Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Over-training and a concussion: read if you’re a yes-man

A few weeks had passed where I hadn’t felt quite myself. I was always exhausted, physically and mentally. My body was sore – specifically my quads, and my “OCD” had more-or-less taken a turn into planning anxiety. I was finding myself unfocused at work, forgetful, and uninterested. There was nothing better to me than finding myself in bed at the end of the day – usually around 8:30 if I didn’t have a late soccer game - finally able to let go of any muscle control that was required to do as little as sit up straight.

So I did what any smart-phone using person in this era would do – I Googled. 

I looked up “leg pain” and found some legitimate sites that didn’t suggest I had cancer. Diagnosis? Over-training.  

Other than the muscle soreness, symptoms to look out for are: irritability, insomnia, anxiety and increased susceptibility to infection.

I did more Googling and found that the best way to deal with it is rest. Duh.

I immediately put everything on hold so that I’d be able to participate in my next soccer game. It was during that game that I finally found the real problem.

After the game, I felt all-out-of-sorts. Sensitive to light, nauseous, unfocused – I couldn’t get home fast enough. I thought this was because it was 11:30 p.m. In the morning, I wasn’t much better but chalked it up to not enough sleep and not yet having had my coffee or breakfast. When I got to work, I participated in the usual chit chat but wasn’t really listening to what anyone was saying. The slightest sound outside of speaking made me flinch – a dish hitting another in the sink, someone pulling out the chair from the kitchen table. I ate and tossed back my coffee but the feelings did not go away. I interrupted my co-worker and asked “How do you know if you have a concussion?”

It finally all clicked. The symptoms I’d felt earlier were due to the concussion that I’d gotten, likely, after one of the harder hits I’d taken at soccer weeks before. The headers from the previous night, which normally would not have caused any harm, had brought out the symptoms (heading the ball, as proven in scientific studies, cannot be the cause of a concussion unless the activity is done 1,100 times a year – or three times a day).

 As explained by my doctor, your brain swells when you have a concussion, and stimulation which causes blood to flow to the brain will cause you to feel nauseous, unfocused, headache-y, sore, exhausted, etc. The stimulation can come from exercise – as simple as running – which causes more blood to flow to your brain, focusing too hard on your computer screen, and, of course, knocking your head on a soccer ball when your swollen brain will feel more of an impact.

I went home sick that day and ceased all activities that weren’t necessary. A few days later, I was feeling a lot better. I decided to go for a run, against my advisement to take a week of everything before easing back into my exercise routine. Obviously it was a bad idea – aiming to run 12k, I could only complete 7 before my headache got the better of me. 

Lesson learned, I went to a stretching yoga class the next evening – which was wonderful. Motivated by my rehabilitation and the thought that yoga could do no wrong, I went to a wake-up hot yoga class the following morning. Maybe not the best idea. The floor serious had a few poses that required me to be on my stomach for a long time. I left that class feeling nauseous, but at least not with a headache. 

It was the following day that I felt worse, and for no apparent reason. I was at work for only a few hours before I had to go home. The nausea was worsening and I was very unfocused, mistyping my words and feeling pain from looking at the computer screen. I slept for a better part of the day.

Coming up on my second week since being diagnosed, I went for another run a few days ago and this time completed 10k at my pace, feeling amazing afterwards. Yesterday morning, I was finally able to return to the gym, keeping my weights very light. It felt great. 

Other than a lot of useful general knowledge about concussions, I have also learned:
 - There is no shame in taking the low options at the gym or in yoga. For years, I’d felt I had to push myself at both. It was either the regular option, or advanced. Now I don’t feel guilty if I have to lower my weights or put my knees down during push-ups.
-       - Don’t compare yourself to others – or your old self. I used to be able to doubles or triples – and I still know many girls that can. We change all the time and I shouldn’t feel less about myself if I can’t do that anymore.
-          - It’s ok to say no – not just at the gym, in your social life as well. We seem to be a “yes” society. “Yes, I can meet you after 6 a.m. spin for a coffee before work at 9.” Or “Yes, I can have dinner after work before my soccer game.” If someone tries to make you feel guilty for not saying yes – then they are an a-hole and you should freely let them know as much.

I’ve dropped a soccer team and have ceased to fill every blank cell of my Excel Spreadsheet schedule (jokes – don’t actually use an Excel Spreadsheet) leaving time for me to write, read, or just sit in my big, comfy chair at home. Listen to your body, it’s ok to take a moment to relax, recharge, and just breathe.

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