O is for Owies

OPain is a fact of running life. Inevitably, the time is going to come when a runner will be cruising along and suddenly have to pull up short with an “Ouch!” Toes, legs, knees, hamstrings, IT bands, feet, backs. At some point one or more of these parts is going to betray us.

My most recent owie has been my lower back. I believe that lawn-mowing season is to blame, that and a really fucked up spine. I’ve mentioned in these posts that I have degenerative disk disease—my thoracic and cervical spines are fubared beyond what is normal, for no apparent reason. I’ve never been in an accident, been rear-ended, or hit an airbag.

The only possible explanation I can think of for the state of my spine (besides old age, which, I am assured by those in the know, is not the case in my situation), is that I was a forest fire fighter during my college days and schlepped five gallon rubber water bags around on my back, up and down mountainsides for days on end. A massage therapist once told me that I have steel cables running down my spine instead of the expected flat ribbons of muscle.

Anyway, I digress. When I’m not running, my lower back seizes up, and small tasks (such as moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer or loading the dishwasher) cause me to grab my back and say “Ow!” Among other things.

No matter what body part hurts, one sure remedy for any sort of athletic injury is a hot Epsom salt bath. I’ve taken more baths in the past year and half than in the previous non-running twenty years or so. I’ve become a big fan of Dr. Teal’s scented Epsom salts, with eucalyptus as my favorite. Lavender and rosemary are both lovely as well.

traction
Traction

I’ve also become one with the heating pad and a regular at physical therapy where I spend an hour and a half once a week. Lately they’ve been putting me in traction for 15 minutes after I get a massage—traction is lovely, though it sounds dire. I’d stay longer if they let me.

I know it seems antithetical, but for me at least (I cannot speak for anyone else after all), motion is lotion—the more I move, the better I feel. Just this morning (after PT), I was sitting on my heating pad feeling sorry for myself and sore. I decided to go running even though I felt kind of shitty. Running loosened me up and, so far, is keeping the owies at bay.

J is for Just Do It!

JI’m not a particularly big Nike fan (beyond their running app, which I live by), but I do like their “Just Do It” motto—I think that we’d all be better off sometimes if we stopped hemming and hawing, quit analyzing and crunching the data, gave our information-saturated brains a break, sucked it up and jumped in, feet first.

Do you want to start running? Are you unsure about where and how to begin? Do you have mysterious aches and pains? Do you worry you don’t have enough energy or the right clothes? Are you afraid of the rain, the cold, the sun, the heat?nike 1

Take the leap. There’s never going to be the perfect time, the perfect weight, the perfect weather, the perfect outfit, or the ideal body. We all have to start somewhere, with what we have. It doesn’t matter if we are waiting to write a book or begin an exercise regimen. If we wait until we have time or an office, the right shoes, or smaller love handles, well, we might never get started.

Begin at the beginning. Start where you are. I have a friend who wouldn’t start running because her shoulder hurt. And then her knee hurt. She chose to stay on the couch with an ice pack on instead of getting out there and moving. Until she didn’t. Until she got up and just went for it. The aches and pains vanished over time. She lost weight. Her mood improved. She joined a running group. Eventually she ran races and bought cool shoes.

2012 nike app
My runs, 2012

That’s the paradox. When we use our muscles, they feel better (or they hurt so good) because they were meant to move. When we write, we improve. With each mile we put on the pedometer (or Nike app, or FitBit or RunKeeper), with each sentence we get down, each paragraph we complete, our muscles get stronger, our prose improves, our ideas coalesce.

So, go for it. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did, and everything will fall into place, including those love handles.

My runs, 2015
My runs, 2015

Some places to start:
Fit School
Couch to 5K
Fitbit
Runkeeper
Nikeplus