Back on the trail

by lachicaruns on

Five years after I started running, I’m experiencing a new round of “firsts.”

Just yesterday morning, I laced up, grabbed my “luggage” and headed out for my first trail run/walk eight weeks post shoulder surgery.

And it was glorious.

With temperatures in the 60s, blue skies and sunshine, I walked briskly through an easy trail at our campground, just north of Lansing.

For the first two miles, I ran the last .2 Miles very slowly. I definitely need to start doing this more often because I was working kind of hard, but felt really, really good.

I stopped for a moment to admire the lake, not stopping for long before getting back on the trail.

There were a lot of people out and about, many walking their dogs. Birds were everywhere, chirping and squawking. I even came up on a sandhill crane, who didn’t appreciate the intrusion and flew off before I could shoot it’s picture.

I also caught a few turtles sunning themselves on logs.

It was the kind of day when one can easily get caught in the moment … and forget one is still healing and isn’t supposed to run outside very much.

Despite my happiness at the weather, creatures and physical activity, I smartly walked my third mile and boosted the running portion to .25 before heading back to my campsite.

I’m happy to report that I did a lot of sitting, took a nap and later even built a fire.

A few hours later, I still felt good and didn’t notice any bad effects from my run/walk through the woods.

So today, I did 7 miles on the treadmill at home. I even ran .25 for each mile.

And while I still feel great, I need to remember not to get caught up in the moment and over-do it. After all, this chica has Detroit Free Press Marathon goals.

Have you experienced any “firsts” recently? I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.  (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

That loud yell you heard this afternoon? Yeah, that was me after leaving the surgeon’s office. He officially cleared me to start adding running to my repertoire.

Seven weeks post shoulder surgery, I am feeling pretty good. I’ve actually been walking on the treadmill between three and four times a week since the week after surgery, including at least one seven-miler. Late last week, my physical therapist — who happens to be a marathoner — said I could start including very brief running spurts as long as I stayed on the ‘mill. But it was great to hear the doc officially agree with her.

I started with .05 for each of five miles. I felt good, even hours afterward. So, I went up to .1 per mile the past two days. Still good.

My shoulder definitely still hurts almost all of the time. I still have limited range and physical therapy started including stretching bands just this past week. And I still wake up every night when I accidentally roll onto my right shoulder.

But. I. Am. Running.

I vaguely remember coming back from the third shoulder surgery, not long after I had picked up running. It was winter and I had to join a gym to get on a treadmill for just a tiny bit of time. At least el husbando has since gotten me a used one and I can just jump on any time. In fact, I do most evenings, a bit after dinner and my usual hour or so of work-work.

So, moving forward, the plan is to continue to increase how much I run each time as long as I’m not in a lot of pain.

I only have two races on the schedule this year: the Woodstock 50K in September and the Detroit Free Press Marathon (code 2018DETROCKS gets you 10 percent off your race entry because I’m a BibRave pro) in October.

The 50K training plan I’ve followed the past two years is for 16 weeks and it starts with a 10-mile long run. That gives me the next three weeks to get up to 10 miles. That won’t be a problem at all since I’ve kept my mileage very consistent, but I’ll be mostly walking them at this point. It’s very do-able, but I already know I’ll probably be doing this by myself and each long run will take forever.

So my plan will also include focusing on the things I can do. Since, after all, this is supposed to be fun, no?

Any tips for this recovering chica? What’s the longest distance you have ever walked? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Your doctor and his/her team may provide a lot of information about your upcoming shoulder surgery, but I’m here to give you the skinny on what it’s really like and to share tips that’ll help you survive — and thrive.

While I’m not a medical professional, I have had four — yes, four — surgeries on my right shoulder. The first was probably related to my tae kwon do days, the second and third were due to falls, while the fourth involved my 115 lb. dog pulling on her leash. Hard.

Let me tell you that having the surgery was no fun, but a month after my fourth go round, I can say that they’ve all been worth doing. I don’t want to do it again, mind you, but I don’t regret taking care of tears that wouldn’t have healed on their own.

So, what do you really need to know? Here’s my week-by-week look into what shoulder surgery recovery looks like. Keep in mind that I cleared all of my activity with my doctor before surgery, so please talk to your doctor about what you can do and when.

Week 1

Surgery day: I make sure to wear something that’s super comfortable to the hospital or surgery center. After trial and error, I settled on a camisole with a shelf bra, a hoodie and yoga pants/sweat pants. I have to remove my top and bra for surgery. Afterward, I pull the cami on from my legs/hips with el husbando’s help; the straps are stretchy enough to go over the ginormous bandages on my newly stitched up shoulder.

I was handed socks with grippers and a lovely hair net, too. The nurse sticks a thermometer on my forehead. I look hot.

Stylin’ just before shoulder surgery.

I don’t do well with anesthesia, so I was nauseous and woozy after the procedure. El husbando tells me that I had complete conversations with the surgeons and surgery staff, but I have no memory of anything until the time when I was getting on the wheelchair to head home. I almost faint, so back to bed I go for a little bit. A little juice and I’m well enough to go home.

Back to the ginormous bandage. I was sent home with what they called an ice buddy, which holds ice that cycles through a hose and pad to help with pain management. You should know that you’ll either need a gazillion buckets of ice or frozen water bottles because you’ll wear the ice buddy 24 hours a day for the first three days.

I was also wearing the arm brace, which holds your arm in place so you don’t accidentally do something stupid.

Speaking of pain, follow your doc’s instructions, but mine told me to start taking my pain meds as soon as I got home. I set my phone alarm to make sure I don’t miss a dose. Yes, even at 2 a.m.

Don’t plan on doing much of anything this first day. My kids’ abuela lives with us, so she covered meals and snacks, which was a godsend.

The most exciting thing I do is watch a bunch of TV in bed, propped up on pillows. I nap a lot.

Days 2-3: Feel a bit better already, but still a little off. Probably a combination of the anesthesia and the meds. I spend most of my time in bed, watching TV. I read a little bit and feel well enough to check social media, but not much.

Switched to PJs with the tops that have buttons so I could put the sleeve over the injured arm much more easily.

Since you can’t get the bandages wet, showering is a pain in the behind and frowned upon. I use baby wipes the first day. On the second and third days, I cover up the bandages with a plastic garbage bag and take a quick shower.

The ice continues. The boredom starts to set in, but I don’t feel awesome, so it’s easy to just do a whole lot of nothing.

I switch to Tylenol on the evening of day 3 because I don’t like how I feel when I’m on meds. It wasn’t really enough for the pain, but I would rather deal with pain than side effects. Again, follow your doc’s orders on medication.

Day 4: Bandages can come off, finally. You will probably want someone to help. I remove them  myself because I’m stubborn that way. I use baby wipes to clean around the incisions/stitches and under my right arm, but you still can’t get the stitches wet for the rest of the week. I once again cover my shoulder with a garbage bag and am finally able to wash my hair with just one arm.

My hair looks like a 3-year-old styled it, but it’s clean.

Tip: a washcloth comes in handy, especially when washing under your surgery arm. Trust me, you’ll definitely want to wash and dry well under that arm. It’s hard to use deodorant, but absolutely necessary.

At this stage, I still can’t use my surgery arm, so everything is difficult. But I start to feel a whole lot more awake. Still watch a lot of TV and do a whole lot of nothing.

I walk a mile on the treadmill and feel like I accomplished something.

Walking on the treadmill with the arm brace is ridiculous, but doctor approved.

Days 5-7: Pain is much better so it’s harder to keep from using that hand/arm, even with the sling. My doctor had me wear the thing all the time — including when sleeping. At this point, I have dreams of burning the sling, but I can appreciate it’s purpose.

I have my first post-op visit, have my stitches removed, get a script to start physical therapy and another one to go back to work.

I drive myself to the doctor’s office and feel comfortable enough to run an errand, but am exhausted and have to rest when I get home. Exhaustion is a common theme for the first month.

No stitches means that I can shower without a garbage bag. I still am washing one-handed and my hair still suffers, but it feels good to be completely clean.

Walk on the treadmill for one or two miles a couple of times this week, so I walk four miles outside on Saturday and feel really, really good.

Week 2

I’m still home from work and spending a lot of time watching TV, reading and catching up on social media. Doing anything (including taking a shower) exhausts me. My pain is better, but my body is telling me to take it slow.

Highly recommend tops with buttons in the front to make dressing easier and nothing with zippers because you are still only able to use one arm. I fill my days with Mad Men reruns and running a handful of errands. By the weekend, I’m really looking forward to going back to work.

I have groceries delivered, which was a great help. The whole familia pitches in so I don’t have to do a whole lot around the house.

Physical therapy includes a lot of massage and checking my range of movement.

I get a haircut to help with the styling issue. It doesn’t help a whole lot, but I’m doing the best I can.

Walk a few times on the treadmill, between one and three miles. Very slowly and carefully, wearing my sling. On Saturday, walk five and a half miles and feel great. Walk three miles on trails on Sunday.

Week 3 

Monday: Holy mother of … it hurts. First day back to work is a disaster. I totally overdid it.

The laptop? Yeah, I used it way too much. Taking notes during meetings is almost impossible. I have no energy and can’t wait to get home. Once home, all I can do is sit with the ice buddy and think of ways to minimize the damage the following day.

I’m back at work, arm sling and all!

Just how much Aleve can a chica take safely? There’s not enough Aleve in the world. I go to bed early, but barely sleep. I’m regretting coming back to work.

Tuesday: I ask a colleague to print some materials for me so I don’t have to use my laptop. I grab a much smaller pad of paper and put it on my lap to take notes. I accept offers of help for even the most simple tasks like opening doors and getting my coat on and off. My friend brings me flowers, which lifts my spirits.

I don’t dream of popping Aleve like candy, but I come home to sit and ice again. I feel like I can do this.

Wake up in the middle of the night in terrible pain. Crap. Can’t sleep. Tomorrow will be better. Right? Right?

Wednesday and Thursday: I spend the days with awesome people. Have very productive meetings with partners. Spend very little time on my laptop and use my phone to answer any email.

Better. I still ice when I get home, but I get some relief and sleep a little better. I am so very tired. Did I mention I’m in pain and exhausted?

Friday: I work from home where I can sit in a recliner and ice my shoulder all day. Read a lot of printed materials, rely on my cell phone for any email and avoid the laptop as much as possible. Still get a full day’s worth of work in.

The pain is starting to lessen. Realize that I should have come back part-time for week three. Or not at all.

Weekend: Since I walked a few times on the treadmill (between one and three miles each) during the week, I walk six on Saturday and three on Sunday. Feel good.

Week 4

Much better. I know to spend as little time as possible on the computer by using my phone for email, for reading documents and to call people instead of emailing.

Walking outside with my friend Michelle was just the boost I needed.

I also spend most of the week in the car, driving to towns over an hour away for meetings. Totally worth it and not too bad, given how miserable I was the previous week.

I ice my shoulder in the evening for the first two or three days, but don’t need to after that. The pain has lessened noticeably. It still hurts, mind you, but it’s not unbearable.

Physical therapy continues to be very mild. The therapist asks me to continue to wear the sling 100 percent of the time. I have visions of shooting the sling, setting it on fire and flinging it off the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

I pull Hal Higdon’s plan to walk a half marathon so that I have something to look forward to, even though I had to cancel my May half marathon under doctor’s orders.

At this stage, I still use my arm very little. When I do, I feel where the repairs were made and sometimes I have shooting pain. As much as I hate it, the sling prevents me from overusing the arm while also being a visual reminder to myself and others that I’m still not able to do all the things I’m used to doing.

It may be spring, but it’s still snowing in the Michigan tundra and I have to wear the arm brace over a puffy down coat. It’s about as awesome as it sounds.

I’m fortunate that I have a lot of support both at home and at work. I have learned to accept help and to adapt my expectations of my abilities given that I can only use one arm.

Getting dressed and doing my hair continue to be a challenge. I can put a shirt on (without buttons in the front) by slipping the sleeve into my right arm, then pulling it over my head and, finally, putting my left arm in the other sleeve. But I’ve gotten stuck a few times taking shirts and dresses off. I’ve learned to pull on the back of the shirt/dress behind my neck with my left hand until I have enough fabric to make it OK to pull out my right arm.

Lessons learned

As someone who is so active, I’ve struggled with so much sitting around. But because I’ve done this three other times, I know that taking the time to heal now will mean that I’ll get to do all the things I want to do later.

I’m grateful that my physical therapist, surgeon and physician’s assistant have all told me it’s realistic for me to train for both the Woodstock 50K in September and Detroit Marathon in October.

So instead of bemoaning my lack of running now, I’m choosing to see this time as part of my long-term training plan. Because allowing my body to heal now will mean I will get to those finish lines.

Have you had surgery before? How did you cope? What did you do to get back to your previous activities? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

I don’t like biking much at all. And yet, el husbando and I recently got a new Peloton bike that is getting quite a bit of use despite my initial misgivings.

As a runner, I’m relatively fit. I still do a bit of yoga and walk as cross training. But with the Detroit Free Press Marathon as my goal race this fall just a few weeks after we run a 50K, I wanted to make sure that my cross training is on point this year. Hence, the torture device. I mean, the bike.

How did I make the switch from non-cyclist to someone who rides an indoor bike several times a week? As with most things, through trial and error.

I was less than thrilled when I first started using our new Peloton bike.

If you’re considering getting a new Peloton bike, I’ll give you the deets you need to decide whether to order your very own or to love it a little more if you find yourself less than enthusiastic with your new equipment.

El husbando made all of the research and ordering, but I can tell you that he found the process to be pretty easy. After he placed our order, a delivery company in a town about an hour away called almost a week later to arrange a date and time. The day-of, we got notification before arrival. Set-up was fast, but because it was so cold outside, we had to wait a while to actually turn the bike on, let alone use it.

Once we did, we found it intuitive and easy to use. For the uninitiated, Peloton has a large monitor/screen that shows your progress and statistics, and features the ability to stream spinning classes. Much like a typical bike, it can be adjusted for each person’s height.

We opted for the whole package, which included a mat for the floor to protect our carpet, small weights that sit on a frame behind the bike, a year’s worth of access to Peloton’s streaming content, and a pair of cycling shoes for el husbando. (More about that later).

A longtime cyclist, he easily got himself set up and was riding the bike right away. Me, on the other hand, took a couple of weeks to really warm up to the bike. Here’s what I learned:

  • Peloton resources. When you first log in, the system shows you a set-up video, which includes tips on how to adjust every one of the bike’s features. There’s a very active Peloton group on Facebook where you can find an eclectic community of riders who share stories and encouragement. Lesson learned: Watch the darn video and actually implement what you learn. Especially the part where they teach you how to clip in and out of the bike (ie, how to get your cycling shoes in and out of the bike pedals).
  • Comfort. Bike seats suck. I adjusted the thing up and down, front and back and nothin’. My nether regions were sore after even the shortest rides. A friend who does triathlons and trains indoor said that you do get used to the seat after a while. Others suggested padded bottoms, which I immediately ordered. Ahhhh. Relief. Lesson learned: It may be happening indoors, but this is still a biking experience. Much of the same gear needs apply here.
  • Difficulty. I started out with a pre-recorded beginner workout featuring an instructor with music so loud, I could barely hear her instructions. What I did catch, however, were her moans and facial expressions that led me to believe she has a very close relationship with her bike. After a couple of tries, I found Nicole Meline who is very newbie friendly, giving lots of encouragement and tips like how to sit, inherently making the ride more comfortable. Lesson learned: give several instructors a try until you find someone who fits your needs.

My favorite 115 lb. Leonberger is not impressed by my new cycling shoes.

  • Shoes. Other than the aforementioned padded bottoms, you’ll need cycling shoes. And if you’re new like me, you need to know that there are two general categories: road and off road/mountain biking. Within those, there are a gazillion features, but you’ll want to get shoes that accommodate a “3-hole arrangement.” Look for descriptions that say they fit a Delta or Look Delta cleat. You can ride the bike with regular shoes, but wearing proper footwear with cleats makes the ride a whole lot smoother. Newbies: you’ll need to order the cleats in addition to the shoes, then install the cleats by screwing them to the bottom of your new shoes (an easy proposition). Lesson learned: just get the shoes (and cleats) in the first place. Because I waited a week to get mine, I had to adjust to riding the bike twice: once with my running shoes and later with the cycling shoes.
  • It’s still biking. Despite watching multiple videos, I assumed riding the indoor cycle would be easier than riding outside. It really isn’t. The Peloton classes call for turning resistance up (by turning a knob) to simulate going up a hill, for example. Some instructors ask you to stand up or to really increase your intensity by riding at a certain (read: hard) level. I certainly sweat a ton and feel my core engaging on each ride. Lesson learned: there is a water bottle holder. Use it. I drink about a full water bottle during each ride.
  • Consistency. I’ve found that I can fit at least two 20-30 minute ride at least twice a week. I’m building up to a third ride in the coming week now that I’m hitting my groove. And because the system tracks your progress, you can see how much you have — or haven’t — done in the past week. Lesson learned: Create a separate account for each person riding the bike so you can see your own statistics.

About a month into our Peloton bike purchase, I’m starting to see myself really adjusting. I automatically reach for my ice water, bike shorts and cycling shoes, which have all made the experience significantly less miserable. And I know that I’m getting stronger and healthier each time I clip on.

Have you done any indoor cycling/spinning? What did you think? Is there anything else I should do to make this more pleasant? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

“Disclaimer: I received four Brilliant Reflective strips packs to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

To say that I truly needed this product is an understatement. A group of chicas and I run very early in the morning (read: when it’s still o-dark-30) and are always worried about cars pulling out of driveways or coming around corners and not seeing us. We all wear headlamps and/or gear with some reflective features, but have continued to worry about our safety.
Until now, that is. As part of being a BibRave ambassador, I’ve been testing these strips for the past couple of weeks. The company provided both stick-on and iron-on strips, which I promptly applied to the following:
  • The dog’s collar
  • The back of all of my running shoes
  • The back of my winter running jackets
  • The back of my winter hats
  • My winter running mittens
  • The front and back of my hydration vest
  • The back of my favorite running Skirts Sports skirts

The strips include very clear and thorough application instructions inside the packaging.

I still have some strips left, so I will do another round of pasting/ironing on in the coming days. A chica can’t be too careful.

Application is super easy. For the stick-on strips, you peel the back and place on the item. These are best used for things that don’t go in the wash, like the aforementioned shoes and hydration vest.
The iron-on strips took a little more time but are also more durable for washable items like jackets, tights, hats and mittens/gloves. Here’s how I applied mine:
Step 1: Separate the strips.

Brilliant Reflective strips come in several colors, including black.

Once you open the package, the strips are easily separated. Choose the proper size for your item or cut it down to size.

Step 2: Place the strips on your item

I placed my strips on the back of my favorite running jacket.

The company recommends placing the strips in spots “recreating the human form with motion.” That includes placing the strips so they’re visible from all sides of your body and on your head, shoulders, knees, elbows, hands/wrists and feet.

Step 3: iron on using a paper towel

Even the back of my hat got the Brilliant Reflective treatment.

The company recommends making sure to use a paper towel when ironing on the strips and using a slow continuous iron movement over the towel while applying a bit of pressure. This process took about 30 to 40 seconds.

step 4: remove the clear plastic covering

Make sure your strips are cool before removing the clear covering.

Once the strip cools, you can remove a clear plastic covering. Mine came off easily and quickly.

step 5: BE SEEN

My back now lights up when I’m running or walking in the dark.

Thanks to my new Brilliant Reflective strips, I now light up beyond just my headlamp. I am a lot more comfortable running or walking my dog when it’s dark outside.

I genuinely can’t think of any downsides to the product, except for any user error like when I accidentally put the strip down incorrectly and accidentally ironed the strip to the paper towel. Oops.

If you want to light up on your run, you can save 25 percent off all Brilliant Reflective multi/assortment packs with code BRP25. Or click here to automatically get the discount at checkout.

What do you do to make sure you’re seen when it’s dark on your run? What other spots should I consider for additional strip placement? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)