This week I have been down at Bisham Abbey under going an intense rehab program to give myself the best opportunity to return to my full training schedule within the next few weeks, and also to monitor my progress so far. I am very grateful for UKA making the decision to send me here as I really feel it has been beneficial, as a marker to see how far I have come since my surgery and how far I still have to go. This is probably going to be a long blog but there is a lot of information to fit in!!
The building I am currently staying in has a fascinating story and parts of the Abbey date from 1138AD. The building became home to the Earl of Salisbury but after two centuries the Abbey was residence to the Hoby Family. There is a huge painting of Lady Hoby in ‘The Great Hall’ where we get all of our meals, and she is said to haunt the building. This was not the best story to hear on my first night of settling into my room alone. She has supposedly been seen washing her hands in a bowl of water which floats in front of her. Brilliant. Lady Hoby is said to have beaten her child then left him forgotten in the tower. Even better. So yeah, its safe to say that on the first night I was absolutely…terrified!
The Abbey – Accommodation
On my first day here, I had a quick chat with the doctor and then was told a few things that I had to monitor daily. At 8.30am every morning I had to go over to the rehab clinic with a urine sample and a little thing that resembled a watch. This watch was a sleep monitor and it displays any movements that you have made during the previous nights sleep to see if you are getting enough hours rest. It is safe to say with the amount I sleep, that was the least of my concerns! However, did find out that I was extremely dehydrated both days I have been here! During race season, I am constantly swigging water and a sports drink but since the injury, it has gone completely by the way-side!
My first appointment was with the wonderful physio Ash Wallace. It was the first time my foot has been aggressively ‘gone in to’ and it was amazing how quickly all the muscles loosened up. Up to this week I have managed to run 35miles a week, all steady, but averaging around 7.10 minutes per mile – so not too bad! Although I had not attempted any sort of strides or sessions. Ash decided that she would allow me to do a session the next day and monitor how the foot reacted. Later I had a quick chat with the nutritionist – nothing major to change, just a little bit more protein and more iron-rich foods to increase my iron stores. I already knew most of this due to my previous anaemia. However, I did get my first ever ‘fat test’… obviously thats not the technical name, but that’s what it felt like! Haha.. I had a skin-fold test done all over my body so that we could record my body fat and weight and then also the girth around both of my calfs and hamstrings to record any differences due to the injury. As I was unable to maintain the strength in them whilst being in a cast for 8 weeks, I lost a large amount of muscle mass – which is completely normal! But it has to be monitored so that I don’t get any abnormalities when I return to full training and to avoid any more injuries. Thankfully the differences were not too major but it is something to keep an eye on.
The Great Hall – Dining Room
This day didn’t start off too great but it ended up being a major step forward for me. I did my normal 3mile run in the morning but at 7am it was extremely dark around here. I decided to go a different route from the day before but ended up near a dual-carriageway. There was a small path to cross over to a trail on the other side. The roundabout was extremely busy but I decided to run quickly across when the road was clear. However a car came flying round and I have never been so close to getting hit in my entire life. It must have been inches away from me. I was very lucky to have managed to actually jump over the side of the bonnet of the car, whilst it swerved to the other side of the road. Thankfully… I wasn’t dead… or injured.. and the other car was totally fine! But now I realise why I don’t ever get up at 7am – IT IS TO EARLY TO FUNCTION!
The day did get progressively better and I managed my first stride out session since the surgery! I was massively excited about getting to attempt my first ‘session’. I did a 1.5mile warm up and found a large bit of flat pavement heading under an underpass to do my 12x 1minute fast with a 30 seconds jog recovery, followed by a further 1.5mile cool down. The foot felt great. There was absolutely no reaction whilst running, however the only problem was that I felt like a WHALE! I know i’m not the biggest of girls, but I felt huge on that run mainly due to the impact of running again. It always takes a few sessions to start flowing and feeling comfortable running at a faster pace. Fingers crossed it does!
Before all of this, the Strength and Conditioning coach Ben Rosenblatt took me through some barefoot drills. These included walking on my toes in all directions, then the same drill again on my heels, along with some slow,controlled high knees. I will try and video all these little drills and upload them tomorrow or at the weekend! The elite athlete gym we are using is constantly packed full of athletes, from all sports – netball,rowing,hockey. The centre is the national base for hockey and rowing and many of the athletes have actually all relocated to near Bisham so that they can take advantage of these facilities, become full-time athletes and train as a team. A great idea, which I think would benefit a lot of sports if there was more funding towards our sport. A few of the girls were asking Ben was sport I was from – they guessed Synchronised Swimming! Very random… and I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe they thought I didn’t have the build of a middle distance athlete? Or maybe they thought I had great elegance and posture whilst doing my drills? I’m going with the latter… aaahaha..
Again, after my session outside on the roads I had another physio session with Ash. My muscles are very quick at reacting and thinning out. After any injury – and especially with surgery – the muscles become almost ‘sticky’ instead of smoothly flowing over each other. This needs to be broken up with massage, afterwards its amazing the difference in the tightness within all the little muscles, it feels like a new foot! It is also interesting that the surgeon has actually re-shaped my foot – to what a normal foot should look like! From a young age, I have always had extremely weird shaped feet, they fall in, in the inside, instead of being upright and it a neutral position. Now after the surgery the foot is shaped normally and so I actually run with a more neutral foot position. Hopefully with my orthotics in place and all the little exercises this will eventually benefit me in the long run!
This morning getting up at 7am was a bit of a struggle, although I wasn’t as sore as I had expected to be after doing my first faster run. I had a bit of a weird tightness in my toes which quickly eased off on my 3mile run. I have been told this is a good sign! As it shows the small intrinsic muscles within the foot are getting stronger with all the drills and rehab.
I then had a quick chat with the Psychologist Dr Tig Calvert. I think they were just checking to make sure I wasn’t going crazy and thankfully – i’m A-OK. Haha no craziness found here… haha
This was followed by a core session with Ben. After a serious injury many people have a ‘weaker side’ due to all the weight being shifted onto the one leg when non-weight bearing. Luckily enough I have worked hard with my core – almost every day – due to the fact I hadn’t been able to do much else for a few weeks after surgery. He made me do a few standard ‘tests’ to analyse what needed improvement and what was already strong. The first test was a standard plank but then to raise my right hand high for a few seconds then my left hand low, to hip length, to see how much my body rotated. This then identifies weakness, which I slightly had. The next test was a standard side plank but then to raise the leg, I had absolutely no problems with this which showed that I was strong in that plane of my core. The last test was to lie on my side on a gym bench, with my upper body hanging off. Ben was then holding onto my legs so that I didn’t fall off! The aim was to hold your body up, using your core for as long as possible. Again I managed quite well, holding each side for 2minutes. Although I was dying towards the end!
Ben then set up a little ‘trunk circuit’ for me which included planks on a swiss ball and a few other exercises. I then used the ‘cross over weights machine’, to try an maintain my stance and activate my core to keep me from rotating. Again I will take a video of these and upload them at some point!
My next physio appointment was with the English Institute of sport physio Roz. She went into my lower back as it was completely solid. This resulted in me almost crying at one stage, being tall is such a disadvantage! It is also interesting that some of the tightnesses that I feel in my foot are actually caused by tightnesses in my lower bank. This totally confuses me, but its amazing to see how all the muscles are all linked, and that something higher up the chain can affect the small muscles within your foot! I have also been given some stretches to do, whilst standing on one of these weird vibrating machines. Supposedly woman stand on them for like 30minutes and genuinely believe their loosing weight! But yeah, for me its purely for stretching! No weight-loss here!
This morning I was lucky enough to get a little lie-in till 8.30am and managed to do my second running session of the week! Huge step forward. I completed a 1.5mile jog then 6x2min efforts with a jog 30second recovery then a 1.5mile cool down. People were looking at me as if I was crazy, which is sort of understandable – since I was running back and forth over a little 600m bit of flat road wearing crop top and shorts, even though it was about minus 5 degrees! I however was in a world of sweat and was absolutely roasting! So happy to be back doing sessions again, it’s a massive improvement in my schedule.
This was then followed by some hip mobility drills and barefoot drills during my hour with the S&C coach. We then filmed from all different angles doing squats and lunges to detect any movements within my hips which could indicate a weakness. I wasn’t actually too bad, although I did show to have a slight weakness with my hips and glutes. Afterwards I was filmed running on the treadmill. It was a specially adapted treadmill which showed the exact time that you spend in contact with the ground. You may wonder why you would need to know this? Well… again it indicates any abnormalities within your running stride which could be caused due to my current injury. Luckily for me, I was completely symmetrical with my running style! SUCCESS! There was only less than 2% of a difference at any point, running from a slow pace to a faster pace.
After lunch I was then treated by both the physio and sports masseur followed by a quick stretching session on the vibration plate. It is unbelievable how much that machine eases your muscles off. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, however just 10 minutes of stretching makes a huge difference. Definitely something I will be adding into my training regime when I get home!
Today was my last day, leaving this afternoon from London City Airport. Today we went over my full Strength and Conditioning program. I have been given a little circuit to improve my hip strength and mobility. All the exercises are for 30seconds and only use my own body weight – really hoping that over the next few weeks these will strengthen any weaknesses identified.
It has been intense but the benefit that I have received in the few days I have been here is unbelievable. It is also good to get other peoples opinions on how things are going, rather than always going on my own judgement and to have a little reassurance that I am going about things the right way! I will be returning home for two weeks to put my current program into good use with the outlook of returning to Bisham for another single week at the end of January to re-asses where I am, and if there have been improvements made. It will also give me the change to increase my training load again, hopefully close to my full program, and monitor any changes.
This week I have managed a total of 41miles with two mini sessions – which is a major step forward. The following week I am increasing to 43miles followed by 45miles the following week before returning to Bisham for a check up! Over the next two weeks, I have been allowed to start back training normally with my training group, up at the track in Caird Park, Dundee! Cannot wait! Although I will be doing just half of what they are doing and will be keeping things paced over the next few weeks to re-build my fitness again.
Fingers crossed that if all goes well I will have returned to my full training program by February! Thats the plan anyways, and up to now I have been extremely lucky not to have had any set backs!
I realise I have probably rambled on quite a lot, so if you have made it this far… Fair play to you! I am impressed!!