Monday, May 13, 2019

Paul Away & update on the back injury (including some useful stats we can hopefully all benefit from!)

Dear Swimmers

Whilst Paul's away, the mice will play!

As you're probably aware, I will be away from the squad from Monday 13th May and returning Friday 7th June. During my absence, both Coach Sally and Coach Ross will be cracking the whip, so please make sure you're still getting down, especially whilst the weather is so good!

My work itinerary sees the following:

  • Monday 13th May to Monday 20th May in Prague, Czech Republic to finalise our Swim Smooth KIDS & JUNIORS program (more on this in another post)
  • Monday 20th May to Tuesday 4th June in Mallorca, Spain to both run two 3-day Swim Smooth Coach Education Courses and to also support the Best Festival of Open Water Swimming where I will be the guest coach alongside dual Olympic silver medallist Jazz Carlin
Sadly, due to my recent back injury, I have had to withdraw from competing in the "Best Fest" as I've done for the last 3 years, so I'm going to hone my energies into some good coverage of the event whilst having the opportunity to interview some of the best open water swimmers on the planet for our new podcast (check out our most recent one with David Davies, dual Olympic medallist and Britain's only swimmer to win an Olympic medal in the pool and open water).

I can't wait to share all of this with you!

Update on the back injury (including some useful stats we can hopefully all benefit from!)

If you read the above Instagram post from Monday 15th April, you'll see I was somewhat gloating about the amount of hard work myself and Adam and the rest of the Swim Smooth team have been putting in recently to discover and train up the next generation of Swim Smooth Coaches. Who'd have thought, that just 5 days later and literally 3 minutes prior to heading off down south to Bremer Bay for a well-earned family holiday with Mish and the kids, I'd be lying on the drive in agony, unable to move due to a prolapsed disc in my lower back causing massive radial nerve pain down my right leg. How ironic - in recognising that holidays are important for that work / life balance we all strive to achieve, I'd obviously put myself in so much of a hole that I wasn't even able to take the holiday and the recovery that would have ensued!

After 9 days totally in bed on a HUGE amount of pain killers, I had to re-start work back on the pool deck on Monday 29th April and work / survive until my last session on Saturday 11th May. A massive thanks to doctors Kirk, Gary, Nolan, Jo, Stephen, Emma and Lorry (plus Mish, of course!) for getting me through this period, which saw multiple trips to imaging clinics, hospitals and two nerve root sleeve injections. Eventually my lower back loosened off and the nerve pain eased (somewhat) enough to contemplate the 30+ hour trip to Prague and then on to Mallorca. I usually travel cattle class (boot-strapping and all that!), but had to take an upgrade to business to ensure I could lay flat. 

The good news is I've made it to the UK (not quite Prague yet), but have not done any form of exercise for 23 days (and counting!) which is driving me nuts!! I'm totally aware that I am becoming the classic "chronic pain" case, and it's made me look at my whole work / life balance and how I might be able to modify things - I certainly can't risk another episode like this and am keen to avoid any further surgery to the microdiscectomy I had in December 2013.

So, how does this affect you all?

What we can learn about our health from our sleep patterns:

As you know, I'm an Über-geek when it comes to technology, and a few months ago I bought an Oura Ring to track my sleeping patterns. Of course, I knew the results would be "bad" having to get up 6 out of 7 mornings per week at 4.30am, but check out the results below during the period April 5th to today (13th May):

The middle (green) section is the period during when I injured my back and all I could do was lay in bed and sleep. Typically I average just under 6 hours of sleep a night (something I used to wear as a "badge of honour" believing it showed the integrity of "hard work").  During the green period I was getting more like the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. The effect was incredible on what is called your Readiness Score which uses HRV (Heart Rate Variability) and aRHR (average Resting Heart Rate) to determine how well rested you are. Ironically enough, the ring kept yelling at me that I should be feeling super-human and ready to take on the world, despite being laid up in bed feeling sorry for myself!

In the period prior to the injury (when I was coaching over in the USA), my aRHR and HRV are what I'd describe as "moderately good", during the period of rehab (given all the rest), they are off the charts "good", but when returning back to my normal routine, average HR and HRV are both very "poor" indeed. This is how I've most likely been living since I started Swim Smooth in October 2004 and as I'm ageing, this gives very strong support to the notion that I need to change a few things in order to ensure I don't spiral down into a massive pit of "brokenness"!

All this data is very nice of course, but it's only of value if we do something with it of course. I haven't got an answer for that yet in my situation, but trust me, the warning bells have rung loud and clear and I'm now in a period of deep reflection looking at where I can make these adjustments.

I'd love to hear from any of you who've been through similar periods in your life which prompted change and how you went about that?

Cheers and see you all in a few weeks - hopefully in a better way than when you last saw me grimacing on pool deck!

Thanks for all your support and understanding through what has been a very tough time for me and the family especially #MrGrumpy


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