It took years of NHS tomfoolery to finally get through the system and wind up with a specialist who really wanted to get to the bottom of my ankle and knee injuries.
About a year or so ago, yet another GP referral found me at the Royal Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath. This has marked a turning point in my injury recovery. Although they quickly ruled out rheumatic disease as the source of my ailments (PHEW), the folks at the hospital seem willing to do whatever it takes to solve my problem.
As such, I’ve been seeing a range specialists, including a physiotherapist and sports injury doctor, both of whom are extremely encouraging. It was the physiotherapist who suggested I treat my running injuries with, well, more running.
But not running like I’ve ever done before.
She assigned the following running drills:
- High Knees – Using a short stride and bouncing on your toes, raise your knees as high as possible on each stride. There should be little forward distance covered, but keep moving forward for 30-50 meters.
- Heel Kicks – Using a short stride and bouncing your toes, raise your heels as high as possible behind your body. Attempt to bounce your heels off your bum. Concentrate on raising your heels as high as possible (you can hold your hands behind your butt and make sure your heels touch your hands with every stride). Most of the movement should be with the lower leg. There should be little forward distance covered, but keep moving forward for 30-50 meters.
- Skipping – Just like you did as a kid. Take off and land with one foot, concentrate on raising the knee as high as possible and landing lightly. Do this for 30-50 meters.
The driveway leading from the cottage (shown above) makes for a nice, flat, continuous surface for doing the drills. The first couple of times I did these, I was sore for days and days and days. Sometimes in the muscles. Sometimes in the joints. But I let myself recover fully, and with every running drill session, the exercises got easier and easier. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still hard, especially the high knees, but they do get easier all the time.
The best news about all of this is that I’m pretty sure the drills – plus the strength training I’ve been doing at the gym in the FiveFingers – have really helped strengthen my legs. I haven’t had any knee or ankle problems, neither with running or swimming, and am exceedingly encouraged.
I say I’m running again, though really I’ve been at it for the last few months. But doing the drills has felt more like physiotherapy than actual running, you know, the kind where you set off and go and let your mind wander and then boom you’re done.
The last time I met with the physio – about a week ago – she said I should start a real training program. She suggested the Nike half marathon beginners program which is nice and slow. I do find it a little crazy to be starting with a half-marathon programme. But when she asked me what my goal was, I said “I’d like to be able to run a half-marathon”, so I guess it makes sense…to her at least!
So, I need to start this programme, eh?
I must admit I’ve grown to like my little once-per-week running drill sessions, the most recent of which was about an hour ago this morning. Today and last weekend, I followed the drills with a run around the farm – about a 25 minute jaunt in the grassy fields. So I guess I’m ready for a little more. It’s exciting – there are times when I’ve felt resigned to never running again. But the docs don’t seem to question my ability to not only run, but to run far. Doctors know best?
One issue I’ve had has been painful achilles tendons for the days following my runs. I think this is a stretching issue. Yet another thing for me to improve upon.
One more thing – gotta give props to my Twitter friends who’ve been encouraging through all this, particularly Azelia of Azelia’s Kitchen. This morning’s run may not have happened were it not for her helpful encouragement. In fact, her running is just as inspiring as her cooking. Seven words: cheese and onion tart with cheese pastry. Need I say more?