Coaching, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Thinking, Training

Building Castles on Sand…

Training around long term injuries can produce results at first, but injuries you are ignoring have a habit of coming back and biting you. By talking about my issues in this blog, I aim to make a wider point about managing your body and preparing for sporting challenges …

Today I should be paddling in my sea kayak off Anglesey helping prepare for my Sea Kayak Leader assessment later this autumn. Next week I should be taking part in the 2019 SUP 11 Cities challenge in the Netherlands, an event I trained for throughout most of 2019. But instead I’ll be doing neither, because problems I thought I had dealt with, problems I should have dealt with, have come back to haunt me…

It is literally my ‘Achilles heel’…

I’ve had a neural problem in the back of my left leg for years now, and slowly but surely I’ve let it limit what I can do. Initially it just impacted my running, causing me first calf pain and then achilles pain, the sort of pain that makes you pull up, stop running and limp home. Each time I tried to run again after a period of rest and rehab it came back again, sometimes months, other times days after the restart, and now I no longer run at all. But it has gone even further, and more recently the injury has also impacted my ability to hike, play tennis and now SUP. Yes, even standing on a SUP for long periods now creates neural tension in my lower leg making long distance SUP painful…

It turns out that my metaphorical ‘Achilles Heel’ is, right now, my literal achilles heel…

I’ve tried all sorts to treat it; physio, massage, acupuncture, electrotherapy, but none have been completely effective. So I’ve settled into a routine of trying to avoid triggering it (i.e. no running) then resting and doing neural mobilisation exercises if it flares up (neural flossing – sounds crazy but it is a thing). But if I am honest I’m basically living with a permanently sore achilles, trying to ignore it and hoping it won’t get worse…

No elbow grease today…

But that is not the only reason I’m on the sidelines this week. You see, I started playing tennis because, having become qualified as a coach or guide in all the outdoor sports I enjoyed, I wanted something I could do just for fun, with no responsibility and no risk. How ironic then that I have found I’m susceptible to tennis elbow, an annoyingly debilitating overuse injury in my right arm. But hey, just stop playing tennis for a while and it will clear up yes? Well, no, because once the injury takes hold, pretty much anything involving gripping is painful, such as paddling a kayak, or steering an MTB – damn…

So, treat the injury right? True, this one is simpler to deal with, and I made changes to my tennis equipment and style to mostly keep the tennis elbow at bay. But equally, it still flares up, at unpredictable times and every time it does I have to hope I will have enough time to go through the rest, ice, ibuprofen and stretching routine before my next work commitment.

But I’m coming to realise I might be going about this the wrong way…

Prehab, not Rehab

…you cannot build a castle on the sand, that is to say you cannot build higher levels of strength, fitness and performance unless you have strong foundations…

This weekend I was reading The World’s Fittest Book by Ross Edgely and one of the concepts he was espousing really caught me. He talked about how you cannot build a castle on the sand, that is to say you cannot build higher levels of strength, fitness and performance unless you have strong foundations. My ever present neural tension in my left leg and occasional tennis elbow flare ups do not constitute a solid foundation and trying to ignore them and press on with performance training and skills development is not working.

Back in my thirties I prided myself on having a solid base of general fitness and capability. I could bounce between cycling, running, swimming or paddling challenges with little or no specialist training in between. Over the last few years I’ve lost that robustness, allowed it to be eroded by injuries. But perhaps I can rebuild the foundations again, provided I adapt them to the current landscape.

Be general in your foundations so you can be specific in your goals..

Ross Edgely

So here is the plan – this autumn, the routines I do to ‘fix’ or ‘calm’ my injuries when then flare up will become part of the basic fitness work I do – I am going to ‘prehab’ instead of ‘rehab’. These drills performed alongside a programme of basic strength building moves and yoga will be my main training focus, not something I do occasionally between paddles and bike rides. Perhaps, this prioritising of my general conditioning and wellness will then allow me to build on this in the new year, and make sure I’ll be ready for the 2020 SUP 11 Cities.

Who knows, I might even be able to run again…

It would be a joy to be able to run again…

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