Back in the Swim – My Wellbeing Journey

Back in the Swim – My Wellbeing Journey

Some of you may know that I’ve been working on addressing my adrenal fatigue in recent months. And one of the things that comes along with that is a recommendation that I give up running for a while.

I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with running. I’m not a naturally gifted runner, I’m very much a plodder/shuffler/stumble over the liner. I hate that I find it so hard. But I love how it makes me feel once it’s done. The “runners high” everyone talks about. (At least, everyone who’s a runner). I loved that I worked my way up through the mileage. Beaming with pride when I finished my first 10km event, my first 15km event, my first half marathon (at which I was six weeks pregnant!)

I didn’t run much through my pregnancy, but between my first and second babies I was running pretty regularly a few times a week. But over the past four years between juggling two children, moving home to Adelaide, deciding to open my own business, and my husband changing jobs to one where he leaves the house at 5am every morning, I’ve really struggled to get back into it. I couldn’t go out for my usual early morning run as I had the girls at home, I hated running with a pram and the treadmill at the gym bores me to tears, so I didn’t run during the day, and by the time hubby got home and we made it through the cactus hour “dinner-bath-bed” routine – it was too dark. And I definitely don’t run the streets in the dark.

I’ve certainly tried, I’ve pushed myself through a run at least every other week when I found time on a weekend, and there’s been periods of time where I’ve been more motivated than others – increasing my runs to a couple of times a week – sneaking out the door as soon as hubby got home from work for a quick 20 or 30 minute job – especially in those first two years after we moved back here.

Bu then the adrenal fatigue really kicked in at the start of last year and I found I just couldn’t run. My legs always felt heavy, and I no longer actually wanted to run, despite desperately wanting to want to run (if that makes sense.)

I even signed up for two running coaching programs last year, the first one I pushed myself through with a once a week run with my personal training group. This was great – having a team around me meant that I actually went for those runs. But afterwards I would be just completely spent, and crash on the couch for the next few hours. My ‘runner’s high was completely non-existent’, and in it’s place was a ‘runner’s crash and burn’.

The second program, was a fantastic online running program, with a great online community. I had the best of intentions when I joined up – despite not listening to any of my body’s signals. I was mistaking my body’s call for rest as simply being lazy and unmotivated. “Maybe I just need a program to get me on track?”, I thought to myself. So I signed up. But I just couldn’t do it. When I did go for a run my body responded the exact same way it had in the previous program.

And it’s because it was exhausted, literally. My adrenal fatigue has just stripped my body of any energy reserves, and – quite frankly – it’s shit.

So I’ve given up on running for the next few months. Until at least April (I’m still harbouring dreams of my second half marathon in July). I’m giving my body the opportunity to rest. I’m going to be focusing on less strenuous activities such as walking, light weight training and yoga.

Oh, and swimming!

backintheswimpinterestgraphic

Remember when I said I’m not a naturally gifted runner? Well as it happens what I am naturally good at is swimming. I’m not fast, no sirreee. But I’m a strong swimmer and I have great endurance. A couple of decades ago I used to be a swimming instructor and lifeguard, which is how I worked my way through Uni. Back then I used to swim 2km every morning (that’s 40 laps of a 50m pool!).

But once I graduated and gave up the swim teaching, I lost the swimming for fitness alongside of it – after all, I had a full time job now and I could afford a proper gym membership! I also moved to pretty much the coldest place in South Australia and suddenly swimming didn’t seem so appealing anymore.

I dipped my toes back in the pool briefly again during both my pregnancies, but didn’t continue after I had my babies.

Until this week, when I signed myself up for the 300m swim leg of a triathlon with some people from my personal training crew. I knew there was no way I could do the full thing. But a 300m swim – that’s less than 10minutes. I can definitely manage that!

So I jumped back in the pool for my first swim in about four years. With no idea how I’d go. Would I even be able to make it to the other end of the pool without struggling for breath? Turns out I could. I did that first 300m easily, and I felt good, so I kept swimming for another 700m. And just like that I did my first 1km swim in a very long time.

Me, after my first swim last week. Red faced, but relaxed.

Me, after my first swim last week. Red faced, but relaxed.

Funny how we sometimes forget the things we love. And the things we’re good at.

But now I’ve been reminded, I think swimming is just what my body needs. Movement, that doesn’t stress it out physically – or emotionally. More than anything, I find swimming calming. It’s just me, the water and that blue line. The slow rhythmic “one, two, three, breathe” of my stroke rate is so incredibly calming. It’s basically a moving meditation.

So while I mourn the loss of my regular runs, I’m going to enjoy my return to the pool.

Cheers, Sarah

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Postnatal incontinence. So not cool.

Postnatal incontinence. So not cool.

So – let’s talk incontinence!!!

I came across this article yesterday on the Women’s Running Magazine facebook page and it got me fired up.

So, so, so fired up.

In case you missed it, it’s a story from a running blogger named Steph, about her little quirks that make her #uncool. Here’s what Steph wrote:

A campaign was launched last week with the title and theme of #WeAreAllUncool. The idea is to celebrate that we all have quirks, habits and differences that make us unique. Sometimes these traits lead us to feel vulnerable and embarrassed about our shortcomings. We should not have to apologize or feel ashamed.

Steph goes on to talk about the fact that she wears a sanitary pad every time she runs or works out, because she has a postnatal continence problem.

I wear granny underwear under my running shorts—even spandex—because I pee my pants on every run and workout since having my son 9 months ago. I have to wear a maxi pad to help avoid soaked pants post-run. It leads to a super-hot look when I’m rocking light-colored spandex.

Now I don’t know Steph at all. I don’t know her story of her pregnancy and labour and I don’t know what she’s been doing in terms of pelvic floor rehab. She’s clearly very fit and healthy and is an elite level runner, so I’m presuming she has great coaches and (hopefully) a top-notch physio on hand. But the reality is, she has a serious continence issue.

Now I’m not setting out to shame Steph – not at all. In fact, I think it’s remarkably brave of her to put this out there in the public arena, and opening up this conversation is always good. So many women would simply keep this to themselves and pray that no-one else finds out. So kudos to you Steph, for your bravery!

But here’s my issue, and this is what I got fired up about.

There is no context around this article. And there is no call to action for other women who may be experiencing the same problem.

I applaud Steph for bringing this issue to light. Truly I do, because it’s a serious and extremely common concern for many women, particularly those who have had children.

But I wish that Steph – or Women’s Running Magazine – would have gone a step further and talked about what she’s doing – or could do – to address this issue.

Is she doing pelvic floor rehab? She’s still only 9 months postnatal, so really she’s still in recovery phase.

Did she consider taking time off from running to get this issue resolved before she started running again?

Does she have a great women’s health physiotherapist she’s working with to get this under control?

Or did she have a severe tear which has led to significant perineal damage and the resultant incontinence?

I don’t know, but I wish there was a little more context around her frank admission, in order to give all of her readership a little more food for thought.

Instead, what we got was several other women telling their stories of incontinence, and Women’s Running facebook page replying with “Don’t worry ladies, it is so common. It feels better knowing it happens to everyone!”

I think the basis of the #WeAreAllUncool campaign is great (though I think it should be renamed #WeAreAllCool) – it’s about embracing our uniqueness, diversity and all the little foibles that make us human. That is totally cool. It’s cool to be different. In fact, it’s completely freakin’ awesome and it’s what makes this big, wide, crazy world a great place to live.

The campaign encourages us to not be ashamed or embarrassed about who we are and how we are different.

Certainly, any type of urinary incontinence has the ability to make a woman feel embarrassed, vulnerable and ashamed. Which is why I talk about it a lot. Which is why we focus on this exact topic in my postnatal wellbeing and recovery program, Body Mind Baby. Because I don’t want women to feel embarrassed or ashamed if they experience urinary incontinence. I want them to be able to address it and overcome it.

But I don’t want them to celebrate it. And that’s what this campaign is about – celebrating our uniqueness.

I know it may seem like I’m nit-picking here – but I think an issue as important as this shouldn’t be included in a campaign about celebrating our bodies – at least not without context. Because it’s actually not something that should be celebrated. It’s something that should be addressed and treated – because for the majority of women it CAN be treated.

I want women to feel comfortable to be able to talk about the fact their experiencing postnatal incontinence. But I also want them to be empowered enough to say, “I’m not going to accept that – I know there are options available and I’m going to do whatever it takes to fix this issue”.

What I’d like women to know is that “no leakage is normal”. So yes, even if you just leak a “little bit”, even it it’s only when you sneeze, jump on a trampoline or do a star-jump – that is not normal. BUT, in the vast majority of cases it CAN be resolved. So that woman can undertake all those activities again without any leakage. It is possible for the absolute majority of people.

But, recovering from postnatal incontinence takes commitment, time and effort. It also requires a great deal of respect for the body and its healing process, and an avoidance of high impact activities – such as running – until continence issues are resolved. Because if you continue to place lots of pressure on a dysfunctional pelvic floor – it is NEVER going to heal.

active mother jogging

But so what? I hear women say. It’s just a “wee bit of wee” and it’s only when I run, and I just wear a pad, so it’s really not a problem. Right? This is what I hear from women an awful lot.

So I always encourage them to think long term. If your pelvic floor is dysfunctional in your 30’s, how’s it going to be in your 50’s? Your 60’s? Your 70’s?

Have you ever worked in an aged care facility? Have you ever seen a grown adult who simply can’t control their bladder or bowels? Did you know that incontinence is a significant factor in many aged care admissions? I’ve spent time working in aged care facilities and I know too well the pained, shamed expression of a woman (or man) who has just wet their pants. It’s tragic and I’m damned sure I’m not going to let that happen to me (at least not without a serious fight).

When I talk to so many women who say their pelvic floor is “mostly okay” as long as they don’t jump, run or do a  handstand, I tell them they should be able to do these things without leaking. Most of the time they just brush it off and say it doesn’t really matter. Well I say it does. I want to be able to jump on a trampoline with my kids – and play “Pop, Bang, Go”* with them like I did when I was a kid.

But the most tragic thing, is that when I ask these women if they regularly do their pelvic floor exercises, or actively work on pelvic floor rehab (because it’s not JUST about kegels), the majority of the time they say NO.

So we have a whole bunch of women, who have just a “little problem” but aren’t doing anything about it???

That’s just not on – not in my book.

One of my favourite phrases – and I say it ALL THE TIME, in every single presentation I give, is this:

Just because something is common, it doesn’t mean it’s normal.

In case you’ve never heard me talk about this before, I wrote about it here.

So getting back to this article, (which also reminds me of this article, which I got steamed up about on my facebook page). I truly hope Steph can get her pelvic floor rehabbed. I really do. I’d love for her to be able to run leak-free. And I’d love for her to be able to have more children and to not have this issue again.

I also want for this topic to be opened up to a bigger discussion, on a more regular basis, especially amongst the postnatal community.

But what I really want, is for this issue to stop being “normalised”. What I’d love is for women to be able to feel comfortable talking about this, while at the same time taking control, respecting their bodies’ limitations and doing absolutely everything possible to address the issue. And not just accepting “leakage” as the status quo.

That’s what I want.

Until next time, Be Well.

Sarah xx

* for those of you who don’t know, “Pop Bang Go” is a totally awesome handstand game to see who can hold their handstand the longest. I never won as a child. I still don’t win. But it’s all about how you play the game.

ps. If you’re here in Adelaide, and want some support to rehab your pelvic floor and core I’ve got a few options for you.

If you want to work one to one with me, check out my OT Core Restore program here.

Or, if you’re a new mum with a baby under 12 months old, you can join my Body Mind Baby postnatal wellbeing and recovery program. Our next program starts on February 4, 2016, and don’t forget we have a $50 early bird discounts available until January 15.

Is your lifestyle getting in the way of your life?

Is your lifestyle getting in the way of your life?

Do you have an injury or pain you just can’t seem to shake? Does it get better after treatment, but then comes back after a few more days, weeks, months? This is really common, it’s what I like to call a “lifestyle injury” – meaning there is something happening in your life which is causing or exacerbating the injury, or not allowing it to fully heal.

So often when we’re faced with the pain of a lifestyle injury, we get intermittent treatment to simply eradicate the pain. But this isn’t sufficient to actually address the problem. If you don’t delve deeper into what the injury actually is and find out why it is occurring, then you’re never going to fully resolve the pain or symptoms. Over time, you’ll just start to live with that little niggle in your back, or the tightness in your shoulders, or those creaky knees. These things will become part of your new normal, they’ll become a chronic injury, and you might give up trying to treat them. Don’t! Keep seeking treatment – but seek a treatment that focuses on the problem, not the solution.

Want my example?

Last year I kept getting pain in my right calf whenever I ran. For a few weeks I put my running on hold as I was really worried about sustaining a calf tear. I took myself to the physio twice, but it didn’t really seem to be improving. Then, one day, I noticed the pain after a long car drive and it made me wonder whether driving was the real problem. Over the next few days I noticed that whenever I was driving, I would externally rotate my right hip, so my right foot was pressing the accelerator on an angle – placing extra strain on my peroneal muscles (along the side of the calf.)

Bingo! I had found the real problem. It wasn’t the running at all, it was my foot position on the accelerator pedal while driving.

After that day I started to make a very conscious effort to ensure my foot, knee and hip were all aligned when driving. Within a few days my pain had gone, without further treatment – just some dedicated stretching. I started up my running again and haven’t had a problem since.

So, what’s behind your “lifestyle injury”?

Way to go, Dad!

It’s not often I strike up conversations with strange men on street corners. But I did yesterday.

Well, actually, it was a jetty, not a street corner. And he wasn’t really a strange man, just a stranger.

I was waiting on the jetty for a friend – taking photos of the sunny beach scene with my iPhone to pass the time. I saw a man running past, sopping wet in his bike shorts with his race number scrawled all over his arms – I smiled at him – I always tend to smile at joggers. He stopped to ask whether I wanted him to take the photo so I could be in it. And we started to chat.

Turns out, he’d just finished a jetty-to-jetty swim with his Masters Swimming club. He was 47, a single Dad to two teenage boys and committed to keeping himself fit and healthy, in order to be a good role model for them.

Bingo – I thought! Good on him. This dude looked fitter than your average 25 year old bloke. He was focused, he had goals. He wanted to live his best life, and he wanted his kids to do the same. He wanted them to “hit the beach, have fun”, but not get caught up in the culture of drugs and alcohol.

It made me think about my oxygen mask post – about looking after yourself in order to set a good example and look after others.

So, even though this site is dedicated to Mums, I couldn’t help but give kudos to this Dad. Well done healthy Dad!