I'm 34 years old. I've been running for 22 years. In that time, there's been two occasions where I've had bone problems. During both of those times I've been taking a progestin only contraceptive.
I want to share this with you not to spread fear but just to make you aware and prevent you from being in the same situation as me.
As someone that trains hard to maintain or improve their fitness and performance, injury is pretty much my worst nightmare. Nobody trains hard to have it all thrown away.
For the best part of the last year I've had a 'stress reaction' on my left tibia. I'd never even heard of this until recently. It's a precursor to a stress fracture and unfortunately is pretty hard to diagnose as I believe it only shows up on an MRI scan. The pain I felt was unpredictable. Sometimes at the beginning of my run, sometimes at the end and sometimes in the middle. Sometimes no pain at all and often pain when I was doing nothing.
I was treated in various ways by physiotherapists thinking it was muscular. I did so many rehab exercises it consumed a large part of my day. I had an x-ray which showed a perfectly healthy bone and an ultra-sound scan which showed nothing except a lump caused by a vein.
During the time that I've been struggling with this problem I've taken time off running hoping it would heal. Right at the beginning, I took two weeks off and had no improvement. Then, I took five weeks off and still no difference. I had three months of no running and just rode an elliptical bike, no improvement. Throughout this whole time I continued with my progestin only contraceptive.
Finally, after getting the results from the MRI scan I took time off again. After having three weeks off running I felt no improvement at all. After a visit to my specialist and then some intense googling about contraceptives, I decided to stop taking the pill. It still took another five weeks until I felt it had improved.
There is no way for me to scientifically prove that the contraceptives caused the injury or made it worse. Of course, if I wasn't a runner, I probably wouldn't have any problem. But I definitely feel it's had a part to play in the whole event.
When I was a lot younger and I had a full stress fracture. At the time this happened I was using the Depo Provera contraceptive injection. Now this one is quite clear how bad it is for bone health, there are warnings everywhere on the internet.
If you google the depo provera injection, this is the first thing that comes up...
During the past year whilst experiencing the stress reaction I've been using a combination of Noraday pill and Nexplanon implant (I changed a couple of times for personal reasons). There is very little information about the effects of these on bone density as very few studies have taken place. The guidance from the specialist I've been seeing for my injury, was that there is a correlation between progestin only contraceptives and bone injuries in female athletes.
It may be that I'm someone that's quite susceptible to these problems but so may be other women.
If I'd have known about this in advance, I may not have paid any attention. It's one of those things where you think 'oh poor you, but it wont ever happen to me'. Unfortunately, it did happen to me and I'll be definitely checking out any future medication I take.
I am not a doctor, scientist, bone specialist or anything even remotely like that. I'm just sharing my experience in the hope that others will at least think about the effects of their contraceptive they use and hopefully you won't end up in the same situation as me.
Training hard takes it's toll on the body, we don't need anything else making it worse.
Receiving the news that you must stop training for whatever sport you love is heartbreaking. If you are anything like me you probably won't hear much else from the doctor giving you that news as the emotion takes over your concentration.
You too are probably hooked to the endorphins released from pushing yourself in sport but don't worry, you can get through this. Here are my top tips for maintaining sanity whilst recovering from injury...
1. Focus on what you CAN do! Being able to do little more than swimming and aqua-jogging during rehab, I focused my energy on making improvements with those activities.
2. Get as much information as you can from your specialist allowing your mind to relax and stop going over thousands of questions. You need to use the rest time for your body and mind to energise not spiral out of control with questions.
3. Actually do the exercises you've been told to do! No matter what a plonker you think you look and how stupid you feel, other people will not be thinking this. Aqua-jogging is never going to be cool but I had to embrace it.
4. Learn something new. Anything. Growth and development (physically or mentally) makes you feel stronger and gives you a sense of purpose. I used my time off to learn Adobe Illustrator which I would have never done given the amount of time I spent running over mountains. Learn to knit, code or speak a new language.
5. Keep your body moving in which ever ways you are allowed. Yoga, swimming, cycling... Exercise releases endorphins making you feel mega!
6. Volunteer if you can. Giving to others gives you the biggest feeling of self worth which you probably need at this point. I chose to foster a cat for my local rescue centre as it's something I couldn't give the time to when I was training.
7. Write! Write down the development with your injury on a daily basis. The daily changes may seem tiny but as the weeks pass you'll see the difference in what you are writing down. Looking back over it makes you feel pretty good when things start to improve.
8. If you can still be involved in your chosen sport some how, do it. I coached a 'Couch to 5k' group up until I was no longer able to ride a bike. This way I still felt connected to what I love. Start an online group or get involved in an existing one.
9. Be open and honest. You are not the first person to go through this. Opening up to others makes you feel refreshed and people have some great tips to offer, or at least a cup of tea and a chat.
10. Surround yourself with positive people. I'm sure there are plenty in your life but if you really do struggle to find them then search online for positive, happy people. Read positive books or watch some TED talks.
11. Someone said to me 'This too shall pass'. And they were right, however you feel right now, it will get better. It will take time, you might know how long, you might not, but it will get better.
I would love to say that with all of these things going on you'll have no time to think about your injury but unfortunately I known that's not true. Stay strong and know that you are not the only person going through this. :)
It’s been a month since my last blog and boy, has my life been different!!
I got the results of my MRI scan through. I didn’t thoroughly understand what the outcome was but I did understand what I was told to do. NO RUNNING!! (and giving up on this years goal)
You can imagine how my heart sank when I heard this. I was then presented with a bundle of paperwork describing in detail what I COULD do. It went like this:
For the next month focus on aqua-jogging! No running or walking for exercise. Let pain be your guide. If you do anything that hurts, don't do it!
After a month of staying off your feet you can return to running IF you can’t walk for 45 minutes pain free, followed by a day off, then do the same on the third day. If that goes well, you can begin to run ONE MINUTE at a time. Increasing the duration by one minute every four days.
'But what about my long, therapeutic, mountainous, trail runs that I love! What about the fresh air and feeling the elements against my face!' This is what I was saying deep down but instead I just nodded and accepted my fate. Until I got into the car at least, when the flood gates opened!
So, for the past month I’ve been the model student and done everything I was advised.
I began aqua-jogging, and at first I just didn't get it. I couldn't get my heart-rate to go up and struggled to do more than 20 minutes as it felt like 20 hours! Imagine the comparison... running on beautiful trails over mountains and jogging in a pool locked in a room that still looks like exactly the same pool no matter how long you flap around for! I know where I'd rather be.
After a few sessions I discovered that you just need to really increase your cadence. I began treading water at about 120-140 rpm. This kept my heart rate up, and then I added in intervals, increasing my cadence more and exaggerating all movements, bingo, a great workout! Still the most I could cope with was 45 minutes but at least I was getting some kind of training to my poor neglected running muscles.
Another positive to draw from this whole experience is that I've begun swimming again. I find swimming pretty boring too but way more satisfying than aqua-jogging. After three weeks of swimming by myself and struggling to maintain motivation, I bit the bullet and joined a group. I swam with a triathlon club in my teens and figured this was the best type of group for me as they generally stick to the one stroke that I can do. So now, four weeks post diagnosis, I'm swimming with Queenstown Tri-Squad and making massive improvements in the water.
Nobody wants to be told to stop doing what they love. Especially when you have such big goals based around that activity. But perhaps these things happen for a reason. Obstacles are put in our paths so we learn and grow. It would be very easy to sit on my backside and moan about the fact I can't live out my passion but that would create nothing but a downwards spiral of negativity. On reflection, this last month has been great and I'll tell you why.
With all of that in mind, I am a very lucky person. And today I feel especially lucky as I am about to go out for my first walk in a month. It will only be short but it will be outside and in the fresh air.
"The best way to show my gratitude is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy.'
Not even two months ago I announced that I'll be attempting to run the length of the UK. This wasn't a spontaneous desire or some drunken New Years resolution. This had already been in planning for a year and half but I wanted the ElliptigOz adventure to be complete before sharing.
If you follow me on any of my social media channels you'll have seen that I'm struggling with an injury of some sort. This may sound vague but I still don't know what's going on in my calf. I've been seeing physiotherapists for four months now, also a podiatrist and now a sports physician. I've had massages, suction therapy, acupuncture and all manner of treatments. I've been for an x-ray and an ultrasound scan, and nothing has come from these but I've been informed something isn't right.
Next week, I'll be going for an MRI scan which I've been told should highlight whatever the problem is. To be honest, after dealing with it in the dark for so long, I'm not really too bothered what the outcome is. All I really want now is a diagnosis.
A few months ago I wouldn't have said that. All I wanted was for it to be something quick and easy to fix, and for it to go away so I could get on with running. After all these months of adapting my training, decreasing training, increasing training, adding in more and more exercises, spending hours and hours, and many dollars on treatment, now I just want the answer.
I've been feeling very frustrated and very stressed. Not knowing what's going on with your own body is very hard. I feel a lot of empathy with people that have illnesses that take a long time to diagnose.
It plays at the back of my mind constantly. If I wake up in the night I can't get back to sleep as I'm wondering if it could be this or that. At work, I'm constantly worrying if standing is making the problem worse. With everything I do I'm very thorough and I analyse things. This has been no exception but without being an expert it's tiring and pointless.
My frustrated energy is going nowhere and my training isn't where it should be.
SO... It's with a very, very heavy heart that I have to announce that I'll be postponing my UK record attempt.
I still have just as much energy, passion and motivation for this project as I ever did, if not more. So much has happened behind the scenes that I haven't shared. I'll be working with some fantastic brands and have some incredible partnerships in the pipeline. Once my leg is back to 100% health I'll be thrilled to share this news with everyone.
But for now, my priority has to be my leg and my overall fitness.
Fingers crossed this week brings me some news. I'll keep you posted. :)
The last time I went to a vineyard I ended up texting the person stood next to me telling them I was in a vineyard. You can imagine how sober I was!
This time was slightly different.
January is basically over and life has been so hectic, it's taken me until now to get back to blogging. 2017 was an incredible year but at the same time incredibly busy. I feel like I haven't stopped for five minutes since returning from riding the Elliptigo across Australia.
Reflection is really important to me. Looking back over things that went well and things that could have gone better helps to move forward. Thinking about what makes you feel satisfied and what gives you a sense of purpose is a great indicator of what direction your life should go in. The easy option is not alway the one you should go with!
Having more than a handful of adventures under my belt now this is becoming an all too familiar occurrence. I have this vision well in advance of an upcoming challenge. I envision being super fit. Super ready. Super organised. Sponsors bursting out of my ears etc etc.
ElliptigOz is so close I can practically taste it!
I can't believe it's less than a month until I'll be gliding away from Denham and riding down the west coast of Australia. It feels like only recently that I was dreaming up the idea. It wasn't. This adventure has been over a year in the making and this alone is something that's new to me. Most of my adventures are of a 'random, book at ticket, pluck out an idea, grab some cash and go type' affair.
This had to be different. It had to be different as I want to make an impact, not only in the country I am travelling through but also for girls in Africa. As I want to raise lots of money for charity, I've had to do more forward thinking than usaul. Yes, my brain has hurt!
I feel I still have so much to organise which is a tad un-nerving as I leave the UK in two and a half weeks. But, the best thing to do in this situation is to look at what I've achieved so far.
BUT... there is still a huge jobs list to be completed. I'm not going to bore you with all the details but here's the main ones.
And I bet you thought this adventure shenanigan was all about running around, skipping and having fun!! Two more weeks of sitting at the computer then the fun begins. Please keep following the adventure and get involved any way that you can. :)
To donate to One Girl go here.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I'm guessing a video is a lot more.
So before telling you about the electrocutions, mud, suffocating ice-pool etc etc. Here is the video of my Tough Mudder experience...
Having always wanted to complete a Tough Mudder, I was over the moon when I had an invite to be on a team put together by Trek bar. It possibly wasn't the best timing as I was recovering from an ankle injury but I think submerging myself in ice perhaps assisted the healing!
As I met the team and we all put our thoughts forward about the obstacle that was scaring us the most, I seemed to be alone in worrying about the ARCTIC ENEMA. Everyone else was far more terrified of the electric shocks. Maybe I had more to worry about than I first thought. Being a hot weather lover, nothing scares me more than dunking myself deep into ice water!
We were very lucky that the weather was warm. It had been pretty freezing leading up to this particular weekend. By the time we got around to 'ice hell' at about 3km in, we had warmed up through the running and rolling around in mud. Thankfully there was no queue leading up to hell. I was able to climb straight up to the slide and get it over with. I slid down the complete darkness into the pool of ice which was conveniently filled up to my nipples. As I landed in the pool the ground was slippy and I struggled to get to my feet. When I finally popped my head out, I couldn't speak. Apparently I had to duck down again to go under a beam of wood that crossed the pool. I couldn't breathe. The man at the side of the pool was telling me to go but I couldn't take a breathe to go under. It seemed like I was stuck there forever. Nobody else could go down the slides till I moved. How much pressure did I feel! I eventually mustered an apology to this man and managed to grab a small breathe. Under I went again, and I also lost my footing again. In a mad panic I managed to push my head out of the icy water. I had about two meters to wade through more ice before my escape. Once I got out of hell and finally managed a full breath, I screamed. I'm not sure how other people react to this but it was all I could do. I can guarantee you now, I would have to be paid a lot of money to do that again!!!
After that experience, nothing could ever be as bad. I think we had about three or four more water obstacle interspersed with mud-based obstacles. We ran a whole 11 miles but it really never felt like it as we spent so much time laughing and covering ourselves in mud.
The most feared, it would appear, was left time last. The electric shocks! Imagine walking through a room full of cobwebs from top to bottom, but they are electrically charged cobwebs. Well, thats how the Tough Mudder finished. As I began to walk through I had my Go Pro in my hand but as the first shock got me, it was flung out of my grasp and swung from my wrist. I think I was pretty lucky that I only got one major shock and a few little ones. Some people were thrown to the floor.
The best bit came as we passed the finish line... the final obstacle... drink a bottle of cider!!
Thank you Team Trek!!!
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Well, WOOF WOOF, this trail runner has mastered a new trick!! Riding the giant grasshopper!
I've learned that balance is not one of my strengths. And, getting to grips with riding the Elliptigo was not immediately easy as is it has been for other people that had a go. My mum managed to turn a tight corner within seconds of getting on and my brother looked like he WAS the grasshopper. I'm a bit slower, but if I can do it, anyone can!
My first few sessions out on Simon (the Elliptigo) were all about taking my time and getting the feel of standing up while moving on wheels. You definitely feel more exposed compared to being on a bicycle. And there is no time to completely relax as you always need to be balancing and holding in your core muscles.
At my first road junction I discovered a problem. I couldn't balance and hold on with one hand to indicate. Eeeeeks! As I train more on the 'Go' my core is getting stronger and I can actually show people where I'm moving in the road.
Gliding down hills and feeling the breeze against your whole body is an awesome feeling of exhilaration. But the best thing about riding on the Elliptigo is watching the reactions on other peoples faces as I pass them. People are gobsmacked and then break out into a huge smile.
My first ride was about 5km on day one, and after a week of increasing the distance and adding in the trailer occasionally, I managed to do a full day with all my kit by the end of the week. From zero, to a 75km adventure in one week, is a pretty cool achievement. And, I LOVE IT! It's so much fun.
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