Monday, July 25, 2011

Week 7 of recovery: I'm almost back!

I've been quiet for some time, namely because I've been recovering following my surgery (a myomectomy, which required an incision in my uterus and abdomen, not to mention messing up my stomach muscles -- leaving lots of scar tissue to start healing and strengthening again).

The surgeon and nurses had said that it would be six weeks until I could begin exercising and doing other household chores like laundry and washing the floors (hehe). I haven't done any of the latter yet, but just as soon as I could after the six week mark had passed, I headed to the gym. My husband asked "why so soon?" I think he was worried that I was heading out there too soon, but all I could say was that I was tired of doing nothing, and wanted to be back out there.

So last Saturday, I decided to hop on the stationary bike for 25 minutes, then do a bit of strength and upper core work. On the whole, it felt pretty good and there were no major mishaps.

On  Monday and Tuesday, I attended my first Zumba classes since the surgery. Apart from feeling pretty wiped and not really able to give it my all like I usually do, I was pleased to be out there (despite being a little disheartened by how much weight I seemed to have put on in a month and a half of not working out).

Tuesday, after the second Zumba class, I was waiting to pick up my hubby from work and had some spare time on my hands. Given that I was still in my workout gear and in the vicinity of Rails to Trails (not to mention that it was a beautiful evening with the sun setting crimson and saffron in a rainbow-striped sky), I decided to do an easy mini jog along the trail.

So I headed out, with no Garmin and a little trepidatious about everything. I probably did about 200 metres, maybe 300, but I felt pretty good. That was the sign I needed that I was ready to head out again.

Saturday, I took my first yoga class and warned the instructor that I might be taking it easy as I'd just had surgery. I thought this was really important, since a lot of times the instructors may want to force me into a pose and I just didn't know how my body would handle it. Once again, I felt pretty good, but couldn't give it my all like I usually do, and had to take a few breaks in child's pose from time to time.

Saturday afternoon, I decided that I was going to try and head out for my first run. I laced on my shoes and put on my running gear (I've got to admit it's been kind of nice not having running clothes airing out in my closet every day), dropped the car at hubby's work, and started on a very slow run around the Commons.

My goal was to make it at least four kilometres before heading back to his work, but even at 800 metres, it was tough slogging. My breathing was laboured, my muscles were straining, and all I wanted to do was to quit and give up running altogether. I'm not kidding -- the thought that it would be so easy to just not push myself back into running crossed my mind more than once on that run. It felt like I was just starting out from scratch again, and that all of my work prior to the surgery had been lost.

But then I remembered how much satisfaction I get out of running, not to mention how it keeps me in shape and fitting into my clothes. I forced myself to remember that this was just another "day" like so many other days when I'd doubted myself.

I made it 3.8 kms, then walked back to the store and stretched, sweaty and out of breath.

When I complained to hubby that I'd found it difficult and I'd thought I could just head out on an easy four k run, he said, "Based on what?" It was true -- I'd done nothing for six weeks. What told me that I could simply head out and be a superstar again?

I realized that this was going to be a longer process than I had thought, even after weeks of being patient and taking it easy.

It could have been easy to fall into a slump and get disheartened, particularly because I definitely notice that the pounds have crept on and I'm not as strong as I was before surgery. But I've been working to remember that my body needed this time to heal (remember the sneeze incident?) and that eventually, if I persevere, I'll get back to where I was. And that quite possibly, I'm farther along in my recovery than I might have been if I hadn't been in good shape before surgery.

The nice thing about getting back into working out after not having worked out for some time is that you remember how hard you were working before, because your muscles ache in a way they don't usually when you're accustomed to working out. My shoulders and triceps ache now following yoga, but it's a good ache, if you know what I mean.

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing now. There is relatively out there in terms of information for post-surgery recovery programs. I did, however find this site -- a support group for women who run, on Hyster Sisters. Not quite what I've gone through, but similar enough. The overwhelming message on the group is that each woman's healing process is individual, and that if you push yourself too hard too soon, you'll end up doing more harm than good. The good news is that many women report to being back to themselves (or better) a few months to a year following the surgery.

Tonight, I headed out for another run. My goal is to be able to run home again from hubby's work, which is about 5k. Initially though, I had no idea how I'd feel. I headed out the door, turned on my familiar running tunes, and ran up the hill (in our neighbourhood it's either uphill or downhill to start, and then uphill or downhill at least once or twice to finish -- good hill training!). The hill was tough, but by the time I made it down the first one and up the second, I was feeling a little more limber and had settled into a good breathing rhythm.

So instead of turning right onto our road and straight home, I decided to head down past Frog Pond, around to Williams Lake and home the long way.

Once I got back to the street closest to ours, I could have stopped. But I wanted to hit 5k. So I did a few more laps around the streets, breathing a little heavier now and tired in my legs from all those hills. But something told me that the only way to progress from 3.8k to 5k is to build on the distance, gradually day by day, with some rest days interspersed.

I made it to 5k and couldn't stop repeating it to hubby, who was patient with my incessant blabbing about how I'd just done 5k.

Really, I have no idea what I'm doing now, but my plan is to try and build on my weekly distances so I can run 7-8k easily, and build my long runs on Sunday gradually. I've let go of my initial pre-surgery goal of running a half in the fall, and I'm just going to see how the next few weeks go. If I'm feeling good, then maybe the Valley Half. If I'm still feeling weak, then maybe a 10 or 5k. It's all a game of wait and see right now -- and I'm getting pretty good at waiting and seeing!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

HRG Runner Profile: Nancy Holland

Well, it would appear that I'm not quite ready to start running again. I sneezed this week while walking and ended up hurting my stomach so bad that I couldn't walk or stand for several hours...Bummer, because it's a beautiful sunny and breezy day out here in Halifax today, and it would have been nice to be able to slip on my shoes and head out for a Sunday run. But that will have to wait a few more weeks.

So while I give my body more time to heal, I'll take this opportunity to introduce to you Nancy Holland. I first met Nancy through the Editors' Association of Canada, and she and I quickly discovered a mutual love for running, in addition to an editor's love for language and grammar.

Nancy also happens to be the president of Run Nova Scotia, as well as a member of the Halifax Running Club, and she is pretty connected to the road running culture in the province, and committed to promoting healthy lifestyles and active living. If I ever want to know what races are coming up and whether I should consider participating in one of them, I know to ask Nancy!

Without further ado, I give you Nancy Holland, today's HRG Runner Profile!

HRG: How long have you been running?

NH: An eternity. Or since 1994, whichever comes first.

HRG: How and why did you start running?

NH: I couldn’t take being a couch potato any more. I was athletic in high school but, like most young women, I stopped doing anything once I graduated. I ran off and on (in pre-minimalist minimalist shoes no less) through the 80s. When I moved back to Halifax, I had an apartment on the Common and there was the perfect running track right outside my door. The first lap nearly did me in, but I kept going and haven’t stopped since.

HRG: Favourite part of running?

NH: It’s a tie between finishing a run and hitting that magical runner’s high when you feel like you can run forever. That doesn’t happen very often. Oh! And the people I meet. I tap into local running groups when I travel and have made some great friends along the way. But the running community in Nova Scotia is tops!

HRG: Least favourite part of running?

NH: The runs that suck. You know the ones: your leg feel like stumps and/or you can’t breathe. Every step is a struggle and you start to doubt that you’re a runner at all.

HRG: Favourite time of year/weather to run in?

NH: Early mornings when the sun’s out. Fog’s nice, too, but I’ve had enough running in fog this year. Gentle snow’s good.

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run?

NH: So many to choose from! I like doing long runs on the Halifax peninsula. Running in Shubie Park is always awesome and challenging. Favourite races include the Liverpool 5-miler, the Berwick 5-miler, the Louisbourg 8-miler, the Enfield 10-miler, and the Nova Scotia Half Marathon.

HRG: Favourite distance to run?

NH: 5 miles or 10K

HRG: How do you keep motivated?

NH: I love food so if I want to fit into my clothes, I have to run!

HRG: Best pre-race meal?

NH: For long races (10 miles and further), some kind of pasta thing. I don’t eat anything special the night before shorter races.

HRG: Best post-race meal?

NH: Chicken wings and champagne after the PEI marathon. Best. Meal. Ever. But the hamburger at the Union St. Café in Berwick is awfully good, too.

HRG: Upcoming race goal?

NH: Decide which fall marathon I’m going to run.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?

NH: There will be good runs and bad runs; be thankful you can run at all. Run in any weather. Keep a running log. Leave your watch/Garmin at home now and then. Always thank race volunteers. Look both ways before crossing the street. Be fitted by a professional to get the right running shoes for YOU. Don’t put your running bra in the dryer. In a race, always move to the side of the road before stopping or taking a walk break. Smile.

HRG: Anything else you want to add?

NH: Running may seem like it should be innate, but it isn’t. We can all benefit from some coaching now and then.

HRG: Thanks, Nancy!