The bad news is, my back’s been hurting for a bit. I’m not sure what exactly brought it on; overtraining (which doesn’t seem likely, since I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary), oversitting (which seems a bit more probable, since I’ve been at my fucking computer a lot lately, and the time I had some lower back pain before was also almost undoubtedly chair-related), or something else. So I’ve had to take the week mostly off of workouts. I did one on Monday, which was a bad idea, and I’ve done some limited running as well. The first run went fine but the second I took a step 3K in and exponentially increased pain that had been getting a lot better. So I’m on a hard rest for a little while at least.
I’ll admit that it’s traumatizing. Doesn’t my back know that I’ve got two races in May that I’m not really ready for? At this rate, I’m not even going to have the endurance to run the full things, which would be an embarrassing step backward from last year, where despite failing three obstacles I did at least keep a good running pace.
Of course, that’s stupid. The one month and three weeks left before the first race is plenty of time to rebuild my running endurance—I’m nearly to 5K now, and my plan was to be there at the end of the month. My pace is way slower than last year, but I’ve also been making an effort not to push the pace yet. So my brain knows that’s probably okay, even if it makes me feel lousy to be going a full minute and a half per mile slower than my (obstacleless) 5K race pace last fall.
My weight—probably the biggest impediment to completing two of the obstacles I failed last year—isn’t where I want it to be, but it’s getting lower. This week has actually been a bit of a boon to that; since I haven’t been working out, I’ve been more careful about the food that goes in my mouth. I’ve lost 12 pounds in 4 days, which feels really good for a half an instant, and then scary for a while, and then I look back and realize that I had put on 10 pounds in the 3 days immediately before, and I remember, oh yeah, statistical noise that’s the result of a weekend of overeating working its way out of my system.
It probably isn’t bad to have a week off anyhow, from time to time. So perhaps this is a blessing.
No, it really isn’t. Back pain is, you know, pain, and outside of the limited cases where obstacle course racers deliberately expose themselves to pain in the pursuit of pleasure, pain is bad.
But let’s try to rip some positive out of it. Here’s how I’ve been working to relieve said pain, with their results. (Note that, in accordance with the rules of this blog, I’m allowed to lie—and I most definitely am, though only in limited cases and not throughout.)
Foam rolling. I have to admit, even though I hear people talking about how great foam rolling is, I have yet to notice any great benefit from it. Still, it’s a low-investment kind of thing—plop The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix (he says as if he’d seen the show prior to yesterday) and it costs basically 0 time, so nothing lost.
Aleve. Or was it Wal-eeve? Cost-Skeev? AlTarg? Whatever it was, hooray for generic medication. This seemed to have a bit of benefit, though it didn’t solve things.
A Swiss ball. My thought was to try this as a chair, the way it was a big trend a few years ago. Supposedly great for your back, although probably not actually. But what the heck. Unfortunately, like most things from Sports Authority, the Swiss ball was a disaster.
First off, not one but two salespeople tried to convince me to buy a 12-month warrantee for just an extra $4, which apparently would protect me against leakage. (I assume of the ball, rather than my own, although there are probably some amusing legal proceedings that try to distinguish the two.)
Then, I get it home and inflate it, maybe. Well, the first time I definitely didn’t inflate it fully. See, inflatable things and being a fat boy don’t really go well together; there’s always the expectation that the inflatable thing will explode under the weight of the fat boy. And my weight is under the maximum recommended, but still, it’s in my mind.
So I started by under-inflating it a bit to try to reduce the tension felt by that poor rubber bladder under my my massive ass. That didn’t work, though; I wound up sitting about three centimeters off the ground, completely immobilized with my hands and legs sticking up like I was a squirrel who had somehow become trapped in a venus flytrap. I managed to escape by rolling over to all fours (now looking like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Moron, with a red plastic shell), and shaking my ass like it was a golden retriever’s face. (And the rest of me was the rest of the golden retriever—I’m definitely not advocating shaking the face of a golden retriever or any other creature that isn’t you!)
Anyhow, I tried inflating it a bit more after that. The pump comes with what it claims is a guide—it’s a tape with holes at both ends, and you stick the pump through it, and wrap the tape around the ball, and when the ball is the same size as the tape the ball is full of air. Well, bullshit. I inflated the ball until the rubber was completely taut, no give at all when I pressed it, and the tape still had a foot of slack in it. So I plugged the ball, and very gingerly sat down. That lasted for about a minute—the Swiss ball was not a comfortable chair at all.
Oh yeah, and then it burst. Sorry, downstairs neighbors.
Epsom Salt bath. I’ve written about this before, and I didn’t feel anything great this time either. Perhaps a bit of soothing just from soaking in warm water. But I also feel bad about the waste of using a bath rather than a shower, and I also get some massive anxiety—I distracted myself by reading through the subscription of Bicycling magazine that I got free when I bought my bike last year, but there wasn’t much I was actually interested in, and when I was done the appeal of just sitting in a too-small bathtub looking at faucets was far less intense than the thought that maybe I ought to be writing about the anxiety I was feeling when I was just sitting in a too-small bathtub looking at faucets.
Icy Hot. Yep, I took a major leap towards being old with that one. I even sprang for the real stuff, not the generic, because I wanted to be absolutely sure that the icy would dull the pain, and the hot would relax it away. I learned that Icy Hot is weird. There’s the initial smell, which isn’t exactly unpleasant, but it is a mix of menthol, liquorice, and cumin that shouldn’t exist. You apply it, and it’s not exactly icy when it goes on. More lotiony, with a bit of a tingle. Like my back had eaten one of those pufferfish that’s deadly poison if you prepare it wrong. The hot part, however, is definitely hot, like my back was being barbequed. After a little while, that subsided a bit, and it wasn’t unpleasant. All things considered, I feel like that treatment did help a bit. Just don’t pee or floss after application.
Chair switching. I don’t have a lot of sitting options in my apartment, although I do have one of those uncomfortable folding metal chairs that I’ve been switching into. I’ve also been working mobilely, which I can sometimes do, heading to a cafe or a library. All of that definitely helped, even the library—it’s got these wooden chairs with just a narrow back support down the middle that normally I find really uncomfortable, but today it’s been just what the doctor ordered.
Rest. As in, when I haven’t been working, I’ve been spending a lot of time in bed—reading, or working on my laptop, or whatnot. That’s probably been the best remedy. It’s also not funny. Let’s spice it up by saying that one day my dog got irritated that I wasn’t paying him enough attention, so he took revenge by peeing in my bed, only I didn’t notice it until I laid down and found that my back, buttocks, and upper legs were now dampened by a yellow liquid that spelled out “Why don’t you love me?” in distressingly neat cursive.
So that’s been most of my week. My recommendation: Get rid of your back altogether. It’ll make life a lot simpler.