Friday, February 24, 2012

#390: Groin Pulls and Other Injuries

Not Pennsy's Groin
Pulling your groin... it's always sounded a little obscene to me. I guess I was never really sure where my "groin" was. I thought of it as the general area of the crotch, as in "he got kicked in the groin. Actually, the groin muscles are part of your hip adductors. They help you close your legs. I learned this when the surgeon implanted an IVC filter through a vein in my groin. Long time readers will remember the day I had my bikini line shaved for the first time. To be honest, I haven't given my groin much thought, since then, other than the standard cleaning and maintenance that any responsible owner give to his equipment.

But on Wednesday night, I pulled my groin while swimming. I'm trying to think of a wussier sounding sentence. Swimming is the exercise we recommend to people who are old and stiff. People with arthritis can swim. People who are already injured can get into the pool, for Pete's sake. But there I was, doing the Breast Stroke, which is basically a resting stroke, when I snapped my legs together and felt a sharp, burning pain from my hip to my inner thigh. My first thought was, "Oh, so that's what a groin pull feels like." My next thought was, "This had better not screw with my running." And finally, the killer: "You wuss. You just pulled your groin SWIMMING!"

I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to contemplate the experience of treating your injured groin with ice packs.

When I was in high school, my friends Bobby and Dwight were always convincing me to "go out" for one team or another, with fairly consistent results. There was the basketball tryout where the coach pulled me off to the side and suggested I go out for wrestling. The night on in the throwing pit when I discovered I could not safely predict the direction I would be hurling the discus. There was the week of wrestling where I discovered the humiliation of trying to throw a young man who appeared to be fastened to the floor with lag bolts through his feet. Then there was the night I went out for swimming. I don't know how many miles Coach Troy made us swim that night: 12 or 15, I think. I remember being passed a lot by guys who had propellers for feet. I remember feeling like my legs were made of burning jello, and missing school the next day because I could not move any of my limbs. But mostly, I remember handing Coach my excuse for being absent. In perfect cursive, Mum had written, "Sore from swimming." He read it silently. Looked up at me. Read it aloud, softly, so as not to embarrass me, for at heart, he was a kind man. Then his eyes filled with a kind of tender pity, as if I had missed school so I could travel to San Francisco to try on prom dresses. Swimming was never really the same for me after that.

Still, when I joined the Y, the pool beckoned. I used to be a decent swimmer, and I wanted to keep my cross-training options open for the days when I wasn't running. Mrs P found me some trunks at the Goodwill, I picked up a pair of those weird goggles at Meijer, and off I went to the water. It soon became apparent that I had forgotten a great deal about swimming.

Where are those tree-huggers when you need them?
My endurance is pretty good for a fat old man. I can run for a couple of hours and require no medical attention at all. My first 25 meter length of the pool at the Y left me wondering if they would have to drag me up onto the deck to administer CPR, or if they could just do it while I lay on the bottom. My heart pounded so hard I could hear my pulse. I gasped for breath with my elbows hooked on the edge of the deck, hoping the people from Green Peace would find me in time. I could not believe I could get so tired so fast.

I've been practicing since then. Asking for advice. Watching YouTube. Studying the dolphin-like 10-year-olds who come to swim practice after school. I'm getting better. But today I have this little twinge in my groin and I don't want to aggravate it, so I'm giving it a rest. I've missed a training run, and I'm in a grump.

Which prompted me to think of other injuries I have sustained in my long and storied athletic career. Other than the sore knees I experienced when I first started running, I have had only one injury on the road. I strained both my Achilles tendons during my first 5K, which is its own funny story. I once strained a shoulder doing a bizarre exercise where you hold a medicine ball up over your head, then throw it down to the floor as hard as you can, catch it, and repeat. I've never had more than a blistered ring finger from lifting weights. And the only injury I sustained during my LIVESTRONG at the YMCA training was from doing a stretch where you lie on the floor and cross your leg over your body, twisting your hips into a sort of screw shape of which my sacroiliac joint did not approve. Then of course, there was the bout of Pickleball Shoulder I experienced recently. The less said about that, the better.

The upshot here is that discounting poor conditioning or male stupidity, I have never been seriously hurt while running.  I give credit for that to the techniques and philosophy of Jeff Galloway. Using walk breaks early and often has enabled me to keep going without pain or injury. An important part of this approach to training is respect for recovery days. So I want to cross-train. I want to do something besides run that will keep my metabolism cooking. It's just that all these exercise things are so dangerous. Cycling, for example, wears me out almost as fast as swimming, and involves Pennsyltucky drivers, a notoriously aggressive breed.

I'd try shuffle board... but I hear it's really hard on your knees.



  1. Curling, my friend. :)

    1. Seriously? If there was ever a sport designed for muscle pulls, it's one where you stand around for an hour, then lunge and slide on ice. No thanks. Too much excitement for my old heart.


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