Spotlight On Injuries – Back Injuries

Once a month, I will be doing a Q&A with a medical professional or fitness professional in regards to injuries.  As endurance athletes, injuries are almost always bound to happen at some point or another that will force us to take some time off of training and racing.

Let’s be honest, injuries suck.  They prevent us from doing what we love, we end up in pain (sometimes unbearable pain), they are expensive to treat (even with benefit coverage, physiotherapy and chiropractor treatments add up quick and can really hurt you pocketbook) and have an overall negative impact on every aspect of our life.

This month’s spotlight on injury feature is one I’ve personally had to deal with: back injuries.  I ended up with an extremely unstable right SI joint due to my cycling accident.  Add on top of that, I’m hyper mobile and was riding a bike that was not fitted properly so I was riding in extreme flexion which put more stress on an already unstable SI joint.  It took me seeing different chiropractors, massage therapists and physiotherapists until I ever got a proper diagnosis.  All the while I kept training, racing and kept damaging more and more ligaments around my SI joint.  It got so bad that after I raced the Triathlon World Championships back in 2008, every time I got on my bike, I would start to spasm.  No matter what I did, I was in chronic pain.

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Today, I am quite excited to introduce to you all the physiotherapist who was finally able to not only diagnose my injury is the reason I am back racing.  Her name is Dawn Payne and she is a specialist when it come to back pain and back injuries, and specifically when it comes to cycling.  Enjoy!

1. What are the 3 most common type of back injuries you see with endurance athletes?

The most common type of back injury for endurance athletes is mechanical low back pain. The most common joints that cause this type of pain are the facet joints (the joints in the back), the sacro-iliac joint (part of the pelvis) and the hips.

2. What are the causes of these injuries?

Mechanical pain is usually caused by one or more of the joints moving too little (hypomobility), whether it is due to muscle tightness and shortening, the joint capsule shortening (covering around the joint), a muscle imbalance, overuse or trauma like a fall off a bike. Sometimes with a trauma or long term strain on a joint, an athlete will have a hypermobility, which is when a joint moves more than normal.

3. What is the healing process like for these injuries and what do athletes need to know about whether they should be continuing to train and race with these injuries?

Healing time varies on the cause of the injury.  If an athlete has pain that lasts for a few hours after a workout and settles down quickly, then typically continuing to train and race is safe.  If an athlete has pain that lasts for several days, doesn’t decrease with time off, is getting worse or just not going away, they should seek medical advice. Having an assessment by a medical professional who understands the demands of the sports is important so that the athlete can get appropriate advice about the specific cause of the pain, how to modify training, whether they should continue to race and how ultimately return to full activity if a period of time off is required.  I personally do my best to keep athletes active and doing some form of their sport. I think this is an important part of the healing process and is important mentally for most athletes. Having said this, it is also important that the athlete respects their body, the healing process and what needs to be done to resolve the pain and injury – whether that is changing their activities for a period of time, doing specific rehabilitation exercises, or going for treatment. Their commitment to healing and doing their part is the key to a successful recovery.

(Due to how bad my injury was, I was forced to take a full year off of racing and training.  I was not able to bike, run or do any lower body weights.  I remember being in tears when Dawn told me I had to take a year off and looking back, I wish I would have done it sooner.)

4. As someone who has had a back injury, it can be both frustrating and devastating to an athlete. What would you say to an athlete dealing with a back injury to help them stay mentally positive?

Here’s the deal.  In every set back is an opportunity for growth. I have had athletes who had stress fractures and couldn’t run for a few months before an Ironman. However, this gave them an opportunity to improve and focus on their swimming and cycling which ultimately gave them a leg up in the long run.  On the days when it just doesn’t feel like anything is getting better, like it will never change and you are so tired of the pain, try some of these:

Focus on what has improved – even if it is a small improvement like you could do 10 reps of an exercise with out pain rather than 8 reps.

Focus on what you can control.  For example, you can control your commitment to do whatever it takes, you can choose when, where and how you do your rehab, your can determine the meaning you give to this injury (are you focused on how much having an injury sucks or are you focused on what you are grateful for?  You still have 2 legs, 2 arms and a head on your shoulders).

Think about what could be great about this injury.  Is it giving you an opportunity to increase your flexibility, which will make you a stronger athlete long term? Do you now have time to commit to improving your nutrition or learning something else that will help you grow as an athlete or person?

Chunk it down.  Choose smaller steps on the path to the ultimate goal. Pick milestones that you are working towards. For example, you are returning to running and the goal is to run a 10km race.  Start with a goal to run 1km pain free by X date.  Once you achieve the goal, set the next one and adjust your time frames as you go.

Remember you have an infinite amount of resources.  Talk to friends, colleagues, other athletes who have had set backs in their life and how they got through it. You will be amazed at the power of connecting with them and learning that we all have times in our lives that are challenging and that is how we grow and develop depth as people which is what truly makes us interesting. You never know, you may be an inspiration to someone else one day.

How you can apply the lessons of having an injury to other parts of your life. Where else in your life can you apply patience, persistence, determination, surrender, commitment etc?

Always remember to focus on what you CAN do rather than what you can’t do. I promise you, there are many people in the world worse off J

Last but not least…I believe life happens for us not to us. How is life happening for you in this moment??? What are the opportunities that could come of this?

5. What treatment options are available for different back injuries?

There are several treatment options for mechanical low back pain.

i.     Physical Therapy treatments including, manual mobilizations and manipulation, soft tissue release, IMS, Acupuncture for pain, rehabilitation exercises (stretching and strengthening), taping, activity modification and advice.

ii.     Chiropractic treatment is also an option and can include manipulation, ART, and various other treatment modalities.

iii.     Massage Therapy is very beneficial whether an athlete has an injury or not, this is a helpful treatment for training or racing recovery and injury prevention.

iv.     *For athletes who have a hypermobility, they may do well with prolotherapy. This is a very specific type of injection to help tighten the ligaments around a joint.  Be sure to consult with a physiotherapist who is familiar with this type of treatment to see if you are a good candidate for a referral.

(I have personally have had to go for 12 rounds of Prolotherapy with getting about 20 injections into the ligaments in my low back and glutes.  It honestly is the only reason my back is strong and stable today and how I’m able to race again)

6. What can people do to prevent these injuries from happening?

Maintain core strength and overall muscle balance and flexibility of the whole body are the cornerstones of musculoskeletal and low back health. Also, smart training, ensuring adequate rest time between workouts and races (overuse injuries are rarely about overtraining, it’s about under resting!), listen to your body, don’t let the little “niggle” turn into a raging problem.  Catch it early, get treatment and take care of yourself.

7. Can a person with a back injury ever fully heal from it or is it something they are going to have to deal with for the rest of their life?

Yes, absolutely they can heal, however, depending on the injury, some people will have to maintain a rehab program to ensure ongoing health of their back.

8. Can an athlete who has suffered from a back injury ever return to competition and can they ever get back to a high level of competing?

YES, absolutely!  The majority of the athletes I have treated have chosen to and been able to return to a high level of competition.

9. If someone wants to know more about back injuries and back pain, how can they get a hold of you?

Email : dawn.payne@csaphysio.ca

Website: www.csaphysio.ca

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I want to thank Dawn for sharing her knowledge on this issue.  Back injuries can be incredibly frustrating and painful to deal with but with the right treatment and rehabilitation, you can get back to doing what you love.  I am living proof of that!

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Sweaty Betty Sale!

If you are looking to pick up some new active wear for a good price, you are in luck as Sweaty Betty has a sale on right now! And unlike other active wear brands that go on “sale”, Sweaty Betty has items on sale up to 50% off.

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I don’t know about you, but I definitely plan to take advantage of this sale.  If you also want to take advantage of the sale, you have to do so TODAY as it ends tomorrow.  Happy shopping!

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For my readers in the USA, click the banner below to take you to the USA site.

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March Training Update

Even though there is still snow and ice on the ground, it’s starting to finally feel like spring here in Edmonton.  I might be optimistic in hoping that I will be outside riding my bike by April but here’s hoping!  With that being said, race season is right around the corner and I’m getting excited!  I just got an email from Triathlon Canada the other day about uniform sizing and all I could think about is how much I still have to do between now and then.

Swim

Do you know that saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it”?  Well, I have found that out in terms of swim speed.  Since my last training update back in January, I unfortunately have not been in the pool as much as I should be.  Between being sick with a head cold and stomach issues, getting in the pool at times has been a challenge.

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Another challenge for me is trying to balance all aspects of training, especially when 90% of the workouts I do for all three sports is either at or above threshold pace.  Trying to do two threshold workouts in a day is not the easiest thing to do.  I find the quality of my second workout will always suffer if I’m working at or above threshold pace earlier in the day.  That’s why I only do one workout as my main session on the day and the second one is always at a lower intensity.  Quality over quantity.

That being said, I have had some pretty solid sessions in the pool in the past couple weeks (despite basically wanting to pass out on the pool deck afterwards).  I have a real love/hate relationship with 200m repeats.  I love how hard they are but also hate how hard they are. A workout that I try to do every couple of weeks is 5x200m at threshold pace.  By the time the 5th 200m has started, my arms feel like they are going to fall off and breathing has basically become me gasping desperately for any air I can get.  Despite not having had done this workout in about a month, I somehow managed to see my time drop by 5 seconds!

As I’m still figuring out what my first triathlon race of season is going to be, but I will continue to work towards what I want to be able to do at World Championships at the end of August.  I still have a lot of hard work and suffering to do before now and then.

Bike

My workouts have become more intense and interval lengths have been increasing in time (which I personally hate).  Give me 20 seconds all out with 40 seconds recovery over 3×15 minutes any day!  It’s all in the build up to road and track season for me.  It’s crazy to think that my season starts in 4 months!

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The last time I did testing with my coach was in December and things went pretty well.  This week it was time to test again and this time I got to test on the Wattbike at the velodrome.  Instead of having me do a 20-30 minute time trial or 4 minutes all out, I do 2x8minutes with a suggested wattage to hold.

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It was my first time ever testing on the Wattbike and I have to say that I LOVE IT!!  First off, it’s already calibrated so you don’t need to worry about if your numbers are off and it can be set up to fit just like your road and feels like you are riding on the road.  The great thing is that you get it set to a gear that you should be able to hold and just start riding.  There’s no having to shift back and forth to try and find the right gearing which is nice.  There are also many different test features that you can use to test and it’s great for people who do track cycling (which is what I’m moving towards).

I went in having and idea of what I wanted to do as far as numbers go but I blew those expectations right out of the water!  Holding a wattage 20 watts higher than last time felt manageable and what I was really surprised with is that I’m actually quite efficient holding a higher wattage while holding 95-97 RPM (not what you would think for a triathlete).  Thankfully I had 15 minutes in between each test set.  So in the end, I had a 15-20 watt increase in my FTP which I was really surprised with as I was not expecting it. Now I want to see what my sprint power would be as I was doing 300-400 watts last year for sprint workouts And I know that it has gone up.  Once again, not bad for a triathlete and this is why I plan to do some track racing this year as I want to see what I could do on the track.

I’m also super excited to be purchasing my new time trial bike and am going for a full GURU Bike Fit session next week with the shop I ride for and shop at.  After 11 years of riding a road bike with clip aerobars, it’s time to finally get a proper time trial bike.  In order for me to be able to justify purchasing a time trial bike, I knew I had to be able to go under a certain time for 20 or 40km on my road bike and I hit that target last year.  The timing of getting this bike will work out perfectly as I should be able to get one month of riding indoors on it to get used to riding in an aggressive aero position and then will take it outdoors to get some time on it before I head into racing on it. My first real race on it will be Provincial Time Trials at the end of June and I’m hoping to post a fast enough time to get on the podium.

So you are probably wanting to know what bike I’m getting?  Well, you will have to wait for a blog post about it when I get it.  As well, I’m also looking forward to getting a track bike but am holding off until June as I won’t be riding it much before then anyways.

Run

As I’m racing an Olympic distance triathlon this year my distance has been increasing as has the length of my speed work intervals.  Like the bike, when it comes to intervals on the run, the shorter and more intense, the better!  That had not been the case in which I may or may not have accused Dean of trying to destroy me.

As hills are my arch nemesis on the run, there has been a lot of hill work and I can thankfully say they are finally getting easier.  The challenge has been because it’s been so cold here in Edmonton (we were colder than Mars for a while and no, I’m not joking) getting outside has been a write off.  So treadmill it has been and I can say that’s so sick of running indoors.  I prefer to do high end speed work on the treadmill but when comes to running 10km or hills, I would much rather be outside.

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Thankfully it looks like the polar hell we’ve been locked in forever is finally subsiding as we back in the plus side of things and that means back outside I gladly go.  I’m also starting to look at which 5 and 10km races in the spring I would like to do but I do know that I will be doing the Mother’s Day Run on Sunday May11th and the Blue Mile Road Race on May 23rd.  Essentially May is going to be filled with a whole lot of all out speed, tasting blood and coughing for days afterwards.  I can’t wait!

Weights

Next to the bike, weight training is probably the training session I look forward to the most. I have made some pretty significant gains in the past couple of month, especially in regards to deadlifting.  In a span on two months, I have increased my max deadlift from 185lbs to 215lbs.  Nothing like a 30lbs increase in a span of two months and it’s also 1.7 times my bodyweight.

Unfortunately, I managed to pull a hip muscle while attempting to pull 225lbs sumo style so I’m laying off the heavy deadlifts pulling sumo style for a while.  I also learned that I need to start wearing full length tights when I do deadlifts as I keep ripping skin off my shin when I wear capris.

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My current program is pretty brutal though.  There are a lot of Turkish Getups with the kettlebell, sled push sprints, plyometrics, heavy back squats, battle ropes and barbell hip thrusts.  There are also a lot of sets of each too which make them that much tougher.  All in the name of getting stronger and faster.  As I am approaching race season, the intensity will be backing off and I will be heading into more of a maintenance phase with my weights.  That being said, deadlifts will continue to stay even through competition season.

This off season has flown by for me and I’m ready to get back at it.  Bring on the spring and bring on the competition!

Sweaty Betty: Upgrade Your Lulus With My New Obsession

When Dean and I went to London, England last September, we were walking along a street when I saw a store that caught my eye.  It was a fitness apparel store with the coolest name, Sweaty Betty.  I knew I had to go in and check this place out and I’m glad I did.  I walked in the store and automatically fell in love.  The store, though similar to Lululemon, had everything from amazing running clothes to yoga wear to even triathlon wear.  And unlike Lululemon, the quality of the materials were actually good and the designs of the clothing would complement any woman of any age and any size.

Another reason I love Sweaty Betty is because their motto:

“To inspire women to find empowerment through fitness”

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How can you not love that motto?  And you know what, their clothes reflect that.  Their clothes not only make you look good, they make you feel good no matter what size, shape or age you are.

My husband recently went to New York City and one the first things he asked me was “What do you want me to pick you up from there?”.  The answer was pretty easy considering there is a Sweaty Betty store right in SoHo.

Let me highlight some of my personal favourite items from Sweaty Betty and provide you with the direct links so you too can get these amazing and super comfortable items.  Cause, who doesn’t want some new fitness gear?

Chandrasana Yoga Leggings

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As soon as I saw these leggings, I knew I had to have them.  Printed leggings are huge right now and Sweaty Betty does them right.

These technical leggings in statement Offshore print have flattering flatlocked seams and a deep elasticated waistband.  Ideal for an added style statement to your practice.  You can wear these legging to and from yoga practice, to the gym or even just around town with a tunic (like I have done in the pictures above).  The thickness and quality of the material ensures you won’t have wardrobe malfunction while doing downward dog in yoga class.  The high waistband also help to curb any potential issue of the dreaded “muffin top” look.  These leggings also fit true to size and won’t shrink when you wash them (that being said, to ensure the longevity of these leggings, hang dry them).

Want to get your hand on a pair of these amazing leggings?  Then click on the picture below for all residents outside the USA:

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For my readers in the USA, click HERE to get the link.

Mayfair Dress

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I love a good tunic, especially living in a winter city.  Probably one of favourite go to outfits for both style and comfort is leggings and a long tunic (especially if I’m flying anywhere).

The Mayfair Dress is a long sleeve tunic in luxurious knitted fabric. Contrast stripes fitted ribbed arms and slightly dropped shoulders create a flattering silhouette and it features zip openings at the sides.

You could wear this tunic with leggings (such as I have done) or a pair of skinny jeans.

Note: While working on this blog post, I found out that Sweaty Betty is sold of this tunic.  When it comes back in stock, I will put the link up for it.

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Anna Headband

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I always wear a headband when I workout.  I like sometime to keep hair from falling in my face and as I also sweat a lot (especially when I’m running or cycling indoors) I like having something that will help keep most of the sweat out of my eyes.

The Anna Headband is a lightweight moisture-managing headband in a sweat-wicking fabric. It is soft to the touch with reflective logo and back pleating style detail.

I found this headband, unlike most out there, actually stays in place.  I’m not constantly having to adjust it because it’s falling off.  I laos like how big the front part of this headband is and would be great if someone had shorter hair or bangs they want to have out of their eyes as they workout.

Want to get this headband?  Then click on the picture below for all residents outside the USA:

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For my readers in the USA, click HERE to get the link.

Indulgence Tunic Dress

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This was one of the first items from Sweaty Betty that I ever ordered online and I’m happy I did.  I can’t even begin to describe how much I love my Indulgence Tunic.  It is one of those items in my closet that I wear every single week and love it so much that I will be ordering another one.

This luxurious tunic in premium Italian fleece fabric has flattering flatlocked princess seams. It features an oversized cowl neck and deep waistband that can be worn as a dress or a jumper.

As you can see, I like to pair mine with either skinny jeans of leggings.  I have lost count on the number of compliments and inquires about this tunic.  It is honestly the warmest thing that I own in my wardrobe and I honestly have a hard time taking it off.  As these are incredibly popular with shoppers of Sweaty Betty, they sell out quite fast.

Want to get your hands on this tunic before they sell out again?  Then click on the picture below for all residents outside the USA:

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For my readers in the USA, click HERE to get the link.

As you can tell, I love this brand.  Stay tuned for a blog post in the coming weeks about my Sweaty Betty “Wish List” featuring products that I am looking to get and how you can get them to.

Want to go ahead and make your own wish list?  Head to their website (here’s the website for my friends in the USA) and start shopping then drop me a comment below and let me know what you love and want me to feature.  Happy shopping!

Inspired By The Olympics

I love the Olympics. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing athletes achieve their goals after putting in years of hard work and dedication. I’ll be honest in saying that there have been many moments during these games where I became emotional watching them. The triumph and the heartbreak. As an athlete, I can relate.

If you are like me, watching these amazing athletes makes me want to work harder and get better so I can achieve my goals.  I have felt a little extra motivation to push myself with my training.  I have found myself to be running faster, swimming faster and pushing more power on the bike and lifting more weight while watching these games.  Like them, I want to be the best at what I do.  And times when I want to give up, I stop and think about the number of times where athletes in the Olympics wanted to do the same but didn’t.  Take the gold medal game between Canada and the United States in women’s hockey. It honestly looked like the US were going to take it in the third but just like that, Canada scores and makes it a one goal game.  Then with only seconds left in the third period, Canada scores again.  Overtime comes around and with minutes left, Canada scores again to come from behind and take their 4th gold medal in women’s hockey.  How can you not be inspired by that?

Side Note: Hats off to the US Women’s hockey team for playing a hell of a game!

There have been many amazing moments at these games that have inspired me:

  • Gilmore Junio giving up his spot to Denny Morrison and Denny going on to win silver in long track speed skating.
  • Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse defending their gold medal in women’s bobsleigh.
  • Patrick Chan not letting people say he “chocked” get him down.
  • The beautiful skate from Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
  • The coach who gave the Russian athlete a ski so he could finish his cross country ski race.
  • Jan Hudec’s bronze medal win.  Not only did he end a 20 year medal drought for Canada in alpine skiing, the amount of injuries this guy has had to overcome is unreal!  Including a herniated disk that happened in January and numerous knee surgeries.
  • The Dutch being unstoppable in long track speed skating.
  • Jennifer Jones going undefeated and winning Canada’s first gold medal in women’s curling since Sandra Schmirler (who was won of the greatest curlers in Canadian history).
  • Alexander Bilodeau defending his gold in men’s moguls and the celebration with his brother Federic after his win.  As well Mikael Kingsbury from Canada grabbing the silver.
  • Sisters, Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, winning gold and silver in women’s moguls and winning Canada’s first gold medal of these games.
  • Marc McMorris winning Canada’s first medal of these games and doing so with a broken rib none the less!
  • The Jamaican bobsleigh team!
  • Of course, the Canadian women coming from behind to win the gold! 🙂

What moments have inspired you during these games?  Have watching these games make you want to work harder towards you goals?

These athletes dedicate their life to their sport.  They spend thousand of hours training both physically and mentally.  There are lots of blood, sweat and tears involved.  They struggle with injuries.  They struggle to pay to compete and train (not all of them are making millions of dollars like NHL players).  They struggle with trying to balance everything in their life.  It’s not easy.  That’s why to me, an athlete who can get to the Olympics has already won.

I’m not an elite athlete, but I have had the opportunity to represent my country at the World Triathlon Championships twice and will again this year (in my home city no less).

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So whether you are an elite athlete, an age group athlete or someone who is working towards a fitness goal, we could all learn something from these Olympic athletes.

Hard work and dedication pays off.  Never let anyone talk you out of reaching your goal.  Never let anyone downplay your achievement when you finally hit that goal.  And most importantly, NEVER EVER GIVE UP!  Even when you think you are down, you can always come back from behind to win that gold!

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