On the Edge and Lessons from an Injury-Prone Athlete

by Megan Outlaw

Just last week, I remember telling my husband and Physical Therapist something along the lines of "I feel like I'm teetering on the edge here; it could go either way."  I was referring to my injuries and how my body was feeling at that moment.  My knee has been feeling better lately with the physical therapy I've been doing; I was even able to ride my bike several times over the last few weeks with minimal or no pain.  However,  I have a bad feeling that my hip injury from last year is trying to make a comeback. GROAN.  Truly, I'm pretty upset. I had started letting myself think of race plans for this summer, even if I had to walk the run portion of a triathlon.  But now, I just don't know.  And I think that's one of the worst things about being an injury-prone athlete - the not knowing, the second guessing.  "I feel pretty Okay right now.  Can I sign up for this event in 2 months?"  "It's SO nice out today.  How will I feel next week if I ride my bike 12 miles today?"

So today, I thought I'd share some things I've learned as an oft-injured sports enthusiast.

It's OK to take a few days off. Completely.

Sometimes, when you feel a little off, like you're teetering on the wrong side of being healthy, all your body may need is a little break in activity to feel back to normal.  If you try to push through it, that's when you end up injured.  When I start feeling "off", that's the first thing that I do, hoping that I'll feel better with a few days' rest. Taking 3 or 4 days, or even a week or more, off working out completely is not the end of your fitness, or the end of the world.

Then, figure out what you can do.

Ok, so resting a few days completely didn't do the trick.  There's a fine line between giving up and accepting your supposed fate of being injured forever and pushing yourself too hard and risking further and sustained injury.  You have to find what is right for YOU.  Consult with your doctor, your therapist, whatever.  My experience has usually been is that NO activity is not the right answer.  I think not doing anything can just push you further down the rabbit hole of sadness/depression.  Usually (and I am not a doctor, so consult yours for what's right for you), I can perform upper body strength training with a lower body injury such as runner's knee.  I've usually been encouraged to do core work to strengthen my core, glutes, etc.  Most of the time, I've been able to swim (exception being my back injury), but sometimes doing more "pulling" (using a pull buoy to avoid using my legs).  The key here is modification.

Find someone to talk to.

Having endless dialogues inside your head about your injury gets old fast, and it's probably not the smartest idea for your mental health.  Having a Physical Therapist to talk to has been helpful, but also my parents and husband.  Try good old fashioned journaling or sharing your story with strangers on the internet (i.e., writing a blog post).

Find SOMETHING else to do.

Even if you are still working out, it's likely going to be less, sooo find something else to occupy your time.  Honestly, this is something that I struggle with. A few things I'm trying to do more of are:  going to the library, volunteering more, weeknight dates.  (Taking other ideas!)

And lastly, don't give up.

Injuries don't last forever.  This is something I have to keep repeating to myself.  It sucks to be injured, on the brink of injury, or just not feel 'right' time and time again.  It's easy to think well, this is just how it is, maybe triathlon {insert your activity here} just isn't for me.  Well, I'm not at that point yet.  I'm not giving up.  

~And with that, I'm off to the library. :)   Any non-exercise activities to share?


Ways to Switch up Your Workout

by Megan Outlaw

 Hello! Today I wanted to share a few ways to easily shake up your strength training workout, and also share my new workout with you.  

I've talked before about the importance of making changes to a strength training workout in order to avoiding plateaus in strength training, but you don't have to totally throw out your workout and start from scratch.  There are little tweaks that can be made to your routine to shake things up or even get additional benefits. 

1.  change in balance

One way to shake things up is as simple as picking one leg off the floor!  Moves such as bicep curls or shoulder presses can easily be modified to be one-legged.  Easy to modify, not so easy to execute.  This makes your brain get a little more of a workout (proprioception) and also adds a core component as you work to stabilize, and not fall over.

2.  Change in body position

Another way to change things is up is to change your body position all together!  I've long performed rear delt raises while standing, but they sometimes bother my back.  I recently started doing them while lying on a weight bench that's positioned about 45 degrees, and found that it's a better fit for me.  

3.  change in machines

Utilize some of the machines in your gym to shake things up even more.  Instead of the low row machine, I've been performing a high pulley cable row.  Having the cables at a higher position helps to focus on engaging those lower trap muscles that I need to strengthen.  

How do you switch up your workout?



Being Satisfied with Less {Workouts Lately}

by Megan Outlaw

I haven't written much about this yet, but I'm currently dealing with two injuries that are forcing me to really reevaluate and modify how I'm exercising.  My lower back has been causing me issues since early December, and my painful right knee is hopefully just a reoccurrence of runner's knee, and not an as-of-yet undiagnosed meniscal or other more serious injury.  Therefore, my body just cannot handle the amount of exercise that my mind wants it to, resulting in a struggle for someone who genuinely loves to work out.

However, I'm trying to be satisfied and accept where I am now in my fitness journey.    

And that is really how I'm trying to view it right now, as a journey. 

For now, that means 15 to 20-minute sessions at the pool, instead of the hour long Masters Swimming sessions that I was participating in last fall. 

I'm using this time as an opportunity to focus on my form, concentrate on engaging my core and also really trying to bilateral breathe (habitual one-sided breather).

It means riding my bike for fewer miles on flatter terrains. Luckily, we have a really beautiful lakeshore path in Madison that is about 5 miles roundtrip from my house.  If I journey into the surrounding neighborhoods, I can tack on a few more miles.  I'm taking the time to really appreciate the moments that I get to exercise, and the beautiful scenery around me.

Later it may mean even less exercise, and hopefully will one day mean a return to longer exercise sessions while training for running races and triathlons, but I'm trying to find happiness and gratitude in the right now.  

Have you ever dealt with multiple injuries?  How do you cope with being able to workout less than you'd like?

Life Lately

by Megan Outlaw

Hello!  I didn't intend on taking a 2-week blogging hiatus, but we've been busy getting outside in the finally spring-like weather in Madison, and we also had family in from out of town.  I have a few blog posts planned, but thought I'd do a catch-up post first.  Here's life lately.

Catching the sunset over Lake Mendota

Construction is still ongoing at the Memorial Union Terrace (aka my favorite place to relax outdoors in Madison), but there are still a few tables on the terrace and beer is still available.  We've gone to the terrace either after a short bike ride (more on that later) or just a walk from our apartment at least three times in the past 2 weeks.

Planting a mini garden on our balcony

Full disclosure: I bought the plants at the Dane County Farmers Market, and my mother-in-law planted them while she was visiting!  My last attempt at a balcony garden didn't go so well, so we shall see how this year's goes.

Quick trip to Chicago

On Monday afternoon, we took my mother-in-law to Chicago for the night, as it was her first trip to the Midwest.  We were only there for a short time, but were able to experience a few touristy sights and foods.

Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's.

Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's.

Oak Street beach

Oak Street beach

The view from way up top - 360 Chicago.

The view from way up top - 360 Chicago.

It's good to be back home in Madison though.

I'll be back later this week with what I've been up to lately on the workout front.