Anna's Recovery: Month 6
And then the COVID-19 lockdown hit. Talk about throwing a wrench into things. We live in a 1100 square foot, two bedroom two bath house. Needless to say, you can always kind of feel the presence of other people. This month was going into uncharted territory from various standpoints, and we had to proceed into it through trial and error. You can always have the best of intentions or even a plan, but sometimes the strategy behind the plan needs some reevaluating. Each week I would reflect upon the previous week and figure out how to begin again.
We are fortunate that my husband had already decided to be a stay-at-home dad after I had Olivia and I was able to maintain full time employment through my jobs. The problem was that me being in the house felt to Adelaide like having a plate of cookies out all day while not being allowed to have any. It was exhausting for all parties. Then we came up with our genius plan to level out the camper van in our driveway, and poof! The first day I went to work in there and felt the quiet, my brain and body immediately exhaled at being able to focus again.
As I read through the Facebook feeds and reflected upon my own symptoms and discomfort, again and again there were incidences of neck, upper back, and low back pain and the one common denominator through it all… stress. Everyone had gone into survival mode to figure out how to make it through this lockdown time. However, it slowly became a greater realization that this situation wasn’t going to go away any time soon. Just like anything, we needed to figure out how to move from a survival strategy to a more sustainable one, because just surviving wasn’t going to cut it.
I like to think of all of us as having a stress bucket. There can be good types of stress (like hard workouts) and not so good types of stress. No matter what type it is, the bucket doesn't differentiate between one or another. Once it’s full, it’s full. Survival mode made that bucket overflow. It’s important to take a moment to step back and then categorize the stress into what is controllable and not controllable. By realizing what is out of our control, we can work to let go of that stress because trying to change it or focus on it is only going to cause more stress, and our efforts won’t be productive. We can then direct our attention to what we CAN control, which will be far more productive. The stress that we can control will be addressed by how we react to it and how we can change it. One of the stresses we can control is intensity and type of exercise. Even though it might be something that we want, we have to recognize when our body is at capacity and already exhausted in the fight or flight response from the other stressors. So instead of pushing into intense exercises, this is a great time to do our body a better service by working on things that help us ramp down and unwind (like more release work, or breathing drills, or fine-tuning exercises) and find ways to boost our happiness.
I could feel all of this new life’s stress and anxiety building up in my body. I was still working through continued PF tightness (symptoms of trapped gas and bathroom urgency) as well as an episode of tight rhomboid and forward head posture tension. I needed to give these areas some extra love and attention. If I just tried to continue to smash forward my body would rebel, and those issues would be magnified until I would listen. I worked on more external and internal PF release work. I consistently released my serratus, lats, posterior cuff, pec, and neck fascia. I went back to revisiting rewiring patterns of serratus over pec, and if my middle and lower traps were working instead of my paraspinals, lats, pec, and rotator cuff.
I explored why my pelvic floor was tight, concluding that the right side was tighter because of femur positioning in the socket plus the left side was weaker, so the right had to do double duty (the layers of it all.) I revisited prone glute squeezes and adductor strength in functional activities. Adductors fired well and equally lying down, but I could feel how even though I could pass the eyeball test with an upright movement, when I touched with my hands I had to consciously work to get the left adductor to kick in. I checked back in with rotating warriors that I had tried intermittently leading up to this point, since they had been a great help in my last recovery. Previously, I could tell I wasn’t strong enough in some of my foundations of lower ab and hip strength even though once again I could make the movement happen, but the question was, with what? However, now with focused effort and visualization, I could make the right things do the work and felt better for it afterward.
I always say our body will tell us what it needs. We just have to be willing to listen. At first it will start off as a whisper, and if we choose not to listen to it, it will increase to a scream. As we continue to turn inward to listen, we’ll get better at being able to catch on to the whisper rather than having to wait to be clubbed over the head with the message. Taking this time to not only undo but also reflect on the “why’s” of what led me to the tightness would help me take this detour or pit stop while still progressing forward. It was tempting to just keep getting it done and going through my workouts as I started to add in Live Call workouts for the school that I work for, with every workout feeling rushed or always working out with a supervising almost-4-year-old constantly asking “why” or wanting help with “her exercise.” It was all very ramped up and stimulus overload. I had to find what exercises worked for me in this time, find the extra time to do the release work (hanging out on the floor with kids is a great time for foam rolling), and try to pay attention to what extra tension I might be holding while doing my exercise. Often I look to my jaw and how my face is holding tension because it’s the easiest thing to feel. This goes for workouts but also with how I’m handling chirping children. Again, focusing on the stress and tension that you can control and your reaction so that you can stay one step ahead instead of always having to undo that tension. As a wise princess once said, “Let it go…”
Even though this month has been exhausting and the end of it is not in sight, I have had some good takeaways from it that I’ll continue to be able to use moving forward. It’s easy to say “once we get through x, y, or z, it will all be fine.” However, in reality, there will always be some new unknown stress around the corner. Granted, some will be larger and longer than others and some will be harder to control than others, but how it affects us is all about how we respond to the stress. We just have to learn to ride the wave of life and recovery. It will have ups and downs, maybe some sideways and backward action, but overall we have to learn to take it in stride and figure out how to keep our general momentum moving us forward.
Being able to “begin again” each week to figure out what will work best to move forward.
Identifying functional left adductor weakness so I can work on it and strengthen it.