstill. The strict routines and dependency on running becomes murky. Things that were so concrete and defined by running now weren’t.

In Chariots and Horses, Jason Dorland writes, “I was once part of a group of individuals that could do things that only a minute percentage of the world’s population could. Now, I’m just an average person with an average life.” This might be a pompous statement, but as a competitive athlete, you can’t help but have that mindset sometimes when your sport is taken away from you. When I first came to face this truth that I was struggling with… I realized that I felt unfulfilled. Days felt empty. I probably didn’t even feel truly happy. Most of the time, I felt mediocre that my summer didn’t start off like I had dreamed of. When I came to really evaluate when I could be running again and actually training for Squamish, I had to be mature and think. And I realized that, Squamish demanded too much and even if I lacked in aerobic capacity by race day, odds were, my foot would likely not be conditioned for 4+ hours on the trails. So, through a rough process of letting go and a change of heart… I made progress in a different way.

WHERE I’M HEADED
Abbey D’agostino, one of my role models, said in her Flotrack interview, “[when you’re injured] you really learn what your motivation is when you’re like, sucking it up by yourself in the pool… if your running is all have you and it’s not going well, it’s going to be so much harder to recover and come back stronger.” I first had to keep telling my running coach that I wouldn’t be able to join him yet. And I had to keep pushing back my imaginary return date. Then I had to turn down my lifting coach for the summer. Then I ultimately had to tell the race director that I could no longer race. Finally, I had to see what I have beyond running.

It wasn’t easy, but it’s taken tremendous pressure off me, not having to rush my return to training. In the last month, I’ve made substantial strength gains in my feet as I’ve been doing my strength work on both feet. It’s taken weeks of consistency and drive to embrace the monotony and lack of excitement to work on foot intrinsics. But I’ve always made sure that I’ve done my rehab, to the point of blistering and burning off skin from my toes when doing barefoot strides on the hot turf in the sun.

Thankfully, things seem to be coming together this week. My ulnar nerve has finally calmed down that I’m quite sure that after yesterday’s acupuncture treatment, I’m good to go. I’ll be quite careful and won’t ride until I have a solid week free of symptoms. Maybe even 2 weeks if I’m paranoid. And, most importantly, I’ll be getting my orthotics on Saturday. If that doesn’t prove to solve my issue… then I’ll have to re-evaluate and start from scratch. But I won’t fret for now until I see what happens.

CLOSING REMARKS
As I was reading another runner’s blog, I suddenly remembered a Dr. Seuss book that my coach gave me at the conclusion of my grade 12 track season, continuing the tradition where the coaches give all captains a gift.

wpid-wp-1435285662077.jpeg One of the things that my coach wrote inside was, “If all else fails, consult the book; it will guide you to happy and healthy.”And in the book, Dr. Seuss says, “Your brain and heart will guide you all that you do.”

I don’t know that I have any answers or great tips to give. But as athletes, we’re a different breed with different demons to deal with. One coworker of mine commented on how she sees this all the time. And people say, “If I can just do another Ironman. Just one more race. Then. I’ll be happy.” It’s that need of achievement to feel fulfilled. But she said if that’s what we think will make us happy, and we can’t make the decision to be happy in this very moment, then there’s something wrong. It’s a mind boggling dilemma. At least for me right now, it’s not even about racing anymore. I just want to be able to go on runs, to feel like a runner again. I love running and my heart says that I’m not ready to give it up.

Just like Abbey D elegantly says, I’m a person of faith. I’m pretty sure that this time of physical misfortunes has meant to be a wake up call and lesson for me. But despite that, I know that the lesson isn’t for me to necessarily give up on my dream of running and tackling 80km+ weeks. I’m just an athlete that’s been called to pursue other things but one that will always chase after the dream. Once a runner, always a runner. #trialsofmilesmilesoftrials

MTSS or Stress Fracture? Does it Really Matter?

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Photo by Steel City Hobbies obtained from Wikimedia Commons

It feels so good to be able to progress from a red to green theraband and from couch surfing (+some suuuper easy stationary bike) to pool running last Monday. When I tried to actually swim a couple of strokes, my foot let me know that it wasn’t a good idea. But I was incredibly stoked about being able to pool run on Monday. I was also able to start walking barefoot with next to no pain (just going downstairs sparked some pain spontaneously) last weekend. Fast forward to this weekend, I am so thankful to have been able to attempt a 10x1min run/walk (with walking warm up). My left foot was a bit sore from riding to work with cycling shoes for the first time on Saturday in a couple of weeks. So after 8.5 minutes, I called it quits. BUT, I was able to get past the muscle guarding and fear, as I worked into my 5th rep and really felt like I was running smoothly again. I’m surely not out of the woods yet, but if it’s anything like my limited shuttle run workouts coming off my Lgr2+ hamstring strain, I think I’ll be back soon. (Fingers crossed.)

But while pool running for 30 minutes on Monday, I thought about what I learned at the running injuries course, as mentioned in my previous blog post. JF had talked about whether it was truly important to differentiate between MTSS (medial tibial stress syndrome) and a tibial stress fracture. If symptoms were the same, ie. same sort of stage in the injury, why would he need to send his patient for a bone scan, wasting money and increasing radiation sort of exposure, if his treatment would be identical regardless of the diagnosis? Most patients and competitive athletes might want to know anyway, just so they have something concrete that they can google and hopefully have a timeline for return to activity. However, I think JF has a point.

I for sure don’t have a stress fracture or MTSS. It’s likely just dysfunctional foot alignment and weakness in the structures. And my newest theory is that it’s glute amnesia, which was already sort of affecting my left glute in relation to my right shoulder dynamic instability near the end of my triathlon training last summer. The hours spent writing papers and then right into studying for finals might have just made it worse. And when I walked and ran especially, too much load and torque was put onto my left foot. But anyways, it kind of almost felt as if I had a stress fracture while I was pool running. It’s been about 4 weeks with this injury that came out of no where in the tail end of my finals before I even started to run, which obviously exacerbated it. Only last weekend was I been have to walk barefoot without much pain, after my fifth metatarsal was adjusted by the locum chiropractor I was working with. And my rehab has been kind of similar, as if I had a stress fracture, in trying to return to running.

I really wanted to try a walk run workout today to get my foot stimulated. This way, as JF really stressed, my foot can begin to adapt to the stress and the structures in my foot can receive stimulus to promote healing and strengthening. Similarly, as I mentioned, it’s probably why 2nd hamstring strain (also grade 2+ but opposite leg and ~6 months apart) recovered much faster than my 1st strain. I started a shuttle run protocol as soon as I could (as per the SFU varsity physiotherapist) and I recovered much, much faster even though when I initially started, I felt like I was running through maple syrup. My muscles weren’t firing as well as usual, so I felt like I was stuck in slow mo and my ROM (range of motion) was very limited. I felt insanely awkward like I wasn’t accomplishing much, but my body was very much fatigued after each workout. Thus the shuttle runs helped stimulate my hamstring to heal and got me back to running form quicker than when I didn’t do much of anything after my 1st strain.

Currently, even though my physiotherapist and I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact “mechanism”  that led to this injury, what’s clear is that my left glute isn’t firing well in proportion to other muscles. And, the instability (and weakness) in my left foot is still present. So I’ve been patient and religiously working on my foot strength, proprioception and now glute strength. Nothing exciting, just trying to get my motor control and feet strength back.

It’s really all about getting back to the basics, especially after being affected by an injury for this long. I decided to test out my eccentric heel drops last week, and found that my left calf had ridiculously weak motor control that was nearly half of the control in my right calf. I’ve already been doing this for less than 7 days and today I could tell that the asymmetry has decreased. I’ve also been training a 2xMVA (motor vehicle accident) client at the gym for over 8 months now. Although her core and leg strength have gone up considerably, her neck and shoulder issues have been flaring up again the last while. As she is very aware of her own body, even she suggested to go back to basics. We’ve been working on a lot of scapular clocks lately for proprioception and motor control.

During the time that I was rehabbing my shoulder(s) (left was also a bit unstable), I was initially limited to glenohumeral centering and scapular control. I did this supine, then standing with therabands. -Next to people attempting to deadlift with good form, and with weight that was less than my warm up. I then came up with this phrase to help keep me patient and motivated: “Regress to Reinforce, Progress to Propel.” Following any injury, it’s wise to recheck your foundation. Is that transverse abdominis firing as it should? What about the big trouble maker, glutes? My good friend and former coworker, who is an RMT and fellow kinesiology student, came up with another good one in parallel: “Simple to Stabilize, Complex to Challenge. – Christin Sadler.

So I think no matter what injury you suffer from and no matter what the “true diagnosis” is, whether it’s MTSS vs. stress fracture, you have to start from the bottom and make sure that the foundation is there before you progress. This will lead to a more steady return to activity and less chance of re-injury. With that being said, no matter how long it takes, single leg box jumps, I’m comin’ for you!

Minimalism: 3rd Time’s the Charm

This weekend I was part of The Running Clinic’s Newest Trends in the Prevention of Running Injuries course led by Jean-François Esculier. It was fantastic and well evidence-based. Many things were discussed, but one of the big messages was how minimal/minimalism/minimalistic running can make a runner more efficient and alter characteristics that commonly lead to injury. This wasn’t the first time that I heard rallying for the minimalism approach aside from shoe companies and media. Let’s back things up to when I was first geniunely intrigued by minimalism running.

One of my highschool cross country and track coaches actually ran in Vibram FiveFingers when I was in highschool. I recall running with him as he ran in his “feet gloves” as the cross country team ran the golf course for easy runs. It was interesting at the time, as Vibram’s FiveFingers line really took off for both running and training in the gym. But I didn’t think that it was for me. My coach commented on how he found that his running gait changed to a forefoot strike when he wore his Vibrams. But as soon as he switched back to his regular runners, he switched back to his regular running style. In the middle of my highschool career, my other coach had us run strides and some drills barefoot on the infield of the track. His explanation behind the premise of this new coaching implementation made sense. When running barefoot, we become more efficient, as we shift our weight more foreward, ie. less heel  or rearfoot striking. Our cadence increases and our stride length decreases to a more efficient length. Plus, you strengthen muscles, especially in your feet, that get neglected when running with shoes. Following this introduction, 3 more people have convinced me about minimalism.

1. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
After reading the book several years ago, I was so gung ho and swept away like a fan girl about running barefoot/minimalism. I was very intrigued by the Tarahumara runners. Going minimal sounded magical and I wanted to run like a swift gazelle too. I’m not 100% sure about this, but it may have been what convinced me to try out Saucony Kinvara’s, after having run in “motion control” type of shoes throughout my highschool career. I had always struggled with tight shins in highschool. It wasn’t exactly “shin splints” or “medial tibial stress syndrome”, but similar. And I was close to being diagnosed with compartment syndrome, but it was ruled out by a sports doctor at UBC’s Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Centre. Anyhow, to keep it nice and short, since I’ve switched to more “minimal” shoes, I’ve never had my shins as tight, where I get to the point that I can barely dorsiflex and must cease the workout. My hypothesis is that I altered my footstrike and resultant running gait (only solution for compartment syndrome as I learned today) and strengthened my feet by switching to Kinvara’s.

2. Dr. Irene Davis’ Evaluation and Treatment of the Injured Runner weekend course
I attended this course when she came to Vancouver, less than 2 years ago. Dr. Davis brought up that my Kinvara’s weren’t even true minimal shoes, as she considered shoes more like the Vibram FiveFingers with 0 toe to heel drop as true minimal footwear. But compared to everything I ran in previously, Kinvara’s were “minimal”, in my opinion anyway. After hearing Dr. Davis’ research and opinion, I was pretty close to looking into training minimal that winter. I forget what stopped me, but I decided to put that idea on the backburner, probably because I didn’t feel like investing in more shoes at the time.

3. The Running Clinic’s course this weekend led by Jean-François Esculier
As we come full circle, here I am. Still rocking the “minimal” style shoes (wearing Pearl Izumi Road N0 only because I didn’t hear good things about Kinvara 4; and wearing Saucony Type A6/Brooks T7 Racer racing flats). Interestingly, even Jean-François noted how he would consider the Saucony Kinvara line as more of a “light trainer” and not a true minimal shoe. His clinical and research experience determined that wearing minimal shoes vs. maximal shoes does not decrease the prevalence of injuries. Minimal shoes will change the locations of where the body is most loaded when running. Instead of maximalist shoes (not limited to Hoka’s beastly shoes, but the typical big motion control, bulky shoes) that load the body most at the low back, hips and knees, minimalist shoes will load more of the lower leg and feet, eg. calves, Achilles tendon, metatarsals. Injury is just caused by maladaptation and too fast of a transition eg. between shoes, training volume/intensity, etc. However, literature agrees that minimal shoes will stimulate more protective biomechanics, such as less impact force and better dynamic alignment of the lower limb. As a result, running efficiency and feet strength will increase, which sound highly attractive to me. Jean-François does encourage running in minimal shoes like Dr. Irene Davis, but like everything, it depends on your goals and your current health status. He has this pdf that is a flow chart to help people discern what types of shoes are suitable for them.

One of the large themes from this weekend is that the body adapts to its stresses. This will include running in minimal shoes, when introduced slowly and progressively. I don’t think that I’ll train to become specifically minimal for this summer, since I plan to race Squamish 23 in a pair of Salomon Speedcross 3. But I’ll surely add in the barefoot strides and drills again, in addition to a slew of foot strengthening exercises. However, in the fall, I plan to try introducing minimalism into my training. Jean-François mentioned how proper adaptation and periodization for the transition into minimal running can take about a year. It starts from say, running 29 minutes in your usual trainers and 1 minute in the minimal shoes. Then, 28 minutes in usual trainers and 2 minutes in minimal shoes. Etc. If that’s the way to safely do it without risk of injuring myself, I think I’m game to try it. Why wouldn’t you want to feel like a smooth, floating gazelle?

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” – Abe Gubegna 

How to Maximize Your Recovery Post-Treatment

“Sometimes serious injury is a great thing for an athlete. It provides the chance to rebuild everything they never had in the first place.” – Charlie Weingroff

I wish I could say that this was me right now 

but as it stands, or rather, as I sit, this is more like me. 

It’s not a serious injury, such as a stress fracture, but it’s a mysterious “chicken or the egg” injury. The only thing that’s clear is that I never rebuilt the foundation in my left foot that I’ve needed to, likely within the last 2 years. In January 2014, I had the most glorious, close to “runner’s high” 16K long run (on sidewalks). I felt good going out for 8K, then coming back I started to feel an ache in my left arch. No biggy, I kept running and I felt good despite that growing ache. I felt fantastic after I got home, all except for the fact that my foot was now swollen and I could barely bear weight on my foot. What happened? Well, I sprained structures within my medial longitudinal arch, without acute trauma, just from the magnitude of foot falls on pavement. Once my foot healed I didn’t end up running much in that spring semester due to other reasons. In the summer, I found myself riding and swimming more than running while training for my first triathlon. And here I am. I lacked stability then, and I lack it now. I’m unfortunately not hitting the roads or trails, training for Squamish 23K at the end of August. I’ve got a lax subtalar joint and lack of ligamentous strength that would reaaaallly be needed on the trails. So in one sense, I’m thankful that this is happening now, as opposed to a few weeks out from the race. In another sense, the bang to start my summer semester was to soak up the sun and train hard. Well, if you’re forced to couch surf like me, and desperate to get back to good health and action, here are some ways to maximize your recovery post-treatment.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck after seeing any therapist, be it an RMT (registered massage therapist), physiotherapist, etc., what you do immediately following your appointment matters. Think about this. If you’re seeking treatment due to chronic injury, you’ve most likely built muscular/fascial compensation patterns leading to your dysfunction. It takes adjustments, needles, massage, etc., to try to break that pattern and reset the nervous system so you can lay down new, better patterns to lead you to improved health. (Cue active rehabilitation exercises).

So how can you maximize your recovery post-treatment?

Drink Up
Most practitioners will advise you to drink plenty of water following a treatment and in the days after. Why? Well the body is made up mostly of water and it’s widely used as a transport mechanism to flush out the metabolites and toxins that hopefully got released when you were getting worked on. My wording may not be scientifically accurate, but essentially, we want to flush out the bad waste and replenish tissues with water and help bring in nutrients. It follows the same principles of why you would want to rehydrate following a workout. When you exercise you stress the body. When you are receiving thumbs, needles, metal Graston tools into sore tissues, that’s stress too. So in the same way, hydrating after treatments is just as important.

Get Sleep
This would make most sense but it’s also something we easily ignore. Sleep is when the body can optimally repair. I remember reading about this on the internet in highschool when I was desperate to get better from my injury. Some article stated the importance of sleep under “Treatment”, so I immediately told my friends that I couldn’t keep talking on MSN and I slept super early. When your body is weaker than usual, trying to heal tissues, your overall body could use some extra ZzZs. The body always has healing to do from every day stresses, but with an injury, there’s additional damage control that it must deal with. Thus if you want to get reap the most benefits and get better faster following a treatment, it would make sense to get a good night’s rest and in the following days.

Nutrition
Now you must think we’re talking about recovering from a workout, not a treatment where it should have made you already better in the first place. But if you’ve suffered a muscle strain or tear, would it not make sense to also have good nutrients to create new tissue? Even if you’ve sustained a stress fracture, the body needs the proper balance of minerals and vitamins to build new bone. Most, if not all, of the vital nutrients that we need come from our diet. My former teammate in first year told me how if he felt slight muscle twinges (preluding to a blown-out strain) during practice, he’d make sure to eat extra protein and carbohydrates. And somehow, it would seem to help and he’d be good as new. Obviously it doesn’t really work, but when I was super desperate to bounce back from my grade 2+ hamstring strain, I was willing to try anything. Nevertheless, the concept is still important; if you want your body to heal, you need to provide it with a steady amount of good nutrients.

Keep Your Cool
If you let your stress levels peak after a treatment, it won’t help the healing process. Obviously this is a difficult thing for people that need to return to work, to taking care of the family, etc. But ideally you would try to keep things on the down low so your nervous system can hone in on your physical ailments and let the healing take place. If your mental state affects your exertion levels in a workout, then it will also do the same for your recovery. I’ve experienced first hand how mental stress can really put a damper on physical recovery. In addition, I get many questions from people asking if they can crosstrain or do other strenuous activity so long as it doesn’t flare their injury up. It depends on what stage of their injury they are at. Generally if it’s acute or they just received a huge treatment, then my two cents is this: in the immediate days, relax and let your body absorb the good changes elicited from the treatment. I always thought if you worked your other body parts really hard, then you’d be taking your nervous system’s attention away from the injured location. It would panic and be confused about which body part to focus its recovery on. Steve Magness found that having his athletes relax in a social environment immediately after workouts improved their recovery.

All of this is just about optimizing your healing and recovery to get you back to feeling better sooner. These minute details aside from making an appointment, attending the appointment and working with your therapist to solve your issue(s), and following their directions eg. ice/heat, exercises, are just things you might want to think about when trying to reap the most benefit from your treatments. It might also help you feel active in your rehab when you’re supposed to just couch surf and be passive. Most of the time, you get sore the day(s) after a treatment, just as you would from a workout. So why not take care of yourself in the same way as you would after a hard workout?Currently, I’m making sure that all of those are on point, doing banded rearfoot eversions religiously among other things that I can do without pain, and looking to rebuild the foundation that’s been missing in my left foot.


If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for stopping by and giving up your generous time to read. I’m influenced by great blogs by strength coaches, such as Tony Gentilcore, Eric Cressey, Jon Goodman and Dean Somerset, just to name a few. They are able to elegantly present evidence-based facts, while sharing their opinion and humor, which make it really enjoyable to read. I hope I can mimic that to some degree, where my blogs are insightful, helpful and enjoyable to read at the same time. The main content here will likely just be some reviews and my thoughts about things. Examples of what you can expect from me in the next while are: reviews and my 2 cents on my arsenal of recovery tools such as MobilityWod’s Supernova or the R8 Roller; Why I Came to Love CrossFit, But Will Likely Never Crossfit Myself and 6 Things that CrossFit Games Athletes Taught Me.