Woe is Me / Fat Arses and Cake

I’ll admit it: I’m fed up. It’s been three weeks exactly since my last run – you know, the one that put me firmly out of action for the Rome Marathon 12 days later, and also catalysed the depressing spiral of back-related issues which, over the course of the past 21 days, have included – but not been limited to – the following: General/dull lower back pain/stiffness; acute lower back pain; acute pain in right buttock (particularly uncomfortable when sitting down); shooting pain in right shin (particularly uncomfortable when walking); numbness in lower right leg (problematic when attempting to walk due to tripping over of self); tingling in toes of right foot, inability to walk without being in excruciating pain (especially when involving stairs).

For the past five months I’ve been an exercising powerhouse. Now, all of a sudden, it’s a struggle just to walk around the block (and when I say walk I mean hobble at a woeful pace – put it this way, in a sports day full of geriatrics right now I’m pretty sure I’d come last). The worst thing is not knowing what the problem is – well, I have a fairly good idea it’s something disc-related, but have to wait another fortnight for an NHS physio appointment to establish the root cause of the injury, and thus begin the arduous process of trying to fix it. In the meantime I’m floating on a sea of unease, unsure whether to rest, to exercise, to use heat, to use ice, to take this painkiller or that one – or just to drink copious amounts of wine (always the preferable option). And, as is always the case in these situations, everyone’s an expert, so I’ve been inundated with (mostly very helpful) suggestions about what I should and shouldn’t be doing – my concern being that surely every back injury is different, to some extent, so what works for one person might not work for another (in trying someone’s suggested exercises, therefore, might I not be doing myself more harm than good?).

Since my lowest ebb last Friday I have at least managed to keep away from the Tramadol – a last resort in pain relief (though really floaty light) – although the diazepam’s been making reappearances from time to time when the pain wakes me in the night (as it did last night). In my more positive moments I think it’s getting better and chide myself for being a big baby, but in the lower ones when I’m writhing on the floor with pain or unable to climb the stairs without feeling I might pass out I just want to give in and cry. I’ve been signed off work but my conscience won’t allow me not to work from home, so to add to the frustration there have been repeated attempts to access emails remotely and locate files from the server that I’m sure I’ve sent myself in the event of this eventuality but which seem to have deleted themselves spontaneously upon sending.

Put simply, having a bad back sucks. This experience has been exhausting and depressing in the extreme, and has made me feel enormously sympathetic towards all who suffer chronic back pain every day of their lives. I can at least be fairly confident that with time and patience (the latter sadly not being one of my strong points) I will heal, and that one day (soon? Please God, let it be soon) I’ll be back in the gym and training for my next big challenge, whatever that may be – but not everyone has that luxury. So I will close on a positive note: Normal service will resume shortly. In the meantime I’ll be sitting on my increasingly fat arse eating cake.

Image

What I may look like soon if I can’t start exercising…

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A Bridget Jones Post

Talk about going from yin to yang in one weekend. Whereas Friday saw me leaving my coat and house keys in an unknown location in Clapham at 4am after an impromptu night out with friends, Sunday has seen me complete an 11 mile run (in a very respectable hour and forty eight minutes I’ll have you know – if I run at that speed for the whole marathon I’ll complete it in under my target time of four and a half hours. Though I’ll admit that is a BIG IF), make some headway with planning the marathon fundraiser in February and cook a lasagne. Tomorrow needs to be more productive still if I’m to catch up with myself before going on holiday two weeks today (whoopee!), although annoyingly I now have ‘buy new coat’ and ‘get new set of house keys cut’ as unwelcome additional items on the to do list.

On another note entirely, when I started this blog on the first of January I wasn’t sure I would be able to fulfil the commitment to post something every day. Now, as I sit here writing the post for December 15th I can hardly believe there are only 16 posts left to write before the end of the year. What I’ll do beyond that I haven’t yet decided, but whilst it’s unlikely I’ll continue posting every single day, I’ll definitely continue to keep a regular blog. The ‘Bridget Jones’ posts (as my Dad not-so-affectionately refers to them – and, given this weekend’s antics and posts that description’s not all that wide of the mark…) are always cathartic to write, the fiction posts entirely different and yet arguably more important where the future direction of my writing is concerned. In February I plan to dig out this year’s NaNo novel, dust it off and start the ‘real’ work of editing. Because, I’ve decided: 2014 is going to be my year. And, like Bridget, I won’t let anything or anyone stand in my way.

‘W’ is for ‘Well’

It’s funny the effect being under the weather can have on the mind and body. I use the term ‘under the weather’ because I’m referring not to a state of full-blown illness, but rather one in which you exist in a perpetual state of feeling just below par, as one feels when afflicted with the common cold. You’re not too ill to work, or do the weekly shop, or even to socialise with friends. But all the while you’re acutely aware of not being the best version of yourself; hardly surprising given that your body’s putting all its effort into fighting off the bug that’s threatening your immune system, leaving little energy for anything else.

It’s often not until you’re fully recovered that you realise quite how below par you’ve been feeling. I found this out today, when I donned my trainers and went for my first post-cold run. This time last week I attempted a run despite having a scratchy throat, and was forced to turn back after ten minutes through sheer exhaustion. Since then I’ve laid off exercise entirely, feeling uncharacteristically unbothered by my lack of exertion. But today, for the first time, I woke up full of energy. And I just knew I was better.

When I set off on my run and settled into a comfortable pace I felt as if I could run for miles – which I did; five of them to be precise. Each one was as glorious as the last, and as I ran from Clapham to Battersea, around the park, along the river and back in bright sunshine with new music playing on my iPod, the world felt as if it had righted itself once more. I returned with a smile on my face and a song in my heart: It’s just so wonderful to be well, and better still to have those occasional moments when you actually appreciate it.

Multi-tasking madness

Today I’ve been thinking about this article which I read in last week’s Stylist magazine which claimed that, rather than being a productive use of our time, multi-tasking can actually make us less productive – and can even be damaging to our health.

According to the article, when we stop what we’re doing and redirect our attention to something else – for example if we stop writing an email to check a text message – the first task can actually end up taking twice as long as it would otherwise have done. What’s more, when we’re interrupted from a task it can take a whopping 25 minutes to get back to our original task – talk about a waste of time!

Multi-tasking, therefore, isn’t really doing multiple tasks at once but rather switching between tasks, which, apparently, makes us more stressed and less able to focus – in all areas of our lives. And speaking as someone who falls firmly into the multi-tasking camp – I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve usually got at least three to do lists in my line of sight at any one time, all of which I’m simultaneously attempting to complete something from – I have to say it does.

I’ve always thought that skim reading emails whilst heading off pushy sales calls was a genius way to save time, but when the email’s been sent and the sales call closed down I’ll often struggle to remember what either was about. In fact, I’m going to make a confession – just a moment ago I saw an email had popped into my inbox and switched my attention completely to that. And you know what? When I first came back to this and tried to remember what was in the email it completely escaped me!

So, it’s a fact; multi-tasking does make me feel stressed, and if the example I just gave is anything to go by it may even be damaging my cognitive health. But how can I extricate myself from this cycle? They (whoever ‘they’ are) say the first step of recovery is to acknowledge you have a problem, in which case I’m already on that bottom rung.

From now on when I think I’m being super-organised by trying to do multiple things at once I’m going to check myself and realise I’m just working myself up into a perpetual state of anxiety. I shall take a step back, prioritise the items on my list(s) and work through them in a logical and methodical way. When I start each new task I’ll put my mobile phone on silent and turn off the alerts on my email, only allowing myself to check them once that particular task is finished…Hang on, this is all getting a bit complicated. Maybe I should make a list. Will someone pass the Post-its?

Question: When shouldn’t you multi-task?
Answer: When you’ve been drinking cocktails on San Antonio beach in Ibiza all afternoon and MTV approaches you to record a message for their viewers….Yes, we did, and yes, it was aired. Repeatedly. Though thankfully I don’t have Sky.