Jonathan Dodd: Getting your own back back

Jonathan Dodd returns with his Sunday column and this week shares a story we can probably all relate to – not the running bit, but the pulled muscle bit.

Man with a Hoe painting

Jonathan Dodd’s latest column. Guest opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication. Ed

I am not a boxer, or any kind of athlete. I know this. Anyone who has had the misfortune to spot me slogging along Ryde Esplanade would be able to classify me as a non-athlete. Amazingly, people who hear that I run a bit usually look me up and down quizzically and express their admiration. I suspect it’s mostly about the unlikelihood, rather than anything else. I have to admit that this is my main thought every time I do it. But there you go, I do actually get down there every now and then and I do (mostly) run.

The other day I was overtaken, by someone considerably older than me, dressed entirely in lycra, and pounding along unnecessarily disappearing over the horizon in a flash. I did feel that they could have rubbed in the contrast between our running styles and fitness to be out in public a bit less than they did, but they weren’t visible long enough, and I have my own struggles to deal with. On the other hand, I was able to overtake another runner recently, which pleased me no end.

Reluctantly lurching into a trot again
There seem to be two styles of proceeding. One is to keep moving, no matter how slowly, without ever stopping to walk or stand with one’s hands on one’s knees, panting in an undignified way, or even just walking for a few paces, before reluctantly lurching into a trot again for another spurt. I don’t know the running world well enough yet, so I can’t tell if it’s a thing or not. But I have found that I do need to stop occasionally, for a few walking strides, and I don’t mind, because I think practice will make these stops fewer and shorter, until they’re not necessary any more. At least that’s the theory.

beach runner

I’m not so sure about the weather though. I haven’t been brave enough to go out there in the howling wind and/or rain, and I’ve wimped out when it has been particularly cold. I usually wear an old tee shirt and shorts, because wearing lots of clothes feels counter-intuitive for some reason, but I did buy some jogging trousers and a hoodie. I haven’t yet put either of these on yet, for no good reason, apart from the vague principle of the thing. I don’t think I’ve ever had an item of clothing that had a hood on it, apart from a duffle-coat like Paddington’s when I was a child, and the occasional cagoule, for English summer holidays, when it always seems to be wet and cold as one huddles in a crowded shelter on some foreign promenade. I wouldn’t like to be mistaken for some kind of hooligan.

You must never underestimate your opponent
I recently watched a programme on TV, in which Anthony Joshua, Britain’s latest nice-guy Heavyweight Champion boxer appeared. I thought he was clever and funny, and very engaging. He was talking about why boxers last, and what causes them to lose bouts. “You must never underestimate your opponent”, he said, which I thought was very true, because I was suffering from exactly that problem myself, although it wasn’t a sporting opponent that got the better of me. I became over-confident during the second phase of the Library Refurbishment, in which I had that familiar disastrous thought. As in “It’ll be far easier to put it all back”.

Nicola Adams & Anthony Joshua

Sure enough, I waltzed in cockily and started carrying bookshelves about as if I had been doing that all my life, and then I was screwing them back together and readjusting the feet so they sat properly on the floor. At some point during the day I finished one of these operations and found I couldn’t get up from the floor. I had pulled a muscle in my back. It was most embarrassing. Of course, being a man, I tried to ignore it, and carried on as best I could. I found that I could walk, and I could fold myself to go down, and I could even carry piles of books, but as soon as I had to straighten up or twist in any way, it hurt horribly.

I could only hold up a hand and grimace
That night I actually took some painkillers, and I managed to sleep, as long as I didn’t move. Nothing makes you wake up faster and more thoroughly that turning over and having a muscle in your back complain loudly. The next day I knew that the thing I needed to do was to go out and run, because I’ve always believed that the best way to sort out a pulled muscle is to keep it moving, and a good swim or a good run should smooth it out. I was even more pathetic than usual running down the road. I met someone I knew, and could only hold up a hand and grimace as I went past them, and I hope they didn’t think I was being rude.

Woman with don't worry sweater

People are generally very nice to a runner, especially in Ryde. They always move out of your way, and pull their dogs or children closer, and they always smile, usually apologetically, or at least sympathetically. I suppose it has to do with them imagining themselves actually doing such a thing, or it’s just their way of telling me I must be crazy. Probably it’s a mixture of the two. That day I was much slower, and the first kilometre was terrible, but it did become easier, and I managed to finish. But it’s talking a little longer to get back to normal, so I shall have to put up with it for a few more days.

A picture of the ways in which I can move without difficulty
Mainly it’s all right as long as I keep moving. I’m sitting here at my desk typing calmly, knowing that I’ll have to get up afterwards, and I’ll have to hold on to something at first. It’s all about mapping. I start from a position where it doesn’t hurt, and then I move in a particular direction until it starts to hurt, then I try all the other directions, until I have a picture of the ways in which I can move without difficulty. As the days go on, I can find out how quickly the pain recedes, and I can make movements that go to the safe edge, then I can nudge it carefully and regularly, and it helps to move it on.

Tooth of Tyrannosaurus Rex

I’ve always done this. I don’t know if it’s something that everyone does, or just a thing I evolved for myself. It started with a lost filling in a tooth. There were a few days between losing it and going to the dentist to get it replaced. I found that my tongue was constantly fiddling with it, because it was unexpected, and it felt like an enormous hole, although I checked in the mirror and it was actually quite small. It was a bit like your cat going a bit mad when you move the furniture around. They spend a lot of time memorising the Layout of every room, so they can make a quick getaway if something frightens them. My tongue was doing something similar, and I felt myself doing the same with injuries. I just acknowledged that this was happening, and got involved in the process, that’s all.

I expect it to get back to normal very quickly
So I have a small pain in my back, that’s sometimes quiet and sometimes shouts at me. I try to keep everything calm and comfortable, but I’m also constantly testing the limits and pushing very slightly, and I feel that this improves the healing process. Partly because I don’t make any extreme movements outside the comfort zone, and partly because I expect it to get back to normal very quickly. I always expect that, and usually that’s what happens. I believe that’s how it works, and even if it’s complete rubbish, I prefer to be involved rather than passive. That’s just how I am. I’m sure other opinions and beliefs are available.

Recovery Fair 2010

I’m happy to report that Ryde Junior Library now looks lovely and fresh, with clean carpets and new paintwork, and all the shelves have been cleaned up and reorganised, and the Librarians are delighted with it. I was pleased to have been able to help. I didn’t do any Librarianish things, I was just the muscle, even though in this case the muscle fought back. I’m sure it’ll get back to normal soon, and I’m glad it hasn’t stopped me getting on with my normal life. Whatever that is.

Good pain rather than the other kind
I hope your aches and pains are only occasional, and that they go away when told to do so, and I hope the things you make an effort with give you as much satisfaction as I get from mine. And I hope your pain is good pain rather than the other kind.

ducks at fair

If you have been, thank you for reading this.

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Opinion Piece

Sunday, 14th January, 2018 11:04am



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Can I recommend a course of Alexander Technique lessons.