How I’ve Managed my Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis. Two words that send a shiver up the spine of any runner. As dirty a pair of words as shin splints. And exactly what I’ve been dealing with for the last few months.

I’m not going to lie. It’s been miserable, and painful, and I don’t have a quick-fix, miracle cure for you. And just because it worked for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you. But I thought I would share with you what I’ve done to try and get over this miserable affliction effectively, because if just one of these helps with your recovery, that’s got to be a good thing, right?

REST

First and foremost I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to lay off the running. But you knew that didn’t you? You just didn’t want to hear it. I feel you.

If there is pain, don’t run on it.

It doesn’t matter what races you’ve got planned or how long you’ve been training for them- I had to miss out on 6 different events from 5ks to half marathons whilst dealing with this injury – it’s better to take 3 months off now, then run on it and end up having to take double that off (or worse). There are other sports you can do instead. For me, that’s been spinning and swimming.

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GET DIAGNOSED

If you’ve got pain that is mostly in the heel, and it’s at its worst first thing in the morning when you get out of bed, chances are it’s plantar fasciitis. But the root cause of the PF could be due to tight calf muscles or any number of things, and it’s best to get a professional to take a look at you so that they can help with the best course of action. I worked with Megan from the FAST Clinic, and one of the best things she did for me – other than be endlessly patient and tell me that yes, I will get out running again – was tell me that it’s not enough to just rest tendons – they need to be strengthened as well.

STRENGTHENING

Once Megan and I had established that mobility and flexibility weren’t the issue for me, she gave me a few strengthening exercises to do at home. One was standing back from a wall and falling towards it with my hands out to catch myself whilst keeping my legs straight and my feet flat. But the ones that I feel made the greatest difference for me were adapted heel raises. Rather than just standing on a stair and going up and down on my toes (dropping the heel below the height of the step as far as I’m able), I was going up on both toes, but only down on the bad foot. I also had the toes of the bad foot stretched upwards on a rolled up towel as I did this. After a while, I started adding weights, first with a few plates (around 4kg worth) in a rucksack on my back before moving to kettlebells up to 10kg (you’ll need a hand free to hold on to a rail, otherwise you WILL stack it). Once my foot had become used to being loaded up again (when you run the force through your foot is considerably more than your body weight) it was time to think about running again.

REHAB

Most people who have had PF will tell you that you should roll out the fascia (essentially the mid foot area) on a tennis/golf/cricket ball, and I’ve found this to be great advice. My ball of choice is a lacrosse ball as it’s a good size but smooth on the skin, and I got mine off Amazon. You can also roll your foot on a small bottle of frozen water as ice can help with the inflammation.

I also went to see a sports massage therapist in Ely called Becky Case-Upton. I know Becky from my gym, and she has this infectious energy for life, and a serious appetite for learning about the human body, and after Justin from “You’re Running What” had raved about her I knew I had to see her, and I am so, so glad I did. Becky is a phenomenal therapist, and I feel like seeing her was the final missing puzzle piece in my recovery. I’ve been recommending her to everyone, which I may live to regret further down the line when I next need to see her and find she has a waiting list from hell, but if you’re struggling with an injury she should definitely be someone to consider seeing.

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT

I tried a few different other things to help with my PF including a boot to wear at night which I ditched after 3 attempts as I decided that even if it did help my PF, I still wouldn’t be able to run as I’d be too exhausted from waking up every time I rolled over when I wore the horrible thing. Others have found these to be useful though. Instead I’ve just been going to bed wearing a support sock on my foot. I’m not sure how much difference this has made to be honest, but it certainly hasn’t hurt.

I put innersoles or heel inserts into all of my shoes, and I was lucky enough to be gifted a pair of OOFOS recovery sandals that I have been wearing around my house non stop since they arrived around 5 weeks ago. Usually I potter around my house in flat slippers, but the general consensus with PF is to avoid being flat footed wherever possible. Although flip flops are generally frowned upon if you want to look after your feet, OOFOS are flip flops in looks only. They are so, so comfortable, and as their website says better than I can,  “their patented biomechanically engineered footbed helps to increase circulation and provides superior arch support”. I’m planning to get a pair of the rose gold ones to take on future travels.

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PATIENCE

I’m sorry, but with PF, you’re going to have to be patient. It’s not an easy injury to recover from, especially if you want to recover from it well, not just manage it enough so that you can keep running. I first started struggling with this in June, and now in mid September I’m finally getting out there again, starting with just a mile at a time.

I’l be honest – I’ve had some really down moments, none more than when I had to pass up my place in the Round Norfolk Relay – that was the one that caused tears. But I had more time to blog, I visited my local lido more, I supported my friends by acting as bike support on their long steady runs or cheering them on at races and I kept busy by trying new things. There are positives that can be found from being injured, including getting into good habits and being more aware of your body. And those last little runs I’ve done have been absolutely amazing.

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If you’re currently struggling with PF I really hope you find this post useful, and I hope my recovery will make you feel a bit more optimistic that you’ll get through it too. Let me know how you get on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddle Boarding in Milton Country Park

As I’m still in a state of running MOBOI, I’ve decided to look at the positives of being injured. For starters I’ve been posting far more often on here, as a lot of the time I would be running I’m spending on writing instead. Secondly, with every injury you learn to understand and respect your body a bit more. I know what I need to do to strengthen my body to try and prevent this injury from recurring and I know that when I get back to running I’ll love it even more and fully appreciate my body for what it can do. And lastly, I’m trying out new sports and experiences in the hope of temporarily replacing running. Step forward paddle boarding!

In an attempt to try and get the CambMeetUp bloggers together a bit more, I had put a poll up in our Facebook group to try and find an activity we could all do together. Whilst bouldering was a popular choice, it couldn’t beat the appeal of paddle boarding in Milton County Park. After a bit of work to find a date we could all do and the brilliant efforts of Bethany from Cambridge Sport Lakes to be really flexible with us, Rachael, Claire, Jen, Kelly, Jess and I all turned up on a chillier than we would like Saturday morning to get out on the water.

Now Claire (group photographer extraordinaire) had tried paddle boarding numerous times before, and assured us that we would all be fine and standing before we knew it. But as we stood at the sides the rest of us all thought that there was NO WAY IN HELL WE WOULD EVER BE ABLE TO STAND.

How wrong we were. Led by our brilliant instructor Penny we all knelt on our boards and paddled to the far end of the lake (I had one keen eye on the swans). She then showed us how to stand (it involves getting into a crouch in the middle of the board) and one by one we all wobbled up. Penny then wasted no time in making us all play “world domination” (although most of us dropped back down to our knees for this!), all picking a country and trying to be the first to whack everyone else’s board and turn their country into ours. I can’t take credit for my choice – Ireland – winning. It was definitely due to whoever I had managed to tag first as I must have changed country four times.

We were all really nervous at the thought of falling into the cold, very weedy water, but for the 60 minutes we were out there only Jess took a tumble. Penny had warned us that getting back on the board could be really hard, but before I’d even had time to turn around (admittedly my turning circle was pretty large!), Jess was back on like an absolute pro – the sign of an open water swimmer!

It was a pretty windy day and it took some effort to make sure we didn’t drift into the trees. Claire assured us that this meant our efforts were even more impressive and that on a still day – should we want to try it again – we’d find it a lot easier. We even attempted some yoga (they offer classes in this!), and I was pretty happy with my attempt at one-legged dog, although I quickly realised that trying tree pose on one leg would be a step too far.

After an hour passed in no time at all, I reluctantly got off the board. I was both euphoric at how much I had enjoyed the experience and devastated that I had left it so late in the season to try it out. There are now only two weeks left before Milton County Park stop offering paddle boarding. However, I nabbed the last place on the 2.5 hour Adult Level 1 BSUPA Born to Ride session this coming weekend, which will allow me to hire a board and paddle independently at any accredited centre in the UK. Now I just need to find £700 for a board and I’ll be paddling up the Ouse before you know it…!

If you’ve ever considered paddle boarding go for it. You won’t regret it.

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Are you in a state of MOBOI?

Everyone loves an acronym right? FOMO, YOLO, OMG or my personal favourite, FFS…

So I hereby bring you MOBOI – missing out because of injury. And it’s a real state of LOLs I can tell you.

Injuries are going to happen. I’ve had a few in my time – ITB syndrome, posterior tibial tendonitis, piriformis syndrome and now plantar fasciitis. Those are some fun party conversation starters right there. And while I’m getting better at listening to my body (and to the common sense instilled in me by the professionals that I see) and know that rest is key when the problem is at its most acute, that doesn’t stop me from raging at the world when an event I had signed up to rolls around. So far with my PF I’ve missed out the 5th Kevin Henry league race, the Ely Sprint Triathlon and this weekend the Bedford Running Festival double (10k Saturday evening and half marathon Sunday morning). And every single time it has sucked.

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Sad little unused race numbers

While it’s tempting to sit and wallow at home when you know your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feed is going to be full of happy runners posing with their well-earned medals, I’ve been trying to focus on doing the things I usually complain that I don’t have time to do. I’ve gone back to Jesus Green Lido (whilst kicking myself for not making the most of it earlier in the season as it closes in 3 weeks), have caught up on my reading, have kickstarted this blog again (hooray!) and have acted as bike support for my running buddy Pete as he trains for his first marathon. I even went on a 16-mile bike ride today just for the “fun” of it, something I always swore I would never do because as someone who needs to commute by bike, voluntarily doing it at the weekend has never appealed, but I really appreciated the peace and quiet on the country roads and a burn in my legs that was very different from what I experience on a fast run.

And the best thing? Every injury I get makes me a better athlete as it gets me into good habits. I learn to listen to my body so that the niggle doesn’t become a chronic long-term problem (I’m 6 weeks into PF and am almost ready to run again). I learn specific strengthening and stretching techniques to add into my usual routine and I learn to appreciate and wonder at my body even more when I get back to running again.

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Around 15 miles into his 20 miler

Sadly I don’t have a cure-all solution for how to deal with MOBOI. I am constantly envious of everyone’s race bling and do sometimes find myself in a Strava spiral looking at folk racking up segment PBs, but I’m taking solace in the fact that I’m clearly growing as a runner by not attempting to come back from injury too quickly, and perspective is a useful thing. My injury is (hopefully) only temporary, and those events I’ve missed out on will come back round next year. Plus it’s great to support your friends either through marshalling at parkrun, liking their latest race selfie or singing “Dance Magic Dance” as they find themselves flagging on their 20 mile long steady run (you’re welcome Pete)!

Upshot is, MOBOI sucks, but take the opportunities it offers you and use them to come back stronger.

BRB.

 

Molton Brown Evening with Sweaty Betty plus Giveaway!

First of all, I’m being a crummy blogger this year aren’t I? One blog every 6 weeks is not what I hoped to achieve, but I’m injured and grumpy so writing about running hasn’t exactly appealed. But being injured is part and parcel of being an athlete, and I’m finally inching into the acceptance stage of my injury (denial was fun), so let’s kick things off with a write up of a Molton Brown bloggers evening that I was lucky enough to be invited to back in July.

Usually I go along to blogger events to network with others in the area, but I rarely write about them because I’m not a beauty/lifestyle blogger. However, when I heard that Sweaty Betty were going to be at Molton Brown’s, it meant that I could write about it as everyone knows that my Sweaty Betty habit is out of control. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m a Molton Brown mega fan as well…

When we turned up at the event – and there must have been about 20 bloggers there – we were treated to a personalised goodie bag that had been tailored to our own individual tastes based upon the character Sonny and his team had gleaned from our social media accounts. They got mine spot on, with some of my favourite fragrances included (hello rhubarb and rose)!

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We were also treated to gin cocktails from gorgeous local tapas bar La Raza, and hand and arm massages from Sonny and his team. After much deliberating, I chose the Caju and Lime fragrance, which was beautifully uplifting. I’ve been using Molton Brown hand lotions for years, and I’ve long been a bit fan of gifting Molton Brown products to friends and family, as people rarely treat themselves to luxury shower gels and body lotions. I picked up a bottle of the new Bushukan shower gel (citrus with a hit of black pepper) for the other half’s birthday, and a hand cream that I’m giving away to one lucky follower (see details at the end of this post)! I was devastated however to hear that my favourite fragrance, violet and vanilla, was limited edition! It’s still available on some sites but not easy to come by…

And now on to Sweaty Betty, who were showcasing their beautiful new AW collection. What’s fascinating about the fashion design world, is that they have to be predicting trends SO far in advance. I’ve been told that Sweaty Betty are looking ahead about 18 months, and so back in early 2018, they chose to be inspired by South Korea for AW 2019. They headed over to Seoul, where they were inspired by the “incredible juxtaposition of futuristic buildings and blazing neon alongside traditional architecture and old palaces”. In addition to this, they focused on women in South Korea who were “pushing against the norm. South Korea is very driven by a specific type of beauty, so [it was] amazing to see some really cool women rejecting labels, including the long boarder, Ko Hyojoo.”

Mary-Beth, the store manager at Cambridge, also told me about an underground tattoo scene in South Korea that inspired some of their new prints. Fascinatingly, although it’s not illegal to have tattoos in South Korea, it is illegal to be a tattoo artist if you’re not also a qualified medical practitioner, which is why the underground tattoo scene has grown. This inspired my favourite pair of leggings from the new collection, their new Super Sculpt 7/8 leggings in black cherry (a key colour in their AW collection) with a rose print “tattooed” mesh insert. Also, I couldn’t help but LOVE these retro 80s styling of these running shorts, inspired by the 1988 Olympics in Seoul:

And so on to the competition! As I MASSIVELY failed to celebrate my blog’s 4th birthday back in April, I’m doing a giveaway now instead! You can win this Sweaty Betty and Molton Brown bundle over on my Instagram and on my Twitter (yes you can enter via both to double your chances of winning)! Good luck!

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Was my Injury Actually a Good Thing?

Did I mention that I’ve been injured?

Megalolz. I’m only messing you with you. If you follow me on Twitter or you’ve been lucky enough to find yourself within earshot of me within the last four months you will have heard me banging on about my “posterior tibial tendonitis” (try saying that after a few drinks). This has been without doubt the most stubborn injury I’ve had in the last few years, and I’ve had some really low moments during the seemingly endless weeks of stretching, physio, osteopathy, acupuncture, yoga, foam rolling and self medicating with cake.

But now that I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe this happening was a good thing. Yes I may have missed some of my favourite races and my preferred running season (trust me to be fit and healthy in the summer when trying to run outdoors is akin to running in soup) but I’ve been forced to be more creative with my fitness and as a result have seen my perspective shift in some interesting ways.

First of all, there’s the bouldering. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know I’ve found a real affinity with clambering up walls (despite being sweaty of hand and afraid of heights – go figure). I’ve reconnected with friends over climbing, have seen my shoulders develop in a way that makes me want to flex like the hulk whenever I walk past a mirror, have spent time with my niece and nephew at the climbing centre and have enjoyed the encouraging vibe between other climbers. It gives me an adrenaline hit but in a more controlled way than the adrenaline I feel on a start line of a race in a sometimes unfamiliar environment. Having said all this though, being on the verge of tears, stuck at the top of a route with my feet on a hold that looked disturbingly like a large pair of testicles was not one of my finest moments. But the good of climbing massively outweighs the bad.

Look! I’m a GIF! Thanks Oli…

Secondly, when I was deciding how on earth to find something that would get my heart rate up as much as running and Zumba (another exercise form that seemed to be aggravating my injury), I decided to wander into Elyte Fitness and see if maybe they were the gym for me after feeling less than inspired by the other local facilities on offer. Within 10 minutes I was sold on the sheer passion of the owners Lewis and Dawn and I signed up on the spot. I’m so glad I made this decision, as they are full of ideas and plans for the gym, and they’ve built an amazing fitness community. Every time I go there I feel like I’m with old friends and I’ll be writing a separate post on my Elyte journey so far as there is so much I want to say about it.

Because I was finding myself feeling so down about the state of running, I also decided to fire up my Headspace app again.  I’ve flirted on and off with Headspace for some time, but never seemed to manage more than 5 days in a row. Even though they always say not to worry if you miss a day, I would always take that as a sign of failure (competitive, moi?) and end up walking away for another month or two. But I’m currently sitting at 21 days straight of at least 10 minutes of meditation a day, and I am feeling slightly calmer in a general kind of way. I’m not going to claim that I am in some kind of zen like chilled perfection of existence (no one would believe that), but I think the clearest sign that I’m more relaxed and able to see “the bigger picture”, is the fact that I decided to transfer my Cambridge Half place, and I felt completely ok about it. Even though missing races you love sucks, setting back a recovery that has taken 4 months for the sake of one medal is madness. I would have spent the next 6 weeks fretting about building up from 4 miles to 13 miles, constantly wondering if my tendon could take the strain and I would have become unpleasant to be around. So to me it just seemed like such an obvious thing to do.

Another positive to come out of all this is that I feel like I know my body better, and I have a new found respect for it. I’m still making time to stretch and foam roll, and I try and do a little yoga every day (I manage it about 80% of the time). And as a result of my injury I’ve been told by my physio and my osteo that my foot functionality and balance is the best they’ve ever seen (proof that putting the effort into your rehab works!). And really, I’m just so excited to be running again, and am looking forward to getting stronger and building up to my best again. I’ve done a parkrun and a track session and loved every minute as you can see my inane grinning face above. Feeling my lungs fill with that gorgeous icy air is the ultimate tonic to me, and I’m just so grateful to be out there again. It’s lovely to be back with my running family, and I’m going to take my time and build up my distance slowly, and maybe look to do an autumn half marathon. Then again – maybe not? Maybe I’ll just keep doing whatever I like whenever I like, with no pressure, and no expectations.

 

 

How to Cope when you’re a Running Blogger who can’t Run

You know all those times when I’ve complained about how hideous running is and how much it hurts and how it sometimes makes me feel like I might die as I throw a tantrum face down in the mud? You know, the subtle stuff?

I take it all back. I’m a running blogger who can’t run, and it’s awful.

So this foot niggle that flared up 3 months ago is still going strong, and the current thinking is that it’s posterior tibial tendonitis. Trips off the tongue doesn’t it? These two fun chaps can explain it for me because I think typing the symptoms out in a blog post might tip me over the edge. Upshot is that tendonitis is an absolute bugger, and so far mine is proving to be incredibly stubborn (I wonder where it gets that from)?

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Despite my best efforts to stretch, ice, strengthen, offer up my first born to the local witch… it feels better, I run a bit, and then it feels bad again. There seems to be so little progress and it’s driving me nuts. I will admit that maybe I’ve been trying too much too soon, but in my mind 3 miles with the juniors is not a lot of running. However, when my fabulously patient physio Megan saw me last, she explained that to go from nothing to 3 miles is a lot on a bad foot, and that I need to raise up my rehab efforts and bring down my running so that they can meet somewhere in the middle. In other words, I need to dig deep and find some patience. So my foot and leg exercises are now being done with a 7kg kettlebell, and this week I’ve run for 5 x 30 seconds twice. So in a week, I’ve done 5 whole minutes of running. Insert massive hurrumphy sigh here.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m extremely lucky. I’ve met runners who have battled back from strokes and blood clots, and people who rock up to parkrun week in/week out and have to run/walk it in 50 minutes because they have an illness that prevents them from doing anything more. But running is a huge part of my identity, and after three months of this, I’ll admit that I’m struggling. On a Sunday I find being on Facebook and Twitter really difficult as I see friends celebrate great races, flash their medal bling and record PBs. I’ve had to miss out on two club runs already this season, as well as some of my favourite races like the Town and Gown 10k.

BUT. As difficult as I’m finding it, I’m not going to shut myself off from the world of running. I’ve been volunteering at parkrun, cycling whilst friends run, getting involved in ukrunchat on Twitter, organising my running club’s Christmas parties and congratulating friends on their achievements. I know I’ll be back there soon. I know I will. I just wish it could be sooner rather than later.

In the meantime I’m climbing more, doing yoga, and finding cardio alternatives to keep myself sane. Against my better judgement I’ve even promised my husband that I’ll try a spin class despite claiming that hell would have to freeze over before I would even consider it. He said “even if you hate it and least you’ll get a blog post out of it.”

How well he knows me.