let’s continue the saga a bit

So yeah, I am sure the 3 readers are wondering whatever became of intern girl and MG.

It did not end well.

I had a bit of a plan to speak to my coach on Monday and just kind of let him deal with it from there.  Unfortunately when i arrived at the gym on Monday, I got a text from him telling me he had to cancel my session and if I wanted I could have a session tonight.  I agreed and told him I wanted to talk to him about something that was really bothering me.  I should have said, I  need you to ditch the intern.

Because after 20 minutes on the ARC trainer, a device of torture I am sure, she came smiling up at me.  Bless her heart.  I couldn’t really take it, so I got off the machine, told her I needed the coach and walked away.  She looked confused.

Coach and I had a bit of a heated discussion.  Him trying at first to tell me that “this was out of character for her” and he was finding it hard to believe.  That lasted for a minute or two until I pointed out that he had witnessed some of the behavior himself.  I knew it was unintentional, but it didn’t make it any less difficult for me to deal with.  He looked at it then as a learning moment for her, and apologized.  He tends to think that because he was casual with me, she felt she could be as well, and that she essentially believed that I was as much a friend to her as to the coach.  I’ve known the coach for about 3 years, her…like 3 days, but..it is easy to take the lead with someone.  He also tried to find about 20 other reasons for my severe reaction to her.  I don’t know but I know I’m not a fan of her.

So I have no idea what he did with her, but we had our session. It went fine.  Today was another session, which also went OK without intern.  I feel very hesitant though because I hate to make problems.  I hate to be difficult and I hate that I reacted so strongly to someone who essentially means nothing to me. I also hate that it may have undermined her confidence in herself, but I just wasn’t really able to tolerate it.  I also feel that it affected the way my coach works with me, though I frankly think he knows some of it was actually his fault also.  The whole thing was a mess, as he said, “Some people just aren;t good for interns and I should have known that you would have not been the best match up for where you are.

She is done with her internship tomorrow. I wish I had known that, I might have just sucked it up.  It will be an enormous relief to have her gone, because sadly the few times I’ve seen her since I’ve had the same reaction…  If they hire her, we will have to reconcile a bit, but I think that isn’t going to occur…. of course it could to just make my life even more interesting.  Still I just do not see that happening.  I’m sure she will get a great review from the Coach, and I think it will be fantastic for her to move on…move along….

Just think positive…. a pitfall for coaches and others as well.

I had a really interesting experience this week while working with my coach and his intern. It concerns the oft used phrase “Be Positive” or “Just think Positve”

There is a tendency these days to emphasize the positive.  Nobody likes a negative Nancy.  It’s also true that someone always has it worse than you. Coaches indeed often repeat a worn out “Think positive” phrase multiple times.   In appropriate context it can really really work.  In the wrong context it can ultimately sink what might otherwise be a winning combination of coach and coached. I’m going to write a bit here about use of this phrase and others and also reflect a bit on why it is so overused currently by coaches.

Lets look at the example of my current experience with our training center’s intern.

Thursday, we walked over to the infinity pool, and she said, “I can see that I’m going to have to get you to be more positive” after I said I wasn’t really “ready” for this pool workout and that I knew it was going to be difficult and new. (It was all of those things, and I still loved it.) I wasn’t sure exactly why I was expected to be jolly about something entirely unfamiliar and uncertain, especially considering I am in recovery currently, not just trying something new for fun. We weren’t going for an ice cream after all.

I decided she probably just failed to understand that I’m in a very early recovery phase from surgery. All activities that I am doing are pretty difficult, when they used to be quite easy.  It is frustrating and doesn’t really engender thoughts of ponies and rainbows.   So I tried to explain it to her. She reflected back a statement about herself. Stating, “Well I will never not be active for 6 months if this is what happens” She also commented that she wished she had seen me prior to the injury, kind of like she did not believe me. Not a whole lot of positivity there.  She mentioned that I should just smile and be happy that I was “working to adopt a healthy lifestyle”.

I got over it again, and then the final straw occurred.  I came in on Friday with a lot on my mind and was trying to focus in to start some small sets, and she looked at me and did this:

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I really lost it.  Firstly, I’m working out.  Why on earth does anyone need to smile while doing wall balls.  I LOVE wall balls… but I don’t tend to smile a lot while doing them.  I admit, I was tired and frustrated and being told by someone that I needed to “smile” put me over the top.  I was never really able to refocus on the workout.  I did some stuff, kicked around, was very angry and also kind of mystified as to why was I so mad.

Lucky me, I had breakfast on the agenda this weekend with my friend who is a kid’s psychiatrist. He busted out laughing at how irritated I was, and explained to me why exactly I was so annoyed, then he pointed me to google “Why Just be positive is so annoying!”  And here I present to you reasons for coaches and others to avoid the “Just think positive” pit fall phrase

1. It invalidates the person’s experience. Look here if you are curious about exactly what that means.  The less positive person is told that their feelings aren’t accurate/acceptable and that what you are experiencing is actually something else.  This can be a bit overwhelming, and if that person, like most people, identifies pretty closely their feelings, they can feel a little bit like “if my feelings aren’t legitimate, then neither am I” When someone is going through something…best to let them suffer on through it, rather than to tell them that their suffering doesn’t really exist.  Because telling someone to be positive does not seem to make their experience of emotional distress disappear.  If one is trying to reframe experience it is best to validate their experience and then also mention some positives.

Sample Interaction:

Intern: are you ready for this?

MG: No! I don’t know what we are going got do and I think it’s going to be really difficult to do.

Good Response: It might be hard but I think you are up to it. (inspires confidence), it might even be fun.

Good Response: It’s great that you are able to do somethings now that will move you forward to more things that you used to do. (refocuses athlete on WHY they are doing this)

Good Response: Hopefully you’ll get something positive out of the session that will move you forward. (emphasizes positivity without invalidating concern that this might be difficult etc.)

If you are feeling super duper annoyed by Negative Nancy athlete try this for a response:

“I know it’s hard to feel as if you’re back at square one. You seem to be feeling negatively about it.  I’d like to help you have a more positive feeling about what we are doing now, so we’ll work on that today during your session.”

2. Telling someone to be positive, when they aren’t being that way can shut down communication. If you are a coach or a teacher or counselor…you want your athletes/students/clients to come to you with problems.  If that person believes the only appropriate response is some sort of “happy positive response” they are more likely to simply shut down communication and attempt to solve the problem on their own because it’s only ok to talk if you can say something positive.  If you do not know the person is having a problem it’s very hard to help them with it.  Over time in a coaching relationship…the coach gets frustrated because the athlete appears to be doing their own thing, and the athlete gets frustrated because they are often unable to fix certain performance problems without help but also are unable to ask for the help they need for fear of being told to “just be positive”…. The athlete is considered “uncoachable”  and is at the same time completely unsure of how to become coachable.

As an example

Intern tells MG to Smile and Be positive! MG starts to do some of the more difficult specific exercises on her plan and becomes frustrated saying, “I can’t do this”  Intern tells MG: remove that T! you can! You need to be more positive!

MG at this point walks away or slugs the intern.

BETTER: I think you can do that exercise, you are strong enough. Let’s try again.  This does not open communication, but it does express confidence and reinforces that the athlete can do “it”.

BEST: Is there a specific problem that is going on with the exercise?  Is it the breathing, the placement of your hands, or the initial movement? How can I help you succeed?

Also OK in certain circumstances:  “Suck it up, you can do it, do not be lazy” TOTALLY APPROPRIATE, for MG on occasion.

So… we all agree that thinking positively can affect an outcome for the good.  When is it appropriate to use this phrase?  Is it ever?

I think it is.

When discussing long term goals or prognosis, it is very acceptable to say something like this:

“I’m not sure Jimmy will make the national team this year, but if he continues to work with the team and attend all the practices, and have a positive outlook he will have a shot at it.”

When you are about to introduce something new and difficult – totally acceptable to say.

“Jimmy we are starting something new today and it might seem awkward or difficult.  I need you to maintain an open and positive outlook about this new thing as you learn it.

When things are very uncertain.  It is appropriate to acknowledge the uncertainty and mention the power of positivity.

“It looks as if you might be out for the season, but nothing is certain yet, please do your rehab exercises and think positively and perhaps you will return sooner.”

One last thought…Why has it become such a thing to tell others to be positive, think positive, have a positive mindset?  I submit it is for the tellers own comfort.    The emotions of an injured athlete are pretty raw and usually messy and sticky.  There is a whole soup of regret, fear, doubt, worry, mixed in with everything else.  It can be very difficult to be confronted by these emotions. They may even stir up similar emotions in the coach. We have been taught as a society to avoid pain at all costs  so when a person appears to be going through something painful, we often just want to ignore the person or somehow minimize or mitigate the situation.  It would be easier to go to work and encounter only people who smile and say things are great, but really how great can that person really be feeling after say a season ending bike wreck that left them with a fractured pelvis?  So what is a coach to do?  My actual coach, not the intern has been doing a pretty good job of maintaining a positive feeling for me.  He points out what I’m doing well at fairly regular intervals.  He asks for feedback, and he actually listens.  When I express my frustration or fears, he provides some good reassurance, and we move on.  I suspect he has experienced similar emotions, and I suspect he isn’t afraid of my emotions bringing him down.

What to do about the intern I do not know.  I don’t want to be the difficult client. I want her to learn a bit about interacting with people with different life experiences.  Mostly though I want her to finish her internship and go somewhere far away with her positivity.  What would you do?

Coaching updates…

So, it was bound to happen, I do adore the new coach. I have to admit, I was starting to wonder.

After the first 2 weeks of “meh” work, and the two of us kind of not being on the same page, I was starting to get a little worried.  This week, however, everything seemed to click.

We did one strength type session, where he found a way to isolate my Gluteus medius.  This muscle apparently was just totally not used after my disk injury, it is completely wasted on both sides.  It’s hard to activate it because the larger muscles around it tend to take up the slack.  I do need it, so several exercises were invented or modified and wow… once he found that, the workout became extremely difficult…and “worth while”  I could firstly see that what I was doing was different and working to help rehabilitate me.  Secondly, it was hard.  Hard is what makes things great.

I really felt good about this because it meant he was thinking about how to get me back into shape….rather than just running me through some regular exercises.

Secondly I got to swim in the “Infinity pool”

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This is not ours.  ours is a bit more clinical in appearance and has a TON of video equipment set up as well as a mirror, so I can watch my stroke.  I thought I would hate it but I actually really enjoyed it. It was more like open water as there was a “current” of sorts.

He then got me out of the pool and we did some dry land drilling to refine my stroke. He literally had me making just one tiny little move against a sports band, the beginning of the initial catch.  dryland-2Bfor-2Bswimmers

To my deep deep surprise, it actually worked.  Once I hopped back in to the pool, my stroke was dead on for a few minutes.  As I tired, it sort of fell apart, but I feel much more confident in my ability to learn this new way to swim.  It was also nice not to be out in the huge pool, trying to learn, and having everyone distract the coach.  (Side note: I think it is hysterical that out of water exercise is congenitally known as “dry land workouts”  rather than land workouts.  What other kind of land are they thinking about is there a possibility for “swamp lands”?)

The other thing that has been pretty nice is that he listens a bit more carefully than I thought.  I was super hurt by old coach just *poof* disappearing, so I’d been kind of holding on to that… I started to let go a bit just by sharing some of the great stuff I enjoyed from the old coaching with the new coaching.  New coach, instead of saying “you are with me now”  has been listening intently, and interjecting here and there very quietly… “We can do that too, once you get stronger”.  Very reassuring.  Some of my workouts were really odd and unusual, and I thought he’d try to change everything.

For the last 2 weeks, I’ve managed around 9 miles of swimming, which is good.  I am hoping to step it up a bit more this week. (thought after the drills, my arms may feel quite sick tomorrow!)

My back and leg remain in a bit of flux.  I have small symptoms…but I am learning also how to minimize and manage. I do wonder about running…I’m sure I can’t right now, but… Mr. Coach seems determined to return me.

So yeah.  Currently… Everything is Alright/OK…

Coping with frustration

So of course… I finally write the blog post and I mention to one of my co-workers who asked that the back seems to be ok….within about an hour of that discussion…the leg starts to tingle AGAIN.

I didn’t do anything that different, but it seems determined to only allow a small bit of physical activity.

I know that it may not be like this forever…and I remind myself that I’m not even 90 days out of surgery yet, so things are still pretty “new” still.  My hip surgeon told me that after my hip was reshaped that it would take over a year to fully “remodel”  itself. The back procedure was much less invasive, but, I imagine it will take a lot of time to be completely “better”

On top of that, I missed a second swim opportunity tonight.  Since I am training for the Swim For Alligator Lighthouse I am on the “Swim your Ass off Plan” which requires me to do a morning swim and an evening swim. I actually had envisioned doing a short morning swim and a longer evening swim, but I forgot that it is rapidly approaching summer in Florida.

Summer in Florida means it rains.  Nearly every day.  Now, it’s not so bad, as it usually only rains for an hour or less.  BUT, it thunders and lightnings.  Our Pool closes for such events.

So I did a nice short swim this morning…then when I returned this evening it started to rain and look ugly, so they closed the pool. I waited around a bit, but decided to just go home.  By the time I got home and walked the dog and finished dinner, the “storm” was over, but my leg was tingling and tingling.  SO no second swim.

Normally when a person wants to get into training shape, it’s a fairly easy thing to do. They GO to the gym and work out.  This crazy dance of attempting to get into shape without triggering a bizarre neuro-muscular flare is really trying for me.

I have a coaching session tomorrow.  Perhaps the coach can help, I’m still not sure where I stand with him. I feel I’m not working hard enough for him.  This really isn’t fun.  When does the fun start?

Update

I’ve selfishly not written an update here.

I am actually doing better.  I hesitate to write a bit because I’m terrified that I suddenly won’t be better.

I did the steroid pack and was distressed as it didn’t really immediately work. I spent several days in pain and also severe anxiety.

Oddly a few days after I finished the steroids, and a few days after I started trying to do some training with my coach, my radiculopathy (leg pain from the back) started to improve.

It remains improved.  My surgeon was pleased.  The PA was pleased. I was pleased. My coach was also pleased.

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It is a great relief that I had not reherniated to the extent of needing more complex surgery.

I remain with a ton of anxiety because it does seem one wrong move and everything gets set off again.  I’m not used to being this hampered. I have to really carefully consider if I can do certain exercises, or not, and I have at least once tweaked out the whole thing again by trying a few flip turns.  Flip turns are a terrible idea for me. I’m now certain that the flip turn is what triggered my first flare, as I did them again one day and then within minutes a familiar tingle occurred.  I will be revisiting flip turns in about a year of so….Ho Hum.

I’m working with my new coach.  He is OK, but it’s awkward.  I honestly miss the familiarity of my old coach.  We have had some rough times, but after a year or so, the coaching was like a great pair of socks.  comfortable…  This new coaching…it’s really hard to tell if it is going to work.  It doesn’t help that my activities are so limited.

But yes I’m better. Training for a long marathon style swim, and fingers crossed…not needing any more surgery…

Major Disappointment

On Saturday I started to feel a familiar pressure in my right calf.  I assumed I’d overdone it and rested.  Sunday I was in Church and found that all I could focus on was the creeping up bad sensation in my leg.  Again, I rested.

On Monday, as I made my way to work and proceeded to SIT at the computer most of the day. Sitting at you computer

My leg just started to tingle and burn.  I thought well, it will still get better with rest.

Tuesday I had my follow up with the actual Neurosurgeon, not his nutty PA.

He was quite concerned about the ongoing tingling.  He put me on a prednisone pack to try to reduce the irritation and wrote me for a follow up on the 7th of April.  I will need a new MRI, and it is likely I have reherniated the disc.

In discussion with the Doctor it seems it was highly likely that this would occur.  My pars defect has apparently made my lower spine very unstable.  The Doctor explained that my original herniation was not due to severe training and the same thing may have happened with sneezing or coughing.  He also explained that I was still at risk for this with sneezing or coughing.  He really had wanted to fuse the bone, but felt I needed the other surgery emergently. My disc segment he removed was 3 cm by 3cm which apparently is quite large, about 1/3 to 1/4 of the total disk.  Usually it’s about 1 cm. It was twisted around the S1 nerve root which is why I had such difficult symptoms. So, he did the right thing in removing it as soon as I would let him.

So it’s now Friday.  I fully expected the prednisone to work miracles.  It has not.  My leg has now pretty much the same symptoms as before, though much reduced.  I’ve definitely spent a few nights crying over the situation, because it isn’t just being active that is affected.  I am in a low level of constant pain and it is very frustrating.  Many people suggest “doing something different” to occupy the mind, but it is really hard to do anything that requires deep thought because of the pain level all the time.  I do “ok” at work…but that’s enough for me right now.

On Thursday I kind of gave myself a bit of a pep talk.  I realized that to have a spinal fusion I would need about 4 weeks off from work, and I do not yet qualify for FMLA, so I will not be having a fusion until the very least November of this year.

I also realized that I had had pretty spectacular results from the 2 epidural injections I did have, given the size of the disc.  I don’t think this disk extrusion is as big since I still have great motor function.  So, this may be an option to get to feeling better.

I also had a meeting with the new coach. 10978576_10152629909261497_1566455192216217738_n

He reminded me of this.  He also was in some ways just exactly what I needed.  He listed to me very intently…took notes…admitted to some of his own foibles, and made me laugh long and hard.

I am still allowed to swim (as long as I use a swim snorkel) so he is going to give me some swimming lessons and had me order a special mat with lumbar support so I can start to do Abdominal exercises.

So… I feel as if I am back at square one, but, actually I am more like back at Square 2 in a 100 square process.  It is still better than when it first happened. I feel as if my life is just completely controlled by my back situation.  I’m trying to not let that happen, but well… Coach did say things would improve, so I’m gonna bank on his words…

Post Operative Report.

It is 4 days unit my odd follow up at 7 weeks.  I am anticipating a lot and hoping for a lot from this appointment, so I hope I have not set myself up for disappointment.

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After my post on Monday my back was miserable.  I did a lot of self-care things, like foam rolling, and rolling with a hard medicine ball, and some stretches, but it was just very attention getting.  I wanted a massage, but that is a bad idea currently.  So I was getting kind of hopeless, than I remembered muscle relaxers.  I have a few left from last year.  I took one, slept like a rock, and woke up feeling better than I had since before the surgery.  The next night I still felt great and actually kind of stayed up a bit lay just laying in bed, being amazed that I was not in some sort of pain.

So… problem pretty much solved.  My QL muscle area on my right is still very tender and sore.

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This though is to be expected from several months of trying to adjust to help my back deal with injury, the actual surgical injury and then recovery.  I think it is getting better.

I did get brave the other day and bed at the waist to pick something up. Amazingly, my disc did not pop out and nothing hurt terribly.  I still feel pretty stiff, but I’m actually about as flexible as a regular person now.

Hopeful to be back strength training, swimming and spinning by tuesday night!

As always, as I am able to incorporate more and more activity, my brain starts to work better and better, so I am now feeling much better.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend!