Wow, seven chapters on my physical therapy visits! I never knew I'd be writing such a long (and boring) book.
It's about to get longer, too.
Here's the quick and dirty summary of my appointment with Cathy (back from Australia and all tan):
1. No needling today (I'm glad to have had a break from that)
2. My sacro-iliac joint looked good to her. I'm now allowed to remove my SI belt for four hours a day. I still need to wear it at other times, and most especially when I'm riding the recumbent bike, walking for exercise, doing weight-lifting and doing my PT exercises. As I'm typing this, I'm out of the belt. While I don't miss the constant wedgie, I am missing the support a bit. But I figure that's OK. I'm near the end of the four hours so it makes sense.
3. My abs are getting stronger! Cathy thinks I'm close to being able to do those elusive leg lifts on the Swiss ball.
4. BUT...and here's the big BUT (or maybe I should say BUTT)....my glutes are still far too weak to consider running on them yet. She ran me through some tests that confirmed it: I have a serious case of white-girl butt. This explains many things: why my finishing kick in all my post-pregnancy races has been lacking; why it's so much harder for me to power up hills when I'm hiking; why I tended to avoid lunges and squats in weight training class.
Cathy actually quantified what I'm in for thanks to the weak bottom: three more months of no running (though I may get to hop on the Alter-G sooner). I think it's a good sign that this didn't surprise me much. On a trip last week to the park with my kids, I saw from afar as my son fell off his bike. I ran in his direction...or tried to run. I felt it instantly in my SI joint....and at that moment I knew that, geez, if I can't even jog over to help my crying kid, I probably shouldn't be huffing it around the neighborhood yet (even with lots of walking in the mix).
5. I have new PT exercises for homework. They all involve the glutes. I plan to attack those suckers. Buns of steel, that's what I'm going for. It took me six weeks to get my abs to where they are now (and yes, I'm still working on the abs, too). I know I can expect the same amount of time for the glutes.
So here are my priorities, in order:
1) Do everything necessary to rehab my back. This means a) do the PT exercises the prescribed 3-5 times a week, 50 reps each and building, b) learn to sleep on my sides and back, relinquishing forever my beloved stomach cuddle and c) be vigilant about my posture and lifting technique.
2) Maintain my cardiovascular fitness so it's still intact when I return to running (I know the running muscle strength won't be there--nothing I can do about that). This means the recumbent bike is my best friend. I've even named him Pitbull, after the vulgar-yet-charming-and-certainly-catchy hip-hop dude whose music accompanies me on all my "outings" on this bike. Move over, Mario Lopez--I have a new Latin lover.
3) Maintain my weight. So far, so good on this. But I know I can continue tweaking my diet to include even less sugar and even more fruits and veggies. I'm wondering now if I can even lose a few pounds and finally hit the low 120s. I'll be writing more about this later.
4) Improve my sleep habits. More on this in a later post as well.
5) Do upper-body weight work.
6) Remember that these months away, which are crucial to my long-term health and my abilities as a runner, will someday be just a blip in what I hope will be a lifelong relationship with trails, roads and running shoes. I can and will take as much time as this problem requires.