June Blog - Gymnastics of the foot and the mind
Written for trainingtilt: The only all-in-one solution for triathlon and endurance coaches.
A monthly update from Amelia Rose Watkinson on aspects of pro triathlete life - March 2018
This month's word: anagenesis; a biology term for the linear evolutionary process of development defined by its surrounds. This month; I’ve improved my grit scale. Developed a greater understanding of our wild athlete mentality. Gained a little bit of real estate knowledge. Had a more exciting than last time excursion to Melbourne. And continued my not so new anymore found love for swimming, the gym and the turbo trainer. Song; Purpose by Askya. Coffee; McIver's new guinea gold brewed with a Moka pot.
Gymnastics of the foot and the mind
Last day of crutches. I would credit myself to say I’m reasonably agile on them now. They’re bright purple, made in France, purchased in Thailand. People are surprisingly courteous with doors and narrow passages etc, though surprised its possible to do such a thing from running, and are less keen to take up the sport, inspirational fail? Around the house single-legged hopping tended to be my goto, crutches render your hands useless, and daily simplicities aren’t so simple (when Alex isn't home!). The ultimate challenge was getting my coffee from the kitchen approx 10 meters to the outside table, the most effective solution was bum shuffling along the floor with my oats and coffee alongside. There's room for further design in this department.
I’d have to admit it took me a bit longer than normal to write this blog post. It wasn’t until the very end of the month that I managed to tidy my headspace. My 2 weeks of sit-down and recover time where certainly the trough of my challenge period. But were also the cultivating period of my mental strength development and founded an exciting new addition to life on the sunshine coast.
My foot matter totally got the better of me for a while, it came in bouts and it lasted close to a month. I felt like I didn’t have control, I couldn’t help feeling ‘down' and I felt like I didn’t have a purpose. I knew I had to get myself out of it, work out why my mind was playing with me a little more than normal, and how I was going to combat it. “Every time you find some humour in a difficult situation you win”. - Snoopy
Why the blues
There are actually a few unusualities with my feet, I could never be Cinderella. The stress fracture was a warning sign and was made far more complicated than it should’ve been due to travel, lack of insurance and too many different people and ideas. Of course, it wasn’t simply that I have bad feet that were causing my psychology to colour the walls instead of the paper.
I had already defeated the decision that I was sticking with the sport, I’ve got plenty of untouched goals to fulfill and have worked out a lifestyle to facilitate it. But I was still in a holding pattern. I wasn’t able to race, do my job, which acts as my daily whys, motivation, goals, and provides finance. I was used to traveling all the time, constantly having things to plan and look forward to. I wanted a home base for consistency and logistic ease but it was still something different. I wasn’t bored, I have a never-ending to-do list on the notepad of my phone. The big hit was that I wasn’t training. I wasn’t getting the mood booster from simply being in sunlight and with trees. I wasn’t getting the feel-good feeling from the release of endorphins, or the good exhaustion feeling that forced me to relax and sleep. It was like my brain was left with excess energy to over analyse everything.
Hippocrates recognised ‘depression’ in the 5th century BC and treated it with sleep, diet, herbs, and water baths. In the 1930s everyone went nuts and thought electroshock therapy and lobotomy was the answer, by 1960s the pharmaceutical industry boomed. Now we’ve gone back to Hippocrates ideology, though seeing as being obese is no longer a sign of wealth and skinny fit people aren’t peasants, exercise is incorporated into the cure formula as well. There's a not-for profit in San Fran, Back on my Feet, who organise daily walks for the homeless, where with consistency they receive further assistance in job training, literacy, and housing. The New Zealand drug and alcohol treatment facility organise daily exercise in their rehab programs. And more and more studies are coming out outlining the effectiveness of structured exercise participation to manage mental health issues.
How to move mountains
Part of my problem was that I couldn’t exercise, however, there was a lot else I could do. I read plenty of optimistic mantras and tried to avoid the triggers of unproductive thoughts. I made sure I ate well. I try to do this anyway for optimised training but it was actually even more important while I wasn’t. I made sure I was big on the green veggies, fish, seeds, beans, and grains. And (for me) minimised sugar, meat and dairy to keep my gut healthy, my blood sugar levels and hormone levels reasonably balanced. I use supplements (vit B complex, magnesium, zinc, calcium, vit D, and about half of the True protein range) so I don’t have to eat a jar of tahini, a slab of tofu, 50 brussel sprouts or 1kg of chickpeas to get the vitamins required. I slept a lot. Probably too much. But eventually, a balanced amount of quality hours and a consistent routine of going to bed helped, and gave big bone and tissue healing gains as well. Also as much as I love athlete life and triathlon, I value other aspects of life as well. A key approach to keeping myself mentally level was to focus my attention and thoughts into another interests and projects as well.
“Distance and difference are the secret tonics of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.” - Jonah Lehrer. I wasn’t going to be inspired by solely sitting at home with reading material, so with plenty of kudos to Alex, I made sure I dressed happy and got out of the house for a couple of hours every day. We found a new favourite coffee shop, ‘the library cafe’ just back from the Noosa river, their ice coffees are very awesome; a double shot long black, a vanilla bean all natural ice block, served with a brass straw and a love heart dark choc drop. We did some op shopping, top items include a giant hand-carved wooden bowl, a striped rainbow beanie and an anchor-shaped wine rack. Went on a few mini crutch walks along the beach and into some inland rural towns followed by bakery lunch or a cafe claiming the best Sangria in town. I started renavigating my architecture degree skill set, looked at getting some work in the industry with travel flexibility. Looked up a bit more about the area and devoted Saturday mornings to open home viewing.
Auction at the Airport
Near the end of the month, it was Alex’s birthday. It's nice to catch up with friends and family so we popped down to Melbourne for a birthday bbq, some city culture including good galleries and coffee, and a gentle reminder of how warm we have it in the Sunshine Coast. Our airport process was a little different from normal. We only had carry-on luggage, and we also had a the realty auction night via phone bib. With my lack of racing lately I’m a bit out of practice of getting nervous, this situation made up for it. Crouched in a quiet corner, our cheeks stuck together with the phone in between, to hear the auctioneer on a loudspeaker. There were 4 other bidders, and the whole process took less than 10mins. With wobbly knees and all, it was my final bid that won the Auction! We celebrated with some thick cut fries and craft beers.
I had a visit with Mitch and Paul at the Avenue Hospital, with my fingers crossed that my foot with its additional 3mm plate and 6x17mm screws were looking on track a month out. More good news, it was! In a couple weeks, I can start a walk program and in a month walk-running. Dash (the Polizzi family blue healer) decided my crutches were an escape tool and every time I left the ‘herd’ he barked and attempted to round me up. I’ll also highly recommend the North African cuisine at Abyssinian, a range of lentils and curries served on a giant share plate of fermented bread siding a 1litre decanter of red wine. Also visited three very thought-provoking exhibitions, one about women's rights and the 'gorilla girls’, one about our identity and one about war and migration.
Swim, gym, and ride
It's been a rewarding gradual build back into training. 10 days post surgery I was allowed in the gym for as much core, arms and one-legged moves I could handle. A few days in I graduated to some sensational rower workouts in my moon boot to get the heart rate working. Good battle session: 20min warm up, then a ladder set of 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, 120, 90, 60, 45, 30, 15secs, all done best effort zone 5 HR with 90-120sec rest in-between each. Freshness and over keenness got me on this one, combined with my gym session I was left with a rewarding yet painful full body muscle burn for a few days.
My half cast bandage came off at 2 weeks. I was instantly distraught that I couldn’t wiggle or spread my toes, but soon reassured this is in the normal range, as what happens is the excessive blood to the area sticks the nerves together like glue and has to be massaged out. My swim game was now back on. The first one back wasn't quite like my rower session, it was actually awful. Thankfully my coordination eventually returned after a few days of consistent easy swim hours. When I return to swim squad I was lucky the seniors were away competing and I could join the juniors who were doing speed work. At least make the time cycles. I had to remind myself that I’d had 2 weeks completely off, plus the surgery, plus a couple of slack weeks prior. Confirmed by the coach especially with a surgery rather than a well learnt rest break, it was going to take me a good month to get back to where I was, and that’s the beauty of sport, you’ve got to work hard for it. But fit people heal fast!
After a seemingly long 3 weeks, I was donning the cycling shoes. I started on the turbo before getting in a few flat in the saddle spins. I've had a couple of weeks of unlimited riding now, and am including some 1 legged drills to get my power balance back. Yesterday I did a Vo2 set of 6x3mins 2min recovery followed by 6x2mins 3min recovery, to say the least getting to sleep was no problem. Its all about capitalising on your small wins.
So I made a solid headway into my coping mechanisms, bought a house (or at least the front door), and am making steady progress to being back on the start line. So much more to give in the sport. The second half of my race season yet to be confirmed.
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward”. - Steve Jobs