The big London Marathon…just weeks away now. That means I am way overdue a marathon update for my blog! Unfortunately it is with great sadness that I have to say it’s not a good one…
For the past few months, I have been struggling with an ongoing knee injury (sad!). This has been exacerbated by marathon training and my day job as a HIIT instructor. Having gone from physio to run coaches to sports massages to gait analysis I’ve tried everything to suss out the problem. It’s been a pretty rough road trying to navigate through the injury and get myself in a position to be marathon fit. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t got to me not only physically but mentally and emotionally. The past month or so has been pretty rough.
I guess it was naive of me to think that my current (e.g huge amount of) gym training would automatically translate without a question into marathon training. I had previously had no problems with running or any (serious) injury beforehand so why would it come now? My previous half marathons and running thereafter had proven to be problem free. Enter…the dreaded runner injury issues…
What actually became insanely apparent throughout my running training and run club experience, was the amount of runners who were dealing with the same thing. They were either currently running with an injury or had previously had one. When I mentioned my concerns it seemed as though a plethora of individuals came forward to talk about their niggles, aches and pains. “Aha” I thought. Not just me. In a way it was a relief. Injury is a very common occurrence in runners. As a sport it’s pretty intense and high impact on the body injuries documented are pretty extensive…tendonitis, runners knee, IT band syndrome, patella pain…the list continues. With this in mind I went on a bit of a fact finding mission. Scouting out problems and solutions. Not least because I need to fix myself.
The appointments began. In a world where everyone has different opinions on running, running injuries and solutions it became quite the minefield trying to suss out just which was the right path. Sadly I’m still not at the point where my injury has been ‘solved’. I know the injury is caused by my running gait (how I run) and mechanics my body uses to run. This luckily can be trained. My heavy quad and hip dominance inhibit the ability of my core to drive my legs through the gait necessary. When I run it therefore puts a ton of pressure on my IT band and quads which eventually pulls as my knee cap. Despite numerous attempts to stretch the high muscles and strengthen the correct muscle groups, it is still an ongoing problem. After years of training, it will take a while to correct these faulty movement patterns. Although I am not quite there, what I saw and heard from the experts in the field were a few very common themes. Athletes have used the following in order to solve their running problems in the past:
- Correct footwear – Running shoes need to be regularly changed. You also need to find ones that fit your feet properly. Do you overpronate? Underpronate? Your running shop can help you find the perfect match. Profeet in Fulham (London) are great for working out your running mechanics and how this effects your chosen shoe.
- Thorough warm up, gait practice and cool down drills. Local run clubs like Adidas Runners can help you with this!
- Glute activation drills pre running – Our day to day living means that our right muscle groups don’t always switch on. Constant sitting down (think desks, trains, eating) mean our hip flexors get extremely tight. Our glute muscles get lazy. Do you feel your glutes when you run? Can you feel your hamstrings switching on? In my case my quads and hip flexors want to do all the work vs my glutes. This (as I’ve seen) poses big running problems. I have created a glute activation blog compiling the exercises that I have found effective in my own training along with others I’ve been recommended from professionals in the industry. I will post the vlog on the TwoToned YouTube channel for you guys soon which will help you with this!
- Core activation drills pre running – do you switch your core on before you set off? Our core is the pinnacle of all things, especially running. You need it to keep your running form on point – especially in those latter hard miles. “Switching the muscles on” prior to setting off will fire them up. I have also filmed a vlog on this too which I’ll post soon too.
- Mobility, foam rolling and stretching throughout. Ironing out that tension in the body before and after your runs. Constant pounding of the pavements lead to tension, build up and adhesions in the muscles. The more you keep pounding the streets without considering stretching and foam rolling the more susceptible you are to injury. A physio told me for every hour of training you do you should spend half that on flexibility and mobility. So if you’re running 3 hours a week you need to dictate a further 1.5 hours to stretching – quite a lot! But oh so necessary if you are to avoid injury. Please let me know if you would find a foam rolling vlog useful too.
- Core and glute strengthening – runners can’t just run. You have to build those strong foundations in the muscles. This prepares the body for all the running and will ultimately make you a stronger runner. See “The Moves You Need to Improve Your Run” and “Take Your Running to the Weight Rack: Why Runners Should Strength Train.
- Cross training – this means strength training but also other forms of cardio than running. Take the impact of constant running off of those joints – your body will thank you for it. Believe me I’m talking from the wrong end of experience. Get swimming. Get cycling. Get on the elliptical. It will only serve your run all the more.
Sadly although I know all these factors are what will help my problem (in addition to the rehab I’ve been recommended by my physio), unfortunately it is now too close to race day. At the moment the problem with my knee isn’t resolving itself, if anything it’s progressively getting worse. I am barely running because the pain is enough to tell me somethings not right. Although I will try with every fire I have in me to resolve the situation (my body is my life!) I have not been able to ramp up the miles as needed in preparation for the marathon. Running it now would be darn right daft if you ask me! I know and love my body too much to put it through something it’s not capable of doing yet. Whilst I had to do A LOT of soul searching to get to this point I have slowly made my peace with the fact I won’t be able to run it (this time!). My body can do all sorts of other wonderful things, but right now running isn’t one of them – no matter how much I love running and have tried to push through.
Whilst my knee seems to be ok when I do other training, running really aggravates it. Whilst I knew it was an underlying issue, I whole heartedly thought I could rehab it in time for the marathon. Unfortunately in my line of work it’s just not worth the long term injury risk. My body is my life, my career and my livelihood. There will be plenty more marathons to run in the future. Putting my body under so much physical, emotional and mental duress to run in time for April is just not what my body needs. I will run again. I will run a marathon, but sadly this year for London it’s not my year.
You can bet however your bottom dollar that I will however be standing on the sidelines supporting (my ass off!) for all the runners – especially my Adidas Runners squad. I wish more than anything I was there running with them, but I know they’ll make us proud. “The tree that bends doesn’t break” – I will be using this injury as a life lesson and learning curve for my training. Using it to work on all of my weaknesses and turn them into my strengths. I know there are plenty of others in the same position as me or worse. We have to keep going, stay strong but most of all listen to our bodies. Whilst running the marathon was one of my resolutions for the year you have to adapt to your environment around you. Injuries happen. There are still plenty of other huge, wonderful, all inspiring goals I have to tick of this year! Stay tuned to see what else I get up to. My marathon story for London is over but my new training journey is just beginning.
Till next time…I’d love to hear how your training’s going, are you encountering similar problems? Which races are you excited for this year?
Sending health & happiness,