Monday, October 3, 2016

When you can't run, cycle or swim it's time to go walkabout...

You may have noticed that of late I don't talk about running as much on this blog and there's a very good reason for that, I've not been able to run for about a year now. After pushing my body hard through twelve marathons since 2011, it turns out I have two bulging discs in my back which have been causing all kinds of problems.

Glorious morning in Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills palm trees
Following the 2015 London Marathon I knew there was something wrong with my fitness and when I carried on training for my second New York Marathon (because I'd snagged a place via the lottery which is almost impossible to do these days), I started to feel cramping down my left leg during longer runs.

Even my shadow has put on weight
Shadow on sidewalk
I was training with some friends, me for NYC, them for Chicago and Portland marathons, and they suggested using compression socks to help, which did improve the cramping, but I still knew there was still something fundamentally wrong and it was a temporary fix to get me through the upcoming race.
Shadow on green grass
Long story short, I ran the 2015 New York Marathon and it wasn't easy with the injury, so I decided to go to my doctor and find out what was wrong. I was referred to a physical therapist and he diagnosed the problem as a calf strain in my left leg.

That sounded like it made sense, but over the weeks of therapy I felt like I was getting worse not better and I started experiencing lower back pain and then really bad muscle spasms in my back which made it hard to sit or sleep.
Shadow on mulch
When I couldn't take the lack of progress or the discomfort anymore, I went back to my doctor and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. Some x-rays and an MRI scan later and we found out the true cause of my problems, he thought it may be a herniated disc but in fact it was two bulging discs in my lower back, which had been pressing on nerves and causing the pain down my leg.

All the exercises and chiropractic manipulations by the physical therapy doctor had just exacerbated the problem.

Will Rogers Park Fountain
Will Rogers Park Fountain
The funny thing is, as they were only bulging there was nothing surgical or any medicine he could recommend to help, instead he suggested going back to physio to help strength my core to alleviate the strain on my back (where I'd already unsuccessfully been for four months).

Beverly Hills Spadena House or Witch's House
Beverly Hills Witch's House
I couldn't face going back to the same physical therapist so instead I chose to try a different approach and train with a friend of mine who also runs marathons, plus had completed Ironman triathlons, so would know what it feels like to be a runner and as a personal trainer by profession knows how to strengthen your core.

A bit of Halloween humour
Please dont pick the berries The Witch
We've been taking it really gently and we saw some progress, but after going away on vacation for a few days I either tweaked my back by sleeping on a really soft mattress, or by swimming and arching my back too much in the pool, I'm unsure which. Unfortunately all my back problems came back with a vengeance, which makes sitting, driving, exercising and sleeping more difficult.

A touch of New York City in Beverly Hills
Statue of Liberty Beverly Hills
Anyway, as running is not currently an option and cycling at the gym also seems to aggravate my back and leg nerve pain, I decided I need to do some more low impact cardio. I've decided to start power walking my old short 5-mile running route along Sunset Boulevard and through the green, tree-lined streets of Beverly Hills.
Statue of Liberty Beverly Hills
This morning was lovely and cooler than recent days, so I put on some music, laced up my running shoes and set off (having some fun along the way with my smartphone's camera).

We always used to run past this miniature garden Statue of Liberty when we were training for the New York Marathon and it used to keep me motivated in the home stretch, plus the Will Rogers Park Fountain and Beverly Hill's Witch's House were some of my sights on my walk.

I'm not very good at following someone else's directions
One way sign Beverly Hills
I've been reading up on back problems with similar symptoms online and it seems it can take months, over a year to get better.

I have to say all these physical problems have been a bit depressing in recent months, without being able to exercise properly weight gain has been a problem, and I miss running with my friends and competing in marathons massively.

I'm hoping that with more work my back problems will start getting better soon, otherwise it'll be back to the doctor yet again, but in the meantime when I have days as glorious as this to enjoy, life doesn't seem too bad.

I'm keeping everything crossed that my marathon running isn't over, but I'd settle for my body getting back to some semblance of normal.

Let's see what the future holds...

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