Today we are continuing with the flavour of the week – running. The lovely Shannon is taking on the Run Melbourne half marathon tomorrow. This is big news as Shazza has overcome major surgery and rehab to get back on track …
LOVEFLOCK: Last time we heard about your running you were just recovering from surgery. Can you tell us a bit about why you needed surgery and what it entailed?
Shannon: That’s right, I had recently undergone surgery for popliteal artery entrapment syndrome – a rare condition that in English means ‘the blood flow to my lower legs and feet was being trapped by my calf muscles’. I had surgery in both my legs to ‘decompress’ my popliteal artery – aka removing chunks* of my calf muscles so the blood could flow freely. I had my right leg operation in March 2015 and my left leg op in February 2016.
LOVEFLOCK: What did your rehabilitation consist of?
Shannon: For each surgery I spent five nights in hospital, then a week at home with lots of heavy painkillers! I was on crutches for about a month each time and worked closely with a physio who gave me daily stretches and strengthening exercises and did lots of massage to help me regain my flexibility and strength. I did a lot of pool rehab too before I could transition to walking, then walk/running, then finally running. It was a very slow process (understatement), but after six months I reached the epic milestone of being able to run 5km! There were so countless ‘two steps forward, one step back’ moments to get to that point and those frustrating moments continued for several months after.
LOVEFLOCK: Along with getting your body working again, it must have taken a mental and emotional toll. Tell us about that and how you regained confidence?
Shannon: The emotional toll has been huge. I still get teary thinking about what I’ve endured over the past four years, from diagnosis to surgery to rehab to getting fit again. Painkillers and physio treatments helped me deal with the physical elements, but the mental aspect wore me down. The most difficult part was the unknown. From the beginning, my surgeon was honest and told me that this kind of surgery doesn’t always work, so even as I was being wheeled into the operating theatre, or doing my daily rehab, I’d question whether the surgeries were all worth it. But the only other option was to choose to live a mostly inactive life where running would be out of the question, and even climbing a few stairs or driving for too long was painful. The choice was obvious, but I never could have expected the emotional rollercoaster that it set me on.
It took me a long time to regain my confidence. And I still don’t know that I’ve got it all back. As I set out to run, I still get surprised that I am actually able to run without pain! I kind of expect my legs to start hurting again. This whole process has made me learn that I can never ever take my body or my health for granted again and to be grateful for all that it can do.
LOVEFLOCK: You are about to run the Run Melbourne half marathon. Can you share about your preparation/training?
Shannon: Slow and consistent have been key to my training – eg not increasing my weekly distances too fast and making sure I run every other day. Listening to my body and making sure I balance the running side of things with strength and flexibility exercises have also been vital, as well as eating healthy (eating enough – I’m hungry all the time!) and getting plenty of rest.
I’ve also joined a running club so I can stop boring my friends and family with my latest running stats, PBs and goals, and to help keep me motivated in winter. There’s no way I would have endured 6am sprint sessions in the middle of a cold, dark Melbourne winter on my own!
LOVEFLOCK: Who is on your running track list?
Shannon: I’m in the process of putting together an epic playlist for race day. During training I’ve been listening to more chilled out songs (eg Oh Wonder, Fleet Foxes, Angus and Julia Stone, Laura Marling and Sampha), and even some running podcasts to try and slow me down (sounds strange but I am teaching myself to run slower on my long training runs so I recover better).
On race day, I’ll be listening to a mix of new and old upbeat songs by artists like Airling, Kiiara, Bloc Party, ABBA, Basement Jaxx, Rudimental and Belle & Sebastian. My fave song to run to at the moment is Olympic Sneakers by Heaps Good Friends – it’s so poppy and really gets me in the mood to run!
LOVEFLOCK: I’m about to start training for my first 5km in about two years. I was unprepared last time and want to be more so this time around. Can you share advice on how to get into running? Motivation and practical tips?
Shannon: That’s great news! A 5km run is a great goal and it’s a good time of year to get started because the days are getting longer and mild spring weather is just around the corner.
Here are my top tips for newbies:
- Set realistic goals otherwise you’ll risk injury or just burnout. Something like three 30-minute walk/runs a week is a good place to start.
- Don’t worry how far or fast you’re going, just aim to slowly build up your time spent running (vs walking) each week, even if it’s only by a minute! I got back into running after surgery by breaking a 30minute walk/run into 5-minute blocks. Start by running for 30 seconds, then walking for 4:30mins in each block, and repeat 6 times. If your body feels ok, each week add 30 seconds or 1 minute to the run block and reduce the walking time, and in no time you’ll be running more than you’re walking!
- Run slow! It might feel like you’re only running slightly faster than a walk, but by running super slow you’ll be able to run for longer.
- Run regularly – consistency is so important. It gets your body and mind used to running (eventually it will get easier!)
- Schedule your runs, motivate yourself with rewards and/or find a friend to go with you – anything to keep you accountable.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you have an off day. Some days you might set out to run/walk 30 minutes, but only be able to do 20minutes, and that’s fine! As long as you’re getting out there, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch!
LOVEFLOCK: You are running the half marathon to fundraise for a special cause. Tell us more and how we can support you.
Shannon: Yes! I’m raising money for Cancer Council Victoria. I work there, so that’s part of it, but I also know too many people including my mum who have been touched by cancer.
Just last month, my family lost our dear friend Gail to cancer and her battle inspired me to fundraise and keep training on those bitterly cold, dark winter mornings.
The money I raise enables Cancer Council Victoria to support people affected by cancer and their families, and help prevent cancer through awareness and research. If you would like to donate, head over to my Everyday Hero page. Any donations are greatly, greatly appreciated!