Thursday, 18 June 2020

Hip Dysplasia and Me

I've had no idea how to word this post, I want to share more about what my life is like with hip dysplasia in case you think I'm just being a grumpy recluse. I want to share as I can't do as much physically and I've learned to actually realise that being in pain most of the time leaves you with less mental bandwidth too. Rest, self care, physio, etc become more important; unmissable in fact.

I've set myself a June challenge for hip dysplasia awareness month - walk 5km a day - and then found I was too embarrassed to share it. Almost exactly 5 years ago I was ultra training and did a 42 mile training weekend before tapering for a race. I'd never felt fitter, stronger, or more capable and confident. I couldn't feel more different now, walking 5k is a very real challenge some days, it still doesn’t feel like this is the real me. My body shape has changed (mostly outwards!), but more importantly my identity has changed too, and I still feel a profound sense of loss for running; something I love so much I changed my career.

The sense of loss extends to my career plans, my plans for long distance adventures on foot (either walking or running would do) and my ability to do stuff that your average person in their late 30s wouldn’t have to think twice about. The realisation that living in a house built into a hill and with lots of steps and stairs isn’t ideal... I've also had to think carefully about the commitments I have, personal, professional and volunteering and make really difficult decisions about what to cut back to help keep myself in balance; mentally and physically.

The last 5 years have been quite a rollercoaster, but in honesty that rollercoaster actually started 20 years ago; when I first went to a doctor about hip pain and was fobbed off. Just over 10 years ago I remember distinctly being told by a consultant my pain was due to wearing high heels; turns out if they’d bothered to take X-rays (and had the knowledge to interpret them) I might be in a very different position now. A common story among adult hip dysplasia patients is the number of years and different doctors you see before a correct diagnosis; mine was only reached 18 months ago... Unfortunately the surgery I had in 2015 would never have worked as the underlying dysplasia wasn't diagnosed at that point. I can’t help but be a bit angry at all those doctors and physios that didn’t spot what the actual problem was. I’ve lost count of the reasons I was told it was my fault; not enough exercise, wrong shoes, too much running etc etc

I now have a future of operations, physiotherapy and pain ahead of me. The pain is hard; hard to manage, hard to deal with and hard to explain. No one expects you to be struggling with movement, mobility and joint pain at this age. It was one of the main reasons I felt I could no longer face working in London and why I still have anxiety about travelling in; one too many times I’ve been walked into or pushed out of the way for being “a bit too slow”. I get this varying window into life for those who aren’t fit and well all the time and how infrastructure and life aren’t designed well for you.

When you have to sit down to put your pants on and struggle to reach your own feet you suddenly realise things are different to how you expected life to be at this point. My last big pain flare up was due to trying to pick something up off the floor that I’d dropped...

So where am I now? Dysplasia means the sockets of my hips are not deep enough or the right shape for the ball part of the joint. This geometry has been fixed on the left side with a periacetabular osteotomy early last year; re constructing my pelvis to reorientate the socket. That stung a bit...! You can read more about that procedure here;

Sadly, and mainly as the diagnosis took so long, I still have other areas of damage to the joint, some bone wear, cartilage damage and torn labrum (the suction seal that keeps the hip ball in the socket). This is still causing pain although things have definitely improved on that side from where they were pre surgery.

Due to the year’s of dysfunctional movement on my left side I’m still working hard to reprogram muscles and build strength. Incorrect movement patterns have been so engrained they are very hard to re learn. If I do a longer walk or push the strength training the muscle soreness is very different one side to the other.

In my work as a running coach and sports massage therapist I often see that an issue with a joint that impacts how it functions often also impacts the joints above and below; as they are forced to compensate for the incorrect movement patterns. That’s something that impacts me personally. My left leg has rolled inwards for many years now due to the issues with that hip; this leads to knee, calf, ankle and foot pain. At the moment it also means I’m struggling a lot with lower back and pelvis (SI joint) pain. I notice more and more that as the movement in my hips reduces that these other areas are forced to adapt and aren’t always happy with their new roles

My right side has less “undercoverage” of the socket over the ball of the joint than the left did. Sadly over the last year it’s deteriorated quite quickly. MRI and CT scans done just before lockdown show similar labrum, bone and cartilage damage on this side too, which would certainly explain the increasing pain. It’s hard to keep up with the strength work and physio you need to do when it hurts, but you know if you don’t it will hurt more next week.

I’ve been privileged to meet fellow “hippies” as part of this process. And it’s been wonderful to have some amazingly supportive friends, the best husband in the world and amazing parents and family. A huge thank you to them :)

All orthopaedic surgeries have been paused due to covid 19 since the start of lockdown, and I know people who are struggling due to cancelled surgeries. This also means there is now quite a backlog of people needing surgery to get through. I get it, this stuff isn’t life threatening, but it still leaves people struggling and in pain. The lack of access to face to face physiotherapy and massage has been difficult too, as they help manage pain levels.

I have lots of thinking to do about what is next for my hips. I just can’t accept doing less and less whilst they deteriorate, so more surgery is looking likely. At this point it won’t “fix me” and is unlikely to give me a pain free life but hopefully will improve things and/or slow the deterioration.

Thanks for reading, and apologies for being a grumpy recluse... x

Thursday, 25 January 2018

New Blog Location!

Hi everyone,

From the start of 2018 all my new blog posts will be posted on my website, not here;

Some older posts from this blog will be gradually moved over to the new site, with a bit of a tidy up and maybe even some new photos.

Eventually this blog will just be about my personal running journey and all the coaching, nutrition, outdoors and massage tips and information will be on the new blog.

Hope to see you over at the new blog!


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Nutrition for Runners

I've written a few articles recently about nutrition for sport and runners. To make life easier I thought I'd put all the links in one place!

What to eat before you train or race;

What to eat on the run;

What to eat for recovery;

Hydration for sport;

Fats and carbohydrates;

Vitamins and minerals for sport;

If you want any more information or support you can check out my nutrition services here!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Lowland Leader and First Aid Training

I recently started my Lowland Leader qualification with a two day training course at the Plas Y Brenin outdoors centre in Wales. Whilst I was there I also completed a First Aid at Work in an Outdoor Environment certificate. 

The first aid course was brilliant! Lots of time (over half the course hours) spent outside practicing with real world examples in outdoors situations. It's all very well doing CPR and knowing the recovery position when you are on the flat and an ambulance is 10 minutes away. But what happens when you are up a mountain, on rocky, uneven or steep terrain, or when you know mountain or Lowland rescue will be hours away from you? It changes the way you prioritise and plan what you do and the decisions you make, so it was great to have a framework to do this with.

It was also great to meet all the interesting and experienced outdoors people on the course, including international mountain leaders. 

It also gave me some great additional items to add to my first aid kit when I am travelling further afield, a group shelter for example. Also lots of ideas on the right things to pack into a small first aid kit that contains items with multiple uses and makes use of other kit, walking poles as splints for example.

A great book recommended to accompany the course is this one;

Plas Y Brenin is a great location for outdoors courses of all types. The bar has what must be the best view in Wales and there are always loads of interesting people around to chat to.

I was camping along the valley a little, with magnificent views from my tent. But I'd be tempted by their board option if I came again, food looked good!

I was then luck enough to have two days free in brilliant weather to go walking. I finally (3rd time lucky) summoned snowdon and had a days walking in the woods about Nant Peris.

The Lowland Leader course was again mostly outdoors. With 5 hours of walking on each of the two days. The aim was to consolidate the practice walks you had already logged on your own and focus learning and experience on all aspects needed to be a good walk Leader.

Lowland terrain is non-technical, not to steep, on marked public rights or ways and not more than 3K from a point where you could be rescued, like a road. My aims for the course are to lead walks, overnight expeditions, navigation introductions and guided nature walks for runners and walkers to get people out on the trails of the Home Counties; ideal Lowland terrain!

The course taught you all the elements needed to practice for the assessment; planning, navigating, kit, fitness, leadership skills, etc. Again the tutor and course was great and I'm fired up to get my practice walks sorted and hopefully do the assessment this year!

Again a great book accompanies the course;

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Running my own sports business, 2 months in!

I’m now two months down the road of my journey into a new career, so it feels like a good time to reflect on the highs, lows and what I’ve learnt.

Most importantly my new job is incredibly rewarding! I’ve worked as a running coach and massage therapist for a wide range of people over the past few months, and everyone has been unique and fascinating. From writing plans for runners aiming for the Ultra Trail Do Mont Blanc, an epic 100 mile race around Mont Blanc, through to supporting people right at the start of their running journey; everyone has their own goals, challenges and successes to celebrate.

I’m really enjoying talking to people, getting to know them and working out how I can best help them. Being flexible with my coaching and my massage treatments to best meet their needs and explaining why I am approaching things the way I am seems to be working well. 

I’ve had some really rewarding sessions in the massage treatment room too; helping students ease out their shoulders, back and neck during exams, treating neck and shoulder tension in office workers, easing out aching muscles in runners, rock climbers, hockey players, tennis players, all sorts! It’s been a brilliantly varied couple of months.

As I suspected I’m not finding the marketing and sales side of things as easy to do. Last week I went to a conference, and tried my hardest to network whilst I was there. I also attended a local business networking and referral group - which if I’m completely honest was one of the most stressful and nerve wracking experiences of my life. Even though I can really see how it can work, it took me the rest of the day to calm back down!

So, I’ve started to approach things in a different way. I know from my career in IT that I’m much better and more natural at forging long term, meaningful, business relationships one to one. So that’s what I’ve been focussing on. I’ve been pounding the pavements of my local high street talking to all the businesses, leaving flyers, seeing how their businesses are going, how I can spread the word about them and how they can spread the word about me. I’ve already had some really interesting ideas and opportunities to work together come up.

I’m getting better at social media, having written myself a plan (you can take the woman out of Project Management etc…!). With a structured approach to Social Media engagement, with the right communities, with good content and timely posts I’m making good progress there.

I’m also learning to spot and keep in touch with personal contacts in the industry, it pays to be curious about what others do and what makes them tick.

So if you know a runner, do let them know I can provide bespoke training plans, technique analysis and group running sessions. Don’t forget about sports massage for those based in Reading too;

Monday, 8 May 2017

Female Coaching Network Conference

On the 29th April (2017) I went to the first Female Coaching conference, organised by the Female Coaching Network and Project 500.

I've followed the Female Coaching Network for some time, and like the knowledge sharing they do across sports and countries. They often have useful articles and profiles, as well as a great social media presence for networking.

The Conference itself was at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford, which was handy for me but many other attendees had travelled much further.  The location was excellent and had great facilities. I'm not great at formal "networking" but there were plenty of opportunities to get to know the people sat near you, at the tea and coffee area and over lunch on smaller tables.

We started the day with a talk from Karen Brown, who coached the Women's Hockey team to Olympic gold. She had lots of proactive and useful advice on how to plan training, make things engaging, how to practice the key skills and demonstrated her passion and dedication by the hours of opposition footage she watched to plan the best tactics. The importance of letting the team define how they wanted to work, what the team atmosphere should be etc and not breaking from that no matter how important the game was important an fascinating.

It got me thinking about what team and psychology aspects there are in running, it's not the same as a team sport but there is a lot to learn.

We had great seminars, the first on how to improve speed of an athlete with sprint training. Lots I already knew, but great to recap sprint mechanics and just how much it can help runners and anyone with elements of running in their sport.

The second seminar I attended was about mobility assessment and improvement for athletes, a great practical session with tests and exercises practiced in small groups which worked very well. Something that will be useful for both my coaching and massage clients!

The highlight of my day was a talk by Lois Fidler, a football coach who was the first woman to achieve the top coaching licence. She talked through her story of working her way to the top of a very male dominated sport, with tips, stories and advice. It was an inspirational talk including lots of management and leadership tips;

My favourite quote of the conference came from Lois;
"Feel the fear; do it anyway"

What a great day!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

LDWA Pewsey Downsaround Race Report

It's been a while since I've written a race report; and I'm pleased to report that on the 9th April I completed a marathon!

The Pewsey Downsaround is run by the Wiltshire branch of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA). You can run or walk their events, in the past I've run them, but this one I walked. They offer a range of different distances from 10 to 35 miles, I opted for the 26.6 mile event.

As with all LDWA events they involve navigation, you need a map and compass and they provide printed directions a few days before the event. These directions rely on a little prior knowledge like knowing how to walk on a compass bearing, knowing to spot the different signs for footpaths and bridleways, knowing the different between and stile and a kissing gate! I find it a great way to track your progress through the event though, as you get to the end of a page of directions and can put it in your rubbish pocket.

The walkers on the longer events set off at 8am. The organisation was absolutely brilliant, with parking, pre event toilets and registration all sorted. There was also a kitchen in the scout hut serving tea and coffee before we set off. The only piece of mandatory kit beyond map and compass was a mug, to reduce rubbish on the course and plastic use, so mine started the day filled with tea.

The weather for the day was wonderfully sunny. so much so that the factor 50 and a sun hat was needed. I went for long sleeved top and trousers as I prefer to be covered up with clothes over being sticky and dusty with sun screen. The day started fresh and cool, but by early afternoon it was pretty hot!

The route was wonderful, with the only steep hill towards the start of the route and from then it was rolling downland, taking in chalk ridges, crossing the Ridgeway, and finishing along the Kennet and Avon canal and the River Avon. 

In terms of pacing I started fairly slowly, at around my usual walking pace of 3 miles an hour slowing up the hills. I fell into a walk with a older man called Stephen who happened to be an expert in local archaeology so I had a fascinating 6-7 miles taking in the various features from various era, from longbarrows to chalk horses.

There were three checkpoints along the 26.6 mile route, all stocked with sweet and savoury snack and a fab cake selection. Also lots of squash and water which was much needed. I never really stopped for long at them as I know I seize up, so I topped up my water and headed out. I brought my own sandwiches with me as I prefer savoury food on events like this. 

For this walk I went with a walking, not running, rucksak from Osprey with a suspended back for less sweatiness! It works with a 1.5 litre camelbak bladder. I worn Salomon GTX walking shoes, with two pairs of thin socks, instead of boots and had no issues with blisters. My walking boots would have been too uncomfortably hot for the weather on the day. Light Berghaus walking trousers and a light long sleeved collared top from Rohan finished off the kit. I carried first aid kit and an extra layer as well as my food, keys and phone in my bag.

After around the 15 mile mark I decided my legs and feet felt really good so I sped up a bit. I have a couple of natural speed when walking and this was my faster pace. The latter half of the course was generally flatter so I felt like I was speeding along despite the heat. Luckily there were some beautiful wooded sections and a little shade.

The last two miles wound their way back into Pewsey along the river and through a nature reserve. I had got a real stride going and whilst I was starting to feel like my legs were getting tired I could keep pushing on. I began to see other walkers who had finished who were cheerily encouraging me on, and then up a last hill and I arrived in the scout hut, 8 hours 11 minutes after I started there.

There was an immediate print out of your results, and wonderful volunteers offering you tea and a hot meal. All of this for £9 entry!

I really enjoyed the event and got a little piece of my post race runner high, which I have been missing for a long time. It meant a lot to be able to cover the marathon distance event on foot again. I may have signed up for a 50 mile walk with the LDWA later this year :)