Friday, 9 November 2012

Rumination: Aches and Pains

I keep this blog for tales of walking, it does not exist for any other purpose. The days of everyone thinking that a blog should cover every single fragment of detail from people's everyday lives has thankfully passed, and I will endeavour to keep away from adding details from the rest of my life here (that was for my Livejournal account, and I haven't logged into that for years!) However, sometimes the rest of my life interferes with my walking, and causes disruptions to my plans and that is what I'll be talking about today, so I apologise in advance for griping about my work and the physical toll it took on me over the summer. For a brief hiatus, I will talk about something other than walking, and if you are not interested, there are plenty more walks to come before the end of my first walking season!

August Bank Holiday weekend came around and it turned out to be the only one of the 'Worst Summer Ever' to be actually blighted with ghastly weather and low temperatures, and I was really glad to be off the trail for the two available walking days. However, I hadn't bailed because I didn't fancy challenging the weather, I'd dropped it because I was bloody knackered. I often joke that summer is the worst of seasons because only 60% of the staff turn up at work because of the rotating schedule of holidays, but this year our department seemed to be at the bare bones. For those who don't know, I work in a hospital, and the very nature of working in the public sector seems to be that every office has fewer staff than it actually needs, but the current economic woes of the world and the general political antipathy towards public service means that we really are working with the bare minimum of staff.

That should be manageable though, I've worked through many summer of not quite enough hands, so this one became all the more difficult because two of our redoubtable regulars dropped onto long term sick leave and we were left with situations of having two staff to do the work of four, or one to do the work of three, and that is where problems start. Trying to engage in physical work for the entirety of a day is tough, especially when you are notionally in a clerical job where there are tasks that do not involve a physical aspect which would normally fill part of your working day. I'm also at the point of my 30s where tendencies towards athleticism start to pass and the body's capacity to recuperate seems to take have slowed down. The amount of lifting, carrying and pushing started to take a toll on by neck and shoulders, to the point of needing a lie on the floor and a good stretch out at the end of most working days, and I started to experience horrible chest pains that I would have thought were like having a heart attack, if it wasn't for knowing that they were nothing like having a heart attack. It's much more probable that I have damaged something in my ribs or pectorals and my body has been having a really hard time of repairing it.

Walking with a headache is not a good idea, and smiling
for the camera becomes more of a grimace.
At Chantry Bridge, Wakefield.
I'd got through aches and pains before, having injured both wrists, a groin muscle, my neck and an abdominal muscle in the course of the last decade, but ending each week and feeling like I'd taken a right kicking was eventually going to impact on my weekend walking. And then there were the headaches, dear God, the headaches... I've never suffered from migraines, but spending days with no natural light in the basement at work started to induce real pounding pains and feelings of listlessness that could mostly be contained with painkillers, but sometimes lasted right into the weekends, and that did nothing for my moods. And mood issues have been another problem in recent times, but facing up to the reality of my emotional downturns had been coming round pretty well, and my personal philosophy of trying to make a positive out of my negatives had been working out too, and my walking had sprung directly from that. Miserable at being on your own? then go out and tramp the hills and by-ways, and make solitude a thing to enjoy. Additionally, my confidence had taken a knock after my escapade by the Calder in Brighouse, and whilst in reality it was only a small error in judgement, it had me realising that I could be capable of doing something very stupid or dangerous in the future.

It has been quite hard to express just how glum and downbeat I was feeling at the end of August, and getting away from walking for the weekend was really what I needed to recharge and refocus. Heading over to Mytholmroyd for drinks and a catch up with my pals was a good thing to do, and I still had the legs to wander up to the Robin Hood at Cragg Vale too, whilst the Shoulder of Mutton was still closed post June floods. It's quite puzzling that despite all the aches and pains I'd been enduring, the one thing that hadn't been giving me any trouble was my legs, no residual soreness in my knees, hips or ankles, and no deep muscle pains in thighs or calves, either. In fact my legs felt like they'd never been in better condition, and my general stamina was still good too, it's just everything else that had been laying me low. Taking stock of my walking progress so far, and looking to my walking targets for the remainder of the year made me realise that I didn't actually have a lot of year left, as my autumn plans for post-canal walking would occupy me right up to the end of October and then you are into the cold and short days of the dark quarter of the seasons. Anyway, after eight consecutive Saturdays on the trail, I was due some time off and with a week of being NIW only a week distant, a bit of rest was probably in order before the year hit its downward arc. Let the soreness work its way out and then back to the trail with renewed vigour and enthusiasm!

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