In case you have been wondering, coach Jeff has been out of barefoot running commission since Wednesday, October 23. This was 3 days after my 1:43 Scotia Toronto Waterfront 1/2 Marathon result. On the morning of October 23, I underwent surgery to repair an inguinal hernia. On a scale or 1 to 10 with 10 being the most severe, this rated a -5 in my books. Yes, I was put totally under. Yes, my surgeon had to open up a 51/2″ gash in my groin area. Yes, the procedure took 26 minutes. Yes, the hernia was “larger than anticipated”. However, I came out of the hospital 3 hours post-surgery with NO pain and very little swelling. I was up and walking the next day and felt as if I could start running again 1 week later. Thankfully, my wife and surgeon put the kibosh to that! In the grand scheme of life’s challenges, this was but a pimple on the end of my nose.
My follow-up visit to the surgeon on November 7 went exceedingly well. However, he said “NO running nor lifting for another 3 weeks”. He did say “go for 45 to 60 minute walks”. His explanation for this made perfect sense. Walking now as a form of recovery eliminates the risk of tearing the mesh laid down over the herniated area that would happen with running too soon post-surgery. Also, the body has a better chance to lay down collagen to solidify the musculature around the hernia and prevent further rupturing.
Of course, I have NEVER been a distance walker. It’s just not in my DNA. Well, it is NOW! I went out for my 1st post-surgery walk – BAREFOOT – in 4 degrees Celsius and a steady light rain. I could not believe how sensitive the soles of my feet had become in just 17 days of no barefoot activity. For the 1st 2 kilometres, my skin was burning and my toes were ultra-cold. After that, the burning subsided to be replaced simply by COLD. As I got to the 35 minute mark of my 53 minute walk, I realized technique was part of the problem. I was walking as if in ‘coffins’ (shoes) – too far back on my heels with too much skin time on the ground + too much striding out at too slow a pace. You would think after 55 years of activity, I would have figured this out! As soon as I started walking as if I was RACE WALKING (landing more on the mid-foot, shortening my stride, quickening my foot turnover – in other words, decreasing the skin contact time on the ground, rolling forward from the hips), my feet warmed up, the cold sensation dissipated, more blood started circulating through my lower body and I felt the soles of my feet starting to remember what it was like to be barefoot, activated, centered and moving safely.
Needless to say, the process thus far has been a revelation to me. It has forced me to rest, recover and let my body dictate the flow. I have noticed that the numerous aches and pains that have been part of my life through 5 decades of intense contact sports disappeared within 1 week post-surgery. Whether I remain so once given the green light to get after it physically in 3 weeks remains to be seen. Somehow, I doubt it BUT the process has actually been positive. Of course, as I mentioned earlier in the blog, my situation is truly nothing! I was further reminded of this on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 6:01 a.m. That was the day and time when one of my training friends and former Team Over The Top barefoot running clients lost her 7 year battle with cancer. Sharon Engle, age 53, was one of the great people who come along and touch one’s life. She BELIEVED in her ability to beat cancer. She ACHIEVED the unthinkable by doing so for 7 years – when the specialists wrote her off many times over. When I think of challenges in my life, they pale in comparison to what Sharon and so many others endure – DAILY.
In your life, I want you to think about what keeps you from being your best. Go beyond that, believe you can overcome the odds and, quite simply, get things done…NO EXCUSES!