... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Well, my well-intentioned foray back into exercise felt incredible but quickly resulted in a sore foot and stiff ankle. It's amazing to me that just walking can cause such a dramatic response in a foot that has always been strong and flexible!

It was so great to put on dri-fit and spandex again (never thought those words would escape my mouth) and even better to be outside again. I went for my walk in the early morning around 7:30am, as the birds were still singing and the air still had that cool, day-hasn't-quite-begun-yet feel to it. The colors were gorgeous -- bright greens, deep blues, golden light. The short, dead-end road that I used to find way too short to run on seemed like it was ten miles long. My calf muscle and ankle felt oddly wobbly and spaghetti-like after only about ten minutes. But it still felt good, at least until three hours later.

I had forgotten the little joys of my workouts -- the way the wind rustles in the grass and the wind on my face, the feeling of being headed somewhere and the warmth of working muscles. The smells had changed since the last time I was out. Late Spring has brought with it new flowers whose scents drift on the breeze and surround me, encouraging me to breathe deeply.

I had also forgotten the silence. The sounds of my house are familiar; the cat running back and forth, the blinds bumping up against the windows in the wind, the cows in the field next to my yard, and more often than I like to admit, the TV blaring its endless nonsense. On my walk, all was silent except for the grass, the wind, and the ocean. I felt calm and focused, perfectly at peace. Ah yes, I have missed this.

Since I am not even close to ready to tackle the hill leading from the main road to my house on the bike, I put it in my car and dropped myself off at a spot that is decidedly more flat. I did about two miles down and two miles back, a complete joke compared to the distances I had grown used to but I didn't want to burn myself out and get frustrated by a long ride too soon. The nuances of the ride that I had forgotten so quickly startled me: the noise of the road under the tires, the feeling on tiny pebbles, and the differences between 1st and 5th gear. I kept feeling like there was something wrong with my bike when in fact I am simply so unhabituated to the feeling of being on the road that everything felt off.

Even with my awkwardness, however, it was nice to be back on the bike. I love the speed and the feeling of my surroundings flying by. I rode slow and easy and it felt wonderful. My legs are definitely out of shape but I know it will come back quickly. All I can do it tell myself that plenty of people have come back from much worse injuries and that with proper rehab and effort, I'll be back to where I was (and beyond) in no time. Frustration gets me nowhere.

It didn't take long once I got home for my muscles to start protesting. My calf immediately got sore and my ankle turned into a stiff, painful mess. The metatarsal area even felt tender, so I iced the foot and ankle for 20 minutes each, then put on the boot to give some extra support while they calmed down. The pain was mild and continued for the rest of the evening, and I was a little concerned that I had made a mistake by going out and exercising.

Cow friend I met along my walk
The next morning, the soreness was gone and I think my ankle even felt a little steadier than it had before the workout. I'm taking this to mean that there are definitely benefits to putting some stress on it, but that I should probably back off a little from the schedule I had so excitedly put together.

The more I think about it the less my logic makes sense. Why was I thinking that it would be smart to start a daily workout schedule just days after I get the all-clear to remove the boot? It makes more sense to give the foot a little while to adjust to the new arrangement before stressing it. I was just too excited.
Dog friend who wants to bike with me

So here is my new (adjusted) plan:
Walk twice per week, 20-25 minutes only
Bike twice per week, 30-35 minutes
Swim twice per week, 10-15 minutes

June 23rd I'll go back to the previously shown schedule. I'm hoping that going easy for another week and a half will do the trick. I guess we'll see. 

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