If my spine had a fist, it would punch me in my face

A week without running is like a ninja without pointy things” – Lao Tzu

Of course, Lao Tzu didn’t really say that. Well, he might have done; I wasn’t there.

But as my possibly-made-up opening quote says, I’ve gone nearly a week without a run. A whole bloody week! That’s nearly two months in dog-years, and practically a lifetime in runner-years!!!

But why?” I hear you ask. Well, it could be for any number of reasons. For instance, I could be trialling a new advanced tapering strategy for the FBI, or perhaps I left my trainers on the doorstep to air and they were eaten by badgers. Maybe I’m scared to leave the house because Brian Blessed’s hanging around outside and I still owe him the £30 he lent me to buy that Pingu box-set, and now he looks angry*. All equally plausible, I’m sure you’ll agree, but the real reason I haven’t done any running is slightly more mundane – I did a hurty to my back.

I’ll just give you a moment to let you digest my fancy medical jargon.

I suppose I’d better explain how it happened, not so much to entertain you (dear sweet lovable reader – yes, you) but more as a cautionary tale to myself, so that in years to come when I read back over old blog posts, I can perhaps see my way to not being so bloody stupid again.

Cast your mind back to last Thursday. Actually, it’s probably better if I cast my mind back – you weren’t there. I decided to mix things up a bit and do a spot of early lunchtime circuit training, and I’d pinched a rough training plan from a colleague of mine. The routine was to be as follows…

Bleep test to level 9

A series of one-minute blasts at various drills, with 30 seconds rest between each.

Bleep test to level 5.4

Another series of one-minute blasts at various drills, with 30 seconds rest between each.

Bleep test to level 7 to finish off

So reasonably straightforward, and a nice change to complement the running I’ve been doing. So, without further ado, I started off on the first bleep test, treating it as a steady warm-up and pulse-raiser. But then at around the level four mark (in other words, after a couple of minutes running) I noticed a faint tightness in the small of my back. Although I’ve strained my lower back a few times over the years it’s always been through lifting stuff or twisting awkwardly, so I wasn’t particularly worried about this. After all, I was running, not lifting. And everyone knows that the injuries runners should watch out for are in places like the knees, hamstrings, hips, shins… y’know, the leggy areas. I distinctly remember the bit in my first aid training when my instructor took me to one side and said “Jay, the back is not part of the leg**”. So on I went, and although the tightness was still there I ignored it until I’d finished my level nine, by which point it had become more of a gently throbbing ache.

I gave myself a couple of minutes to get my breath back, and it was then that I showed the level of common sense that I’ve become quite renowned for. I decided that what this increasingly sore ache in my lower back really needed was some robust twisty goodness in the form of a couple of rounds of bagwork. As I danced around that punchbag I didn’t have a care in the world, knowing that every blow I landed was not only warming my back muscles up, but also that something would eventually click and the tightness would dissipate, kind of like when you crack your knuckles and all of the tension in them vanishes as if by magic.

I learned two things that morning.

Firstly, I learned that the human back is not a knuckle.

Secondly, I learned that no amount of humming “Gonna Fly Now” from the Rocky soundtrack will prevent you from becoming a whimpering ball of pain when your body finally decides that, y’now what, enough is enough and teaches you what happens to people who play silly buggers and ignore obvious warning signs.

Fast-forward a couple of minutes and I’m back in the changing rooms, having realised that working out how to change my socks without bending at the waist was more demanding than any circuit training could ever be.

I won’t bore you with the details of the days that followed, other than that they involved no work, little movement, a few tears and (the one ray of light) a chance to catch up on dozens of episodes of Family Guy, the Simpsons and the Office. I suppose I should just be grateful that it cleared up before I had to resort to the 189 episodes of Come Dine With Me that Mrs Plod is hoarding on Sky+ for reasons only known to herself.

A few days later and I’m now back at work with only the occasional twinge to remind me of my folly. But I’ve learned enough from my experience to know that, as much as it pains me to say it, I’m not ready to go out running just yet. I’ve noticed that when I’m walking, taking a long step forward with my left foot causes the ache to increase, so I shudder to think what a run would do to it at the moment. I’ve had a chat with my work-chum Maclary about it cos he’s wise in such things, and he reckons it might be caused by scar tissue in my thoracolumbar fascia, which is the diamond shaped flap of tissuey-wissuey stuff that covers your lower back, and (I imagine) stops your bottom from falling off. I’ve booked a physio appointment with H (see here and here for more on her. There’s also a picture of a monkey) which is in few weeks, and in the meantime I’ll be working on some stretching and core strengthening exercises.

And I’ve been sensible for a few days now, which is a few days longer than usual, so I’m planning on heading out for a nice gentle LSR on Thursday to see how things feel.

Oh, and in case you were wondering… After trying out a few different ideas (such as throwing them up in the air and feebly attempting to catch them on my feet) I eventually gave up trying to change my socks.

* I mean Brian Blessed looks angry, not Pingu. Pingu could never look angry.
**In hindsight, this might not have actually happened.



2 thoughts on “If my spine had a fist, it would punch me in my face

  1. It’s this kind of in-depth technical detail that I’ve come to respect you for – I always wondered why Brian Blessed was hanging around outside my door, but had honestly fogotten that he’d loaned me a tenner for set of Black Adder the Third VHS back in 2003.

    Doesn’t explain the irritable penguin in my bath, though…

    Keep up the good work, except for the bit that destroys your back. Don’t keep that up.

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