Monday, 19 May 2014

In praise of physiotherapists - part one

The images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags can track a developing story.

The associations that arise between them makes recall easier, particularly during my review process (see the 'Refresh Technique' under 'About me' on the right).

However, this process is much more powerful than that. For example, it enables me to track developments.

One such example is my progress as a runner.

I know the date I ran my first 5 km race and the dates of all the races since. With nice symmetry, my first 10 km race took place a year after my first 5 km race, in parallel with the next edition of it.  I remember where and when I bought each pair of new running shoes. I remember significant developments in my technique, such as watching the running clips on youtube on 10 November 2013 to learn to run like an Olympian.

And I remember getting injured, which happened to me on 23 April 2014.

Running had been going so well, to the point that I began to think of moving up to half marathon distance. So on 21 April I set out to see how I felt running at that pace, which I reckoned for me would be about 6 min/km. It felt so sustainable I ended up running for 21 km.

I ached a little, but was otherwise fine and so checked out dates for forthcoming races. I had a rest day, then set out for a short run, doing a few kms at the same 6 min/km pace, then upping the speed.

After a couple more km I had to stop as a twinge in my right knee deteriorated over 100 metres into the sharp pain of a torn ligament. I know next time to spot the signs and stop sooner.

After some days of massaging it and applying ice, I wasn't sure whether more rest or a return to gentle running would be best. A short run told me I was not ready. So I booked to see a physiotherapist, reasoning that when serious athletes injure themselves they have professional support to return to activity in the shortest possible time.

The physio I visited was wonderful. I went looking for advice on the best recovery strategy, more than treatment, but gained a thorough assessment of why I had been injured in the first place and how to prevent a recurrence.

I was diagnosed with weak hip muscles which meant my knees are displaced towards my instep. This was more pronounced on my right leg, as shown by the wear on my running shoes.

The solution is a variety of exercises to strengthen my hip muscles and stretch my calf muscles. Some feel unnatural. My feet have been incorrectly positioned for years, explaining a whole host of other issues, including why I didn't progress well with downhill skiing.

So I've spent today looking closely at the feet of people around me to see where they point as they walk. This evening I looked again at youtube for clips of foot strike.

What to me still feels like an unatural inward twist of my feet puts them in the same position as many of the running coaches I see in the clips. My insteps should be parallel, not pointing outwards. A lot of people do not walk or even run like this, but here are a couple of clips I have found that show what I mean, even if this is not their primary purpose.

This is a useful exercise involving running up steps.

The guy's feet point forwards, not outwards.

This is about foot position more generally.

From the above, I can see where I am aiming, but having expert advice from a physiotherapist has been essential for me. I have learned I have some fairly serious corrections to make and have the confidence to make them, even though the pain in my right knee has now been replaced by the aches in muscles that are stretching and working in new ways.

The physio said that I should notice an improvement in my running performance as more muscles will come fully into operation when I am in better alignment.

Once again, I feel as if I am only at the beginning of this adventure.

Here's another intersting exercise I came across in my youtube search.

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