Firstly I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that Christmas brought you plenty of mince pies and shiny new toys!
Whilst 2014 gave me some amazing memories and experiences 2015 brings some new challenges, and ones in which I hadn't anticipated.
It all started back in October when after a disappointing performance in Mallorca at the European Middle Distance Championships I contracted Salmonella (I think from a dodgy hardboiled egg!) I have had food poisoning in the past, but this was a whole new ball game. After spending almost a week in bed and barely consuming food or fluids I was almost at the brink of needing a drip as I was so systemically dehydrated. Fortunately I started to pick up and thankfully returned from a place I definitely do not want to go back to but I felt as though my back had completely seized from being so dehydrated.
A few mountain biking crashes later I had low back pain like I had never experienced before. As an athlete I am accustomed to aches and pains continually but with my Physiotherapy knowledge generally know how to deal with them and know that most of the time they will ease off with the appropriate exercises. This pain however did not disappear and despite continuing to plough on through training and some racing I eventually realised that this problem was not going to go away without help.
Working at the Spire as a full time employee enables me to have private health insurance and so I decided that I should make the most of it and booked in to see Professor Cathy Speed. Straight away I was placed in the MRI and unfortunately I was diagnosed with an L5/S1 annular disc tear and a L4/5 disc prolapse. BANG! There it was my diagnosis (although I had suspected that my problem was discogenic in nature) and a world of emotions hit me. All I could think about was all the races that I have planned for 2015 and all the things that I am not allowed to do like run! Am I going to be able to complete my Ironman? Am I even going to be able to go on training camp? Will I ever be able to bend down to put my socks on without being in pain? Suddenly I was placed into the shoes of my patients’ and I was completely overwhelmed.
I talk a lot about the psychology of Sport as it is a real interest of mine and I often speak to my patients about the varying emotions that they may or may not go through. But this is the first injury that has pulled me seriously out of training and for the first time I feel completely helpless. It has certainly been a time of reflection and what if’s? Pondering the reasons why I have developed this problem. The main reason perhaps is the changes in my postures from being a flexible ice dancer to a stiff triathlete dedicating hours a week pounding the road or in the saddle rather than concentrating on core stability and flexibility.
So what now? Well I am currently being looked after by my boss Cris Kellett at Progress who has devised my rehabilitation programme. The aims being to try to restore stability to my hips in order for my back to take less load. Fortunately I am able to use the Alter G treadmill to help keep my fitness up along with the cross trainer and swimming so it is not all bad - just different and a bit of a reality check. It has made me realise that there is more to life than Triathlon and being fit and healthy is more important (which often endurance athletes are not!) I have also taken the opportunity to get involved in some other activities such as Hot Yoga, Ballet and climbing to help improve my flexibility and core strength and I must say they are incredibly fun and challenging my body in many different ways.
What is definitely obvious is that my back wants to move and not be sat still. Last week I went skiing to Meribel in the 3 Valleys. I was slightly anxious that I may not be able to ski because of the pain in my back and I certainly did not want to make it worse. Dosed up on Diclofenac and with a lower back support that I recently purchased I went armed to face the slopes. Thankfully I didn’t use the back support and what was even better was that for the majority of the time on the piste I did not have pain and was unaware that I even had a back problem. That being said, a coach, plane and car trip back to the UK put me back in my place and re-enforced typical discogenic pain symptoms that sitting for long periods is not advised.
So what now…. Well it is time for me to practice what I preach and get fully stuck into my rehabilitation plan. Provisional return to sport is early April but hopefully I will be back doing each individual discipline before then – who knows; only time will tell. In the meantime I need to keep head strong and not let the training and performance of others affect my plan. I have a lot in the pipeline for this year including European Duathlon Championships, 5/6 half ironman races and my first full ironman. If these will even be possible I do not know right now so it is important I stick to my short term goals.
One thing is for sure – I will be stronger mentally and physically by the end of this process and thankfully I have the best support behind me both from a rehabilitation perspective as well as friends and family. All I am going to say though is to those that I spend most of my time – apologies in advance for any grumpiness but this really is hard. I will continue to try to have a smile on my face and to remember that this is a small blip in my incredible journey through life.
I guess I had better go and find the gym….until next time =)