Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Benefits of Cross Training-- the Physician Heals Himself... by Getting Wet

So I've been meaning to cross train more for some time. But, loving running so much, I never get around to it. Besides, it's less hassle running than bicycling or heading to a pool or getting into a gym where I'm not a member.

About a week ago, a nagging pain in my left shoulder started getting worse. I think some of the problem stems from my commuting runs to and from work, anywhere between 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on how I go, with or without using public transportation. I carry my scrubs and other essentials in a small Camelback. It's not too heavy, but several pounds plus the handheld bottle tends to tighten up my shouders. Plus I tend to carry my kids with my left arm. So I've developed an impingement syndrome with occasional numbness and tingling in the shoulder and arm, and for several days have been unable to fully extending my left arm straight above my head--when I try it hurts like hell and feels like it catches.

I've become worried not just about pain when I run, but my ability to do normal everyday things, like take off a turtleneck or other tight-fitting shirt, carry my kids on my shoulders, or fully perform maneuvers for my job, such as retract a tongue with a laryngoscope so I can intubate the critically ill at work.

Maybe because of the cold rainy weather, I decided on my day off today to forego a 3-4 hour run and instead run trails to a local pool and swim laps, for the first time in LONG time. An hour from a park near my younger son's daycare, crossing several streams, I arrive muddy at the Hayward Plunge. If interested, here's a link to the Garmin map of my run.

My first stroke I'm feeling the sharp pain, but by extending my left hand a little to the side (actually better form), I manage. Soon I find that proper form, including really stretching the arm out, when I reach for the pull, prevents any pain. After about half an hour, I'm feeling great and can actually pull hard on my strokes in the crawl, although the backstroke remained difficult. I wonder if it's just the endorphins kicking in and masking my pain, but feel optimistic. After a total of an hour nonstop, I get out of the water and find that, miraculously, my shoulder feels better than it has in more than a week! I change back into my running clothes and run back to my car, feeling so good I take the long way again.

A few hours later, I can still bring my left arm straight up, right next to my head.

I doubt if I'm home free, but what a great start.

If this is not a Sign From God, then it's my body's way of telling me that I should probably get my butt in the pool at least a 2-3 times a month.

Okay, Kitajima does the breast and I was mostly doing freestyle, and he's raising his right arm and I've been having trouble with my left, but I look like him more than I look like Phelps and you get the point...


Spanish said...

The shoulder is a weak joint. My advice is to take care of it as best you can. I dislocated my shoulder when I was 17. It was probably the most painful thing i have ever experienced. I have dislocated it about about 7 or 8 times since. It sucks because i cant do anything anymore. I can't even through a baseball without running the risk of dislocating it again. I geuss having this problem is a blessing in disguise because I just focus on running now.

Baldwyn said...

Nice, thanks for the reminder. I have issues with my left arm and shoulder, not as debilitating as yours, that I find feels much better after working out with weights. But I discontinued my gym membership when I embraced running more fully, so it's pushups and other such exercises when I can get them in. The nice thing though, is my son is greatly amused when I include him, and his laughter is like slavedriver whip. I ought to at least do yoga like..more than once a lifetime too.

Jo Lynn said...

I found your blog on 209Mike's blog. Your run to the pool was very near my favorite running spot (Garin). I volunteered at Stinson during the Quad Dipsea and saw you. My blog report on the event also sports a photo of JD. ;)
And one more thing -- I have an aweful pain on top of my right shoulder that I was contributing to my hydration pack. It's really aching today and what do you know, I find your blog. Nice!

kelly said...

Hey Mark, I have a torn rotator and a labrum tear that has practically healed itself with swimming. Freestyle works the best for me. Breaststroke stresses it a little more and I can feel it. I have cancelled my surgery twice and I am so thankful that I did. It has been about 2 years and I feel great. It is still painful to sleep on my bad shoulder, but hey it's better than surgery! Good luck with it.