The next blog in my exercise series in the lead up to #IWD (International Women’s Day) on Thursday 8th March is on running and who better to write it than Jane Cannan, one of my fantastic physios, who herself is a (some would say) fanatical runner. A couple of years ago, Jane was all ears when I said I want to set up a proper running clinic to formalise the process of returning women to running. So many women have said to me over the years how much they miss their running- that it was critical for their mental health- but they were terrified to return to it after the birth of their children.
I too have been guilty of being reticent to allow them to go full hog at running, especially if they had prolapse (*)and it was a relief to have someone who not only loved their running, but became a running coach through Athletics Australia and passionately embraced the opportunity to set up the clinic. You can all read about the running clinic here – what is involved, how to book in, what are the steps before the actual running assessment, but what I wanted from Jane this time was a more emotional response to her running.
Because I’ve only used running as a way to get to a tennis ball on a tennis court – I’ve never particularly enjoyed it and that feeling only intensified after the birth of my three beautiful children (prolapse issues). But from the second I met Jane (after I recruited her through Facebook) I realised running was increasingly overtaking her life (did I just say that?) and she has become almost a professional at it.
Jane completing her first marathon
I’ve used this photo many times when writing about running and the pelvic floor and the running clinic- but I never tire of this incredible image. The absolute joy, relief and ecstatic wonderment expressed by Jane in this photo as she completed her first marathon is what every woman feels when she gets back to running after having been deprived of it for months/years/decades because of childbirth.
That’s what I thought Jane would write about when I asked her to write a paragraph about running from an emotional viewpoint. What I didn’t expect was hear her own pain story – one which has released a huge emotional response from Jane today as she recalled and wrote about her own experience of facing a future perhaps deprived of not just running but one filled with persistent pain. Read on and enjoy!
Running is something that I love to do and I know exactly why. Hands down, top of the list it that it helps me know and have confidence in my body. It makes me breathe and shake out tension and of course I love how it lets me have a social life in very comfortable active wear with zero concern about my appearance. I’m ecstatic that it’s also physical activity which I’m told is good for my heart, over the moon that it’s repeated weight bearing which is good for my bone density, thrilled that it helps my knee cartilage and vertebral disc health and I could have shouted from the roof tops when I learnt this year that research has shown it to boost my immune system by keeping my bone marrow healthy. But truth be told, for me it’s all about how it proves that my body can be trusted.
You see, despite running for as long as I can remember there was a time when I didn’t. As a young 25 year old PE teacher I hurt my back and it scared the pants off me. I was in a small country town away from my support network, and trying to prove my youth to the class, I hurt my back. Taken to the nearest town nearly 2 hours away I had an MRI and was told that my debilitating pain was coming from a disc in my back. The specialist told me that I should be very careful with my back in the future and that it would likely happen again at some stage. Running would be like asking for trouble sooner. So, as I lay frozen with pain, fear and grief for the loss of the person I thought I was for 10 days on the floor of a parent of a friends friend’s place, my brain, despite the 25 years of happy free movement before hand, convinced my body to be fragile. This was of course strongly reinforced upon return to work when the workplace assessment team put plans into place to limit all bending. I know everyone was trying to prevent more problems in the future, but the message I heard was: “Don’t bend, don’t let go of your core, you are fragile”! That message, which I now know to be incredibly misguided, sparked a thirst in me to find out more about the human body so here I am, 15 years later passionate about helping people trust their bodies.
Fear of movement is a terrible feeling. If you had told me 15 years ago that by the time I reached 40 I would have run 4 marathons, 1 ultra marathon and countless ½ marathons, 10k and 5km running events I would not have believed it possible especially not without the help of serious pain killers. It took a while, but with constant learning and some wise words and guidance from some incredible physios along the way, I am here, free to feel limitless. My aim now is to keep movement part of my normal and running regularly is my favourite way to achieve this.
From my fingers to my toes I want my brain to always remember that movement is good and stiffness is not required here. Whichever activity your chose, do it with purpose and feel the wonder of your movement.
Now I have bolded that last sentence because that is the message I want all you incredible women reading this blog to have as your take home message. Thanks Jane for sharing an amazing story.
*Also remember that many times a pessary can be fitted to allow you to run and exercise freely without fear that everything will fall down.
Some of Jane’s run buddies (in uniform)
If you would like to be seen in the clinic specifically for running advice, please ring the rooms on ph: 3848 9601 and tell our secretaries that you would like to book in for the Clinic or pre-assessment, even if you are currently seeing myself or one of the other physios at the practice. Jane, Megan and Martine all conduct running clinics. Appointments can be self-booked here, so that patients can directly choose a time to come along and be assessed by our physios. Alternatively, you can check in with our receptionists to be booked into a session.