Friday, March 30, 2012

Why I'm Just Now Doing Something About My Back

First, a quick Friday hike update.

Thanks to the City of Boulder's Web site for the photo. As usual, I forgot my camera.
Will, Ruthie and I went to Coot Lake today. This is the same runner-friendly spot where the Boulder-area run for Sherry Arnold was held. Today's weather was the polar opposite of that cold winter morning: warm, dry, breezy. As seems to be our M.O., we didn't really walk very far, but we made up for it in the amount of fun had. This time the fun came in the form of a Golden Lab whose energy matched that of the kids. They took turns throwing his tennis ball into the lake so he could do that lab-otter thing and fetch it. I chatted with his human mom and tried not to notice the fleets of runners out enjoying the day.

I will run a lot--a lot--at Coot Lake and the nearby Boulder Reservoir again when my back is better.

Speaking of my back, I thought it was time to tell you what had gone on with it leading up to last January's spasm that finally sent me to the doc and physical therapy. I know it seemed to come out of the blue and so I wanted to explain why I just started dealing with it.

My back has been hurting since a few weeks before my twins were born. Here's what I looked like then (if very pregnant belly pictures turn you off, look away, scroll down, whatever):

November 2006

My arm is in the way, but just behind it my poor lower back is painfully arched from the forward momentum of that belly. By December 8, 2006, when I delivered Will and Ruth by C-section five and a half weeks early, I was regularly sleeping with two body pillows and weighed 50 pounds more than my usual 125.

Once I'd had the kids, the back felt much better. But I never really got to pain-free. Think about it. My lower abs were shot, not only from stretching during the pregnancy but also from being under-used then and afterwards. My body had grown used to this state of affairs, and my back was now routinely relied on to support the functions the lower abs are supposed to perform. I didn't do anything about this because....who had time? I had two infants and a job. I barely had time to get out and walk or run, much less rehab my abs.

Moreover, as those infants got bigger, there was more carrying them on my left hip so my right arm could do its thing (whether that thing was dealing with the other toddler or holding the phone or punching buttons on the microwave or folding laundry). As the months and years wore on, it became clear that my LEFT lower back was where most of the pain originated.

I didn't completely ignore this state of affairs. Dan and I, thinking it might be the aging mattress on our bed that caused my ongoing issues (some mornings my back hurt so much I had to roll out of bed), bought a new one in 2009. I attended a class called "Lose Your Mummy Tummy" and went to a holistic massage lady, who said all my problems stemmed from scar tissue where my C-section had happened. (Needless to say, I do NOT believe this.)

None of it did any lasting good. And since no one told me running was bad for a back like mine, and since I love running, which at that time was mostly done to keep me sane, I soldiered on with it. My first post-pregnancy race was a 5K when Will and Ruthie were 9 months old. It took me 29 minutes and change. I was disappointed (my 5K PR, set two years before, is 22:34), but not greatly so. At least I was IN a race.

As the years wound on, I kept running like this and ignoring the pain in my back. I did register that it seemed to hurt more with certain strength training moves (100s, a Pilates move, was particularly spasm-provoking), so I avoided doing a lot of core work (a mistake). But I kept entering races and, as I got more sleep with the kids getting older, my results improved despite the ongoing back pain. I even ran a half marathon in 2008, getting it done in 2:06.

But the race times didn't improve as fast as I wanted, and I found myself regressing. In the spring of 2010 I ran the Bolder Boulder 10K almost a minute slower than I had the prior year. This sent me into a depressed spiral. Could it be that my early 30s were really my fastest epoch? Surely not! There are tons of stories of women setting PRs well into their 40s. So I decided it was time to train again for real.

And my back? Well, running wasn't the thing that really aggravated it. Needing a big goal, I decided to go for a Boston qualifying time, started this blog and began training for marathons again. I didn't even consider my back, except to vaguely hope it would just....get better on its own.

I did pretty well until late January, when once again I tried to focus on my core. And you know the rest.

What's the moral of this story? Don't ignore pain. It WILL slow you down, if not right away, then eventually. There are things you can do about it. Yes, these things may take longer than you want and may involve some pain themselves (not being able to run IS painful).

But what we all want is to be able to run until our race is truly over. That's what I'm aiming for now, even if it means BQing by 41 or 42 instead of 40. (I'm still hoping it won't come to that, though. :^) )


  1. Great post!  And, I love that picture...just beautiful.

  2. I can so relate :) you WILL get there!

  3. What's the moral of this story? Don't ignore pain. You are right on the money on this one!

    Believe and you will BQ!

  4. My back was never the same after kids either although core work has helped me a lot as well as not constantly having a kid on my left hip.  Love the belly picture.  Get your back figured out then your BQ will be that much easier!

  5. You look so cute with that belly!

    Seems like we all need to keep learning that same lesson again and again.  I'm glad you're getting help, and that you're in such good hands.  I fully believe you'll have that BQ one of these days.  And, better yet, you'll be able to keep running for a nice long time.

  6. BostonboundbrunetteMarch 30, 2012 at 9:12 PM

    That's a big belly for a little person like you but I guess you had two in there!  I might not BQ until I am 50 for all I know but that's okay with me as long as I get there!!  Hope your feeling better!

  7. Wow - you carried tiny!  And you had twins?!?!  

    Amen on the don't ignore pain!  Although, in your case, it wasn't pain that was so wretched that it stopped you in your tracks.  That type of pain is hard to decipher...much different than someone with a knee pain that brings them to their knees.  You are doing the right thing and are on the road to a BQ!

  8. It pains me to admit this, but my hips started really hurting again.  It went away for a week or two post-section.  I am going to use your wise example and call my sports doc this week.  Also, you look GOOD for having TWO babies in there!  I am in awe of parents of multiples because I thought one baby was tough to fit in there!

  9. You are so cute preggo with twins!  I don't think I took any pictures like that, but I should have.  I only gained 26 lbs with mine and it was all baby.  I've gained 26 lbs since my foot fiasco - and it's NOT all baby! :(

    I was just talking about BQing again with a friend.  Funny, I thought I had that out of my system.  It does have a pull.  I know you'll get there!!  :)

  10. 40ish! Just keep on doing what you do.

  11. Sadly, sometimes the aches and pains override goals and desires :(  Hoping that the rehabbing goes quickly for you!

  12. My goodness, were those two kids ever in your belly? Time marches on and on!! I just love that picture!

  13. You are gorgeous, pregnant with twins!

    So, good lesson here for us all. Hope that you are getting better daily. Keep up on those exercises.

    I love your hike site photo! It looks so tranquil.

  14. Great picture of a beautiful belly!
    As I wrote since last year the PT is part of my routine. Every week one hour of therapy and when I can (and I want) a relaxing thermal bath. No more pain in my back.
    I hope you feel better soon.

  15. It's amazing how much pregnancy can change our body.  You're so right, pain is not to be ignored! Runners really struggle with this, I think. 
    Hope you're having a good weekend! We have some family visiting, so it's been really nice (although I'm way behind in blog reading!)

  16. Oh my goodness, Terzah.  I can SO relate to this post.  I have had 3 instances where my back hurt so badly that I literally could not move.  Caused by basically the same reasons (though I didn't have twins, I gained as much weight as you did!).  About 3 years after (my) Will was born, my back went out one day and I could not move it hurt so bad.  I went to see a chiro and once it got better I started running more and also found Pilates.  I loved Pilates and really feel like it changed my life.  I even became a Pilates teacher!  When I was pregnant with Gus though, he was my biggest baby by more than a pound and it was hard on my body. my back went out about 2 weeks before he was born.  It was awful. After he was born I tried to resume running and doing Pilates to re-strengthen my core.  It was a long road, with setbacks and recovery.  But I kept at it.  Now I make Pilates almost a daily thing - when I foam roll every night at home I also do 5-10 minutes of Pilates.  Plus 2xweek of strength training at the gym.  It is a LOT of work.  But I agree with you - the pain of not running is way worse. So it is worth it to me to make the time to strengthen my core.  Also, it has absolutely helped me with improving my running!  Sorry for the long comment :o)  Hope you feel better soooooon!!!

  17. scarlett elliewoodApril 1, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Great post and one we should all be grateful for. Women talking to each other = more happiness, less pain!

    My mom has really bad back problems and I dont want to get to that point ever. My back bothers me a lot--- caused by looooong work days, stress, and any speedwork. Pilates has been my saving grace and I hope it stays that way. Good luck with your recovery!

  18. I can not believe how great you look pregnant with twins!

    Funny how we keep thinking we are treating our pains but many times we are not doing all we could. I spent over a year not being able to bend over all because I was scared of the chiro.  A few visits later and all back pain/stiffness was gone. Crazy I lived that way for a year.

  19. You look so happy in your pregnancy pic. :-) Though I'm certain it was tough on your back to carry those two around for 9 months! It's great you're finally working through this. It is SO easy to put these things off because you don't have time (or you're worried about what they will tell you), but it is worth it to care for yourself and emerge stronger. And you will!!

  20. thanks for sharing your story.  It's so easy to see how "life gets in the way" and it's easy to overlook aches and pains. 

    I have a friend that is my age and had twins (17 years ago) and she has constantly battled back problems since they were born.  The good thing about being in Boulder - is you found something to get to the root of the cause instead of just prescribing muscle relaxers and pain pills as in the case of my friend.

    Considering your injury - it really makes your Houston Marathon that much more impressive!   As you know - I think you are doing the right thing to make sure you are healthy for many years in the future.  :)

  21. Thank you for sharing this.  Your back IS going to get better and you will BQ.  I believe it.