Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

Ghosts of Injuries Past – A Torn Rotator Cuff Saga

Saturday when I was swimming, I got an old familiar pain in my left arm at lap 48. I was swimming hard, alternating fast 100s with recovery 100s to get ready for next Sunday’s race.

I was in a recovery 100, so I continued for two more laps but when the twingy deltoid muscle pain didn’t go away, I got out of the water, went home and stretched my arm with the exercises I had learned from physical therapy two years ago, along with exercises from a friend who had suffered from shoulder stuff too.

Back to the beginning: In July of 2007, I suddenly started experiencing pain in my left deltoid muscle (about midway between the shoulder and the elbow). It hurt,  but it wasn’t horrible… at first. If I left my arm alone, it didn’t hurt, but if I tried to raise it even to 90 degrees, ouch. Over my head quickly became impossible.

I had no idea really what I could have done to it. I went to the doctor, who figured it was a torn rotator cuff tendon. Based on his assessment, he sent me to an orthopedic. I chose my husband’s orthopedic/pain management doctor because I know her and like her. My husband has a bad back. Her assessment was a torn rotator cuff tendon, which she submitted to the insurance company. By now, three weeks after the original diagnosis, I couldn’t raise my left arm more than 45 degrees. It was basically useless unless I wanted to be in screaming pain.

The wonderful insurance company decided for me that I needed 6 weeks of torture physical therapy before I could have an MRI to find out what was going on  in my shoulder. I made it through 5 appointments before I couldn’t stand it anymore. I’d leave each session in tears and then not sleep for a night or two before the pain before would subside a little. I was literally living on Aleve, just to take the edge off.

Now September of that year, after two full months of not being able to move my arm, the insurance company finally agreed to the MRI. Why was physical therapy so painful? Well, because I had two torn rotator cuff tendons (partial tears that didn’t require surgery, thank goodness), tendonosis (where the tendon around the tears actually died and will never recover), a torn bicep tendon, bursitis and a frozen shoulder. Some of the physical therapy for the torn rotator cuff tendon is counter-productive for the other injuries. My doctor’s colleague chalked it up to the fact that I had a 48-year-old shoulder. Ouch. I think that hurt worse than the shoulder itself. Apparently, torn rotator cuff tendons/frozen shoulders aren’t uncommon in women in their 40s and 50s.

When I started swimming, it was on the advice of my orthopedic doctor (also a triathlete who has had a torn rotator cuff), who said it was one of the best strengthening exercises I could do for my shoulder if I could handle it. While I have my mobility back in that arm, I still have lingering pain. Usually, my shoulder will be a little stiff in the beginning of a swim, but swimming does loosen it up. It took awhile, but swimming generally feels good on my shoulder.

This morning, my shoulder/arm is still achy. It was to be a swim workout today but  I opted out because I won’t risk injuring this arm again. It was the most unbearable pain I can ever remember (and I was in unmedicated labor for 30 hours with my daughter). I believe it was the frozen shoulder that caused the majority of the pain (the membrane sheath that encapsulates the shoulder shrinks up and makes movement difficult) and that’s preventable as long as I keep moving my arm, but even feeling the familiar deltoid muscle pain is enough to send me into a panic.

I have a race on Sunday and I was hoping to get at least one more swim in before then. But if I don’t, at least the swim is the leg of the race where I feel most confident. Even if I swim easy, I’ll do OK in the swim. And in the meantime, I’m hoping that the twingy pain I’ve had in my arm these last couple of days are the result of a tendonosis flare-up and not a new tear. Fingers crossed.

Going from sedentary to active, I’ve taken all of my training pretty slow and steady to avoid injuries. I’d rather go slower than not be able to go at all. I’ll push myself through achy muscles and whiny knees. But this? It’s just not something to be screwing with. I promised myself in the beginning that I would always pay attention when there’s pain.

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T minus 7 days to Trek Women Triathlon

My final and longest triathlon of the season is a week from today. Two weeks ago, I will admit, I was still on the fence about this race, even though I had signed up for it and paid the fee.

I am such a  newbie triathlete, and my first race on August 1, was tough, and shorter than this next one. That one was a 1/4 mile swim, 6 mile bike, 2 mile run. I did ok on the swim and bike, but by the run, I was toast. I finished with a lot of walking breaks, but I finished and I was  proud of that.

The Trek Women triathlon on Sept. 13 is also a 1/4 mile swim, but with a 9-mile bike and 5K (3.1 mile) run. That’s quite a lot longer than the first one. When I signed up for this one (and I swear I wasn’t high on anything), I’m not sure  what came over me. At my level of fitness, I wasn’t sure that six weeks would be enough training time to increase my bike distance and run distance by a third.

But here I am, one week from race day. And I’m feeling confident. More confident perhaps than I did even on August 1. I’ve been training pretty hard these past few weeks, even when I didn’t want to.

Yesterday (oh how I love weekends when I don’t have to peel myself out of bed at 6am), I planned a training brick. I really don’t like bricks (doing two race disciplines consecutively), and I especially am not fond of bike/run bricks. Going from the bike to the run is hard…in the race and in training. My legs feel like jello and don’t want to work when it’s time to run. It can take up to a half mile before they feel somewhat normal again.

Until yesterday, I have been doing shorter bricks (6mile bike, 2 mile run; 8mile bike, 1.5 mile run) and doing the full distances on their own.

Yesterday was the big test. In the morning, I made some adjustments to the bike and made sure the tires were good and filled (by the way, this makes a huge difference) and off I went. I hooked Runkeeper up on my iPhone to track my bike first, but something went wonky and it didn’t track. I’m not sure how long it took, but I rode 9.5 miles, I think in about 40 minutes.

I got off the bike, took  a couple of swigs of water, ate a babybel cheese, had to run downstairs (twice!) to get my iPod and headphones (stairs are the only thing tougher than running after bike training), reset RunKeeper on my iPhone, and took off running. I had planned to run 2 miles, but when I got to the turning point, I felt ok, so I decided to go for the longer run. And I made it! 3.2 miles, running the whole way. I did not stop once to walk and yesterday, it was pretty hot by the time I was running. There were points in the run where it took a lot of self-talk to keep from walking or stopping, but I made it through, It’s amazing how much of this endurance training comes down to mind over matter.

Runkeeper worked (sort of) the second time out, and I managed to finish 3.2 miles in 37 minutes and 40 seconds, which for me, was spectacular after the bike.

It was an exhausting workout but felt great finishing and now I know I’m ready for next Sunday. I know I’m ready because even though I was a little stiff yesterday, I’m not sore today. Today, I feel great and had a really good swim workout this morning.

Next Sunday, my goal again is to finish. And I’m planning on no walking during the run portion. Of course, if I end up having to, I will be kind to myself. I may not be the fastest woman out there on the course, or even close, but I can do this and finish proudly. I just have to remember not to drink half the pool this time. I know hydration is important, but I don’t think chlorinated water counts!

The ‘Not So Obvious’ Benefits of Exercise

I’m not in love with getting out of bed in the morning to exercise. But I am in love with how I feel when I’m doing it and how I feel for the whole day after.

We all know that exercise is essential to good health and fitting into those smaller jeans and muscle tone. We all know that exercise gives us  energy and stamina and strong bones.

But I’ve  gotten a couple of things from exercise that I didn’t expect:

  • My skin looks great. I don’t know if that’s from sweating or all the water I drink because I sweat, but  I actually had someone tell me recently that my skin is glowing. Plus I have a tan. A healthy, gradual tan that has come from running and biking outside (and a little sitting on the beach, which I wouldn’t have done in summers past.)
  • Speaking of water, I drink so much more water on the days that I exercise. And it’s easy. I’ve usually downed 32 ounces of water before 9:00am when I go out running in the morning. And I drink, drink, drink all day to rehydrate. On non-exercise days, water isn’t as appealing.
  • I eat better and usually less on exercise days. It’s almost as though my body knows on the days that its expended all that energy that real food is necessary to replenish. And that’s what I crave. On running days especially, I’m more likely to reach for that apple and make myself a nice lean protein/whole grain and veggie dinner than on off days.
  • I tend to concentrate better on workout days. I feel clearer, more focused and generally, lessed stressed. My job, my life are stressful these days, so that’s a very good thing.
  • Confidence. I am so much happier with the way I look and how my clothes fit, that I feel better about myself and more confident in my appearance. More than that though, I know I can run 3 miles, bike 10 and swim a half a mile, sometimes all on the same day.  These are things I didn’t think I would ever do, or ever be able to do,  and I’m really proud of my accomplishments. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but it makes me feel like I belong to a special club. And I draw on it when I’m feeling not so hot or confident in other areas of my life.
  • I’m inspired. Doing something repetitive for a half hour or longer gives me time to let my mind just wander. Lots of times, I just stay tuned into whatever music I’m listening to, or I focus on my form. However, other times, when I let my mind just drift, I come up with creative solutions to ongoing problems, blog posts or ideas on how to share what I’ve learned along the way with others.

On that note, I do have plans for creating an environment where those of us on this journey can encourage each other to stay the course and reach our collective goals – good health and fitness – however we are getting there.

When You Least Expect It

Saturday, because of the rain, was a swim day. I usually swim train with a friend on Saturday morning and that makes it more fun. Yesterday though, Jen was off on vacation, so I headed to the pool alone. I did not want to go. It was rainy and dark and miserable here yesterday. To swim on Saturday, even in crappy weather means getting to the gym by 7:30 am. The pool starts to get crowded around 8:15 or so. I had to coax myself out the door.

However, I was off from training on Thursday and then again on Friday, so I made myself go. The way I felt, I wasn’t so sure it would be a very good training session, but these things need to be done.

I got there and there was only one other person in the pool. Sweet. I love it when I get the pool, or at least a lane, to myself. And I kicked off. I had decided to swim 400 meters hard, easy for 100, hard for 200, easy for 100, etc. I had a great 400-meter swim (although there was no clock to tell the time) and a great rest of my swim too. I swam harder more than I had planned and overall went 1500 meters (the most I’ve done). I felt great when I got out of the pool. And I felt great pretty much the rest of the day.

Sunday morning, I had a long run planned. Again, morning came and I did not want to leave the comfort of my bed. I was up late the night before and sometimes, I just like to sleep in. It was not raining though and there was still some cloud cover so it was cooler than it has been. I got up, got dressed, tried to hook up Runkeeper on my iPhone to track the run, but to no avail. For whatever reason, Runkeeper couldn’t find my location. Next time.

I set off walking like I always do; giving myself my little pep talk, like I always do; listening to my music, like I always do. I started running and decided to take a longer route that I take on the bike, figuring if I got tired, I could always walk a bit.

Bottom line, I ran three and a half miles today in 43 minutes and I could have gone farther. With the weather being cool, and maybe because I’d had a couple of days off from running, I felt strong and consistent today. I didn’t get winded, my legs and knees felt good and I only had one spot where I felt a little draggy. I wasn’t too sure how much distance I was tacking onto my run (since it was spur of the moment to go farther), so I stopped when I think I could have probably run more.

I’m going to try a slightly longer run on Tuesday to hit the 4-mile mark, since that was one of my goals for the Missouri 60 challenge!

Both days this weekend, I didn’t feel much like exercising and really didn’t have very high expectations for my performance based on my not-so-enthusiastic attitude. What surprised me though, is if I can get past the grumblies and out the door, once I get going, I really, really enjoy working out and pushing myself. And even though I’ve been doing this on a regular basis now for a year, it still surprises me.

I like surprises. So I’m going to keep hitting the road, the pool and whatever other fun exercise opportunities come my way.

How do you talk yourself out the door to get your exercise in?

PS: There was no rolling me out of bed this morning. I’ll be getting my bike ride in after work today!

A Day At The Beach

long island beachSaturday, I went to the ocean. It had been a very long time since I spent a day lazing on the sand, soaking up the sun and swimming in the cool Atlantic water. It was wonderful.

I grew up at the ocean. My father was a lifeguard when I was a little girl, and I learned to swim admist the rolling waves and breakers. As we got older, my father, a teacher, always had summer jobs managing town beaches and we spent many of our summer days and weekends covered in sand and salt water. It was a great way to grow up.

As I got older, my friends and I worked as lifeguards at the town pool, but spent every chance we got back at the ocean. I was a strong swimmer and was never afraid of the water. While I had a healthy respect and knew what to watch for and when to stay on shore, I was always drawn to those rolling swells.

When I had kids, I wanted them to have an appreciation for the ocean too. We had a pool in our backyard though, and because we now lived on the North Shore of Long Island, the Sound beaches (calmer waters) were where we ended up most of the time. Ocean trips were a little bit more involved and required time and planning. We didn’t get there as much as I would have liked. Add to that, that when my children were small, I was in the worst shape of my life. I was uncomfortable in a bathing suit and while I was still an efficient swimmer, I had nowhere near the stamina and strength I had when I was younger.

When my daughter was 11 (12 years ago), I took my children (my son was 9) and two of their friends to Robert Moses to spend a day at the ocean. My son was never comfortable swimming in the ocean so he and his friend stayed on the shore, playing in the sand. My daughter, on the other hand, had no fear, loved the water and jumping the waves. She even enjoyed it when the breakers grabbed her and sent her tumbling. She always came up smiling and ready for more.

On this day though, there was a storm offshore and the ocean was angrier than usual. The waves were larger than what we normally get on Long Island and the currents were powerful, including areas of rip tides. Kate, her friend and I were jumping waves about chest deep in the water (waist deep for me) when suddenly my daughter was being sucked out to sea. I snapped at her friend to get to shore, and I swam into the rip tide after my child. I caught up with her quickly and grabbed hold, but she was scared. I know that you need to swim parallel to the shore to get out of the rip and we were close to the edge, but she wasn’t having any of it and kept trying to swim toward shore.

And then I heard two whistles blow. I knew the lifeguards were coming for us and I was able to calm her that way. While I was a bit embarrassed (who ever heard of a former lifeguard having to be rescued) I was never happier than to hear that sound. I could probably have gotten myself out of the situation, but I was out of shape and I was tired. With ropes and buoys, we were towed safely to shore. It should have been my wakeup call that it was time to do something about my weight and physical condition, but it wasn’t.

Instead, I stayed away from the ocean. Not that I never went to the beach again, but I never went back to really swimming in the ocean after that. Until yesterday. Yesterday, the ocean was relatively calm, clean and comfortable, so I walked in, dove under the breakers and swam out a ways past most of the people. From there, I swam parallel to the shore for a while and then back, laid on my back and just let the rolling waves slide underneath me. I came out of the water refreshed and invigorated.

For my training, I swim all the time. I can log 1000-1200 meters in a training swim…in a pool. And that feels great.

But nothing felt quite as good as swimming in the ocean, my old friend, on Saturday. I felt confident and strong in that water. And that alone has made all of this hard work worthwhile.

I Am Officially A Triathlete!

I finished! I swam 400 meters, biked 6 miles and ran 2 miles this morning. My first triathlon. I finished!

The swim was great. It was a pool swim where we had to snake up and down 8 lanes in a 50-meter pool. I seeded myself at 10:30 for this based on what I was doing in training and finished the swim in 10:57. I didn’t have anyone passing me and I even passed a couple of people at the lane ends so I felt strong in this leg.  With the confusion at the ends of the lanes and getting into and out of the water, I was happy with my time.

My bike was strong and I managed to shave a minute off my last time, even with all of the bike issues I was having  getting ready for this race. Finished the bike in 23 minutes and change. Splits aren’t up yet, but I got to see them quickly after the race.

The run? The run was not so great. It was hot by the time we were running, I had a stitch in my side from all the water I inhaled in the pool (there was quite a chop with all those people in the water) and I just felt like I had nothing left. I did a lot of walking during the two miles, something I haven’t done in months, even on the hot days. The run took 26 minutes and change, the worst run I’ve had in a long time.

I was disappointed in myself with the run only because I totally let my head get in the way and keep me from doing something I know I can do. I could come up with a dozen excuses as to what happened here, but the bottom line was I let the negative talk in and didn’t push through.

But you know what? It’s over. I’ve done it! I swam, biked and ran, made it through transitions and I’m alive to write about it. And do it again. And I’m really proud of myself.

I learned so much, and while I may have been disappointed in my run, overall I am thrilled. It’s exciting/nerve-racking, I met incredible people, and even if my run wasn’t so hot, I swam a quarter mile, dried off and got on a bike for six miles and then got off the bike and ran for two. I don’t know a whole lot of people who can say they’ve done that so I know it’s an accomplishment.

I’m signing up for Trek Women in September. Same park, same time, different race. And this next time, there will be no walking during the run! I’m just that determined.

I’ll post official splits and pics soon. 🙂

Big thanks to the folks at Event Power LI who produce this event. They do an amazing job, are unbelievably supportive and they make sure everyone has a great time!

Countdown To Race Day

This morning, I did my last brick workout before my upcoming Mini Mightyman triathlon on Saturday. I’m as ready as I’m going to be. This morning, though, my training felt really off. It was quite possibly the most humid morning I’ve gone out to train, so I biked 3 and ran two. It was already 74 degrees with 90% humidity at 6:15 am, I hadn’t eaten enough this morning, and I was so overheated, I had to walk twice during the run. I inhaled 32 ounces of water as soon as I walked through the front door.

The last run/bike bricks I’ve done have ended up in a pulled muscle in my hip, so I was kind of babying this one too. I didn’t want to get hurt 3 days before race day. At least today, I didn’t feel the pulling in my hip as much. I think that’s because I finally have the bike positioned correctly (handlebar extensions – six inches of reach that make a HUGE difference!).

Tomorrow I will probably bike one last time (unless it’s rainingin which case I’ll swim) and Friday is a day off to let my muscles recover for race day.

I’d like to finish this race in under an hour, but I will be happy with just the finish. My times should be better there than they’ve been in training: 1) because there are no hills on this course (and there are hills on my training routes that really slow me down on the bike and the run and 2) adrenaline usually helps in these situations. 🙂

I’ve learned a lot and come a long way since my race in April. I’ve trained better for this one and I’m not tapering nearly as much as I did the last time. This is a relatively short race, and it really wasn’t beneficial to take a few days off before the race last time. I have a better handle on what I should be eating and I’ll make sure I have a gel for between the bike and run if it’s really miserably hot out, so I’m fueled and hydrated.

I’m familiar with the run/bike course and we even hit the pool there once to swim. The swim was canceled the last time so that leg and the transition that follows it will be new and interesting. I’m looking most forward to the swim, since I’m confident in my ability in that discipline! I’m certainly not the fastest, but I’m a solid swimmer and I’ve always done well endurance-wise.

I feel ready, and I know my toughest critic will be me. I want to finish respectably. I have to remember that finishing is respectable.

I’m already planning my next race after this. Same park, same pool, longer distances, on Sept. 13. The Trek Women Triathlon Series – 1/4 mile swim, 9 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. All girls. I think that will be huge fun!

They have races all over the country. Check it out here: http://www.trekwomenstriathlonseries.com/index.htm