BUT. There is a game plan and it seems to be working. After Scotia I told myself I'd take the time off running, which I did. Almost 3 weeks in fact. And when I went back to it, I ran at a comfortable, easy pace and not for very long. My longest run before this last break was 8.5km. In those 3 weeks off, I started to address certain things that I felt were contributing to my knee issues. I also enlisted the help of an amazing physiotherapist and friend of mine, Lauren Dyck
1. Foot mobility. I've been wearing orthotics for almost as long as I've been running, which is a really long time. I think my feet have become stupid. They don't know how to work properly any more. I proved this point when I took my orthotics out for a very short run / walk and had one of the best runs I've had in AGES. I've also noticed that sometimes I curl my toes when I'm running and I'm not really sure why I do that. I've switched to the Altra Torins and the room in the toe box has made a huge difference to my feet and what they're doing. Taking my orthotics out of them was like finding the missing piece of the puzzle. I now feel the ground when I run and I feel much more stable and confident when I'm running.
The mobility in my left foot, especially my big toe joint is somewhat limited so I've been working on making my toes more flexible and functional. I've been using Joy-a-toes which are nothing short of amazing. I've also started doing toe yoga (I kid you not) and working on strengthening my feet by grabbing a towel with my toes and pulling it towards me. I don't do that as often as I should. But at least I'm doing it which is something. My physio exercises also have me working on strengthening my arch. Lauren has also recommended running barefoot on the treadmill for 1-2 minutes a couple of times a week. So you know I'll be THAT person at the gym, ha ha.
2. Ankle Mobility. Stiff and inflexible ankles will definitely manifest further up your kinetic chain, usually in your knees. I had ankle mobility and achilles issues 3 years ago, which I worked on fixing and then never bothered to keep up. I've been asked multiple times if I've sprained my right ankle. I don't think that I have but I did play soccer for 4 years fairly competitively and I know I've rolled it more than once. My right ankle is the problem one and all the pain I'm feeling is in my right knee. Coincidence? I think not. Lauren has me doing calf raises and this wonderful little gem to increase my range of motion - except I'm kneeling when I'm doing it.
3) Core & Glutes: I'm keeping up my core and glute work as well. Glute bridges are part of my regular routine as are side planks and cable push outs. I am heading back to the gym to start lifting heavy again to get some strength back in these legs of mine.
The big thing is getting my VMO to kick in. It seems to have gotten a bit lazy over the years. I'm doing band work which is been fantastic for not only my VMO but my gluteus medius as well. Which is exactly the muscle that you want to be strong when you're a runner!
So, am I running? Kind of. Lauren has me on a run walk program. When I started I was running for one minute and walking for one minute. I built up to 15 reps of that. Now, I've graduated to 2 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking. Today I did that 5 times. It felt amazing. The knee pain I was experiencing is gone. I'm not completely pain free however. There are some different niggles that have arisen, probably because I've taken my orthotics out of the equation. It seems to sort itself out once I get moving. I'm hoping it's just my body getting used to using different muscles.
This is the best I've felt in regards to my running in over a year. I feel like I'm really on the right track. Lauren knows her stuff. Speaking of which, I'm putting a little plug out there for her because I think she's awesome. She's leading a clinic called the Resilient Runner at Synergy Sports Medicine on Sunday February 7th. It's a 3 hours and it will cover the basic mechanics of running and how to choose the proper shoe for you. The clinic will cover:
- Basic mechanics of running and how to choose the "right style" and shoe for you
- Common injuries of the hip, knee and foot, and more importantly how to prevent them
- Simple exercises to improve muscle imbalances associated with running
I'm feeling much more hopeful than I have been in ages. I finally feel like I'm heading in the right direction. I'm trusting the process and learning to be patient because I know it will pay off in the long run. 2016 is going to be a good year. I can feel it!