Dear 15 Year Old Bean…

Dear Bean,

You probably don’t realise I’m talking to you because you won’t earn that nickname until you get to uni. Which you do, of course. And not to study forensics (Dad gets over it). You’ll meet some crazy bastards there. These crazy bastards become your very best of friends. Treasure them. 

I wanted to write to you to let you know that we’ve made it to 29 and 3/4. I KNOW! Surprised?

You’ll be even more surprised to learn that we grow up to be a buyer. Just like Rachel from friends. Except it’s WAY less glamorous and we DEFINITELY can’t afford a studio apartment in NYC… But it’s buying. And for the most part, its fucking ace. Trust your gut. When you’re right, you’re right. Go with it. 

The reason for this letter is that you’re at a cross-roads right now. The first of many, I can assure you. Clearly you make the correct choices when the time comes. But it’s going to feel, for a while, like you haven’t.

You find the most amazing friends that will love you unconditionally. You’ll be a bridesmaid. A few times. And your sister will become your best mate.

Things have already been tough for a while, and I’m sorry to say that some more bad shit is about to happen. And it will keep happening for a few years. But I promise, wholeheartedly, that it gets better.

You’re stronger than most people give you credit for, including yourself. On your darkest days, you will find light. You just have to look for it. You are nails. Believe me. 

So you know, Mum gets better. SHE is nails. Hold her hand.

Ask dad questions. He knows a LOT and he will help you immeasurably. 

Hold Granny and Grandad tight. 

Walk Jess when you’re told to. In fact, stop being such an asshole to mum and dad. And to Lissie. 

Perhaps the most significant change for you won’t happen until you’ve made it past 25. You start running. I KNOW. We fucking HATE running. But not for much longer….

You’ve spent a great deal of time comparing yourself to others without realising what you have. If I could have the time back now that was spent hating this body, I could put that time to damned good use. So stop it.

There will be fat days (there are always fat days) but one day you will power yourself through 70.3 miles worth of triathlon with no fuel other than soreen (seriously), juice that tastes like it should be alcoholic (definitely isn’t) and sheer fucking grit.

What I’m saying is: When you reach the point of change or no change, make the fucking change.

What happens over the next few years alters you completely. You are stronger, faster, more awake (sometimes not more awake. Without going into too much detail and scaring you off completely, there are 5am starts. In the rain. In lycra. And I’m not sorry) you are healthy and happy and eventually you will run a marathon, become a triathlete and aspire to be an Ironman. Here’s the crucial bit: YOU WILL BE ABLE TO EAT CAKE AND NOT PUT WEIGHT ON.

Do not let the negativity of others dent your self-worth. Do not let self-doubt get in the way of what you think you deserve. 

Stop trying to bleach your hair and definitely don’t do it with Domestos: Gwen Stefani you are not. You’ll pay for that mistake until the breakage stops in about 6 months. Even then your hair is never the same. 

Stop lusting after boys who treat you badly. Especially ones who make you think it’s your fault when they don’t treat you nicely. Tequila is absolutely 100% not your friend. It is a sultry temptress that will lure you into believing your problems are solved. Then you’ll wake up naked in an empty bath with a bath matt draped over you. There is sick everywhere. 

And please study harder for that final exam. Because finding out you missed a first class honours degree by 8 marks is a total pisser. (Not that it makes a blind bit of difference to where we’ve ended up thus far…) 

Most importantly, if you’re going to take in any of this…. Be kind, be brave, be yourself. Nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t inspire you or bring you joy. 

Life is short. 

Sincerely,

Pushing-Thirty-Bean x

 

 

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The Familiar Twinge

… We’ve all felt it. The pop, tweak or twinge that makes your sweat go cold. That “Oh fuck. Fuck fuck fuck” moment when something you’re doing makes the usual weak spot give way. The moment of silence before the screaming agony works its way through your nerves to your pain receptors.

It’s like seeing a flash of lightening and waiting for the rumble of thunder. Knowing the next coming days or weeks are going to be spent being moderately high on prescription pills.

Here’s some background info for you: I have a weakened spinal column from various injuries sustained as a clumsy child and as a clumsier adult. Nothing serious or life threatening, mostly hairline fractures to vertebrae that healed fast but left me with compressed discs that seem to decide for themselves when they would like to cause me trouble by swelling and trapping various nerves. And that’s just my thoracic spine.

My lumbar spine and sacrum were damaged in a fall down the garden steps 20 years ago. So if it’s not the top of my back getting itself worked up into a frenzy, it’s my lower back that wants to party.

And by party I mean fly sporadically into spasm and make me turn into the actual devil for a week.

Into this cake mix of pain, you can add 20 odd years of avid couch-potatoism, several university years of fudge cake breakfasts (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss those) and an honours degree in binge drinking and poor life choices.

Basically because of all this neglect, I’m usually only ever one violent sneeze from a trip to the chiropractor.

About 8 years ago, I reached peak-chub. I spent a weekend at T in the Park with my girlfriends and woke up on the Monday unable to walk. “Just a bad hangover” became several trips to doctors, physios and eventually an Osteopath who pointed out the unusually pronounced curvature in my spine, uneven leg-lengths (more so than a normal human my age) and my weight was a factor too. I was ordered to lose weight and shape up or face a lifetime of pain. This lasted until graduation, when the stresses of grown-up life and near constant access to a biscuit tin led me down the same path again. Finally, in 2012, size 16 and very deeply unhappy, I spent 3 months hooked up to a tens machine. The camel’s back had literally given up and I HAD to make a change.

So I did and I’m hoping that I’ve caught these things before it’s too late. Before I’m 50 and confined to the use of a walking stick as my core can’t support itself. You only get one body after all, and I wish I’d spent more time looking after it and treating it with a bit of respect instead of shoveling it full of chips and sambuca.

It’s not been plain sailing, by any means. Quite often, as I travel along this road of athleticism, I am reminded of my weaknesses. Physically and mentally. I’m not patient. Therefore any injury is a massive set back. Even when it isn’t. My back, shoulders, hips and knees are weak. I took on a coach to target these areas and the improvements, especially in recovery time, have been significant. However, injuries can and will appear…

This time, I should’ve seen the signs. I’ve been incredibly stressed with work. I’ve had pressure piled on both there and with my running. I wanted sub 60. So I worked hard and got it. And my body needed a rest. It told me this mid deadlift. Ping. Bastard. Ouch.

Rest it is, then.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. By some amazing happy coincidence (and probably definitely not because her eldest daughter is so terribly afflicted by Clumsius Maximus) my mummy is a therapist of many kinds: Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Bowen, Reflexology and Remedial Massage. Often she’ll be facebooked at 6am. “Help I’m broken can you fit me in today?” SuperMum will then knead and smooth the knots away as best she can.

Since I last experienced chronic back pain 3 years ago, (and by chronic, I mean pain that lasts for months in its acute phase) I have been very proactive in my own muscular rehabilitation. I started gently with beginners Pilates and then introduced walking long distance before even considering running, cycling or reintroducing swimming. Eventually I found a coach determined to make me stronger than ever.

I know too many people who live with varying degrees and types of chronic pain. From my pal who’s shoulder sporadically stops working, to my dad and his plantar fasciitis and my mum with her arthritic knee that popped one night and never recovered.

Pain changes a person. It’s a real test of your personality. It makes you tired. So so tired. And irrational. And irritable. It can even change the way you look.

Personally, my mind goes into overdrive. Self confidence goes through the floor and I HATE not being able to do stuff. I feel lethargic and withdrawn.  Not to mention crabbit as fuck (nothing new there, eh?!).

It saps positivity, even when it only lasts a few days it will leave me exhausted for a week afterwards. It’s horrid.

Pain management becomes key. I’ve learnt, through years of experience, how to manage different types of pain and more importantly *when* to manage. Niggles are the bane of every athletes life and will often disperse on their own. Some muscular pain, I’ve found, is best treated with gentle exercise. Other pain is definitely meant to be left the hell alone. I’m a fan of foam rolling as a way to improve mobility and conditioning in muscles and to iron out knots. It’s not for everyone and I know some of you reading this will tut and say you’ve never needed it. But it helps me and doesn’t do any harm.

I’m keeping everything crossed that this latest relapse buggers off soonest so that I can race my favourite race on Saturday. Although I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I may have to DNS for the second time this year. *Sulks*