Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Highs and Lows of Running

In recent years, I have been dogged by a lower back problem.  After retaining the services of a chiropractor or “throwing money at it” as my husband so succinctly put it, the problem all but disappeared.

However, the last week of my life has been a shining example of Murphy’s Law.  When last Sunday, my son thoughtfully and unexpectedly asked me if I was still suffering with a back problem, I laughed and dismissed it as ancient history. 

I have always been relatively fit, but this year vowed to take up jogging after hearing first hand from friends and relatives how beneficial it is for the heart and lungs and for bone strengthening.  I was keen to experience the much talked about “runners’ high” and liked the idea of a free form of exercise which could easily be integrated into my lifestyle.  Also, with many of my friends approaching 40 and suddenly becoming fitter and stronger than ever before; entering Iron Man contests, running half marathons and suchlike, quite frankly I was feeling left out.

I downloaded a beginners’ guide to jogging from an NHS affiliated website – a 10 week plan with timed running and walking intervals, designed to gradually increase the running time to 30 minutes.  I invested in some decent and rather pretty running shoes (white, silver and sparkly pink) and began my new exercise regime thrice weekly.

In brief, the last 7 weeks can be summarised as follows: -

Week 1:  Completed successfully. 
Measure of pleasure:  3/10

Week 2:  Completed successfully.
Measure of pleasure:  4/10

Week 3:  Completed successfully.
Measure of pleasure:  5/10

Week 4:  Completed successfully.
Measure of pleasure:  8/10
Points of interest:  Experienced runners’ high.  Cheerfully greeted other joggers as opposed to sweating profusely.  Imagined unveiling lithe, toned pins and taut posterior in the summer months.

Week 5:  Completed successfully.
Measure of pleasure:  10/10
Points of interest:  Niggling concerns at potential for cumulative damage to my spine.  Decided to reduce to twice weekly, incorporating a mid-week swim in substitution.

Week 6:  Completed successfully. 
Measure of pleasure:  10/10
Points of interest:  Tried to ignore the slight ache in the right side of my lower back coinciding with my right foot pounding the pavement.

Week 7:  Completed successfully. 
Points of interest:  Attacked by sharp abdominal twinges for 2 days after first run of the week (classic symptoms of my back condition).  After an evening spent nursing an ice pack, the old familiar tightness had returned to my lower back.

I called a halt to my programme and called the chiropractor.

Unable or unwilling to say exactly what had caused my relapse (I could tell by the lack of eye contact, that he was blaming the jogging, but didn’t have the heart to tell me), he worked his magic on my spine and advised that I should not give up just yet, but see him in a week, at which point he could assess the damage.

I left his surgery on a high; totally pain free and promptly went for a run.  Sadly, I must report that my back is once again stiff and aching.  It is totally soul destroying to think that you are unable to take part in an activity you enjoy…and what is to become of my slightly-weathered-but-still-very-pretty running shoes?

Well after a night of research, I think I have the answer and it was quite unexpected when it came.  After years of mocking those people who waddle like ducks down the street in their running gear, donning expressions of intense concentration, I am to join their realms.  Power walking is allegedly as good, if not better, than running, but lower impact and more spine-friendly (my terminology, forgive me).  Even better than that, I still get to wear my running shoes and can hold onto my dream of a pert posterior and perfect pins for a little longer.  I’ll keep you posted.

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