Back pain & Barbells

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happy Monday! So an area of my life I haven't really updated about recently has been my training/working out. I was focusing on Whole30 and everything else in between so much that I haven't really talked about it here.

First of all, my back. Since the first week of January I started experiencing strange back pain that started while studying for my first big exam of the semester. It started as a poking sensation that I only felt if I was hunched over at my desk. Annoying but not a big deal, still had to study. Slowly, it started to bother me when I flexed forward or extended backward. Interestingly, the pain was mostly in my upper lumbars while having some soreness in my lumbosacral area.

Right around that time, I started my Crossfit Elements class as well. I'm sure all the pushup and burpees only served to aggrevate my condition further. Up until the end of January, though, the pain and discomfort weren't affecting my running but it was starting to spread to my right side and didn't go away as quickly. I was able to manage the pain (ice and stretching) & still push through my workouts but it was really bothersome. My Crossfit coach suspected that my glutes weren't firing properly so I started doing a few drills to work on that, as well. 

At the beginning of February I noticed my back was really starting to get angry when I ran. By this point, I had gone to see the doctor (actually a NP). They took an X-Ray and prescribe physical therapy since the issue was so acute. No "red flags" like radiating pain or anything that might suggest a disc herniation. My PT suggested that I stop running and scale back on Crossfit until I could stabilized my back.

In the course of my 6 weeks of physical therapy, we determined that I probably had a disc protrusion due to stress and strain on the ligaments/supportive structures around my disc. When I would bend backwards, in particular, the disc would poke out a little bit and make the motion painful. Our goal was to push the disc back in and heal the surrounding structures with LOTS of press-ups (up dog in yoga), perform soft tissue on my muscles, and correct my muscle imbalances. 

Like MANY people, my abs are pretty weak and don't fire in a way that supports my back. My glutes also don't fire properly when I run or lift - guess who takes up all the slack? Your back (and hamstrings)! Throw on top of that sitting A LOT plus poor posture, then it's no wonder why I had so many problems!

So 6 weeks later, I'm finally done with physical therapy! The last two weeks or so were when I saw the greatest amount of progress. At first, I felt like my back was getting worse when I first started therapy but I'm glad I stuck with things and put the effort in to get better! Right now, things still get stiff or painful if I over do it but I've been able to get back to running with no further pain. 

More than likely, this problem will have a tendency to reoccur so I have to stay on top of my strengthening exercises. Lots of glutes, abs, and back stabilization! I bought a nice big ice pack so I can ice my back after longer runs or intense workouts. I take much more frequent breaks while studying and always support my spine with pillows. Trying to do MORE mobility, stretching, strength, etc. instead of focusing all my energy on one or two things.

Speaking of energy...running. As you may know, I signed up to run my second Flying Pig Half Marathon (third half) that is coming up in May. Actually, I signed up for the 3 way challenge - 5K/10K/half but because of my back injury, it's looking like I probably won't be doing that. I'm still aiming for the half as long as I can ramp up my training accordingly. I ran an easy 3 miles for the first time in weeks about 1.5-2 weeks ago. Then I realized I was signed up for a 10K race so I decided to wing it! No back pain during that and a PR to boot. 

My goal now is to scale my mileage up without aggravating my back or getting another injury. If I feel like I'm ready for the half, I'll run it. If not, I'll probably scale back to the 10K and decide what to do from there.

To be honest, my heart really isn't in this half marathon. Maybe it's the injury or maybe it's because my interest has shifted elsewhere...I just don't feel as excited about this one. With the weather finally warming up, maybe I'll get out of my rut and really kill the rest of my training.

And finally...Crossfit. So after all that running and back injury talk, you're probably like "why were you still doing Crossfit?" Well for one, I'm stubborn. And for two, Crossfit doesn't bother my back nearly as much as running did, particularly when I focus on using proper form. Since I've only been doing this for three months, I keep my ego in check and I haven't been maxing out my weights. If movements start to bother me, I either a) check my form b) scale the movement/weight c) stop and do more press ups (seriously haha). The only things that really bother(ed) my back are pushups and burpees (sometimes overhead barbell movements, too) but that has all gotten better as I've gotten stronger.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed I signed up for the Crossfit Open because I have major FOMO and, again, I'm stubborn. The Open is a competition across the Crossfit community - Crossfit HQ releases a workout on Thursday night and everyone has until Monday night to complete the workout for a score (reps, time, weight, etc.) at an affiliate gym or via video. You submit your score and are ranked against everyone in your gym, region, country, and worldwide. 

Obviously, my goal was just to finish it. I had NO IDEA what to expect! Our gym encouraged everyone to compete because they opened a new "scaled" division this year so that more people could participate. My gym decided to make the Open into an intramural competition where we were divided into 4 different teams and competed for spirit and participation points. 

Doing the Open really helped me get more familiar with the Crossfit community and forced me to push myself to try something new! I really enjoyed it and I didn't do too bad, either! 

So that's where I am right now!  If I started to share my weekly training plan, would you all be interested? Like maybe every Monday I would share what I did the past week as far as running/Crossfit/gym workouts?  Let me know! 

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the 10K PR. Glad your back is doing better - hope it stays strong :)