Help, my run was stolen!
Ok ok. Not stolen, just ‘misplaced’ for another 10 days or so.
My bio-mechanical assessment was on Thursday night with Mike Antoniades from The Running School and the outcome of the BMA wasn’t great. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t good news.
Actually, I take that back. While the BMA showed there are definitely problems with my gait, overall it was good news. My calf injury is indeed an overuse injury caused by a bio-mechanical flaw. This is good news for me because a bio-mechanical flaw can be trained out, and if trained out properly, will leave me with the added benefit of a more efficient and less injury-prone gait. I’ve also been declared fit enough to resume bike training, so I managed a spin class the other morning as well.
So immediate news not good, but overall result is positive.
– I have a weaker glute and hamstring on my right side (as suspected)
– My core is not activating correctly, even though ‘overall’ I have good strength (not expected)
What this causes:
– When loading my right leg, my glute and core ‘fail’ and allow my left hip to drop, changing my centre of gravity from central on my spine to the left of my spine.
– The resultant ‘lean’ means my right foot must cross over my mid-line to compensate, which causes supination on my right foot and the overuse on the outside of my right calf.
– The calf injury has caused me over time to adjust my gait to compensate for this lack of propulsion from calf, glute and hamstring by over-striding. I still land on midfoot, but in front of my centre-of-gravity, which is inefficient.
What I need to fix:
– Glute and hamstring strength AND;
– Core activation.
My rearwards leg lift is good, but because of the ‘dropped’ hip I can’t get enough propulsion through my glute/hamstring as the muscles just cannot be brought to bear. It is also causing the hip pain complaints I have been having as my hip joint is not in the correct position during the loading portion of my phase.
How to fix it:
It seems my glute and hip flexor workouts, while useful, don’t include enough compound movements, i.e. movements using more than one muscle group at the same time. That is how I appear to have good overall strength, but really have weakness caused by lack of muscles working together to support one another and engage my core.
Sadly I have to admit that the problem is self inflicted. I failed to follow my own advice and dropped out strength training in my marathon build-up (laziness and a perceived lack of time), assuming that the core strength and ‘toughness’ left over from AFL would see me through. Wrong! “Pride comes before the fall” and all that…
Following my BMA we went into some rehab exercises to improve glute and core strength, and crucially, coordinated activation. These exercises were unlike anything I’ve done before. At first I was skeptical because they involve only small movements and very little weight, but I can attest to their difficulty. Well, for me anyway.
Feet standing shoulder width apart, holding a baton in the right hand. Take a small step with the left foot, with the knee slightly bent transfer the weight to the front foot, bend forwards from the hips keeping the back straight, reaching out and down with the baton, hold for two seconds before coming back up. 15 reps then repeat on the other side.
Simple exercise I know, but in the first few reps I really struggled with my balance (I.e fell over – sigh) as my core and buttocks just couldn’t seem to fire at the same time to keep my hips aligned. It showed me how ‘weak’ I really was.
Feet standing shoulder width apart, holding a baton in the right hand. Take a small step with the left foot, with the knee slightly bent transfer the weight to the front foot, bend forwards from the hips keeping the back straight, then twist to the left and hold for two seconds before returning to the starting position. 15 reps then repeat on the other side.
Again, a seemingly simple exercise, but the twist really engages the core and forces your core and glute to work together to stop you falling over. Matt pointed out to me that when doing the exercise on my right side my calf, ankle and knee ‘twitch’ a lot as my body tries to keep my balance through my lower leg to compensate for glute and core not succeeding to maintain my balance.
Feet standing shoulder width apart, holding a Swiss ball in front of you. Standing straight, take a small step with the left foot out to the diagonal, with your weight evenly distributed, twist to the left and hold for two seconds before returning to the start position. 15 reps then repeat on the other side.
I found this exercise easier as it relied less on my glute strength and the connection from glute to lower back, instead using core and upper body to maintain balance through the movement.
The fourth exercise, and not something I can do at home, was definitely the strangest. Walking backwards on an inclined treadmill. Now this was tough. It’s like walking backwards, uphill, fast. It really forces you to engage your glute and hamstrings to lift and propel your leg rearwards up the slope, and because you’re walking backwards your core is working overtime to maintain balance. So much so I had to wear a harness and be clipped into the safety rail in case I fell over!
A bizarre exercise, but I can attest that 3×15 second reps were enough to leave me with fatigued hamstrings and glutes. Much more than a set of 50 squats would do! Mike swears by it as a really good way of teaching the muscle movements and activations required to get a coordinated glute, hamstring and core activation. If difficulty is anything to judge by, he’s onto something. Before my injury I wouldn’t think twice about running 10 miles forwards, but I don’t think I covered 100 yards uphill and backwards before fatigue was setting in!
I’ve got another rehab and strength work session tomorrow night, where Mike will determine if I can run on the weekend or need to leave it a bit longer. He’s already warned me that any running in the first few weeks will be targeted on form and strength, involving short interval bursts and movements designed to train my core, glutes and hamstrings to work together, rather than being about getting mileage back in my legs.
We also discussed Paris marathon. It’s going to be tight, but if I work hard at my rehab over Christmas it will still be possible. Any thoughts of a PB at this time are fanciful because I have lost a significant amount of my base fitness over the last 8 weeks and my running over Christmas won’t be building on that. I’m also away for two weeks in a rented holiday house (it’s a tough life) without access to a gym where I could at least use a stationary bike to build my cardio base back up. These are definitely ‘first world problems’ so I’ll just do the best I can with what I have.
On another topic, I signed up for Parkrun this morning. I figure it’s a great way to do social timed runs, and 5k is going to be my maximum race distance for at least the next couple of months. I’ll probably do my first one around the end of January, to see what my fitness levels are like.
Being a newbie to the whole Parkrun scene, can anyone share any tips or their thoughts/knowledge on it?
Happy running everyone!
Get Going, Get Running!