A lot has and hasn’t happened in the past two weeks. I think the best place to start would be with an update on my injury status. Initially we thought that a tight IT Band was the cause for the persistent knee trouble that occured at around 2 miles whenever I ran. The IT Band was extremely tight and needed some dedicated attention. 2 weeks of rolling and strengthening the hips, quads and core and the IT band was back to a reasonable flexibility. However after a 2 week rest I attempted another run and again could only manage 2 miles. Frustration was the consistent emotion. My initial thought was I just hadn’t given enough time for any inflammation to reduce, give it another two weeks and let’s take a look. 2 miles in, knee pain.
On Saturday (23/03/2019) Jo came down to the gym to assess my running technique after spotting something in the slow mo running videos I had sent her. What she had noticed was an instability in my right foot and ankle which was pushing my knee out. After further analysis it was clear my left foot was landing in a controlled forefoot strike with a strong foot and straight fluid pattern. My right foot was landing with much less control and in a midfoot strike, this instability was sending the knee slightly out and undoubtedly putting a lot of stress in the joint. We think we have figured it out, my right foot is unstable and weak. My toes aren’t doing what they should be to support a clean forefoot strike.
As I was on the treadmill Jo was giving me cues and feedback on what was happening as I slightly tweaked technique as we went. It felt abnormal to turn my knee in, it felt as though it was coming way across but when I took a look down it was set and straight just like my left foot, the second adaptation to the technique was to consciously use my right foot and specifically my big toe to push into the ground on landing and push off. This solidified the leg position smoothed out the pattern and low and behold I was similarly landing in a forefoot strike just like my left foot. Before I knew it i had covered 3 miles and was having no knee trouble at all, the only twinge I had was when I got caught watching Antiques Roadshow on the tv and lost concentration. The moment I brought myself back into the room and concentrated the twinges stopped.
With the running technique being refined I feel confident to get back running and feel confident in moving forward towards this goal. The first task is to strengthen my right foot. After that 3 miles on the treadmill my foot knew about it! This delights me as it means I am stressing the muscles and stimulating a change, this means the foot is adapting. It is doing what it is supposed to. With continued homework of picking up pencils with my feet and a mantra of ‘big toe, big toe, big toe!’ when I run the foot is well on its way to becoming strong and stable. The aim for the next 2-4 weeks is to continue building the foot strength by running in the controlled environment of a treadmill with a few 1km runs to and from work every other day. The rest is going to be just as important, just like building any muscle group the rest is vital and currently the main task is stressing and adapting the muscles in the foot and not the cardiovascular fitness.
As stated this has been a frustrating five weeks but as Marcus Nel the Sports Psychologist for this Challenge pointed out I haven’t just sat around and waited for things to get better. He helped me to see that during the five weeks I had helped myself to push forward in other areas of this challenge. He quite rightly pointed out that I had been working with him to gain an understanding of myself and how I work, we are also beginning to work on techniques for dealing with high stress situations, we are building a mental toolkit to prevent such situation or utilise when needed. He also helped me to see that I spent five weeks in the gym working on other fitness aspects that will help me push towards my goal. I have been working extensively on core and hip strength and stability, flexibility and balance. All fitness aspects that will be imperative during this challenge.
I often highlight to clients that an injury is an opportunity to work on other areas, the last 5 weeks have been spent on developing psychological understanding and techniques, other fitness aspects and developing good working relationships with both Marcus (Sports Psychologist) and Jo (Physiotherapist). So even though my cardiovascular fitness and running mileage has taken a hit I have actually progressed quite considerable in other areas. I would also say that to have this injury occur when it did has lead me to develop and build a better foundation, a better body to run with as well as a much better understanding of running biomechanics. A blessing in disguise?
Paul Waters who was one of the first guests on our Podcast said to me there are a few things that might mess this up for you; Nutrition, Overtraining, Psychology and BIOMECHANICS. Well I am pretty certain big lessons have been learnt in Overtraining and Biomechanics over the past 5 weeks alongside developments in Psychology.
I won’t even make it to the start line without the help of the people around me and their generosity to support me throughout this training programme. To know that they are by my side and helping me through this process fills me gratitude.
Thank you Marcus. Thank you Jo. Your contributions have been and will continue to be so important to me and I am incredibly grateful you are in my corner.