On Sunday, for the first time in 6 years, I ran a competitive 5k without stopping and at a respectable pace. And I've gone on about it a bit on social media. You see, I know lots of you run regularly and 5k isn't that much really - it only takes about half an hour! But if you'd asked me even as little as a year ago, I'd have said that my running days were over. Several bouts of disc impingement issues that had me literally on my back for weeks on end, had put paid to my running days.
But about a year ago, I attended a physio who made me think about things differently. It was probably my 4th or 5th physio in as many years and I chose her as my mother in law highly recommended the practice. I went with lower back pain but what made this girl different is that she didn't focus on my back at all - she looked at my whole body and gave me a great bit of advice - get strong all over and stop obsessing about the back (not her exact words...but that was the gist).
It turned out, I'd spent 5 years focussing on my back - on core exercises, on bending right, not lifting too much weight etc etc...and that's all very well. But in that time, my overall strength and fitness had declined due to a lack of vigorous exercise. That in turn put my back under even greater strain as it had to cope with a weaker body overall.
So I abandoned (with some trepidation) my pilates classes and invested the money instead in a gym membership where I initially struggled a bit as it had been so long since I'd been in a gym but eventually, I got a little routine going and by September, felt strong enough to start some weights classes.
People, body pump has changed my life! I have some abs (a 2 pack!), I have proper guns, I have buns of steel.....ok, well maybe not the last one. But it sounds good :) Today at the class, I was dead lifting 12.5k at speed - perhaps 50 or 60 reps over a 4 or 5 minute track.
The reality is that the fact that I am stronger all over has taken pressure off my back and allowed me about 6 months where I've been largely pain free. My back still aches now and again - usually when I don't stretch properly but I never get that scary pain that stops you in your tracks...you'll know it if you suffer with your back.
I don't know how long this will last. I have a history of disc issues...I'm of a certain age...there's family history, etc. But all I can do is keep doing what I'm doing because it's working. And I'm going to keep celebrating the 5k's I manage to do. Running is not the best exercise for me but being stronger all over allows me to enjoy it again and I'll keep monitoring the effects as I attempt to do one 5k run per week. I'm not going to be foolish about it - there will be no half marathon here. I'm going to listen to my body and see how it goes week by week.
Meanwhile, I'll share a couple of pictures from Sunday - because if I share what I wore, it seems like a less off-topic blog post?!
Gilet - North Face (I'm always really cold so this is essential kit)
Running leggings - Nike
Trainers - ASICS (custom selected following gait analysis)
Apart from the North Face gilet, my entire outfit is from Sportique in Magherafelt, where I went last week to have my gait analysed before investing in some new trainers. I'll share the gait analysis experience with you in a separate post as it was really interesting to see how important trainer selection is - especially when you're carrying an old injury.
To finish, I have to say a big thank you to all of you who supported and encouraged me with amazing comments and messages after Sunday's race. Especially my sister who runs 5k a few times a week and never boasts about it on Facebook. You'd expect your sister to set you straight about showing off medals and celebrating on social media. But to credit her, she didn't. Instead, she challenged me to run with her next time I'm in Tipperary. The pressure!
The physio I attended is Caroline at Advance Physiotherapy in Lisburn. Even if you're not local, they have a great Facebook page that always has really interesting articles about back pain/running/exercise etc., the gym I attend is Gymco in Finaghy and finally, none of the content in this post is sponsored!