I’ve never considered myself a ‘proper’ runner, but in my time I have managed to plod my way round a few 10k routes. Plod is very much the right word. Running has never felt effortless or easy, but rather something I’ve managed to just about conquer.
That was until the 2015 Bristol 10k, where I was in such horrible pain and discomfort that I decided I really wasn’t a runner and so vowed never to run again. At several parts during the run I had to stop running and was reduced to an awful whimpering hobble, all the while clutching at the root of the pain, my left hip. After a little bit of walking the pain would subside enough for me to run another couple of kilometres before having to repeat the same whimper-hobble-hip hold.
To be fair, I really shouldn’t be too harsh on the Bristol 10k. My hip pain wasn’t it’s fault. It had been there though the other 10k events I’d done that year, steadily getting worse with each run, but then all too quickly forgotten in that post-run euphoria. Giving up running seemed to be the most obvious way to eradicate the pain. And it worked! For a while. Over the past six months the pain has returned when I’ve tried everyday things that never caused me any issues previously – walking moderate distances, gardening, even simply sitting sometimes left me with that all too familiar dull ache in my hip.
Determined to face my nemesis once again, I have signed up for the 2017 Bristol 10k and I want to do it without hobbling. In fact, I want to be able to walk, sit or just generally exist without that nagging pain. I’ve decided to be sensible and grown up this time around and rather than taking the ‘doing more exercise will surely make it better’ approach I’ve decided to get the problem sorted properly.
And so it was that I found myself in John’s clinic last week. After a few questions about my general health, activity and mobility he had me skipping with an imaginary rope to see how each of my legs performed. (At this point I should also mention that I purposely went for a very long walk the day before to make my hip bad – though I really needn’t have bothered as John was able to pinpoint the cause of the problem pretty quickly anyway). It came as no great surprise to me that my left leg didn’t feel anywhere near as stable as my right. Onto the couch and again my left leg continued to be the poor relation when it came to mobility and strength. The most fascinating part for me was seeing how much weaker my left big toe was than my right – it was as if I had absolutely no control over it!
As the consultation continued it became clear that the problem was not actually in the hip itself, but rather in my back, which was causing me to compensate through other parts of my body and thus causing the pain in my hip. John then taught me how to stand properly. At 34 years old, I have finally learned how to stand in a way that doesn’t cause my back to ache – how have I never worked this out for myself?! John also did a little bit of cracking of my back, which led to an immediate improvement in the mobility and strength of my left leg. Clever stuff.
My homework for the week was to practise standing properly. Apparently I tend to stand ‘like a ballerina’, which might look great but actually does nothing good for my back and shoulders. So this week I have been learning to stand like a ski-jumper. I’m delighted to say it’s definitely making a difference. My hip hasn’t been achy, and I’m far more aware of how I’m holding myself and definitely feel less tension in my shoulders. I know this is only the first part of correcting a lifetime of bad habits, but I’m already encouraged by the results.