Massage Ball: Instrument of Healing or Torture?

“Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.”

― Martha Moody, Best Friends


So for starters, I met with the gym owner today; and he was very receptive to everything I had to say.  He suggested he sit down with the trainer and I to discuss my concerns.  First, however, he wanted to sit the trainer down himself and have a talk with him.  He seemed pretty confident that things would work out,  and I haven’t gotten any angry texts yet… sooooo I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he is right.

In other news, my chiropractor cancelled my appointment today (after already rescheduling once), so after failing to find a massage therapist with a slot open last minute (go figure!) I ended up treating myself with Adam’s massage ball.  That ball and I have a love/hate relationship… sort of like my relationship with my foam roller.

I am not sure if any of you own one of these little torture devices, but I highly recommend it.  That ball is able to reach knots and breaks up scar tissue that a foam roller can’t come close to touching.  I used it when my shoulder first flared, and it worked great… aside from the fiction burns I gave myself on my neck from trying to work out a knot a little too aggressively. Yeeeahh that sucked… Still sucks actually.

Anyhow, I am hoping the little guy can hold me over until I can get an appointment. With the holiday this week it may be a while, but at least I have a back up plan!  


Decisions and Dilemmas

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”
-Sydney J. Harris 
(Ain’t that the truth!!!)


Ladies and Gentleman,

I have a dilemma!  I couple months ago I was in a training slum.  I was getting bored with Insanity and P90X (GASP!), and was really looking to try something new.

About the same time, I FINALLY managed to pay off the last my student loans.  To celebrate this momentous occasion and as a gift to myself for doing it over a decade ahead of schedule, I signed up with a personal trainer.  With my loans paid off, I had the extra income to afford it.  Plus, I figured that if I was ever going to try it, this would be the time- before I got used to the added cash each month.  I spoke to the owner of my gym, and he suggested I try the TRX workouts with one of his newer staff.

I can’t say that it was love (or even like) at first sight.  My trainer looked like he was about twelve, and had the maturity level of someone even younger.  After I went home and read his bio I discovered he was pretty much just out of diapers college.  He had me do a relatively simple workout, but the addition of the straps made it significantly harder.  It was a rude awakening to just how deconditioned I was, but within a few weeks I made HUGE strides and my trainer and I were just about getting along.

Almost immediately, however, there were some issues with professionalism.  He would drunk text me late at night, talk smack about his other clients, ask to reschedule last minute, and play on his phone during our sessions.  I had pointed out to him on numerous occasions that I didn’t find these behaviors very professional, and specifically that the smack talking and drunk texts made me uncomfortable.  This seemed to curb the behavior some, but didn’t entirely eliminate it.

Overall, I was (for the most part) happy.  I was trying something different and getting back in shape.   The TRX workouts were super challenging and I enjoyed them.  I thought working out with a trainer would give me an opportunity to maximize the efficacy of my workouts and help me avoid over-doing it and getting injured.  That’s the part I got wrong.  For starters, the TRX workouts are great, but we don’t do them every session… or even every week. The rest of the workouts are sort of hit or miss.  The days when my trainer is on and feels like being there, they are super tough and I enjoy them.  The days when he doesn’t feel like being there (or is annoyed that I ran beforehand) they are less than challenging- which is just a little disappointing at $40 per session.

However, the thing that really has been bugging me (haha I know, but honestly the other stuff I can deal with) is dilemmathat I have TWICE now gotten injured-  Not once, TWICE!  The first time I strained my quad doing squats and one legged lunges with a weight that was too heavy for 30 reps (I pointed this out, but clearly should have just refused outright).  I spent a couple weeks having to modify my workouts before we came upon injury #2.

After running the Fairfield Half, I really should have taken some time off to rest;  I guess I didn’t realize how badly I had beaten up my body.  I went to workout with the trainer 2 days later after having run a brisk 5 miles on the treadmill. (I almost always run before my session to make sure my body is warm and I can get a good stretch…it also puts me a good mood which I think is a perk for the trainer)  I was feeling good during the run, but almost as soon as I started doing the upper body workout with the TRX, my shoulder was giving me trouble.  I mentioned this to the trainer, and he accused me of just complaining.  As the workout went on, my shoulder became more and more painful.  My trainer watched me struggle, but instead of listening to me criticized the form on my push-ups.  He never modified the workout to make it easier, and continued to have me do push-ups in the straps with bad form.

I am normally I pretty bubbly person when I’m working out.  Even when I’m miserable, I’m smiling because I’m happy to be there.  I will admit that I get frustrated when I am not at my optimal performance AND that I tend to be tough on myself.  However, I AM NOT a WHINER or COMPLAINER.  I am the type of person who if you tell me to do something, I will do it to the best of my ability.  I don’t cheat, miss reps, or try to negotiate for an easier workout.  If I am paying $40 for a workout, I want to get my ass kicked and get every pennies worth.

That is why it irritates me so tremendously that by the time I got home I couldn’t even turn my neck.  My neck and shoulder were in full on spasm again, and I ended up missing almost a full day of work because of it. I also had to take the rest of the week off from training.  I told my trainer right away that I would be unable to make the rest of our scheduled sessions for the week, and he tried to pressure me into doing legs and core instead!  After inquiring how he expected me to do core with a messed up shoulder, I told him I wasn’t coming; and  that I definitely wasn’t risking injuring anything else when my body was clearly fatigued.  Instead of feeling badly about it, he tried to make me feel guilty that he had just bought a truck and needed clients.

tryharderAdam, understandably, thinks I should talk to the gym owner about switching trainers.  While I am aware that my current trainer is unprofessional, doesn’t listen to his clients… and possibly doesn’t even know what he’s even doing... I am still extremely conflicted about firing him.  For one thing, despite his short comings as a trainer, I still like him as a person.  I also genuinely feel sorry for him because he has no idea why his clients are leaving him or why people don’t like him (granted that is really not a good reason to train with someone!).  I also feel like on some level that I am a grown up, and I know my body.  While I realize he should have listened to me when I first brought my injuries up, I also should have gotten more vocal when he didn’t.  Not to mention, that I shouldn’t have showed up to work out with him when I had already beaten up my body 2 days prior…  I guess I am not really sure of how much I am supposed to expect of a trainer, however I think professionalism and not getting clients injured  should be on the list…

My other issue is he is the only trainer at the gym who does the TRX workouts, so if I go with a different trainer it will be a completely different program… this could be good or bad.  I suppose I know enough of the TRX to do those workouts on my own at this point anyway.  Which brings me to my last thought, which is whether it is worth paying a trainer at all… $40 a session is A LOT of money, and right now I don’t feel like I am getting my money’s worth- especially now that I am on my second injury!  I got into great shape on my own training for the Ultra Beast, and did much better at avoiding hurting myself.

My plan is to talk to the gym owner on Monday, but I don’t think it will be an easy decision regardless of which route I choose.  Right now, I’m just trying to figure out what is best for me.


Frustration is a Four Letter Word

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

Dolly Parton

You can take away my exercise, but you'll never take away my sense of humor!

Update: there has been no improvement in the shoulder since Friday.  It hasn’t been excruciating, but it hasn’t been normal either.  Yesterday I figured I would do some bike and stairmaster at the gym (since there’s not a whole lot I can do that doesn’t affect it).  As it turns out, recumbent bike would have been a better choice. Today make neck and shoulder are bugging me big time.  The thing is, I intentionally was leaning on my right shoulder so as not to put any strain on the left, and it didn’t matter one iota.

So now I find myself in the position of not being able to get comfortable- in spite of the NSAIDS and muscle relaxants.  I had my first official break down this morning.  It was short lived (yes there were tears), but the truth is I have had it.  There is clearly nothing I can do NOT to aggravate my shoulder- even sleeping makes it worse.  I haven’t run, done boot camp, climbed, or done Insanity in what seems like forever, and I don’t feel like it’s made one bit of difference.  At this point, there’s little to no chance of being able to do the Tough Mudder or Chesire Half, and I am beyond frustrated.

What irritates me the most is how completely unhelpful the ortho doctor I saw was.  He didn’t appear interested in anything I had to say and seemed completely annoyed that I came to see him instead of a general practicioner.  However, I knew if I went to my PCP he was going to have to send me for xrays and to follow up with an ortho guy anyway- so why not get it all done at once?  The best part was how he told me how physical therapy works really well, but is a huge time commitment and then never even gave me the option of going.

Given that we are now on week 3 of this issue with no real signs of improvement, I am ready to change things up.  I found a sports medicine center that specializes in chiropractic medicine, physical therapy, and acupuncture.  The doctor there also happens to be a certified personal trainer who avidly does crossfit, so I’m sort of hoping if anyone will get where I’m coming from it’s him.  I called and left a message with the office today to see if they 1)take my insurance, and 2) can fit me in anytime soon.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can find someone who is willing to listen and can actually help.  I get that I am not some important super athlete, but it doesn’t make being injured and unable to train any less devastating to me.  I want to be out there giving it my best as much as any professional or olympic athlete regardless of my lack of talent. 😉  What I need is someone who understands that and can give me a better timeline and guidelines on what I can and cannot do.

Here’s to being hopeful!

My Non-training Update

“I got 99 problems but my bench ain’t one”

Ironically inaccurate for me at the moment, but still by far the funniest thing I’ve read all day…

Borrowed for the Spartan Chicked Group

This may shock and amaze you all, but I have actually been a very good girl and HAVE NOT been sneaking in any workouts involving my shoulder … unless you count moving furniture, but I did use “moving men” (it’s so nice when you can find another use for your exercise equipment…oh wait… haha).  I also had Adam and G-dawg do the heavy lifting, not that I even had to ask.  Can you believe they didn’t trust me?  They know me too well 🙂

So this whole not working out multiple times a day is already getting expensive! I have WWWAAAAYYYY too much free time… time I used this weekend to rearrange my bedroom furniture.  I decided in the process that I needed to replace my tall dresser (you know how this works…) so I headed to the local flea market and found THIS AMAZING piece!

For anyone who doesn’t know, 99% percent of my furniture has come from tag sales, flea markets, and- in some cases- the curb.  At first, it was more out of necessity, but now it’s mostly for fun.  With this piece I got lucky because it didn’t even need to be refinished…  although I do actually like the refinishing too (especially my paisley dresser- so proud of it!)

Anyway, my bedroom is now becoming my favorite room of the house!  I’m so thrilled with how it’s FINALLY coming together.  Although, I ddefinitely need to get back to training before I spend anymore money. haha

In an effort to stay out of trouble (financially at least) this morning I went to the gym and did an easy 16 minutes on the stair climber followed by a few minutes on the elliptical with just legs.  I wasn’t feeling that awesome, and I’m guessing that may have had to do with the muscle relaxants.   I just wanted to do a little bit to keep from getting edgy.  I’m hoping that by next week I may be able to start easing into running, but for now I think it’s probably safer to minimize the exercising and stick to legs only.

In other news, I got a letter today from the YES Endurance people.  Remember a million years ago (ok… less than a year ago) I did their trail series and was COMPLETELY DEVASTATED when I completed the 4th race, in spite of the flu, and never got my finisher medal?

Yeah, well it just came in the mail today.  Better late than never?  I won’t even bring up the fiasco with the points series…  Anyway, they offered me a free entry to any of their races as compensation for the inconvenience… which I think was a pretty nice gesture.

That’s all I have to report for now.  I am super grateful for the happy pills that not only cured my horrendous spasm, but also have been keeping me relaxed enough not to be climbing up the walls…. otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d be homicidal by this point.  I wonder if I get can get a script to take them on all my rest days. haha

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  I know one lady who did!   Betsy from The Everyday Warrior earned her orange today at her first Tough Mudder.  She not only completed the event, but also raised funds for the very worthy Wounded Warrior Project. Woooohoooo! You go girl!  Be sure to spot by her blog and leaves her some props! She has definitely earned them!

Revenge of the Shoulder Blade…

“The pride you gain is worth the pain.”  

-Dennis Ogilvie

Or  “my life on the injury roller coaster” 😉

I am not a super athlete; I’m not even athletic.  Rather, I am an orthopedic disaster.  I am used to being limited by my joints and spending time getting MRIs and Xrays.  I am accustomed to pushing through and blocking out pain.

However, 2 weeks ago when I tweaked my shoulder on that pull-up, I honestly wasn’t having pain.  I had a little soreness, but nothing to write home about.  Since then, I have been taking it pretty easy.  I haven’t done boot camp at all and only did Insanity once.  I’ve also avoided any lifting that might aggravate it..  The only thing I did do, which in retrospect was probably not a great idea, was go climbing a couple times- but I was pretty darn careful.

So yesterday when I woke up and my shoulder was bugging me a little I was kind of surprised.  I hadn’t worked out in 2 days, and hadn’t done anything to really trigger it.  I figured I must have just slept on it wrong.  I ended up sleeping a good part of the day because I was feeling under the weather (with allergy season hitting me like a ton of bricks) and had a hard time getting comfortable.

Then this morning I woke up with pain that literally took my breath away.  I couldn’t even turn my neck!  I managed to make it to work, but found myself cradling my left arm most of the day because it was so painful just to let it hang- even on the max ibuprofen dose.  I left work early to see an ortho doc and it turns out I have some muscle spasm going on.  Apparently it doesn’t take much to aggravate your shoulder muscles (specifically the infraspinatus muscles) and it takes FOREVER for them to heal.  In other words: no climbing, Insanity, boot camp, or lifting for at least the next week.  😦  I wonder if the 4 days I haven’t done anything already this week counts… jk

It looks like the stationary bike and stair climber are going to be my BFFs for a while.  Hopefully I will at least be able to run soon.  I am also hoping to be healed enough in 3 wks to still do the Tough Mudder (even if I have to skip obstacles), but I’m thinking that may be pushing it…

In case anyone is wondering how I am coping… I went for some retail therapy and bought the loudest running shorts I could find (figuring it’s going to be one of the few forms of exercise I’ll be allowed for some time...) 

As much as I am I frustrated about this whole setback, I am really trying to roll with it.  In reality, I am extremely grateful that it is just a muscle spasm and not a tear or neck injury (especially with all the numbness down my arm and in my fingers!).  In the grand scheme of things, a couple weeks of taking it easy is not going to set me way back.  Sure it sucks, but it could be a lot worse.

Normally, I’m a pretty tough cookie when it comes to physical discomfort.  I have spent my whole life with knee caps that pop in and out of place and have put myself through some serious physical torture. BUT THIS PAIN WAS NO JOKE.  If I could have found a spot to curl up and cry at work today I would have.  I don’t ever want to have a muscle spasm EVER AGAIN.  I would rather run a whole marathon TWICE…IN A ROW.

So it’s back to “resting” for me.  Unfortunately, shit happens. No point in getting upset or feeling sorry for myself about it.  Really, there’s not much I can do about it now other than regroup (and brace myself for the onslaught of lectures from the non-exercise inclined community about overtraining and how I push myself too hard… Btw just as you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m entitled to respectfully ignore it.  Your concern is appreciated, but completely unnecessary.  I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself.  I am strong and intelligent enough to make my own decisions about what’s healthy for me.  Exercise is my anti-stress, antidepressant, and instant center.  Risking injury every once in a while to stay sane and love myself is a trade off I am more than willing to make.  Besides, if I don’t ever push to my limits, how will I ever know them?).  Luckily, Pike’s Peak and the Spartan Ultra Beast are still months away with plenty of time to train.

In the meantime, I am going to do my best to reduce my stress and take care of myself.  As much as people like to point the finger at over training anytime I get run down or sick, the truth is my job has really been wearing on me.  My work environment can be toxic at times and being an emotional sponge– it really takes a toll on me.  Add on top of that everything going on with my mom and her dog and my grandmother getting sick, and you can see how a person can get worn thin.  With all the chaos I haven’t been eating that great (or enough) or getting much sleep- (which is generally the key component for me getting sick).

For me, exercise is the one thing that helps me combat all that stress, gives me an appetite (and makes me crave healthy food), and helps me sleep at night.  I feel more sore and miserable when I don’t work out than when I do.  There is no way I am going to let anyone try to convince me it isn’t good for me.

Last night I slept funny and I woke up with a terrible muscle spasm.  It could have happened to anyone.  It’s not a reason to give up or stop pushing.  Before I started really working out again, my knee caps popped out of place, I had crippling anxiety, felt weak and unsafe, and barely knew myself.  I am not about to give up all the ground I’ve made over some silly muscle spasm.  It’s not in me to quit… guess that’s just the beast in me. 😉

Leaving blood on the trail…

“I decided to go for a little run.”

Forrest Gump

the walk back to the car...

I started my morning with a little yoga and some quality time with the kettlebell.  I also attempted a few pathetic push-ups (maybe 10 tops…I’m working on it) before I decided it was way too nice out not to go for a run.  The sunshine and cool breeze were calling me!  Since I’m still easing back in and trying not to re-aggravate my IT bands, I brought Penny along.  She was ecstatic to say the least.

I figured today would be a good one to do some hills. Why?

Well, there are numerous benefits to doing training on hills:

1) Want to improve your running formdo hills.   It’s hard to run uphill with poor form.  Running uphill forces you to straighten your back, use your arms, and get up on the balls of your feet.  Plus, it improves your turn-over and stride length.  All these benefits help prevent injury!

2) Want to run fasterdo hills.  Running against gravity is a terrific form of strength training.  Increased strength and power = faster running.

3) Want better endurancedo hills. Running hills optimizes efficiency, improves anaerobic and aerobic capacity, and increases your body’s tolerance to lactic acid.  All of these enhance your stamina.

4) Want to build your guessed it!  Hills are tough physically and psychologically.  Conquer them in training and it will be a huge boost to your running ego.  Not to mention, there’s an added sense of achievement each time you reach the top. 🙂

If those aren’t enough reasons, how about getting a tighter backside?  That’s right! Uphill work is great for the gluteal muscles- which will not only give you a nice shape, but will help with injury prevention too!

All that being said, the hill workout went great.  At least, it was great until poor Penny got injured.

We had maybe been running 45 minutes (up every steep, endless hill we could find), when I noticed Penny kept trying to head for the lake.  I thought she could probably use a break, so I hiked with her down to the water.   Penny loves to swim. Knowing her favorite water game is to fetch, I tossed a small branch for her.  She merrily swam out to retrieve it several times before it was clear that she was getting tired and it was time to head back.  I started back up the hill behind her and immediately saw her back paw was bleeding quite a bit.  She was favoring it a little, but overall didn’t seem too fazed.  I panicked for a moment, realizing we were no where near the car, and she was too heavy for me to carry.  I felt terrible.  I considered rushing her to the vet office, but she is petrified of going there.  With the wound being so dirty, I was sure they wouldn’t be able to do much other than clean it out well and bandage it. With no other idea for what to do, I continued to walk back toward the parking lot with her.  All the while Penny trotted joyfully, completely unbothered by the bloody trail she was leaving in her wake.  I reminded myself that it was only a cut, and the worst that could happen is it would get infected (easily treated with antibiotics).

I figured it would be easier on both of us if I just took care of her myself.   Afterall, I am a surgical PA; I should be able to handle this right?  Once I dropped Penny off at home, I stopped at Rite Aid and got some supplies.  I have to give her credit for being so tolerant.  She is one of the most well-tempered dogs I’ve ever met.  She let me take care of cleaning what turned out to be a deep cut out (and applying a dressing) with only an occasional pathetic whimper in protest.  When it was all over, I think she was quite relieved.  Luckily, she was worn out from the run and has been resting comfortably.  I was incredibly grateful that she hasn’t bothered with the dressing at all.  Hopefully she’ll be good as new in no time.

The one thing I realized in all of this is that I should probably keep some basic first aid supplies in my hydration pack (especially now that I’m running in the woods alone for hours).  I’m going to get some quick clot, medical tape, gauze, and maybe a small knife to carry with me- sort of a makeshift first aid kit.  I’ll probably start carrying an extra snack just in case too.  In the meantime, it looks like I need to find a new, temporary running buddy.

successful retrieval

so proud of herself

unfazed by her injury

fetching the stick

frolicking in the fields

view of the lake