A confession in limbo

I have thought about writing a post like this for probably seven months. It was finally time.

I share a lot on this blog. Or, it seems that way to the outside eye. There is a big part of my life, something I think about every hour or every day, that I have not written more than a few sentences about to date. I have had my reasons for this. Being a part of the running industry, and also being a 23-year-old resident of the place I like to call “limbo,” there is an unspoken “professional” demeanor I like to maintain on the blog. Basically, I don’t want to write things that come back to haunt me later, or ruin any opportunities. Since my running life, my work life, and my social life are connected so much (unusually so for the average person), I have found myself not writing about one topic that takes over my brain on a daily basis. At the same time, it was starting this blog that has provided me with at least two very real wake-up calls that have caused me to evaluate and question everything I thought I wanted, and to finally settle upon a reaffirming conclusion (for now, as should be added to all “confirmations” until it’s truly real). Like we all announce which race we are running – 10% for the fact that it’s a means of accountability –  it’s time to share this.

I am interested in so many things in addition to running. I enjoy marketing, social media, public speaking, painting, writing, journalism, photography, reading, teaching. However, unlike those (many, many people) who aren’t sure what to do with their life career-wise, I have known what I was most interested in for about six years. Over the past two years it has more often than not seemed like there has been a huge, convoluted path over a large mountain standing between me and this goal. There were times I recently questioned if it was worth the effort, the money, the time. I found myself being really happy doing other things and wondering if I was only still telling people I wanted to do this because it was what I was programmed to do. Surrounded by academics and other really accomplished friends in their early 20s on a regular basis, I felt the need to have a similarly-minded goal, and that I would be more respected if I said so. I strayed from my goal and explored other options for a few months. I was (and am…) constantly in a tug-of-war between the countless people who told me this “was a fine place to be at 23,” I was “still so young,” I should “just have fun,” I should be in “no rush at all,” and those who had resumes that resembled those of 40-year-olds, published scientific papers, lofty salaries, and generally just life plans that convinced me I’d someday say, “I know him/her!” Talk about pressure, and confusion.

It wasn’t really until the past couple weeks, when an opportunity was presented to me and was attainable by just saying a three letter word, that I realized I had been right all along. Regardless of the mess I’ve made and the strange path I have taken and will continue to take to get there:

I want to go to physical therapy school. That is, I want to be a physical therapist. 

There will be no more giving in, thinking it’s impossible, giving in to others’ doubts, refocusing elsewhere at the sheer overwhelmingness of the prospect. Note: I wrote all of the above before a big turning-point day last Thursday when I landed on an even more specific conclusion about what path I will be taking to get there. I just re-read it though, and everything still applies. The point is, there are some things to not write about on a blog. However, I was starting to feel like I was actually hiding a huge part of myself and my dreams by not mentioning this at all. I’m a very honest person in real life, so it only makes sense to translate it here. I probably won’t write too much about it again…but I’d like to document the important parts of this journey, especially those that will be useful to those reading. As step after step become more official, I’m sure there will be very running-related material to share, and I most definitely will do so.

So, there it is. Time to get after it. If I can run marathons after nine stress fractures and countless other issues, I can become a physical therapist after some not-great undergrad grades due to trying to do a million things at once (e.g., taking care of those injuries and their mental side effects…). That’s what I have to keep telling myself.

A picture, because I’ve never written a post without one. I think it applies.

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Neurac PT

Note: Read on for some valuable strengthening exercises!

When you have done all you can possibly think to do on your own to no avail, it’s time to seek some outside help. As someone who aspires to be a physical therapist someday, I get excited at the challenge of trying to learn new things to fix my own body. After doing an open water swim last Saturday that left my ITB in more pain than ever, though, I was beyond frustrated and decided to make an appointment for PT from someone other than myself.

There is nothing worse than getting your hopes up before seeing a doctor or PT that the appointment will be the answer to all your problems and you will walk out totally optimistic only to be told, I’m not sure what is wrong. I am speaking 100% from experience here. If I was going to seek professional opinions and assistance, I was going to go above and beyond to find a place that would actually tell me that something is wrong. If “nothing is wrong,” well, it’s hard to fix anything, isn’t it? So, that’s why I went to the Neurac Institute, which uses “Redcord® and one’s own body weight to restore proper neuromuscular control and functional stability for sports or daily activities.”

This was one of the exercises I did at PT. Looks fun, huh?

At many other physical therapy centers, therapists will test individual muscle strength; but, how helpful are strong right lats, for example, when you’re running a marathon with hundreds of other muscles? At Neurac, the therapists hook you up to slings and bungee cords to test your muscle strength while nearly every other muscle is also in use, making it a much more practical test of strengths and weaknesses. Basically, if the cords are shaking, you’re not stable – simple as that. During my first visit, it was clear that I was more stable in my right side, but my right shoulder sometimes leaned back to compensate during movements. My body rarely makes any sense to therapists and doctors. So it was no surprise that at my second visit almost a week later, the entire home exercise program focusing on the spiral line was null, because I was much better that time around, and went up from a 1 to a 3 on all the tests. He changed his mind and decided the problem was entirely on the left side. I‘m not exactly sure what I did right, but I was pleased. 

That was Monday. I’m getting to the point where some days I feel like I’d be fine to run, I’m just waiting for more consecutive days feeling like that. I know myself too well to trust no pain as indication I should run. Believe it or not, it makes more than that to convince me I’ll be fine when I actually start running (source: every run I’ve done that started fine and left me walking back…). Some days I feel just like I did after my ITB gave out on May 16th (over a month ago now…ughhhhhh). One of those days, unfortunately, is today.

I do realize that not 100% resting is setting me back a little, but I think I’d go crazy if I did nothing this time of year. This week is the start of Masters Swimming! More on this in another post soon!

In addition to the PT exercises I have been keeping up with since February 2012 when I hurt my right ITB badly, I’ve added the ones that the PT sent me…I did them all yesterday, and here are some that I think every runner should incorporate into his or her strength training routine! Small, stabilizing muscles and core >>> bigger muscles. They will get enough of a workout when you’re running/biking/swimming. I’ve always been a believer of that.

lumbar

hip 2hip

Another thing I’ve upgraded to in the past week is…THE QUADBALLER. I have been rolling on some kind of foam roller – cheap, ProTec brand, harder black styrofoam, The Grid, etc. for years nearly every single day. People say rolling hurts…um, it doesn’t anymore. Even when I have an ITB injury. What is wrong with me and my pain tolerance, right?! While I think it is pretty high (that doesn’t explain my total inability to use the cold shower at the pool this morning at all…), I really don’t feel the rollers much anymore. I could feel a tight spot with the Grid on my ITB, but it just wasn’t doing much for it. Then I found the Quadballer! Because it is the same texture and density of my beloved TP Massage Ball, and it is contoured, it gives a much smoother roll. Within a day, I found a difference. I will hereafter be using “quadball” as a verb…also other forms of speech in casual conversation. You may hear:

“I quadballed last night.”

“I want to quadball before work today.”

“I’m taking my quadballer to work so I can quadball throughout the day.”

“We are out of quadballers; I sold them all.”

QuadballerGo ahead, make fun of me. 🙂