It would probably help readers to know what kind of injury has landed me on the couch (as in couch-to-5k, not a psychiatrist’s couch, to be clear…). What kind of injury put me out of commission for months? Broken bone? Nope. Probably just overuse stemming from my awful movement patterns.
Running first sparked my interest in elementary school on track and field day when, out of nowhere, I won 2nd place in the 100 yd dash. Years later I joined my high school track team, and then, in 2006, I ran my first 5k.
In 2008 I became more serious about improving my speed and began a blog to track my progress. I worked my way up to the 10k distance, and then half marathon, but every attempt was interrupted, slowed, and made rather uncomfortable with twinges and pain.
I finally started working with a trainer in fall 2013 to address the muscle imbalances that contributed to my troubles.
The work I did with this trainer made a world of difference. For the first time, I trained for and ran a half marathon without pain or injury. I wasn’t even sore the next day, even with 3,000 ft of elevation gain. I knew that with the strength and endurance I had been building up I could finally accomplish my dream of running a full marathon.
Except, I really couldn’t.
Not long after I entered a lottery for a marathon and got in, my left knee started to twinge. I took some time off and cycled and hiked. When it still wasn’t right after two months, I saw a doctor. He took an MRI, which did not show a distinct injury, and he diagnosed it as tendonitis. I went to physical therapy, and it seemed to work. I found that I was able to run/hike 15-17 miles mostly without pain, and I decided to go ahead and run the race. I knew it would hurt, but it was not as if there had been a tear. I expected to have to take a month off to rest it but never thought that it would cause lasting injury.
I can’t go back and change that decision. In the end, running that marathon was an amazing experience. I just wish that I had been more heedful of what my body was telling me, and I can’t wait to do it again uninjured.
After a month of rest post-marathon, my left knee was bothering me a lot. The doctor prescribed a cortisone pill to reduce inflammation, and I felt no effect. I then began a major RICE effort, and much to my horror, ice seemed to make it worse. I was convinced that I must have torn my meniscus during the race, because how could it be worse than it was before the race? Another MRI came up showing nothing though. The doctor could inspect it surgically, but I opted instead for more physical therapy.
After after 3 months of physical therapy twice a week, I can finally see some progress. That progress involves re-learning how to run, though. The key is that I could never move beyond the injuries without changing my movement patterns. Generally, it’s not a great idea to mess with your mechanics, but somehow I had developed damaging habits that were constantly preventing me from getting better. My running stride involved landing on the outer edge of the balls of my feet, just at the little toe. My walking stride placed a lot of weight on the ball of the foot instead of distributing it evenly. I walked down stairs with my toes pointed down and out. All of these actions stressed my knees and activated my quads, which cancelled out the hamstrings and glutes, and it wasn’t until I stopped doing these actions that I was able to begin to train myself to engaged all of the muscles more evenly and take stress off the tendon on the inner portion of my knee. And so I’m starting from the very bottom.
It has been so hard to limit my activity due to the knee issues, but I really believe that the changes I am slowly making will make me a better runner. It’s frustrating, but it’s also exciting. And my story might resonate with someone else out there, so read on. This is how I got here. Stay tuned for what comes next.