Thursday, July 19, 2012

Injury time

It happens to the best of us.

A tweaked muscle here... A pulled tendon there... A pinched nerve somewhere else...

Injuries. Those of us who are physically active know that it is only a matter of time before we sustain one. God knows that I have had my fair share. Ankle sprains, muscle tears, strained tendons, popping kneecaps, and my personal favourite, groin pulls (nothing like icing the entre-jambes area, I say...). Years and years of living the sedentary life without one freaking injury. 10 years of keeping fit and active and POW! I run out of massage therapy and physiotherapy insurance coverage by February. Every. single. year.

My most infamous injury is indicative of what a jerk I am when it comes to taking proper care of myself. Picture it: a snowy, icy Sunday morning in small-town New Brunswick, where I have been visiting my in-laws for the past 36 hours. I'm starting to, quite frankly, get a little squirrely. (Try as we do, we just can't seem to stop getting on one another's nerves...) So I decide to go for a 5k run. After 5k, I'm still feeling too stressed to go back, so I decide to do another 5k. About halfway through the second loop, I slip on ice. Innocuous, really - I don't even hit the ground. Just lose balance for half a second before I regain my stride. But after five more minutes, I feel my right glute stiffen. Another 5 minutes later and, with every single strike of my right foot, I feel a stabbing pain rip through my ass cheek. But I've got less than 2k to go, and it's too cold to walk, so I "rimp" (a cross between a run and a limp) all the way back. 

By the time I arrive, I'm in too much pain to be stressed about having another 24 hours to spend with my in-laws. I spend the rest of the day alternating between ice and heat, desperately trying to stop the ass spasms that are preventing me from lying down, sitting, or standing without screaming in pain.

Forty-eight hours later, I'm home. And I'm no longer spasming. Obviously, I'm feeling better. So I go for a run. And running feels great. But then I get home, and my right glute seizes up again, causing me to spend the rest of the day limping around the office. 

But do I stop running and seek professional help? Of course not! What am I? Some kind of wuss? Every other day, I run, and the same scenario plays out. Until Hubby, who is tired of me (a) not taking his advice to rest for a few days and (b) whining about how much post-run pain I am in, insists that I call the doctor. So I drag myself to the sports therapy clinic at the nearby university, get sent for a bone scan (to rule out a fracture) and an ultrasound (when the bone scan reveals nothing), and am finally diagnosed (four months after the original injury) with a torn hip flexor. 

I have been running, every other day, on a torn hip flexor. For four months. Even I know how 'effin dumb that is. 

Dumb enough to make me listen to the doctor, the physiotherapist, the ART specialist, and the massage therapist that I was seeing to rehab me through this injury. Which meant absolutely, unequivocally, without question, NO RUNNING. For at least two weeks. And when I questioned that length of recovery time, I got this: "Well, if you would have taken care of this when it happened, you wouldn't be in this situation," or "It could be worse. If it were a bone fracture, you'd be out for at least 8 weeks." Like patronizing me is going to make me feel better at a time like this...

But I listened. I went to physio/RMT/ART sessions religiously. I started stretching more. I started doing yoga (and you know I am taking it seriously when I do yoga, which I kind-of-sort-of-hate). I did all of my rehab exercises. And most importantly, I did not run once.

Instead, I moped around the house. I felt miserable, unfulfilled, and empty. I filled that empty no-running-void with food. I gained a couple of pounds. I snapped at everyone around me. And I drove everyone mad with my bad attitude. 

I am officially the world's worse rehab patient.

Strike that. I was officially the world's worse rehab patient. The Beast recently lifted that title from me.

It was a small thing, really. As you will surely recall, we recently took Fergus sheep herding. The thing about sheep herding is that you don't do it on nice, level, perfectly groomed landscape. You do it in a pasture. Where there are groundhog holes and uneven turf. Unsurprisingly, mis-steps are possible. And indeed, on the way out of the sheep pen, the trainer asked us if Fergus was limping.  All three of us checked him out thoroughly, looking at all of his paws, poking and prodding him a little to see if anything was tender, but all he did was happily pant. So off we went. And when we got home, he seemed perfectly normal. No limp in sight. 

The following morning, we resumed our regular weekday exercise routine: Monday a.m. run with Mom (we did about 7k), Tuesday a.m. bike ride with Dad (they did about 6k), Wednesday a.m. run with Mom (we did 11k because it was one of those ridiculously beautiful summer mornings), Thursday a.m. bike ri.... Hold the phone. Uncharacteristically, the Beast didn't want to go for a bike ride. After 1k, he stopped dead in his tracks, and refused to go any further. Hubby had to very slowly pedal home. With a very unmotivated dog alongside him. Which we simply chalked up to him being tired from all the physical activity that he does.

That evening, I took Fergus for a walk. And that's when I noticed it. He was limping. Very definitely limping along slowly beside me. And when I picked up one paw at a time to see what was wrong, he pulled away from me when I touched the rear right one. 

Great. So he had done something to himself at the sheep farm after all. But just like his Mom, he faked his way through it for a couple of days, cramming run after run and wrestling-match after wrestling-match into his routine, unwilling to show that something was hurting and that it was time for a break.

Well, a break is just want we knew we had to give him. And on the advice of a friend, Hubby and I agreed that there would be no running for a few days, no off-leash walks, and no dog park. Only slow, controlled walks on a leash, and maybe a little bit of swimming. Until we were sure that he was limp free, for real this time.

Well, Fergus just freaked out. After just one day of not running, I was reminded of why I nicknamed him the Beast. He resumed his frenetic, I-have-too-much-unreleased-energy-pent-up-inside-of-me state almost immediately after our Friday morning walk. As though he was trying to say to me, "WTF, Mom? What's with this slow pace. It's our day to run, lady. Pick up the damn pace, will you?!?!" By the time we got back from work on Friday evening, he was a veritable gong show. Jumping all over us when we walked through the door (which he never does anymore), pacing back and forth until we took him outside, pulling on the leash as though his sole purpose in life was to yank my arm out of its socket, and whimpering and howling when we did not turn into the dog park during our walk. And despite walking him for over an hour on Friday night, he spent the rest of the evening staring at his toy box, demanding that we take something out and throw it around the house for him. Which of course, we would not do, because he could not run.

This went on and on and on for the whole weekend. Constant whining, begging, whimpering, and glancing up at us with his poor-me eyes. 

By Sunday morning, I was desperate to take him out for a roller-blade adventure with me and the girls to let him use up some of his crazy energy. Desperate because he was driving me freaking crazy, and I couldn't take it anymore. But I knew I couldn't. Even though he wasn't limping anymore, I couldn't do to him what I always do to myself: push him to get active too soon and set back his recovery by days and weeks. 

Don't mistake this seemingly altruistic statement for anything other than selfishness. If Fergus would have re-injured himself and required a longer rehab period, I was likely to move out and leave Hubby to deal with this neurotic behaviour. Nope - not taking him was actually all about me. 

But it worked. By Tuesday morning, after being limp-free for over 48 hours, we set off for a leisurely 5k. We took lots of stops to make sure that we weren't rushing it too soon, and I poked and prodded him the whole way through to make sure that he was truly okay and not just faking it. We were even able to go for a bike ride last night along the river, and a run through the Arboretum this morning. And thankfully, he has resumed his calm-as-Fergus-knows-how-to-be state. Peace (or our version of it, at least) has returned to our household.

And now that I know just how overbearing, whiny, and desperately attention-seeking I can be when I am injured and can't do what I love to do, I promise that I will stretch after every single run and listen to my body. Because I don't want to put Hubby through dealing with two injury divas.