Running with Arthritis

Not many people at 27 can say they’ve arthritis. I wasn’t actually expecting a consultant to list a joint replacement as a way to sort out some pain in my foot. He did though, so that was great…

Thankfully, a joint fusion or replacement is the last resort for this kind of thing; do not fret! Over the last 2 years I’ve been running consistently (about 3 times a week) every week. The pain in my foot eventually became a bit too much, though… No one should deal have to deal with Chronic pain at any age, so I was eventually convinced to see my Doctor. Here’s my experience… It may be very similar to yours… or very different!

I have had arthritis in my big toe for around 4-5 years, unbeknownst to me. I assumed the pain was a tendon injury and would get better over time, but it didn’t… I just got used to it. Eventually, as I began running more, and getting better and faster at it, this pain began to interfere. I was injuring myself due to overcompensation. I was cutting long runs short and avoiding entering marathons for fear I’d not be able to do them. This is obviously not right, so I decided to see the doctor. The doctor gave me ibuprofen gel and sent me on my merry way. Great.

One evening, I went to a physiotherapist to look at my knee which had developed tendinitis (Though I was pretty concerned that it, too, was arthritis)…. It got better, though and turns out it was yet another injury caused by my foot pain. The physio urged me to get an x-ray on my foot as I should not have experienced pain and discomfort for as long as I had.

I went to my GP the following week (I know, my Dr Surgery is pretty good with appointments). My GP referred me for an x-ray which I had a month later and was kindly told that there was signs of osteoarthritis and she wanted me to get an MRI. WHAT THE FLIP?

Following the MRI I was referred to a specialist surgical consultant who offered me Cheilectomy. A procedure that essentially shaves off bone spurs that have developed and that are causing me pain and discomfort. Well that of course opened the door to many a question, such as:

Was this my fault?

– No, this is something that would have happened had you been a runner or not

Will it make me completely pain free?

-That’s the plan, though it’s not guaranteed. It might make it better but it won’t make it worse. Over time, the arthritis will come back and it may be that the joint is fused or replaced, but that’s for future Kate to worry about.

How long will I not be able to run for?

-Its different for different people. It could be 2-3 months, it could be 6 to a year. As long as you look after yourself, the quicker you’ll likely get better.

Most importantly, how long will I get off work?

– You’ll need at least 2 weeks, maybe 3?

 

Wait… Time off work?

SIGNMEUP

Just kidding…. Kind of

 

Anyway… I eventually got a date for surgery which gave me about 6 months before I’d have to hang up my running shoes for a while. I made the most of my summer, I took part in Endure24, a 24 hour relay race, completing 35 miles over that time (It was amazing… Blog post coming soon) We arranged a beer mile at our local track which was hilarious and I improved my 5k, 10k and Half Marathon times. What I’m most proud of, however, was my half marathon time PB is now 1:40… ONE HOUR AND FORTY!!!?? This was also a week before the op, which was insane. I never thought I’d see the day.

This pain in my foot was holding me back so much, mentally. Once I knew what was wrong, found a solution and was told the running wasn’t the cause, it was like a switch went off in my head!

Day of the op:

So, the big day arrived… First ever surgery, first time put under general anesthetic and I was kind of pooping my pants… I arrived at 6:50am after cycling to the hospital… There was a beautiful sunrise and not a car in sight. Super chill start to the day.

I was whisked into a day ward where I was assessed, given a gown and had the procedure explained to me. I was super nervous so it was like talking to a brick wall, but I remember the anesthetist explaining that he was going to numb my foot when I was under general anesthetic. FUN!

There were 4 of us on the ward, and I was the last to go in. This meant I was allowed a coffee and some toast … SCORE! Finally. after waiting all day and watching people get wheeled away one by one, it was my turn. I was wheeled down to theater.  I sat and watched other patients coming round from General Anesthetic which actually soothed my nerves.  I had to give my details, sign some forms and tell them my date of birth for the 10th time and then went to the operating room. I remember talking about cycling to the anesthetist and his assistant and then waking up back in the theater waiting room with a freezing cold foot and feeling a bit drowsy.

Once I’d discovered that my foot wasn’t in fact cold, it was just numb I realised I was DESPERATE for a wee(nice) and absolutely famished. Turns out I don’t have a bad reaction to the anesthetic and was fairly fresh once I was fully awake… Lucky me.

I was brought onto a ward where my bloods were taken, I was given my pain meds and was visited by my mam, gran and boyfriend who all brought me chocolate, crisps and grapes. The rest of my stay was uneventful. The little old lady in the corner snored all night and I couldn’t figure out how to use the bed. I watched netflix most of the time and ate my chocolate. Eventually, I got sick of being stuck in the upright position, and instead of buzzing for the nurse, I texted my nurse friend to ask how the electric beds work…. Come on, Kate.

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I was then assessed in the morning, given some crutches and shown how to use them and then sent home. I got a taxi with my mam and gran who came to chaperone me, and spent the next two weeks with my foot elevated and food made and presented to me every day…. Thank you, BIG TOE!!

2 weeks post op:

The first 2 weeks following the surgery, I was instructed to stay on the couch and not do anything other than make some tea and go to the loo. This was absolutely fine as the Codeine was knocking me out after every dose, so….

By the second week, I was walking on the most part without the crutches and the codeine wasn’t having as strong an effect on me. I went to my friends wedding which wasn’t a HUGE deal. I sat down mostly, elevated my foot as much as I could, and ALWAYS used the crutches. Still, I found I was putting weight on the outside of my foot which was causing some new discomfort there… Good one, Kate.

4 Weeks post op:

Back to work! I’m managing walking okay, though I’m still placing a lot of my weight on the outside of my foot. I had the dressing changed, and the sutures are healing okay. I’ve been changing my dressing myself now, and have found that the bottom end of the stitches is taking a bit longer to heal… Doubt it’s anything to worry about.

The pain is still there 😦 I’m stretching and flexing my foot as much as I can following the instruction of the Hospital Physio. Ibuprofen has been a huge help!

 

I have my follow up appointment with the consultant next week so I’ll update after that! Hopefully I’ll get a good idea of how long I have to wait before I can start running again!

 

I definitely do not regret getting the procedure and it’s very early days. I do have a LOT more mobility in my toe, and despite the stiffness and soreness, I can feel an improvement and can tell the bone spurs are gone! If you’re experiencing any pain, please make sure you rest and take your time. If it continues, you really need to visit your doctor for a referral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decathlons BTWIN Triban 500

In 2015, in my desperate attempt to change my life and lose weight, I came up with an amazing idea of cycling to work rather than take the bus. I saved up, bought a LOVELY hybrid and it was great! It was something I’d wanted to do for years, but I had anxiety about crashing, or making a fool of myself (classic Kate… Though I did crash and it cost me £175 and a seriously bruised hip… and ego) After I bought the hybrid, I signed up for a sportive due to take place in 2016 called the Tour o’ the Borders as my job were offering discounted entry and a bus to the start line. Despite trying to go on 20 mile rides on this bike, I was really struggling to keep up on the long training rides with the BOYF and we were starting to worry about how I would be at the sportive in a couple of months.

I agreed that I would rather have a road bike and that I could buy a second hand one, or a cheap one and sell it if I decided I didn’t want to pursue road biking as a hobby. The boyfriend suggested the Decathlon in house bike the BTwin triban 500 as it was super low cost and had raving reviews. It was around £280 and so again, I saved up and bought it. This was in time for one training ride… I’d never used clipped in pedals before and I was honest to God TERRIFIED. I would go on training rides and be more exhausted from the fear of riding on the road, clipped on to my bike rather than the actual effort of riding.

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Btwin this year in the Peak District! Great Ride!

I thought I’d include some specification, despite being super uneducated on the subject! It  has an 8-speed micro-shift chain-set and I believe many of the components are in house brands (Decathlon).  I came to learn that this group-set was not all that great. The chain-set was almost impossible to change without them grinding. That said, this could be down to my lack of experience and poor understanding of the gears and how they work together. The breaks were okay, but I struggled to reach them (Get a bike fit, kids!) It took me a good while before I was happy enough on the bike to go onto the drop bars, which made gripping the breaks 100% easier….

Overall, the bike is really nice to look at. The Blue details on the handlebars and the carbon grey finish on the frame makes it look super professional and I honestly did not feel out of place on the road or at the Tour o’ the Borders. I’ve covered miles and miles on this bike with little to no issues, and I would honestly recommend it for any beginner. At 10.8g it’s super light, which means you can fly down big stretches of country road (not necessarily over many of Northumberlands’ roads… no shade) and you can really power up impressive climbs. I rode it over Wrynoes Pass this summer in the lakes, and Ryals here in Northumberland.

I think, if you’re really looking to start out, Decathlon are absolute stars with their in-house bikes and I doubt anyone would turn their nose up at them. You’ll get complements for days ESPECIALLY when you tell the lads at the cafe stop that you paid around a grand less for your bike and are covering the same ground hehe.

How to start running

Yes! You want to start running! Great, good, excellent! As someone who tried and gave up multiple times before running finally clicked, I’ve typed up 5 things I’ve learned that contributed to my improvements and motivation over time.

 

  1. Find a running buddy

I think this is a pretty tough one for most people. I fortunately have a boyfriend who runs a lot, runs well and has done for years. He was my encouragement, and I often refer to him as my coach as he helps me come up with plans and goals to help me get where I want to be. These goals are based on my own ambitions and its amazing to have someone to hash them out with. If, like me, your friends don’t particularly want to run, it may be worth joining a group. Joining a group means you’ll be surrounded by like minded people, you’ll feed off each others enthusiasm and there’ll always be someone going to a race on the weekend that you might want to tag along to.

I’m a massive introvert and occasionally socially anxious, so when I’m with a group, I always feel like I have to fill a silence. When you’re running, you don’t have to; people are understanding if you’re out of breath or working hard and it’s just… in general, less awkward!

2. New Kit!

Honestly, new running clothes make me feel class! New kit day means I want to go out and wear them…. Sooooo shallow, but tell me I’m not right. Have a look at Sportsshoes, Wiggle and Start Fitness; they often have some really good deals and you don’t need to spend too much for some quality kit.

3. Trainers

I am an over-pronator, though I’ve never had an official gait analysis. Over time I’ve noticed patterns with any injuries I get, and have found that extra support trainers work for me. My favorite are the Sauconey Guide series, preferably the 7s or 9’s though I’m fairly sure they’ve discontinued the 7’s… which is sad 😦 .

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Guide 7

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Guide 9’s

You’ll learn what works for you as you go, but I would still recommend putting down a bit more money for trainers as they’re a pretty important investment if you want to enjoy your training! Still, checkout the websites I mentioned earlier, you might get a really good deal!

4. Sign up for races

I made a resolution in December 2015 to sign up and run at least 5 races in the new year. That helped motivate me to keep training because the more I ran, the easier racing got! I got away with running about once a week at my local Parkrun for a couple of months, but as the desire to improve increased, my boyfriend and I agreed I should probably run more. That’s the point I decided to join a club. Clubs often run twice a week and one of those sessions might include a workout; hill repetitions or speed repetitions. I couldn’t see the point in these sessions, but as time went on, I started to notice big improvements. My race times were getting quicker and I was starting to enjoy my longer runs. I would have never done these kinds of sessions on my own, so it’s really worth considering a club if you’re looking to improve or even enjoy running a bit more.

5. Be easy on yourself

In reality, you’re only going to get out there if you WANT to run. You’ll have to force yourself a lot in the beginning (and sometimes long after you first start out), and running for a club can be daunting. I know I get exhausted in social situations, so pairing that with running was pretty tough. I also used to be right at the back of club runs, having the faster runners come back for me, or wait for me to catch up. I persevered, I had this WANT to be better and I’m now one of the faster runners in my group and I can’t tell you how proud of myself I am. I also now see how much I do not mind doubling back for the slower runners… I also really don’t mind stopping and waiting…. Turns out, no-one minds! *mind . blown*

It took me 2 years to get to where I wanted to be, and I’m not prepared to stop. I love running, I took my time and listened to the support and encouragement from my faster friends. Look after yourself, take it easy and if you get injured don’t get disheartened. Look up ways to strengthen weaker areas, tell yourself you’ll pick up where you left off before hand and you’ll do great!

 

The hardest part is convincing yourself that you’re good enough… And you are, so just go for it!

 

 

Why I run

Running is amazing for your mental health. It releases endorphins which trigger positive feelings and helps you get fit and healthy. It’s obviously not a cure, and you’ll need to work on a lot of areas to figure out your brain; but in general, it increases your self worth, motivation and low moods (or at least it did, mine). I started running to lose weight… nothing else. I ran 2 half marathons, one in 2012 and another in 2014. This was while I was at my heaviest weight and barely trained for either of them. I hated each one, and gave up… Incidentally, my depression became worse, my weight increased and my self perception was incredibly low.

My low moods are caused by performance anxiety, which I would think a lot of people would suffer from quite often in their lives. For me, it’s meant I feel I don’t deserve anything, which in turn contradicts the part of my brain which thinks I should be happy and can’t understand why I’m not. It’s held me back at work, my education and my social life, and it’s taken me a long time to figure this out. When I decided to start running again in 2016 (That’s another story), and began to get fitter and faster, it was like a switch in my head. I referred myself to Talking Therapies because I finally felt I was worth the help, I took advantage of things that previously I wouldn’t think I deserved/was capable of like endurance cycling and Leading running groups. Its been a beacon of light and has helped me, albeit slowly, improve my every day life.

With all that said, there are downsides to everything. You can begin to rely on something too much which in turn gives you something to blame for when everything goes wrong. I get injured a lot. I was finally diagnosed last year with arthritis in my big toe (Hallux rigidus if you must know….) but previous to that, the pain it caused, meant I was overcompensating and overuse injuries were common. I pulled my hip flexor (which is SO PAINFUL) I also got patellar tendinitis last winter which meant I was out for 4 months which was killer. My moods PLUMMETED, I was anxious, controlling my calories and dreaded putting on weight.

It’s a love hate relationship, and it’s something I have to learn to overcome. This winter, I’ll be out for another 4 or so months. The aforementioned arthritis has now been “surgeried”, I got a Cheilectomy (Google it – I’ll do a post about it in future, though tbh) 4 weeks ago and I’ve been couch-bound most of that time. Since I was able to mentally prepare all year for this eventuality, I actually enjoyed the rest. I read a lot, Netflixed a lot and ate a lot…. ( I mean….. I’m not going to stop people bringing me giant Toblerones to make me feel better… The grapes are alright…) Now, I’m back at work and I’m starting to get agitated. I’m noticing weight gain, I’m less motivated and I’m getting serious Fomo on my running club group chats… Especially now Cross Country season is here. All the negative things I was working on are starting to creep back into my life.

I did prepare myself for this, like I said and I’ve really enjoyed resting over the last few weeks at home. I’ve loved the visits from friends and family and its been nice knowing that my lack of leaving a horizontal position was actually helping my recovery. It was doing nothing for something. This surgery means I will hopefully enjoy running more when it heals, and that is something to look forward to. I’ll be able to watch myself improve again, lose weight again and that is something I will never take for granted. The improvement, the Personal Bests, the socialising is something I will always thank running for. While all the little negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviors are starting to come back, I know that I’ll slowly start running again. I’ll slowly start cycling again and in time those awful self deprecating thoughts and behaviors will be subdued. So I mean, I don’t hate running, really. I mean, now that I love running, I hate it when I can’t….

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