I have recently started sessions with John for a knee problem, and have had 2 of them so far. I decided to start this diary on progress, as I am very impressed with John’s approach, and his level of knowledge and skill.
This is my first blog ever, of any kind. I have been around awhile, so there’s a fair bit of history here, with this first blog being about my background, lifestyle and fitness.
I am 60 years old, sit working at the computer for a living these days, but exercise quite a lot for my age and profession.
Although I am skinny, I have always been quite active, doing various sports when younger – tennis, squash, table tennis, racketball, handball, basketball and so on. In my mid 20s I did some middle distance running for a while and turned in a creditable 1:31:30 in the Stroud Half Marathon at age 27. But even that kind of distance was too challenging – I just don’t have the stamina I think. Also my diet was not that great around that time, I pushed myself too hard, and I knew little about running preparation, post-run “cool down”, or anything like that. In the end, I stopped running not long after doing the Stroud race.
Through my 30s and early 40s I did more physically-oriented kinds of work, and less sport in my leisure time. By my mid-40s I had settled into working in IT and so was mostly sat at the computer all day. But at age 45 I got a hernia, most likely a legacy from lifting things up onto shelves in other more active jobs before then.
We have a tendency for hernias, down through the male line in my family. Mine was an ‘inguinal’ hernia in the lower left area. I was put onto a 9-month NHS waiting list for the operation, and decided to take up running again, to get more fit so I would recover quicker from the op, when it eventually came up.
As I started this running again at age 45, I took to it much more than I had when younger. I didn’t pay attention to times, just ran at whatever pace was comfortable. I prefer pavements / roads to running off-road, so harder surfaces are where I ran.
By this time in my life, I was eating a much better diet, and was a lot more relaxed about things in general, than I had been when I was younger. Rather than try and improve my fitness through target setting, pushing through barriers, willpower, or anything like that, I just ran for the pleasure of it, and let the simplicity of the exercise itself, take care of the cardiovascular side of being fit.
I quickly found I wanted to run further and further, and within a week or two I was doing 4 miles in a session. I found that a run followed by 2 days rest, then the next run, was best for me – so running every 3rd day became the norm, and 4 miles became the standard distance.
My concentration at work improved. When required, I found I could work more hours in a day than before, and I didn’t get as tired mentally or physically, when doing a normal day’s hours. I got fitter and fitter. My bone strength improved. I am lucky to be blessed with a slight frame without much dead weight – or even much meat – on my bones, and I don’t seem to suffer “wear” as much as people who are bigger. Either way, within a few weeks of starting to run, I was hooked.
I had the hernia op in 2002. They did a great job, and I recovered so quickly that I was able to start running again after just 4 weeks off – not bad for a middle-aged guy!
Between then and the start of this year 2016, I kept up the running almost the whole time, doing 4 miles every 3 days. The only significant break I took was when I had an ankle injury about 5 years ago and had to stop for about 3 months. This means I have run something like 7,000 miles in total, since starting 15 years ago.
I never seem to pick up injuries from normal activities, always something strange or bizarre, and the ankle injury was a case in point: I put my foot down into a gap between 2 cobblestones while hurrying on the way to the cinema in downtown Bristol, jogging along and not paying attention properly. There was no pain, but I damaged some ligaments. I saw a different private physiotherapist practitioner who is based out of town, and he was able to advise and assist with recovery. Despite my fears around this at that time, the injury healed up completely, and has been fine ever since then.
I suffered neck pains on my left side for about 25 years, starting when I was around 30 years old. I never injured it, but it just seemed to hurt all the time. No one seemed to be able to figure out what was going on – not my GP, and none of the various private specialists I saw. Eventually, 6 years ago, I had a recommendation from my usual mechanics since the mid 1980s, a father and son who have to stay fit and healthy to be able to do their work. The physiotherapist they recommended was Polish and had training across multiple disciplines of medicine. Within 5 minutes of seeing him for a 1st appointment, he figured out that my left leg is 8mm shorter than the other one!
I started wearing insoles in all my footwear on that side. The body adjusted in all sorts of ways, and very quickly, the neck pains completely disappeared. Around a year later they had returned again, though not as severe. Another check showed that the leg length discrepancy had increased, and was now 11mm! Apparently this is rare, but not unheard of. I had all the insoles remade to 11mm, and after more adjustments by the body, the neck settled down again, and in the 5 years since that time, it has never given any further trouble.
During this recent 6-year period of learning the cause of my long-standing neck troubles, and curing them, I was doing the usual 4-mile runs every 3 days. At the point 5 years ago when re-measurement showed that I would need 3mm more height on all the insoles I was wearing, we examined my running shoes and found that the heel on the shorter-leg shoe was worn down further than on the other shoe. This is apparently quite common, when someone has unequal leg lengths. The experience has led me to believe that if a runner has unequal wear on the heels of their two shoes, it might be a sign that one of their legs is shorter than the other. Either way, I decided it was time for a new pair of running shoes, and I bought Asics. Even though they were more expensive, I am really glad I did, as they are great footwear for middle distance runs.
I began to notice a number of other “spin-offs” of finally curing the neck pains by wearing an insole in all my various left shoes. My upper body gradually rearranged itself in subtle ways, a process that continued for a few years, as far as I can tell. I used to find there was a tendency to get mucous collecting at the top of my right lung, which would not clear properly when I coughed and which, every winter, made me more susceptible to getting a “proper” cough . Not only did this stop happening, the “tone” of my cough changed, and it started to resonate more deeply and seemed to be clearing the lungs better as a result.
My running stride also became more confident, and without trying to, I was running faster. Before starting to wear an insole, whenever I would step onto a slightly uneven surface while running, the body would seem to overreact to it. With the insole in place, this stopped happening. My interpretation of this is that, before using an insole, even though I did not know at the forefront of conscious thought that the body was not balanced – that the legs were unequal in length – the body knew instinctively that something was not right, and so it would overcompensate whenever I stepped on an uneven surface.
Around 3 years ago I took up table tennis again, after not having played for about 15 years or so. I use a style of table tennis bat with a “penholder” grip that most local shops do not stock for, and I had given up trying to play with a homemade version of it, one that had been hurting the thumb a bit when I used it. During that 15 years gap, the internet had become more widely used for marketing and buying all sorts of things, and in the end I decided to take a punt on buying something online, without being able to try it out first. After one attempt at this which I found was not what I needed – a bat with a “Chinese” penholder grip – I found there is a “Japanese” version of the penholder, which turned out to be exactly right for me.
In these last 3 years, I have ended up playing table tennis around twice each week on average, on days I don’t take the usual 4-mile runs. Ping pong is a perfect complimentary form of exercise to the great cardiovascular workout that running provides. It is a high-octane, short-burst activity that is great for muscle tone, and it improves concentration. I happen to love playing a fast, top-spin game, and being a highly strung sort of guy with a relatively high metabolism, means I get great benefit from doing something, on a regular basis, that really gets the adrenaline going a bit.
In the autumn of last year, a little over a year ago, I had some lower back problems, brought on by, among other things, overworking in my job of that time, and by a bit too much travelling for work. I saw that same other private physiotherapist practitioner who had helped me with the ankle injury a few years before, the one who is based out of town. As well him doing “emergency” manipulation to help me to be able to stand up straight again, he gave me some stretch exercises to do on the “glute” muscles, using a tennis ball. They did help, and I have been doing them ever since. The back pains cleared up within a month or so, and since then it is better than it’s been in years.