Learning about the differences between training discomfort and pain/injury

If there’s something this rehab process has taught me (or attempted to teach me anyway) is the importance of understanding the differences between simple training discomfort and an honest-to-God injury.  My current situation is due to stupidity on two fronts:

  1. I grossly neglected core strength and conditioning throughout my training, thinking that my applied training was just enough to get by in that department
  2. When I began to feel a nagging pain in my left hip/groin, I figured I would just find a way to “power-through-it” and suck it up.  After all, triathlon is not for the weak-kneed, sissy-pants type…

I couldn’t have been more wrong on both counts!

I figured, “Who needs planks, when I’m in aero for a few hours per week, and engaging my core in the water for countless laps?”  The reality is that while your core IS working during those work intervals, the direct effect is actually a bit debatable.  Despite the fact that I’ve now gone “full-nerdboy” on triathlon, and I voraciously consume blog and magazine articles and YouTube content on training, I completely ignored the advice of top athletes and coaches.  I blew it all off –  because it was easy an easy thing to do as I kept logging my miles and tracking my Zone metrics on GarminConnect.

Then, when I noticed a nagging pain upon beginning a run (or a run-portion of a brick) I decided that was just the TriathlonGods testing my mettle, and making me earn my gains.  I was able to notice that the pain would subside after 12-15 minutes of running and not really bother me after that point – I believe this was due to both (a) compensation in my gait/stride and (b) compartmentalizing the pain and learning to ignore it.

While pushing barriers and learning to suffer (“Embrace the Suck” as Macca would put it) is important, this process can directly derail your progress and set you back months unless you recognize the difference.

I am still struggling with this area, but I’m now one to err on the side of caution.  I have only two PT sessions left, and while I’m a lot better than I was, I’m not all the way back yet.  I’m at loggerheads with the Managing Partner of my facility, as she initially did my evaluation, dished me off to her assistant (who I really clicked with), and then periodically viewed my file and asked me a simple “Howya feelin?”.  I’ve never clicked well with the Managing Partner, and I view her as a bit of a bully, a complete Type-A manager than runs rough-shod over her staff, and not a particularly pleasant person to work with (as a patient or employee).  She apparently took it upon herself to interpret my file and tell the insurance company “He’s about done…” this week after I experienced a bit of a setback over the weekend.  she hasn’t been hands-on with me for weeks and never asked me what I thought about how my rehab was coming, as she was much more interesting in TELLING me what she thought.  So I now have only two sessions remaining for them to orient me on a continuing program of strength and flexibility.  I’ve been shut down from running since late June, and I haven’t been cleared to swim yet.  I can bike but only for short durations (like a 10 min warmup).  So in the end, I would not recommend this particular physical therapist at all, despite her reputation as a leader in her field.

I am going to change PT providers and go to a self-pay system for a screening assessment and program set up, and then monthly check ins on my progress.  so I guess you can say I’ve gone from “blowing off” the strength and conditioning portion of my training to fully embracing it.

Getting Better – Resuming Activities Soon

So as I type this, my house is asleep.  I’d normally be out for a long run or big brick, as weekends are the perfect time to exploit my family’s love of late sleep while I go log some hours.  Also, most of my team is gearing up to race – either locally at our little “Top of Delaware” sprint or at Mount Tremblant or Timberman.  Normally I’d be at the local race as a “tune-up” for my intended A race of the Diamondman 70.3 in September, but the Triathlon Gods had different plans.

PT has been going well.  I’m now being pushed pretty hard, and we’ve added stationary bike and elliptical into the mix in small controlled doses.  Most of the work is actually stretching, strengthening, and stability.  My typical PT session looks like:

  • 10 minutes of ultrasound on the affected area
  • Sometimes – my PT does a little bit of “active release therapy” here  – if you’ve never had, it’s like a slightly more violent deep tissue massage designed to break up scar tissue
  • Stationary bike – 10 minute warm up (get a bit of a sweat going)
  • Calf Stretch 4 x 30 sec
  • Lying Hamstring Stretch – 4 x 30 sec (each leg with a strap)
  • Lying Quad/Flexor Stretch – 4 x 30 sec (each leg with a strap – facedown)
  • Using Flexi- bands (black = high resistance) – 4×12 reps straight leg standing lifts all 4 ways (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction)
  • Lying Knee Squeeze playground ball (adduction/groin) – 4 x 10 sec
  • Standard Planks – 3 x 30 sec to start (these kick my ass, and are part of the reason I’m injured in the first place)
  • Abdominal Bridges – 4 x 10 feet on bosu ball
  • Electro-Stim Therapy w/heavy ice pack – 15 minutes

This whole sequence ends up taking about 90 minutes or so.  We’re getting more aggressive with the intensity and the pace of the session, which is a good thing.  I’ve also noticed that injury recovery often involves days where you think “Wow, this stuff is working” and other days where you believe “Aww crap this sucks and I’m hurt again”).  It’s just difficult to know how you’re going to feel the next day or two after you work the injured area, but lots of my day to day functional pain is gone.  It hurt like hell to get out into my car and out of my bed, but those small daily reminders have vanished.

I’ve just entered into a period of heavy travel for my job.  The fall season is chock full of industry events and functions, and since my company’s primary marketing tactic is to exhibit and present/speak at these events, off I go.  I’m on the road and speaking 12 out of 14 weeks, but a lot of those trips are just 2-3 days in duration.  It’s going to be a stressful 3 months, and my biggest challenge is not blowing up like a fat balloon while grabbing fod on the road.  Salads and oatmeal will be my friend, and if I can begin some very light easy running soon I’d be a happy guy.

I just purchased a new heart rate monitor that will be compatible with my iPhone5.  I am going to play around with a Heart Rate Variability app called SweetBeat.  A Twitter buddy of mine is a big believer of using HRV to guide day-to-day intensity and monitor the body’s changes, and it’s been proving very effective especially in guarding against over-training.  I believe that I’ve been pushing the envelope here, and that over-training at least contributed indirectly to my injury.  I’ll explore this app and it’s benefits in some future posts, but you can read about my friend Brian’s experiences here – http://bri-tri.com/tag/heart-rate-variability/

 

 

Meet my new coach, sort of…

So being injured, I’m trying to keep this time both productive and positive.  Unfortunately my mood has been a little dark, as I am truly one of those sick, demented people that feels like a slacker when the workout gets cancelled!  Not “Jack-from-Shining” or anything, but just a little “off”…

"Did you do your BRICK yet?"

“Did you do your BRICK yet?”

 

Back in the summer of 2011 is when I began to take my fitness and body seriously – so I became compelled to start running.  You can read about my backstory here, but once upon a time if you took away my ability to train, I’d say “So what?  Bring me a beer.”  Now it’s an entirely different ballgame.

 

So I’ve been mildly bummed that I can’t do anything, and as I’m sometimes wont to do I have been eating very poorly.  I had been viewing my clean(er) eating as a way to fuel workouts, but take away those workouts and – why bother? – right?

Of course not, but we’re not always rational and logical beings.

So I arrived at a point where I needed to SNAP out of it, and I did.  Rather than focus on what I can’t do, I am making the choice to focus on my goals.  So two things were accomplished this week:

  1. I’m hiring a swim coach locally to get me more efficient.  He’s actually a teammate that happens to be a tremendous high school swim coach with about 20 years of experience.
  2. I’ve made a deal with myself that once I get down to goal racing weight I will make a gear acquisition – CARBON WHEELS!
Not my bike, but these would look great on my Cannondale Slice5!

Not my bike, but these would look great on my Cannondale Slice5!

 

As for program coaching, I’ve decided to go with BeginnerTriathlete.com and their online coaching program.  I’ve joined as a GOLD member, and mapped out my 2014 season back to front.  The phases look like a little like this:

  1. 16 weeks of sport-focused training on my two areas of improvement (8 for swim, 8 for bike) focusing on technique and power/speed.
  2. “70.3 and beyond”  16-week program that brings me to my first 70.3 the EAGLEMAN in early June 2014.
  3. 20 week program to build to Ironman Arizona 2014.

These 3 (actually 4) programs all dovetail from one to the other with at least a week of rest as well as a taper into the milepost race.  I’ll be adding a couple of shorter tuneup races early-season locally, but for the most part its going to be about training and less about race shirts and swag next year.

As for BeginnerTriathlete, the online training and program layout is very solid, and I like what I see.  I’ve imported in all of my Garmin data and it was shockingly simple.  I like what I see, and once I am cleared to ramp back up into training mode I’ll be activating the online coaching function.  All in all it seems like a great value for an organized, geek data-driven athlete that has some clue as to what they’re doing.  If things do not go well, I can always move to a more traditional coach, but I’ve got ample resources at my disposal so I might as well save the money.