On Monday, I had a follow up appointment with the specialist physio to see where I was at in terms 0f my recovery. I did some strength tests and discovered that despite my best efforts, my left hamstring strength is only 50 percent of the right and in order to run properly, I really need some more strength in my left leg – and I need to develop it before my next appointment in seven weeks’ time. Hence, the title, the “Seven Week Strength Project”.
My commitment is to do strength training in the gym three to four times a week, even if that means sacrificing running for a little while and other forms of cardio. I need a stronger core, hamstrings and glutes – so off to the gym it is. It’s a bit like aerobic base building – you need good foundations before you can build and get to the exciting stuff and in my case, I need to build better foundations so I can do the things I like to do well, rather than be continually struggling because I tried to get back into it too soon, rather than follow through with the entire rehabilitative process.
Finding out about my slower than hoped for progress in the strength department has been a bit of a blessing in some ways, as it has laid out a clear path for me to follow. It’s become painfully obvious that I need to “walk before I can run” but that if I stay the course, I will be able to run into the future and ride just as well as I ever have. I am at the stage of the journey where I am beginning to believe in the possibility of a full recovery.
A few things have helped. Firstly, I was feeling very despondent about my average pace on the bike, feeling like I have become worse and worse since the injury and subsequent repair and consequently having a few “woe-is-me” moments about it all. Last night, I was playing around on the app, Strava, where I log all my workouts. I was able to pull up a page of how I performed over certain stretches (called segments) that I regularly ride and to my surprise and delight, I can see an improvement in my times – I’m certainly not as fast as I used to be, but I am beating the times I was posting before my Three Peaks challenge on certain areas. Which tells me that the hamstring is starting to work and contribute to my pedalling again – and that if I can get it stronger, I can get better!
Secondly, I found having my hamstring strength measured by a dynamometer quite motivating. I’ve never been one to number crunch too much when it comes to all things fitness, but I have a numerical target to try and reach. Plus the benefits of collecting data are obvious, when after doing a bit of analysis about my Strava “performances” , I started to feel so much better about my progress.
Thus, I’m committing to a few things over the next seven weeks – strength training – three to four times a week and finally data collection. Next week I’m taking possession of a power meter so I can use it as another variable to measure my improvements and progress. This will be interesting as I’ve never used power as a metric in my cycling and with the leg strength discrepancy, it should prove to be quite the project. What I do love about data collection strategies in health and fitness is that the yardstick you measure up against is your own.
Before I sign out for the week, I’m thinking of making some changes to my eating (all evidence based of course) and the only data collection I will do is to take photographs of my meals. I discovered a nifty app called “Two Grand” which allows you to photographically log your meals and monitor your habits. As I’m trying to live a fit lifestyle for the long term, and my workout volume and intensity change a fair bit, I’m trying to focus on good habits, rather than calorie count, as I try to hit my nutrition straps (the last bit in the recovery process). I’m sick of all of the nutrition bs I see on social media and wish to share the salted caramel ice-cream I consume as well as grains, other dairy and salads!
Let me know if you’d like me to link my blog to Two Grand so you can see what I’m chowing down on.