May 2020 Challenges

My 2020 Challenges: Manchester Marathon & Machu Picchu

This year marks 10 years since I had life-changing surgery on my spine to correct my scoliosis.

I had scoliosis surgery on July 29th 2010. I’m fused T3 to L3, which basically means that pretty much my whole spine is fused apart from 3 discs at the bottom.

Following my surgery, it took me over a year to fully recover and I had to learn the basics again such as walking and getting out of bed. It was a very painful and long recovery.  Today, I still get some pain, my breathing is affected and I have numbness and nerve issues but my quality of life is so much better than before I had the surgery. Going through something like this makes you really appreciate life and I still find it hard to believe all the things I can do now, it’s truly amazing what the human body is capable of.

To celebrate 10 years with a titanium spine, I have decided to push myself further than I have before by running an actual marathon in April – Manchester Marathon 2020!

Then in October, I plan to take on a 10 day trek to Machu Picchu, which is something I’ve really wanted to do for a while now.

I’ll be posting updates on my training over on my Instagram and on this blog, so be sure to follow me and keep updated 🙂 The Trek to Machu Picchu is graded as tough and will involve:

  • Trekking an average of 8 hours a day
  • Trekking at high altitude
  • The maximum altitude reached is 4600m above sea level
  • Trekking through remote areas where facilities are basic

Scafell Pike

My aim with these challenges is to push myself and inspire others with scoliosis but also to raise awareness of the condition, as although very common, it is still relatively unknown.

I really need your support in raising as much money and awareness as possible. All money donated will go towards the Scoliosis Campaign Fund

Scoliosis Campaign Fund raises money to support people with scoliosis and their families, and fund research into finding the causes of scoliosis and treatments to improve quality of life for patients.

Scoliosis Campaign Fund was launched in November 2007, and is a joint fundraising venture between British Scoliosis Research Foundation, who fund research into the causes and treatment of scoliosis and Scoliosis Association (UK), a patient support charity. The two organisations have worked closely for several years and became officially affiliated in November, 2006. All money raised from the activities is divided equally between the two charities.

There is still little knowledge or understanding of scoliosis, which can make it difficult for people to access the care and information that they need, and can leave them feeling isolated and unsure where to turn.

Scoliosis Campaign Fund allows SAUK to continue its work supporting people with scoliosis and their families so that no-one has to go through scoliosis alone.

If you would like to sponsor me for these challenges, you can do so on this link below, any amount large or small is hugely appreciated!

I would also love it if you could share my sponsor page on your own social media pages, blogs or with family and friends to try and get the message out there and raise as much awareness as possible!

Thanks in advance for your support!

Louise X

2020 goals

My 2020 Goals

Happy New Year all!

I wanted to reflect back on my 2019 goals and share where I’m at for 2020 (wow!)

I’m really proud of everything I achieved in 2019, I managed to run four half marathons, including the Great North Run, which was definitely a highlight of the year. In one of those I got a PB of 2.02, so although I didn’t achieve my goal of sub 2, I was pretty close and very proud of that.

In June, I took part in the three peak challenge and climbed Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike for the first time. Over the summer, I also got more involved with my run club, and as a result, I met so many people and started to join more social runs, one of which took us up The Great Orme in Wales which was a good achievement as it’s pretty much a mountain in my eyes, very steep !!

As a result of doing more with my run club, I became friends with an amazing group of people and we started taking part in the parkrun alphabet challenge, which is basically where you run a different parkrun for every letter of the alphabet.  This is a lot of fun – we got to see so many new places, with an overseas trip to Jersey thrown in for good measure!

I also achieved two goals with one stone by travelling to Poland alone to do my first park run abroad in Gdansk.

As a result, last year I achieved my milestone of 50 parkruns as well as completing the milestone of 20 different parkruns!

In 2019, I completed 22 parkruns in 11 different locations and 14 letters of the alphabet challenge 😄

Other achievements include ..

  • Running over 1000km in the year
  • Volunteering at parkrun for the first time
  • Starting goodgym
  • 10k PB of 55.30
  • Took more time for myself, including counselling, meditation, yoga and reading more

2020 is the year I push myself further. This year, I have fewer goals but they are biggies…

Raise over £3k for the Scoliosis Campaign Fund by…

Completing my first marathon in April (Manchester Marathon)
Completing a trek to Machu Pichu to raise money for scoliosis

Other goals include …

  • Run 1000 miles in 2020
  • Complete 100 parkruns
  • Continue with the parkrun alphabet challenge and tourism including doing more abroad
  • work on my strength and endurance rather than running speed get into trail running

Personally, I also want to continue with my self development and have joined a self development group and a book club to encourage me to read more.

So,these are my goals…what are yours? I would love to hear them. Let me know in the comments below ☺

Self Care Tips for Scoliosis

5 Self Care Tips for those with Scoliosis

5 Self Care Tips for Scoliosis

Over the past year, I have been living life on full speed, and as a result, have recently made myself pretty ill and run down. This has been very frustrating for me, as I’ve not been able to run or do the things I enjoy for a while. But this forced rest has made me realise something. That although I have been trying to focus on myself over the last 8 months or so and trying to fit in time for self-care, I actually haven’t been looking after myself in many ways.

I’ve been trying to keep up with people in my run club, see all my friends, work full time and meet my goals and in the process, I’ve completely neglected my health. Busy schedules, lack of sleep, not eating properly, 4 half marathons, long training runs, too much alcohol and trying to do everything all the time for everyone has resulted in a complete burn-out and an illness that has lasted far longer than it should have done. It’s made me realise that I need to make some changes to my life. I can’t do everything all the time and I need to make the time and space in my schedule sometimes to rest and recover.

These self care tips can be for anyone, not just for those with scoliosis but I feel that these are some things that I need to start doing to ensure I don’t let myself get this run down again. 

1. Try not to compare yourself or compete with others

Self Care Tips Scoliosis Don't Compare to others

This is a big one and I’m very guilty of this. I will use the example of my running. Before I got ill, I was pushing myself. I did the Great North Run in September, which I trained hard for and as a result I felt strong in this race, I did well and got a good time. Shortly after this race, I got ill with a virus, but continued to train for my next half marathon in October even though I wasn’t well. I went on 10 mile training runs and really struggled. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the others, I had zero energy and felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. But I didn’t stop and even though I wasn’t feeling great, I completed the Manchester Half (in the rain), despite the fact that I felt like I was going to faint half way round and really had to slow down. After this race, I continued to train for my next half marathon which was the Conway Half, but again, I was struggling badly to run at a pace I was normally fine with. I felt rubbish, like I was unfit and failing.

It was shortly after this, that one weekend I got really ill and then, couldn’t run at all. I skipped all my training that weekend, then went to the Dr and was given an inhaler and antibiotics for a chest infection. Writing this down now, I know I was stupid to run the Manchester Half Marathon that day, but I didn’t want to miss out. As a result I felt crap and made myself feel 10 times worse. I was trying to keep up with everyone else, while neglecting my own health in the process.

Another thing is that this year I got caught up in trying to get faster and keep up with the faster runners in my run club. If I did a race and didn’t get a time I was happy with, I would feel a failure. I’ve been reflecting on this while I’ve not been able to run and thinking, I would do anything just to be able to run now, I don’t even care how fast. I think I got so caught up in it all, and trying to keep up with others, that I forgot how amazing it is just to be able to run a half marathon, never mind the speed.

From now on, I’m just going to try and focus on myself and what I’m doing and try not to worry about everyone else. I shouldn’t compare myself to others because (even though this is not an excuse!) running in general is more difficult for me. I do have a reduced lung capacity, muscle imbalances and leg numbness, which I’m sure will affect my ability compared to those without scoliosis. I tend to forget that sometimes.

I guess what I’m trying to say in this long winded way is, depending on the severity, having scoliosis can give you certain limitations that you should be aware of when comparing yourself to others (and not be so hard on yourself, anything and everything you do and achieve is amazing!)

2. Look after your physical health

Self Care Scoliosis

If you have scoliosis, keeping active is important and it doesn’t have to be strenuous. It’s important to keep the back and core muscles strong to help with back pain and to protect the back from injury. Activities such as Yoga, Pilates, stretching and physiotherapy can all help with this (as well as helping with your emotional well-being too!)

REST is also just as important for physical health – and this is crucial for everyone, not just if you have scoliosis.

I’m usually of the opinion that there is no time for sleeping and I’d normally rather be doing a million other things than sleeping. However, I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to get enough sleep, cut down on alcohol and eat better going forwards. 

3. Look after your EMOTIONAL health

Self Care Tips Scoliosis

I’ve been really tying to focus on my emotional health recently by taking a bit of time out for therapeutic activities such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness.  There are many apps you can use for this, such as as Head Space for example. There are also some good meditation and yoga videos on YouTube so you can fit these around your day. 

Another thing that it is important (and something that I personally find very difficult) is learning to say no sometimes. If you are tired, in pain or don’t feel like doing something, don’t feel bad about saying no and taking some time out to yourself. 

Similarly reducing time on social media and not looking at your phone an hour or so before you go to sleep can also go a long way to helping to look after your emotional health and well-being. 

4. Practice self-care

Self Care Scoliosis

Related to the above, self-care is so important for mental well-being. Things I’ve tried more of this year including reading a self help book each month, listening to uplifting podcasts and having regular hot bubble baths. Relaxing in a hot bubble bath is perfect for those of us with scoliosis and back pain as it can help to ease tight muscles.  I also find that having a bit of me time where I can relax and read a book really helps. Prior to this year, I never used to do things like this and I would be too busy for a bath (I always had a shower) but since I’ve been living on my own I’ve made a real conscious effort to make time for me. I’ve started self care Sunday’s, where I try to have an hour in the bath with my music and some candles. 

Another thing which can be good for scoliosis (and a nice treat!) is to have a massage every now and again. Not only can this be relaxing, it can also ease to help tight muscles and relieve pain.

5. It’s good to talk

Self Care Scoliosis

This one will be different for everyone, but having scoliosis has certainly affected my self esteem and mental health over the years.

The psychological effects of scoliosis are so often overlooked and can be just as bad as the physical symptoms and pain. Talking and dealing with all the emotions is so important but when I was a teenager I tended to hide my condition and keep things bottled up. I’ve recently started counseling and I think to be honest, I should maybe have had some counseling years ago to help me deal with the diagnosis and surgery.

One thing I did do though when I was contemplating and researching surgery, was to join a scoliosis support forum and talk to others with scoliosis who were going through the same.

If you are feeling alone or need someone to talk to, then I would really recommend doing this. It helped me so much as I made some good friends and felt less alone after hearing others’ experiences. A good site for support is the Scoliosis Association.