Saturday, May 12, 2012

Officially Injured

It would be nice to do a blog about injury without experiencing it first hand but such is life when we dare to push our limits.  As most of you know I've been challenged with a chronic Achilles tendon injury for about seven years.  During that time I could usually train virtually pain free if I warmed up properly before starting my training session.  Well over the last couple of months I've increased the intensity of my training and my scared tendon couldn't keep up.  But as the Blessed Panda's life goes, when I need something it is usually provided.  I have the retired military health insurance, TriCare and when they realigned this year I had to get a new primary care provider.  This new doctor got me a referral to an Orthopedic Surgeon, who in turn referred me to the Physical Therapy department.

Now I'm getting some much needed help for my injury and also learning a lot about the muscles involved in my chosen sport of race walking.  I had a choice I could either grieve over lost training time or look at this as the chance I needed to become a better athlete.  So far the treatments are all about reducing swelling in the tendon and strengthening the muscles that connect to it.  But for the first time I'm also strengthening all the muscles involved in the push off of my rear foot to make it propel me forward in the most efficient way.

Now I have a new set of exercises to add to my daily routine of exercises and stretches.  A big player in the moving forward motion and a muscle that I haven't been strengthening directly is the small inner calf muscle.  This calf muscle hooks directly to the Achilles tendon and in my case can become much weaker than the big calf muscles that we see.  Over the next few weeks I will be strengthening this muscle as well as increasing my range of motion throughout my legs and hips.

Two exercises should be added to every walker and runner's routine.  The first one is to stand backwards on a step so that your heels are hanging off the step.  This is important, bend your knees, now do a set of 25 calf raises with the knees bent.  During each raise make sure to go slow and controlled on the down motion as well as the up motion.  The next is to go up with both feet but down on only one foot.  Do both of these for 3 sets of 25 each.  The Achilles is a weak link for most of us but if you include these 2 exercises along with the others you do then your tendon will be much stronger and since it's directly involved with the push off, it will make you a more powerful athlete.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Heat Games

The Panda Endurance race Walking Team has just returned from doing the Indianapolis Half Marathon.  It turned out to be a lesson in not being invincible, for me.  We went to do the 5K and then immediately after that we crossed to the start of the half for a total distance of 16.2 miles.  What happened to me had nothing to do with the race, it was awesome and I highly recommend it.

We drove up on Friday so we could relax, get to bed early and be well rested on race morning.  That worked great and we had a good dinner at a place called Champps.  The next morning I got up, had some coffee and took a hot shower to wake up and get loosened up for the race.  The hot shower helped loosen up my calves and injured left Achilles tendon.  I had a couple of granola bars and met one of my team mates and headed out.  We were about a mile from the start so the easy walking there helped me loosen up my Achilles even more.  We got to our starting area and after about 20 min of gentle stretching we were off on the first leg of our dual adventure.

It took a mile or so for me to get into a comfortable race walking stride and that left tendon was just a minor ache.  After that I felt good and the remainder of the 5K went great.  We finished in about 39 min which is what we had planned as a good warm up for the half.  Sally was waiting for us with our new race bibs and we changed them out.  We met another team member at the transition area and we all three went over and jumped into the mass of athletes doing the half.

It was starting to get hot and the race officials had posted warming signs about the heat and humidity danger.  I wasn't worried the heat had never bothered me and I planned to drink the sports drink at every aid station to stay hydrated.  That didn't work out as well as I'd hoped since the sports drink and water stations were separate.  But I did manage to drink something at each station.

Mile 5 I stepped in a pot hole when I was passing a group of slower runners and walkers.  That hurt and it was a couple of miles before I was able to walk it off.  Then we went to the race track where they have the Indy 500 and got to race on the track for the next 2.5 miles.  I was starting to get really hot and by mile 10 I was running out of steam big time.  I told my team member I was going to have to back off the pace for a bit.  I stopped at the next sports drink station and got two full cups and walked slower while I drank it.  I started feeling better and picked up the pace and headed on to the finish.  I crossed the line and went through and got my medal, a bottle of water and a couple of cookies and staggered over to the "K" area to meet my group.  By the time I got there I was very dizzy.  I just dropped everything and sat down.  I ate my cookies and drank the water and just sat there, till the rest of my group arrived.  I tried to stand and was so dizzy that I couldn't go.  I had to just lay flat for a few minutes before I could get up.

I was very close to going into hyporthermia.  I hadn't trained in the heat yet this year since all my training walks are in the early morning before it got hot.  The high heat and humidity took it's toll on me and taught me a lesson.  I won't take it for granted like that again.  Just because I have been an endurance athlete for about 40 years didn't make me imune to the dangers of over heating.  After I got back to the hotel Sally made me a recovery drink that we had got samples of at the Expo and then a good nap helped a lot.  I was finally able to think more clearly and over dinner my team mate and I discussed what had happened.  A warning sign that I was having trouble was that even though I was moving along well I was not not acting normally.  I was uncharacteristicly bad tempered with people blocking the road and doing other minorly irritating things.  I had also stopped talking a lot like I normally do during a race, I was just zoning and in my own world.

I think I was very lucky that I didn't really get in trouble till I had already finished.  If I had become dizzy like that during the race I could have had a nasty fall.  This race taught us to take it more seriously if one of us starts acting out of character even if we are still moving along well.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Attitude of Age

This writing today is for all my fellow adult athletes who have made the journey into the adventure of the senior years.  Perhaps I'm a fool and need to get my bag of chips and crawl back to the recliner, but I think not.  I do think that when you stop believing in yourself and your abilities you have indeed become OLD.

Yeah when we achieve the senior status we may not be as speedy as we were as young adults but that doesn't mean we can't be a force in the arena of age group competition.  We do have to be more careful and pay more attention to our body and give it a little longer to heal after we abuse it. But make no mistake even a senior body thrives on motion and lots of it.

When we move that body just as hard and fast as we can it feels just as sweet at 50 and beyond as it did at 25.  Maybe just maybe, we still have plenty of improvement and potential in us if we have the courage to look within and seek that part of us that was never tamed and domesticated, that part that longs to be unleashed.

We all age but that doesn't mean we have to stop moving forward, I for one would rather be looking ahead to the next competition that grieving over the past that is gone.  We have lived the past and if we were paying attention we learned from it.

Aging is inevitable, relax and enjoy the ride.

Thanks for reading.