I had a coworker named Paula at the time, who was working with a personal trainer. I didn't really know anything about personal training or strength training, so I got his number from her (her arms looked fabulous, I wanted that!), called and set up my first session.
I got a lot stronger and felt much better about myself once I started lifting, but my knee still hurt. So much so that I bailed out of the 2002 Columbus Marathon at mile 4, limping off the course and getting a ride back to my car. My follow up ortho appointment and MRI showed a meniscus tear in my left knee, which had probably been there about a year. I had surgery and did a few physical therapy sessions, then was sent on my way to continue the exercises on my own.
Thank goodness I had my trainer at the time. I brought him my exercises and he incorporated those strengthening and stability exercises into my routine, and I healed really well. So well, that I ran my first full Columbus Marathon is 2003, less than a year later, and felt great.
As time went on, I got more into running (I've done 9 full marathons and about 35 halfs so far). I also became a certified personal trainer myself. After leaving my corporate job and starting to work as a trainer, I kept working with MY personal trainer for another two years. I recognized how accountable I was to my sessions with him, and I was not ready to give that up, even though I was a trainer myself. I love looking back on my budget notebook around that time. It lists my expenses like this:
- Condo/Condo Fee
- Health Insurance
- Trainer Jud
- Everything else
So, once I made sure my house and health insurance were paid, I paid my trainer. Screw the electric bill, it would have to wait. I'm off to do my squats, planks and bicep curls! I loved it.
Fast forward to 2008. I'd been working out on my own for a few years, no more trainer, and running a lot. My strength training was sporadic. Since I am such a cardio girl, I often headed for the treadmill at the gym. One day in August of 2008, I did a 20 mile training run with a group of friends. It was a really tough run, and by the end my posture was pretty bad. I was collapsing, shoulders rounded forward instead of running with that nice, straight spine. Towards the end, I felt a funky tightness in my right hip, so I stretched it that night and the next two days, and crossed my fingers.
On the third day, I got out of my car at Sharon Woods to run a quick 4 miles, and after about 5 minutes, could not run at all and limped back to the car. All the strength was gone in my right leg, and I had a terrible pain through my right glute and all the way down my leg to my foot.
And I had the Air Force Marathon in four weeks! But there was nothing I could do. It was a disk in my back pinching a nerve. My entire spine was out of alignment.
Over the next three years, I experienced horrible chronic pain and sciatica. Do you want to guess what those three years cost? I don't know the total, but the services I required to try to keep me functioning included MRIs, Spinal Decompression Therapy ($3,500), Orthopedic doctors, two round of physical therapy, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and pain management. In addition, I saw a therapist for several sessions because I was struggling to feel good about myself without my beautiful runs outside and my workouts.
I often wonder if I would have gotten that injury if I'd continued with my trainer.
I don't do strength training well on my own. That's all there is to it. It's too hard and too boring. I either need a class or a personal training group to push me and keep me motivated. It took me a long time to recognize that about myself, and let go of the idea that I "should" be able to enjoy lifting on my own.
Sorry, I just don't.
I know for the cost, a personal trainer can seem like a luxury. But here's what I learned. Without consistent strength training, I got really injured. Chronic pain. And once I had that level of pain, I was willing to throw any amount of time and money at it. I just wanted to be free to do the things I wanted to do, without pain.
I believe that if I had kept up consistent strength training, especially CORE strength, during those years when I was running a lot, I would have prevented those three awful, scary years.
I am very lucky. My disk issue healed for the most part. My "SI Joint" can still flare up if I lift and twist wrong, or ignore my core work. But overall, that pain is gone. It taught me a big lesson. I would much rather pay now, and get the amazing benefits of what lifting and core work give me, than pay for physical therapy later. If you've been to PT, you know what I mean.
With proactive strength training, not only do you get strong muscles and core to support your spine and keep all your joints healthy, but you get a long list of other benefits that don't come with physical therapy, like those happy endorphins, cardio endurance, heart health, fat burn, toned arms, lower blood pressure, stable blood sugar, and a more balanced, less stressed out brain. I'll take that any day!
Bring on the planks. Do your core work. Find a way to do consistent strength training, or if you're already doing it, KEEP GOING! It's worth it even when it seems like nothing is happening. With every workout, you are preventing God-knows-what. We don't get to know what our alternate universe looks like, but I can tell you this with confidence. Your workouts are preventing more than you will ever know, or could possibly imagine.