This is a follow-up from the first article on the devastating effects of Lyme Disease on a runner. My brother Jim has been wonderfully candid in sharing his journey through this illness and now into recovery and attempts at regaining physical conditioning.
Time for my physical update. As always, we have some good news and some bad news. Let’s start with the good news. I started exercising last week, and I am nearly completed with week two of my master plan. Since there are no real guidelines around on how to recover from Lyme and certainly no guidelines for previously well conditioned athletes specifically, I am making my own. I talked to my wife and to my brother (Coach Dean) to gain perspective and input. Then with their input decided to formulate my own approach to rehabilitation and reconditioning.
What I have done is combine running, spinning (stationary bike) and long walks. I have dropped the physical therapists plan of strength training, light lifting, etc. because that has proven to inflame the nerves and muscles in my shoulders and back. These left me in too much discomfort to do anything for a couple days. That is not progress. So, my approach combines difficult workouts with easier recovery workouts while not further inflaming or irritating the damaged nerves. I understand I will need to strengthen these areas at some point, but the inflammation still there makes doing this therapy counterproductive.
As far as the training itself, it has progresses far better and far faster than I would have imagined. Considering I hadn’t worked out in nearly three months and was so sick, I have surprised myself. In my first week on my new plan I did one spinning session of 30 minutes, very easy. I walked a total of 10.5 miles (three separate walks) and ran/jogged 17 miles on four separate runs. The interesting thing is the first run was three miles and I barely did 9:30 pace and my breathing was wild and out of control. I felt like I only had half my diaphragm working. But, it felt great to be out there moving. The pace didn’t matter, if felt great to move again. I went out three more times last week with 4.5 miles my longest run; and it was closer to 8:15 per mile pace. Breathing is still like a freight train, but the running already felt better.
Week two, has continued well. I cycled 45 minutes, will do 30 minutes today. I’ve already walked 8.5 miles, but probably won’t add to that. Now here is the kicker. I already have 21 miles of running in this week. I will probably run once more this week, so I should end with 25 miles. As if that wasn’t good enough, I did 6 miles yesterday…at 7:12 per mile pace!! I have no idea where that came from! I felt great! Breathing was tough, but still better than at the 9:30 pace the week before. Go figure.
My theory regarding my diaphragm is that running is as good a therapy to fix it and strengthen it as anything else. My brother had mentioned the breathing devices they use for asthmatics and other respiratory ailments as a possible way to go. The experts do recommend breathing exercises. Well, I figure 7:12 pace for six miles must be a pretty good breathing exercise.
So after two weeks, I really feel great (comparatively speaking). But there are still some pretty big issues, which I’ll explain next.
Sleeping at night is still a pretty big problem. Most of my sleep issues are built around body aches still in my shoulder and back. They are there 24 hours a day. Kind of like ache from a really hard workout, only it just doesn’t fade away!
I took Ambien for awhile a few weeks ago. It does work great. Eight hours of solid sleep and nothing disturbs you. I hate taking any kind of medicines whatsoever. I took it thinking that with good sleep it will help me heal better. I think it did help. The sleep over those two weeks was very valuable. However, I don’t want to take Ambien all the time. So, I voluntarily have stopped taking it. I am trying Melatonin (mixed results) and beer (good results).
We also bought a new organic mattress and bed which will be delivered in a couple weeks. Part of the problem for both of us is a bad mattress. I know this new one will help a lot.
Now, let’s talk my leftover aches. The experts (sarcasm) tell me it will heal eventually over time. PFFFFFTTTT!!!!!!! (the sound of someone making a raspberry noise) So I went to see a doctor (yes..Dr. Number 9) about the continued ache in my shoulders and back. It didn’t take him long: there is nerve damage in both shoulders. The good news is that it’s only one specific nerve (the name escapes me something like Lymus painintheshoulderusmaximus). All the other nerves didn’t get affected, which he thought was “interesting and pretty cool.” Doctors!! The pain in my upper back all comes from the shoulder nerve and me compensating for the discomfort.
Dr. #9 said he can help me with the muscular aches, but the nerves need to heal. However, here is where he differs. I’ve done my research – I asked him about acupuncture and he recommended it highly for my particular problem. I got a referral from him to see an acupuncturist that he highly recommends. He says this guy has done some amazing things with nerve damage. So now I have a meeting Monday evening with him to discuss my issues. “Discuss” is the key word. I am openminded about treatments but I want to hear what he has to say and see if it makes sense. If it does then I will try it.
Over the next two weeks I will have twice a week muscle work by doctor number one (really #9), Tuesdays and Thursdays. If the acupuncture guy works out, I would probably have two sessions a week for two weeks or so.
The plan is nearly in place, now it just has to all work.
Sorry if I rambled, it’s therapeutic to sometimes write all this crap down. (Jim. H.)
[Coach Dean Note: Indeed several points are important here.
First, a word on the running paces he quotes. Jim is a very accomplished runner. Do not compare yourself with his running paces. Comparatively speaking, he is running “slow” by his normal standards. His 35 years of running at a very high level allows him some luxuries not all of us will have. Like they say in advertisements – results will vary; not a typical example. That doesn’t mean we cannot learn a lot from his approach. On the contrary, I firmly believe that we are documenting novel information that we both sincerely hope will help others.
Second, notice that upon returning to running – even when uncomfortable – so often runners report that it feels “better” or is reported as “freeing” or that there is a sense of “freedom.” This is a message to all of us who take our running for granted. Celebrate your good days and bad days… at least you are able to do it!
Third, his final comment is a critical message to any injured or rehabbing athlete. We often rely on our running as a stress reducer and coping mechanism. Unfortunately, most of us do not foster other methods of coping and when our running is taken away we suffer doubly – physically and emotionally. Much like the series of articles written by Christina (Plantar’s Wart surgery) expressing our experiences is one outlet – whether privately by journaling or publicly in a blog. Find those outlets before you drive everyone in your life crazy!
We welcome your comments.]