Injuries While Traveling: Don’t Ignore your Body’s Early Warning Signals
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We pride ourselves in being able to take on most physical activities at a moments notice. This by no means, means that we do the activity at the highest caliber or that we’re winning any competitions for speed or strength. We’re just in decent health and with good overall conditioning levels. We jog once a week for cardiovascular health, we stretch and do strength exercises regularly and we walk everywhere. Essentially, our goal is, that if we decide we want to trail run, learn to ski and hike a big mountain, there won’t be hesitation because of a lack of basic fitness.
Combine our health regiment with our traveling style of ‘leave’ no stone unturned’, and it’s easy to realize that we put a lot of physical effort into our traveling and sightseeing. We often turn down rides to the train station or an attraction, preferring to walk. We plan out daily walks of 5-6 miles that somehow consistently turn into 7-9 miles. Most importantly, we enjoy the exercise and look forward to it. If we don’t walk or exercise, we feel lousy and sluggish.
This Is a Good Thing, Right?
We thought it was great. Physical fitness and high activity levels keep us healthy and keep us moving, especially during our sightseeing. However, we learned an important lesson. Putting extreme strain on the body, day-in and day-out can have negative effects. We, incorrectly, thought that we were conditioning ourselves. Eight mile walks became a baseline, so if we walked four miles, we felt like we’d just gone around the block once or twice.
After our London adventures, full of extreme walking, exceeding 13 miles at times, we were left hurting. It started with Shannon. Her feet started to hurt with each step. Her pain was located on each of her big toes, right on the joint. However, we just thought it was her shoes; they were wearing unusually quickly in the same area and had terrible 3-inch gashes down the side of the fabric. We purchased new shoes and figured the pain would subside. It did in one foot, but her right foot just got worse. We arrived at our house sit in Chester, UK and she begrudgingly took a couple days off walking. (Seriously, Sergio had to insist she not go walking with him. He kept strong and didn’t let the pouty lips and sad faces persuade him). Those couple of days seemed like an eternity. She returned to walking and was better… for a few miles and then the pain returned.
Meanwhile, as we made our way to Liverpool, UK, Sergio started to feel discomfort as well. He had sharp pain in his arches (well, where arches should be, considering he has completely flat feet). The pain in his feet was soon followed by discomfort in his hip and then his back. Surely, his body was over compensating in an attempt to relieve pain in his foot, causing miss-alignment and pain in other parts of his body.
At this point we both took heed. We were on our way to Didsbury, right outside of Manchester, for a house sit. We had several days planned out of sightseeing in Manchester, which meant walking the dogs before or after a bus trip and walking around city center Manchester. This would inevitably mean 6-7 miles walking, conservatively, each day. This wasn't going to allow us to heal. Healing was our number one priority, so we canceled our sightseeing plans and focused on the pups we were carrying for and on resting.
If We Didn’t Heal, It Could Mean Permanent Damage
We knew that if we didn’t rest and allow ourselves to heal, we’d be in for trouble. As much as we generally push through discomfort, this was not the time to do so. It’s an admirable character trait, to be able to push through tough situations by putting discomfort aside. The amount that can be accomplished after the point when others give-up or quit is well worth it, in most cases. However, in this case, if we ignored the warnings our body was giving us, in the end, nothing positive would be gained. Looking at the situation objectively and logically, while sightseeing now would be pleasurable and fulfill our desires to see everything, it would mean that in the end we would see less in the months to come. We could do permanent damage to our structure, tendons and muscles.
So, we listened to our bodies warning signals and took a break. We went to the pharmacy and stocked up on muscle creams, anti-inflammatory ointments, tapes, and anything else that may help. We iced our feet, backs and hips. When we walked the dogs, we did so with caution by slowing our usually fast pace, and took them to the park and let them chase a ball to minimize our walking but ensure their exercise. While most medical professionals caution against self-internet-diagnosis, we did some searching of symptoms online. Shannon’s symptoms pointed to sesamoiditis and Sergio’s to plantar fasciatis. We found videos on YouTube of how to diagnose the problem and pages on how to treat each issue. We proceed to do the stretches, taping and padding for each of us. It took some searching, but we found a store that carried Green Superfeet and Black Superfeet insoles. We took an agonizing, yet productive, two weeks off from extraneous walking. Now that we’re in Budapest, we’re easing back into it, making sure we’re fully healed.
Two Lessons Learned
Not only did we realize that we had to give our body the time to heal through stretches, icing and topical creams, but more importantly, we also learned that our bodies need days off to rest. We can’t push every day. It seems like common sense when looking at it from the outside in, but it’s harder to see when we enjoy what we’re doing. If we push ourselves physically every day, our bodies won’t have time to heal. So, while it’s healthy to do extreme exercising, pushing our bodies to the limit, doing it all the time is not. Instead, we’ll get the most health benefits from giving ourselves resting and recuperating time in-between long walks, jogs and other strenuous activity that we partake in.
Now It’s a Mental Hurdle
We know logically that we need rest here and there. However, the challenge will be to actually do it and not feel guilty about taking some time off. It’s too easy to tell ourselves that we’re being lazy by not exercising like we think we should. Going forward we’ll use each other to remind ourselves that a day accepting a ride, taking a bus or train, or just staying in, is not only okay, but wise and healthy. We’ll continue to remind ourselves that our bodies will be healthier, stronger, and more resilient if we allocate time to rest and heal until it becomes a habit and a normal activity for us.
This was a big lesson learned with a huge take away, that if we apply it, will serve us well in perpetuity, especially as we age.