Following on from my blog a few weeks ago, in which I set out my planned long-term rehab strategy for my damaged left shoulder, I thought I’d offer an update on progress, for anyone who’s following this.
I won’t repeat great chunks of that last blog. You can read it here. In terms of a marker, in the sense of linear progress, I am basically through what I described as “Stage 2” of five stages. It’s taken over six weeks, but I now seem to have a fully pain-free range of movement in my left shoulder, through every direction, albeit without any loading. I can at last raise my arm fully above my head without pain, for example. Raising my extended arm quickly out to my side gives a small twinge of shoulder pain, which isn’t there when the same movement is done more slowly. I only discovered this by accident this week, when I slipped while walking on muddy ground, and instinctively raised my arm to balance myself. So, if I’m honest, I’m nearly there, but not quite.
However, before that slip, I was confident enough to move on to Stage 3. The goal of this phase is to establish full, pain-free range of movement under a modest and consistent load. My chiropractor has given me five exercises around which to base this. One is an isometric routine, done twice a day, to gently challenge the stability of the shoulder joint, with extended arm and with my left hand in various rotated positions. The loading in this exercise comes because it’s done leaning against a wall. The other four exercises are all done with an elastic “Dynaband”.
A Dynaband is a broad and very stretchy piece of rubber. They come in various grades of resistance. I have a grey one, which is the stiffest, but in use these things are so versatile that it’s an easy job to establish the right loading and range of movement. The loose ends just wrap around your hands when you use them. These things are great. They give a nice progressive loading and release, so that there is tension in both concentric and eccentric movement. I’m coming to regard the Dynaband as a vital accessory; inexpensive and weighing just a few grammes.
When I began my Stage 3, I kept the tension on the band low for a few exploratory sessions. A couple of weeks in, and I’ve tightened it up somewhat. I’ve been fortunate to get the tension right, without overdoing it, and I have had no pain in any plane of movement. I shall very slowly crank up the tension in the weeks to come. This is a critical phase, because to get best value from the work, I’m trying to work precisely below a level that might cause pain. Pain will mean failure and setback. And that doesn’t only mean I need to get the tension right, but also the number of repetitions of each exercise right too. It’s the exercise equivalent of sticking my head in the lion’s mouth.
My undamaged right shoulder is my “control group” in this. Everything I do with the left I also do with the right, and at the same tension/repetitions. The right can do it all so very much more easily at the moment, of course. The basic aim for the moment to get the left to “level up” to an equal level of ability under these modest loads. It’s working too. Testing and levelling up at fuller loads is still some way in the future.
However, it’s not all been static work like this. I wanted a regular bench-marking exercise for my aerobic fitness while the shoulder rehab work was going on. I can’t sprint and move the shoulder quickly at present, but I can jog quite well. It was a bit of a no-brainer to start running in my local Parkrun every Saturday morning. For the last two years, I’ve been their regular photographer, and had amassed a collection of more than 21,000 photos. Everyone at Parkrun has been so welcoming of my change to become a runner instead. I’m not at all fast. My reputation as a good sprinter counts for nothing over 5 kilometres, of course!
I ran Parkrun a few times in 2014, when I was recovering from scaphoid problems and unable to do more conventional training. I blogged it back then. I cannot, in all honesty, say that I enjoy running 5k, but it gives me a pretty good test of fitness. It also has the downside of showing up deficiencies in my make-up which emphasise some of the physiological differences between sprinters and longer distance runners.
For example, when sprinting, I race on my forefoot the whole time. It’s why the track sprint shoes have spikes at the front and none in the heel or mid-foot. Running 5k means heel-striking every stride. There is no way I could run 5k on my toes! This altered motion is a big deal for my calf muscles and achilles tendons, which get worked in a very different way, and over a far longer period of exertion, albeit at a generally sub-maximal level of effort. Nevertheless, I’m very much aware of calf muscle niggles, and a need to build up my 5k running “prowess” (ha-ha!) steadily each week.
Needless to say, I’ve built some longer runs into my training during the week. It’s already clear that this isn’t only going to help keep me aerobically fit, but is also going to keep my weight in check. For my current training, I need to fuel and hydrate in a very different way. I’ve already got it badly wrong once. Say no more. Insulin spikes are very unpleasant, as I’ve now been reminded!
And that’s where I’ve reached so far. Thank you to those who have taken an interest in what I’m doing, either by reading this or by giving me your encouragement at the gym and at Parkrun. I’ll keep you all posted.