Running adds value to your spine. Get moving!

Why running may be good for your back

This is a fabulous article I came across at the end of what has been a rather long week. Check it out at The New York Times: Why Running May be Good for Your Back

My case of disc bulge

I recently experienced an L5/S1disc bulge with symptoms of sciatica (including pins & needles, with associated calf and buttocks pain after running harder and longer efforts). This was about 6 weeks out from my Iron Man event in Cairns mid-June, so it really was bad timing for me.

At the time, doctors advised me to get a radiographic guided cortisone injection in the spine, which I declined. I’m not a fan of radical therapies, preferring the old-fashioned approach – try easing back and see what happens.


I’m glad to say that I’m much better now although not yet completely recovered from the disc bulge. I still get the occasional tingling feeling running down my legs to my small toes. When it was at its worst, I really began to wonder if my running days were doomed, and pondered on a life without running. Unimaginable!!

Runners may have more resilient backs

So, this latest news story on research being conducted here in Melbourne at Deakin University has made me feel much more relaxed, and very happy about the future.

Runners may actually have better, stronger backs, and more resilient spinal discs.

Exercise adds value. Running is looking pretty good!

The health messages are getting ever stronger —

Exercise adds value to your life, just get on with it!


Author: Kara Gilbert @ KMG Communications

2017 My Year of ‘Enduro’


Ironman 140.6 Date: June 11, 2017. Location: Cairns

In the closing phases of 2016, it felt like the time was right to sign up for my first full Ironman. In doing so, I committed myself to more than half a year of fairly solid training in preparation for the big day. I had competed in the IM 70.3 in Cairns, it was time to step up.

It’s a journey

In all honesty, I’m going to be testing the waters in more ways than one … as I discover the limits of my body and soul and, probably most significantly, I endeavour to take my heart to new levels. But hey, I’m not in a hurry. This is just one step of my longer-term journey.

Ironman is about covering the distance. Therefore, key goals for me this year are to:

  • Stay comfortable in training and racing;
  • Remain injury free; and
  • Ensure my cardiac recovery between races/training sessions.

The last point is especially pertinent for me. This time last year, I enjoyed successes in races, getting a couple of significant personal bests (PBs) and making apparently good progress. Over the space of four consecutive weekends, I accomplished:

  • 4th in my age group for the Gatorade Olympic distance triathlon;
  • Two Bays Trail Run, 28km in under 3 hours;
  • 11-kilometre kayak in a torturous day of weather while supporting my partner, Rob, in his Bloody Big Swim from Frankston to Mornington; and
  • 90km in 2:49 on the bike, as part of a relay team for the Melbourne Challenge long course triathlon.

My cardiac recovery is critical

I felt great! But, I was also spent, and paid for it in February (and, I’ll confess, well into March). I suspect a mix of atrial fibrillation in response to the physical load and in the absence of adequate recovery. It was not a pleasant experience.

A lesson was learned for me — my cardiac recovery is especially critical. I backed off for a while during some of last year. I’m feeling very glad to be getting back on track in 2017.

– January 2017 –

Two Bays Trail Run 28km


I fronted up for my second Two Bays Trail Run (28km) on Sunday 17 January. Although slightly slower than last year (partly because we actually covered an extra 600m this year, due to some tampering with the course), I was very happy with my result. I didn’t want to stress my heart too early on the run. A couple of early surges on the hills to try and pass one or two people didn’t make me feel so good and I backed off. I probably took it more comfortably than was needed in the middle stages, however, this made for a strong finish over the last 5 or 6km, and I was elated my legs stood up to the distance without any cramps.

The Two Bays Trail Run stands out for me as one of the toughest there is. It is also incredibly beautiful, via goat trails, bracken forest, sandy paths, and through grasslands, up the infamous torturous steps to finally reach the top of Cape Schanck and the view over Bushrangers Bay on the Bass Strait side of the Mornington Peninsula … and, there, the finish line is within reach. The community supporting this run is like no other, truly fabulous people. The whole experience reminds me of why I bother to run.

Mt Martha Australia Day (MMAD) Swim 5km


Then, on Australia Day, Thursday 26 January, I ticked a special box – my first 5km open water swim at Mount Martha. I am comfortable swimming but standing on the sand at the start line, I wasn’t sure about what to expect – would I get thirsty or hungry, would I hit a brick wall like a marathon runner might experience, would my arms lose their punch?

I don’t think I’ve ever finished so much in the rear guard but I had plenty left in me at the end and felt fabulous in the water. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I now know that I can manage the distance very comfortably (and, perhaps, a tad faster) and even be capable of getting on a bike for the next stage … mission accomplished!

I should mention that my arms felt like they were going to drop off for a couple of days after the race but I got them back eventually. Needless to say, I have started back at the gym! I think I need to bulk up.


Where to from here?

January has now gone and February is here … I have the Geelong Ironman 70.3 scheduled in less than a couple of weeks. Let’s see where that takes me …

#hearthealth #myhearthealthjourney

Author: Kara Gilbert @ KMG Communications

I’m back … and ready to rock 2017!


Wow! 2016 came and went with a bang.

Now, 2017 is here, and I’m going to get the ball rolling again with my websites and blogging. Forgive me for letting things slide for a while, my life suddenly turned busy as I faced a career change and took on some new adventures. Well, I have restored some of that magic thing called ‘routine’ and am making time to return to the things that give me a buzz … writing and running are pretty high on the list.

As many of you know, I’m on my own heart health journey, and there’s never a day when I’m not testing the waters. While I remain mindful of my own limitations, I can’t resist exploring that thing called ‘potential’. After all, how do you know until you give it a go?

So, I’m back not only to share my experiences but also to keep you abreast of the latest news on all things related to heart health and sport. I firmly believe in staying in tune with your body and gaining a deeper understanding of why it might behave like it does. Knowledge and experience enable you to consider your options and set realistic goals. In sport, that leads to enjoyment, results, and ultimately good health.

Let’s not be afraid to reflect on our lessons learned in 2016, and …

In 2017, dream big, reach for the stars, and set ourselves some new goals!



#myhearthealthjourney #hearthealth

Author: Kara Gilbert @ KMG Communications

There’s no need to leave your ambitions behind on the tarmac after a cardiac diagnosis


I’m feeling quite chuffed with myself, having accomplished so much over the last two weekends. I want to share my experiences here as someone with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) and an internally fitted defibrillator (ICD). I think it’s pretty important to show that, with due diligence and care of oneself (including personally appropriately guided decision-making around relevant risk-taking) sport participation is still possible. For sure, while there may have to be some rearranging of the goal posts, you don’t have to leave all of your ambitions behind on the tarmac after a cardiac diagnosis.

Olympic Distance Triathlon

On the bike at St Kilda

Last week, on Sunday 10th January, I participated in Gatorade’s Melbourne Triathlon Series Race 2 at Catani Gardens in St Kilda. I finally got my act together in my third Olympic Distance triathlon (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run). It was the most amazing race for me, I finished 4th in my 45-49 age group, missing out on the podium by a mere 27 seconds. I was second out of the swim and  first off the bike – and although there were only 8 in the field, this was a massive step up for me in terms of performance.

Crossing the finish line at Catani Gardens in St Kilda

I did feel my heart playing up a little on the run leg (which is not an unusual phenomenon for me, running off the bike) but on this occasion I managed to deal with it well so it didn’t upset the overall scheme of things. It just required me to stop briefly a few times – to bring down my heart rate and to channel my energy on staying focussed and calm.  That impacts my run time but then managing this aspect of my own sport participation, the stuff of my heart, is all part and parcel of my own heart health journey. I just have to take it as it comes.

Two Bays Trail Run

Close to the finish line at Cape Schank

Then, yesterday, on Sunday 17th January, I ran the renowned Two Bays Trail Run, completing the gruelling 28K course (there was the doubly gruelling option of a 56K course for the ultra endurance seekers!). I finished in just under 3 hours, with a time of 2:56:57, which placed me in the top 20% of the women’s field.

This trail run was like no other run I’ve ever done before. The Two Bays Trail is a 28km trail on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. It takes you from Dromana, on Port Phillip Bay, to Cape Schank, on the Bass Strait. The run itself was tough, dirty and dusty, with more uphill climbing than I’d imagined. There was a variety of ground to move over – sand, gravel, rocks underfoot, and even dreaded stairs to climb in more than a couple of sections. The entire trail deal all wrapped up.

I survived! I fell twice during the run, nothing that some bandages and chlorhexidine can’t fix but definitely qualifying me as a fully fledged trail runner. It was the ‘real deal’. The organisers of this event and the trail running people are just fabulous. There was so much support on the course.  I loved every minute of it (well, almost!).

Some First Aid TLC at the finish line

I had no problems with my heart during this run, and I think I sorted out my race nutrition better than ever. I started on the electrolyte very early in the run, and made sure I topped up at the first aid station at the 7.5km mark. I took three gels and consumed about 1.5 litres of electrolyte, regularly sucking on my water bottles throughout the morning and having extra water from a hand held bottle in the later part of the course.

Over the last 5km of the race, I was grateful that I’d taken an extra magnesium tablet in the morning, and that I’d consumed all my gels over the course, for there were quite a few runners struggling with cramps by this stage. I managed to keep the leg cramps at bay and kept moving fairly strongly over the last phases. Coming over that last part of the trail that has mind glowingly beautiful views of the coast was a beautiful feeling. And, it was such sweet relief to see the light house at Cape Schank and then the finish line coming up quickly. I’ll be back again next year for this run, for sure.

2016 is proving already to be good year for me!

Take Care!

Important Note: If you have HCM or any cardiac condition, please consult with your own cardiologist regarding your sporting activities. Careful monitoring and ongoing decision-making that involves a medical specialist will need to be part of your own heart health journey. Just remember, readjusting the goal posts doesn’t mean you have to let go of all the good things in life.

#myhearthealthjourney #hearthealth

Author: Kara Gilbert @ KMG Communications.

Bike Pit Stop @ Mordi

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of riding down Beach Road on a warm Summer’s day.

One of my regular rides, 50km, is along Beach Road to Mordialloc and then back home.

Today, the wind was all over place, I had to hold my bike steady a number of time when the gusts came up. The onshore breeze was making white caps on the water, Mordi felt like a buzz when I got there. One of those days when being outdoors makes you feel alive.

Here is a brief video to capture the moment …

#heart health #myhearthealthjourney

My first training session for 2016


My first training session for the New Year. Saturday 2nd January, on the bike, Beach Road in Melbourne. Fabulous weather to inspire a strong return to training routine for 2016.

Hope you are all feeling motivated after the holiday break, now it’s time to get back to business, go for your goals … and enjoy every minute of it.


Posted by Kara Gilbert @ KMG Communications.