Tuesday, 8 April 2014

#SpoonieRunning - A Journey From Couch to 5k

If you follow me on Instgram then you might have noticed me mentioning SpoonieRunning and my attempt of couch to 5k (which is 3.1 miles for people like me who dont understand these new fangled measurements).

So whats the deal and what is a spoonie anyway?

First off the term spoonie comes from the excellent spoon theory and is a way of explaining chronic illness to people. You have a set number of 'spoons' a day and each activity costs a spoon so you have to decided what activities you are going to do. Of course you can borrow one of tomorrows spoons but then that will obviously mean there is a knock on effect.

So what makes me a spoonie?

I am disabled - I know that shocked you a disabled person running! How?

Most people assume that disabled only mean mobility impaired and someone in a chair and unless its an Olympic games year disability in sport is not something that is in the mainstream.

Not all disabilities are visible and not all disabilities cause mobility impairment that requires aids.

I have a complex set of chronic conditions, I have blogged about them before, I am very open about my illnesses. But here is a quick run down of a few (yes a few I do have more):
ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) - I have had this for many years gone through different stages and flares, I am one of the lucky ones. For me it means I suffer cognitive issues (brain fog), fatigue, recurrent sore throats, headaches, sensitivity, pain to name just a few. But here is the rub a big part of ME is post-exertional malaise - this isnt normal tiredness and it does not normally develop until the following day and can take several days to improve.
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) - for me I get what I refer to as Hell Periods (gut twisting, nausea, dizzy I just want to curl up and die pain), but also it comes with other stuff like increased risk of stroke, diabetes and difficulty in losing weight.
Chronic Back Pain - well you know, what it says on the tin.
Wonky Joints - I have a lot of joint issues but the ones I moan about the most are my knees. They are hypermobile and the kneecaps have a habit of becoming misaligned (basically sliding out of place) and therefore they dont track properly and cause pain.

So why I am doing a couch to 5k running plan?
Simple keep moving to keep moving.

A few years ago I got pretty bad my ME was spiralling out of the realms of control and then Easter 2011 my back went into spasm, ok I thought I get back pain from time time normally a bit of heat rest, painkillers and it goes away.

Not this time.

Collapsing on the floor and being stuck down there and having to call paramedics out to get me up was not on my list of fun things to do on an Easter weekend.

Progressively my back got worse. It then seemed to ease off a smidge and then went back into major spasm and nothing would help. This and trouble with work sent the ME way out of control and I had a major anxiety episode (all things I've blogged about before so I am not going to rehash the past).

Anyway initially I was told there was nothing I could do to help my back other than keep taking the cocktail of medication I was on to keep the spasms manageable. My mobility had gone right down to somedays barely being able to walk a few steps unaided and others I could manage a little further while holding back tears. And that's when I got offered a place on a local NHS run course for suffers with chronic back pain. It was a different approach combining physio, pain management, understanding medication (already had a pretty good handle on that one) and group discussions (you know the you are not alone methodology). For the first time something really clicked and it helped. Also a big plus point was the nurses and physio running the course understood about my ME and the physical aspects were very much tailored to what you could do and they helped me to assess other ways of doing some of the stretches so I wouldn't cause additional pain to my knees.

Following on from that I plucked up courage to ask the doctor for a physio referral for my knees (I'd not had very positive results before) - then my neck and then my hips. Suddenly physio made sense and I could see and feel the benefits - the right physiotherapist really does make all the difference.

Through this process I have learnt that I need to keep my muscles strong to support my wonky joints and thus it reduces the pain. But also my pain increases and mobility decreases as soon as I 'stop' for a period time.

It all comes back to the I need to keep moving to keep moving. But while doing this I also have to balance my complex health needs.

I know that I am in a good place health wise to try this, my ME is more undercontrol and with all the previous physio I know that slow and steady works and I also know if and when I need to take to take a break.

I also dont want people to read this and get the wrong idea and think ME is made better through exercise. It isn't. I know my body, I know when and where I can push or try to push my limits. I know that I have had periods when this would have been lunacy and would have made me worse and jeopardised my future.

But at the same time I don't want people who have chronic health conditions to think that simply means they cant do it. Exercise and making a positive change doesn't have to mean getting all sweaty there are many simple stretches that you can do in a chair (search chair exercises for limited mobility). If you do decide that you want to try and increase fitness my advice is always to consult with your doctor first.

So I am following the NHS couch to 5k plan this seemed like a good solid plan to start with well documented results also I dont have a fancy phone that will run all the current fitness apps (zombie run really appealed to me) so old school podcasts was fine for me.

And so I started.....

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