11th March 2018

The Long Slow Road to Recovery …. Part Two… by Karen Duxbury-Watkinson

It has taken long and hard 12 months to get to this point.

I have had some serious rehabilitation from all the conventional routes, physiotherapy, counselling, management via the pain team under the hospital. I have an amazing chiropractor who puts me straight once a month after some intensive corrective sessions.

I started Strala Yoga and found a community of wonderful people who are supportive and non-judgmental, and I am finding that exercise helps with managing pain. I was nervous at first and those first sessions were scary. Just getting there was the big step as it involved driving. I don’t go as often as I did. But I have benefited from increased strength and flexibility and the mantra of you don’t need to sweat to do exercise. Slow and steady is great. Gone are the days of feeling the burn.

I’ve learnt about boom and bust and pacing myself to conserve my energy and recognise the signs in my body. I’ve had to adjust the way I tackle certain challenges. Meditation works wonders on slowing the brain down.

Alongside, I have the most amazing Solution Focused Clinical Hypnotherapist Sarah from Evolve who is working on me from the inside out, helping me look forward not backward, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. The brain is the key to managing pain. Manage your thoughts, your perception, your internal world and the external world doesn’t seem such a bad place. She has helped me rediscover my intrinsic worth, skills I’d forgotten I had. Helped me re-evaluate who I am and who I can become alongside my condition. She reminds my brain what I am capable of and prevents it from stopping me. She keeps me grounded when I feel sometimes it is all falling apart.

I am also part of an amazing community called #teacher5aday. Where we support each other to focus on our wellbeing by looking outside of the classroom. It’s based around the following ideas. Notice, Exercise, Volunteer, Connect, Learn.

Every February we have a focus on fitness called #fitfeb where we post via twitter our fitness activity, effort every day. The organiser also creates various challenges for us to take part in if we haven’t got a clue where to start.

This time last year, the thought of even taking part in any form of exercise filled me with dread. Every part of me hurt from my hair to my toe nails. Gone was the spinning, the walking, the swimming. But this year I was determined to do something different, see the month through to the end.

I started with setting myself a Yoga challenge, so linking up my Fitbit to Fitstar I was doing a session a day at home and posting the results. The encouragement I received was motivating, caring, encouraging. With the increased movement and improvement in myself I was seeing every day was immense.

I then got talking to my incredible friend Rachel W who had taken up running last year and had completed R.E.D January and is in training for a marathon, and I was talking to her about how I used to run over 30 years ago but now it was out of the question.

My shins, feet, knees wouldn’t take the pounding, plus I didn’t have the mental strength any more to hit the pavement or the energy to get out there day after day. No matter what anyone said about the benefits of running to your mental health, or overall wellbeing, plus the benefits to you shape!

But somehow something stuck, a spark had been lit. She had told me about the Couch to 5K BBC app. Ever the curious and in the spirit of #Learn I downloaded the app and looked at what it would expect a new runner to do and how long it would take to get to running a 5K.

Now I’m usually up for a good challenge but since my accident my brain and body have both changed and I am now filled with anxiety, self-doubt about my abilities. My mental and physical strength that I have always relied on to see me through the tough times had been wiped out and maybe this to me was a way of looking to get some of that back. The work that Sarah was doing was paying off.

Hence, I looked out my old trainers from under the bed, covered in dust, put on the most decent sports bar I owned, found some yoga pants that not only stayed up but didn’t make my behind look like two ferrets in a bag fighting to get out. Found some running music because I knew I’d need something to keep me going. Strapped up the dodgy knee, fired up the first run podcast and off I went with the lovely encouraging tones of Sarah Cox in my ears. That was Thursday 8th February.

Considering we are now Wednesday 7th March and I am writing about this, means that I completed week one, and two and felt remarkably OK. I felt that my body was recovering. I did have to leave a bit longer than a day between a couple of the runs. Did some recovery stretching and yoga when I really couldn’t face running in the cold, rain or snow, I did do one snow run! A dry day runner is how I like it.

Rachel had invited me to join another amazing community called Run Mummy Run on Facebook, full of inspiring Mums, all following their own special and unique running journeys.

But then a hiccup. Somehow, I missed a week of running and skipped straight to week 4 without realising.  I was doing a 3-minute run and Sarah Cox’s voice was telling me that I’d done one of these before and it was all cool. Yet my brain and legs were going “What! No, you haven’t!” However, because of my brain fog, and general forgetfulness, I just ignored it and kept on running through the programme. It was only when I got home to realise that yep, I’d missed a week.

Well no turning back now, I might as well keep going on Week 4, so the 3 and 5-minute runs were completed, somewhat slowly but done. No wonder everything hurt so much.

Therefore, I am now on Week 5, I have completed runs 1 and 2 and now staring down the barrel at my first 20-minute run.

I never in a million years thought that if someone had told me last year that I would be running for 20 minutes in the next few days before my 50th birthday. I’d have laughed in their face and retreated to the sofa.

It is amazing that with the help of a supportive husband and children, online communities such as #teacher5day and Run Mummy Run, where strangers become virtual friends. That support can be found, ideas shared, triumphs celebrated, and tribulations commiserated. Total strangers offer advice, support or just a cheer when you feel that you can’t go on.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself, how much I can achieve even though my body is not the same as it was. I just must be kinder to it now, do it slower, it is not a race. I must take my time, because I will never be totally cured, or fully back to the way I was. I’m a different me. A new me.

I will complete my Couch to 5K, I don’t know whether I will enter a race, or even do a park run. I’m not even sure that I can say I’m enjoying running yet! 

I don’t know where this journey will take me, yet.

I know I will just keep running.

But one thing is sure…

It is a long slow road to recovery.

Follow Karen on the links below:

Twitter : @KDWScience

Strava: Karen Duxbury-Watkinson RMR


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