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A funny way to cure an injury?

Coming into this weekend I have been dealing with several injuries.  Yet, I chose to race in a 10 hour adventure race in the Blue Ridge Mountains, even so.  Wise?  Probably not, but I made some changes to my usual race plan to reduce the risk of injury (taped the shoulder real well, purchased a new pair of pedals that are really easy to un-clip to  reduce the risk from a fall, and simply planned to not be in a position of too much risk).

The interesting thing, is that not only did my shoulder feel OK in spite of a separation just 18 days prior, but I have also been rehabilitating a hip injury, and that felt good.  So I want to discuss the hip.  It really started in September of 2010, when I was doing some yoga as a warm-up for a workout.  I was pushing to gain a position that looked really easy to the instructor, and ended up being painful for me.  Over the ensuing week, it got worse and worse.

Since then, I have been able to get it to a good state at times, usually followed by a re-injury from something I would think would have little effect on it.  I bet you have all experienced something like that.  A nagging back ache, that seems to follow no pattern of well, or ill.  You do something so small that you would have never expected it to hurt you,  but it results in weeks of pain.  Well, that has been my hip.  Annoying for someone who doesn’t like to rest.

Recently, my hip has gotten to a point of full on aggravation, primarily because I was doing something that would aggravate it.  You know, I can teach a lot better than I can follow.  Anyways, in the last five weeks, I have had pretty significant pain at times.  Then, I hurt my shoulder, and would you believe in an attempt to perform a workout that would not hurt my shoulder, I over aggravated my hip, and brought the pain level up another notch (this probably looks like a lesson in stupidity by now).

So now we arrive at the real point of my writing.  How do you heal a hip?  How do you make a separated shoulder feel better?  The very unlikely choice of racing on it for 10 hours, might just be the answer.  When you do an adventure race, you never know exactly what to expect, which is why they call it an adventure.  We canoed and ran and biked (mountain) as we expected, but we had some unexpected terrain along the way.

When I run, I tend to run more on my forefoot and toes than I do on my calves.  This style of running is called pose, or chi, or primal, etc.  The idea is that we were made to strike on the front of our feet, because we naturally do that when barefoot.  If you add a fat heel pad to a shoe, then we alter our stride to strike the heel.  BAD.  So the motion of running could actually be therapeutic to a bad hip, if running correctly.

So here is the outcome.  At 6:00am, I was stretching my hip aggressively, trying to loosen the muscles along the front of it, so that it wouldn’t bother me.  At 8:00am the race started, my hip was tight, and I was shivering in the cold morning.  While my teammate ran up a mountain for the race prelude, I leisurely set up our canoe for his return.  We jumped in the canoe, and my last memory was hip tight (my shoulder was aching a little at this point, but nothing unusual for my injury).

At 8:45am, we were swimming for our first of three times.  This happens when you canoe down a river full of small rapids, without knowing the river perfectly.  We had just commented on how well we were doing for not having any issues yet, and boom.  We later commented on how we probably should have been “thankful” for not having hit anything to big, vs. the self praise that we used.  Oh well.  The water was freezing, but on the first two we only went in thigh high.

Our third swim was a little more significant.  We both went head under for a bit (life jackets on), and had to fight the current in order to get ourselves to the side of the river to right the canoe, and re-secure our belongings.  When we finished the canoe leg, we had to run several (5-6) miles of trails and woods to collect six checkpoints.  At some point during this run, I realized my hip wasn’t hurting.  Later on, as we biked up incredible hills, I noticed my hip wasn’t hurting.  As we pushed our bikes up even more ridiculous hills (we probably pushed about 5 miles total in this race), I realized my hip wasn’t hurting.

Running the correct way, following an ice bath, had a significant therapeutic effect on my hip.  It has felt fine ever since the time before getting in the canoe.  Will it stay that way?  We’ll see.  But it proves a point to me… activity will always be more beneficial than you can expect.  Their is a time to rest, and a time to move.  Too many times we find ourselves in a place where we are stuck not moving out of fear.  Be sure you don’t spend too much time doing that.

So.  My shoulder did well.  I never fell, though the new pedals and shoes did allow me to get out of the clips really easily, the shoes tore up my heels, so I will be wearing flip flops and walking funny for a bit.  All in all, I gained a lot of value out of the race.  I pray that my hip continues to be well, and that you will learn something from my experience.  Be well and blessed, Dr. E

PS – if you are interested in the correct footwear to run the way I described and looking into Chi running, check out Natural Strides in downtown Woodstock.  They have shoes that are good for walking correct too.   And if you want to look at Paleo Running or Pose Running, be sure to check out The Garage.

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