This post is about the healing power of food and yoga, applying the things you learn to everyday life/running, and a thank you to friends.
13 days ago I got a groin strain from lifting a heavy compressor at work. My work colleagues said my pupils dilated that day, perhaps from shock, and somebody gave me a lift home as I couldn’t see clearly enough to take public transport.
12 days ago I went to ER, had tests and a scan for possible hernia and internal bleeding. The tests were negative, which was a relief. The dizziness was still there though, and I recognized it could be serious. I’ve had 2 hernias, and internal bleeding, I know what it feels like to have something go wrong in that area of the body. The pain I felt, and the dizziness, suggested to me that I’d not be able to do any competitive running for at least a month. The doctor suggested I rest up, go on light duties at work, and take strong pain killers. I decided to take the 1st 2 bits of advice and ditch the 3rd.
I started immediately to fill myself with healing foods. All the anti inflammatories that are well known (there are no secrets in this line of medicine, no special degree needed to understand it all) - turmeric, ginger, cayenne, berries, spinach, kale and more. Often blended into drinks such as Golden Mylk...
...or simple Green Smoothies...
...to ease the load on my digestive system, so that my body would be freer to concentrate on healing my groin strain. I also had daily Hibiscus herbal teas to help with any possible blood pressure issues. Below is a typical main meal of the past week; avocado lemon pasta with a kale and olive salad.
I attended more yoga that is usual for me. I knew that by resting up I was also risking a quick recovery. I had to keep the areas around the injury mobile, whilst at the same time gently stretching the affected areas.
I knew to do this because when I came to Toronto a few years ago the first people I fell in with were all vegans - Trevor, Tim and Pamela, a Dietician - and all fans of the Rich Roll podcast. Talking with them, learning from Pam much more about food, and listening to Rich and his guests, opened doors for me that led to other great sources of knowledge such as Dr Gregor of NutritionFacts.org. All these influences have changed my life greatly, for the better.
4 days ago I visited the medical clinic where a different doctor gave me a thorough check up. Blood pressure whilst sitting, getting up, and standing, resistance exercises on the groin to see extent of injury, heart rate monitoring. He kept me on light duties at work and suggested I could start running when I felt ready. The dizziness hadn't subsided but he couldn’t explain that. I asked another doctor about that later in the day, he suggested it could be down to shock, the shock of the injury and of thinking I’d not be able to run for a long while.
2 days ago I woke up feeling pretty good after all that healthy food and stretching. I applied some athletic tape on my groin and decided that maybe I could take part in a trail race that I’d been looking forward to for months, the Run for the Toad 50k. Not to actually race it, but just to be involved, get some exercise, and to test my injury out in a no-pressure, fun and friendly environment. I went to the race, ran the trails for 10 minutes beforehand just to see how I really felt as I hadn’t actually run since I’d got injured, was happy with how the groin was, and decided to take part.
My feeling was to take it slow, to just get some distance back into my legs. This race would be part of my rehab. I feel a little at risk saying all this, mainly because general society seems to be somewhat behind athletic vegans when it comes to health matters, and many may think, if this guy was on light duties at work, how on earth could he consider running a 50k race?!!! AND why should I listen at all to such a disreputable person!
Indeed, work colleagues reading this might think dimly of me, they might suggest that I’ve not been honest with my workplace, or that whatever the reality, I should maybe keep quiet for fear of what things look like. Perhaps I'm being uncharitable suggesting that, I'm unsure. Whatever the case, my duty as I see it is to tell the truth so that others might learn as I learnt, in spite of what things may appear like to various parties, and that's what I’m doing. You see, being injured and then sitting back and letting doctors and the pharmacist dictate your recovery according to the little knowledge they have and the kickbacks they receive from the medical machine seems to be the standard method of healing these days, but it's a method that's changing. I'm thankful for that, as it seems an archaic way of going about things; being pro-active and ready to take on other ideas about healing is the way to go.
Food is there to fuel me, to heal me, to keep me healthy and, when I manage to prepare it right, it’s there to give me and whomever I am cooking for, intense pleasure. Here's a shot of today's breakfast, a really quick and easy tofu scramble with Field Roast sausage, kale, spinach and banana smoothie, and Golden Mylk. Full of taste, texture, happy brightness, and healing properties.Yoga has taught me to isolate parts of my body. One learns to breathe into the back, or legs, or arms, or shoulder, etc. It teaches me that we are all the sum of millions of working parts. You are the center point with the power to bring all these things together. You are the steward of these millions of parts. Given the chance the brain will mess you up, as will the heart, as will the microbiome, as will all the rest of the pieces. It's only you, the self, who can help them work together in the goal of being the best you can all be.
I remembered this as the race began. I was injured in my groin, but that was all. That meant I had a lot of body left with which to run! My lower legs, my glutes, my knees, my ankles, my stomach, my arms, shoulders and most of all, my head. I wasn’t going to get round this race by just running, I had to think hard at all times, concentrate on never kicking a root or rock, or falling over, or slipping on leaf covered corners. I had to apply all I had ever learnt about movement and anatomy and if I did, then maybe I would have some useful mileage back in my legs and I could perhaps looks forward to November, when I had a marathon booked, in which I had hoped to do well.
I ran straight, knees and toes facing forward, taking little steps, never over-reaching the groin. At times I felt my knees compensating for what my groin couldn’t do so I transfered my efforts to my thighs, then my calves, then when they needed a rest I ran from the shoulders, swinging my arms much more.
My vision was at times hazy so I made sure I picked up my feet extra high to avoid obstacles that I couldn’t see. At around the 30km mark I didn’t have to do this as I slowed down so much I was barely shuffling! Not just from my lack of training, but also from lack of calories. I usually take food with me to races over 10km but because of the injury taking over my mind I had forgotten to bring any. So a banana and a couple of cups of sports drink gotten from an aid station was all I had. Around 500 calories for a race that took about 4,000 calories from me, it was only natural I’d start shuffling when running on that sort of calorie deficit. This was ok though, it was all just a test, me working out how the injury was, I didn’t want to mask the reality with an overdose of sports drink/sugar, it was more important to study my fitness than to run fast.
I smiled as people overtook me, good for them, there was no point in me feeling competitive, I just wished their heels a happy goodbye and enjoyed the scenery all around. The rolling hills, the forest, it was good to be out there, truly alive.I finished the 50k in around 4 hours and 45 minutes. Half an hour at least off what I would normally do, but that was ok. I came 1st place in the 50+ age group, for which I got a pretty snazzy (vegan!) cheeseboard inscribed with ferns. I hadn't expected that at all and it made the pain quite bearable, kind of! Because to be sure, there was pain. I hadn't felt so beat up for years. A half hour after the race I was still lay there, in the grass behind the finish line, wishing the moment to pass, wishing my legs, my core, my arms would stop throbbing and crying out. The only thing that didn't hurt was my strapped up groin strain, and for that I was so grateful! Here's me and the vegan cheeseboard of victory, 5 hours later, feeling much better.The past 2 weeks has taught me to have even greater confidence in the power of food, and yoga, and in seeking out people who can help you on your path, and to be the person who puts themselves in a position to help others on their own path, and I write this post in the hope that it encourages you to switch on to those concepts, too.
I’m not out of the woods yet, I am still strapped up and not back to anything like my full training. That’ll hopefully start after another week of good food and yoga. But my current fitness is way above what I would’ve hoped for 2 weeks ago.
Here are some leads if you want to know more;
If you’re in Toronto, come along to
Octopus Garden Yoga - http://octopusgardenyoga.com/