Category Archives: Learn to Run

Calf problems from posture: #03 Whales and Marlins

I feel it is no coincidence that this Christmas I was given two books which are undoubtedly related: Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, and Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’. Both describe the immense efforts of people to overcome multifarious obstacles in order to capture a monster far bigger than themselves (although I haven’t read Moby Dick yet). It may be over-dramatic, but in some way this is how the marathon has become for me. Particularly since the calf problems, it has been a daily struggle to stay on top and build the mileage back up enough to make the marathon plausible. I put in calf-strengthening exercises daily, I now also slot in postural exercises and some ‘neural flossing’ as recommended by John. I am careful to warm up and down thoroughly around each run. I run three times per week, unsure each time whether the calf will fail again, but monitoring and adapting my runs accordingly. Add to this that I will not be satisfied purely with finishing the marathon, but I would like to run a reasonable time. My running is currently limited not by my fitness but by the leg, which sometimes does not allow me to run further. This is concerning given that my longest mileage since the injury is 15 miles. Still, I believe that my approach is giving me the best chance possible. It combines patience, determination, and discipline. Keep doing the exercises even though you may be bored. Keep training even though the weather may be terrible. Keep believing even though other people may not hide their doubt. There is never a guarantee of success, but you can always put in your best effort possible.

BEFORE:

AFTER:

Calf problems from posture: #01 Open Clinic

I went to the Moti running shop hoping for a recommendation for a physio to assess some problems with my calf. Lucky for me, John walked through the door at that moment and offered me a free assessment. With pause only to make a vital cup of tea, we got to work. John walked me through the issues with my body, step by logical step, gradually revealing a complete picture which I feel he knew practically from the start. Neither of my feet land in a straight line down from the knee. The two legs are different, with the right (where I have the calf issues) worse than the left. My right side is weaker than the left in certain areas: lifting the knee up towards the chest, and pushing down around the big toe. John traced these issues to the L2 and L5 vertebrae in my lumbar spine, and demonstrated that these were more tender than the others. Overall, I’m no longer surprised that I am having problems running! Whilst there is a considerable list of problems with the posture of my body, having them pointed out with such clarity has given me genuine optimism that something can be done about them. I hope that optimism is well founded.

From Marathon to Antarctic

image1

Will, after running the Berlin Marathon in September 2016.

 “Was a good run, quite sore from the outset but the cap, now known as ‘John’ worked very well to hold form. Hop flexors went to pieces around 32km but determination held it to the end!”

image2

Will has recently flown off to Antartica to film Penguins for the BBC Wildlife.

img_8047

KNEES – RUNNING REBUILT #02

Last week I did Neural Flossing, by the end of the week I was experiencing hip pain in my left hip and stiffness when I stood up after sitting for long periods of time. To combat this, John provided me with a different stretch – putting my legs in a sort of figure of 4 while lying on my back, this stretched my lower hip and upper leg area – after a couple days of doing this the hip pain disappeared. The combining of this and the Neural Flossing is working on increasing the degree of movement in my left leg.

 

physio-neural-flossing-ra physio-neural-flossing-stretched physio-hip-stretch

This week I went on the treadmill to look at how I walk and run; a muscle in my left hip/upper bottom does not engage when I walk, I almost learn back which could be contributing to my back pain, as well as twisting my upper body while walking and even more so when running. While running I bounce up and down a lot and I put my heel out in front of me, which means that I am not exerting energy in the right places while running.

To combat these habits John gave me the following exercises to work on over the week:

  • 5-5: Setting the treadmill on 5 incline & 5 speed, where I need to engage my core and lean forward to promote me walking on the front of my foot rather than leaning back on the heel.  While doing this I put my hands on my hips/upper bottom to make sure my muscle was engaging.
  • Use the treadmill to lean forward like a ski jumper, and using one leg at a time to practice my leg movement where my foot will land in line with my body (rather than out in front), this is through pretending I was on a scooter with an angry horse leg that goes up, round and down. Then using the treadmill to pretend that I was bump starting a car – this was to help me with leaning forward, bouncing less while running, and running with my feet landing below me not out in front of me.
  • Arm Swing – stationary – this is engaging my core and standing like a person about to skip – moving my arms forwards and backwards close to my body in an exaggerated running movement, but not allowing my body to twist as I moved. Then doing this while on the balls of my feet – this I found a lot harder due to my inability to balance.
  • John also sent me a video clip that provided tips on running and form to improve over stepping – it focused on bum kicks, skipping and running barefoot.

arm-swing

This week took a lot of thought as I had to concentrate on a lot of different areas of my body at once, but it’s crazy what difference engaging your core can do.

Knees – Running rebuilt #01

Blogger Name: Philniche

image of Marathon Running Legs only
Marathon Running Legs

I have always struggled with my knees, when I was a child I experienced pain and they felt like they twisted when I ran; that along with being an over weight child I tended to avoid exercise. When I got older I went travelling for 6 months and spent a large amount of that time wearing just flip flops and carrying a heavy bag most days as I moved around; once I returned to England I found that my knees had got considerably worse, they would click and crack when climbing stairs and cycling (it would make me feel sick hearing and feeling it), and when bending or kneeling down my knees would get stuck and I wouldn’t be able to stand back up again.

This all lead me to requesting assistance from an NHS Physio, she didn’t take a lot of time treating me, she just set me exercises to do, and based on my pain and thoughts of the exercises she changed her thoughts about my injury each week. It when from an old hamstring injury, to a flabby core, to you’re overweight and this is why you’re experiencing pain. at 13 & a half stone I wasn’t hugely overweight, but there was definite room for improvement. So after seeing no improvement in my knees and worsening pain in my hips, I felt that I was not getting any benefits from seeing this Physio and I never returned to her. After losing 3 and a half stone I felt great, but my knees had not improved, while training for my first half marathon I was experiencing pain and swelling as well as not being able to bend my knees to climb stairs after long runs – which at 28 should not be hard thing to do. While in the running shop asking about knee supports the guys in there recommended that I have a session with their in house Physio, so I thought why not. After an initial consultation I thought lets give a few sessions a go and see how I feel.

During my first 45 minute session with John, I saw a massive improvement in my movement and reduction in pain when being stretched in different ways, I was so shocked and couldn’t believe that it was that quick at getting results. We ran through some movements to see what my body did and reacted, then we manipulated my back and cracked it a bit, then my leg and hip was in a much better place flexibility wise. John set me an exercise called Neural Flossing to help increase the movement in my legs (stretch them out), as well as dynamic sitting to support my back and core when sitting at my desk all day.

After 1 week of dynamic sitting, at first it was weird and my back would sometimes go into a spasm, however as the week went on I found I was sitting correctly without even thinking about it. I went from pain and trying to crack my back 3/4 times a day to not at all. I even think about it when I am standing still or walking, and I feel much better inside for it.

Roll on session number 2 to see what further improvements can be had!

First Physio Appointment – Jes

I went in apprehensive at what to expect as having a physio beforehand and not seeing much improvement had made me this way. We started off by analysing how far each of my legs could stretch and my natural posture. John immediately recognised what my problem was and after clicking my backs joints a few times my flexibility was automatically increased.

He then went into detail on how to sit properly and it resonated. After the first session i walked out feeling like a different person and am looking forward to the next session to learn more.aid65704-728px-Sit-at-a-Computer-Step-1-Version-2

 

Physio for knee problem #02

KNEE CAUSE AND EFFECT
I returned to John for my third physio session this week and we continued to explore the causes and effects of my postural imbalance.

In the week I had been returning to the gym and found that, whilst there have been dramatic and notable improvements in my squat, which had been fairly reduced before, I was still having difficulty at the very extremes of my movement. I found that, when rowing for example, I was able to achieve a very “tucked up’ position only after easing my knee into the posture over a period of about 30 seconds.

ON YER BIKE!
I had also been biking, partly on John’s recommendation, as this allows fluid to flow around the knee and promotes recovery. I am finding cycling to be fine, with no real discomfort except upon extreme hills – which I am still avoiding for this reason. Occasionally I experience stiffness the next day but this is only equivalent to what I experience when sat stationary for an hour or two.
MANIPULATION
Once again John performed some manipulations, this time on my neck. This was both an alarming and enjoyable procedure; I’ve never heard my neck make so many cracks before, yet I felt as though a lot of built up tension had been released. This too had a remarkable and instantaneous effect upon my flexibility.

ILIO-TIBIAL BAND
Towards the end of the session we practised walking and running. It seems that, due to the muscular imbalance in my body, I over-rely upon my IT band for walking and thus my hip rotates forwards. I was shown how to become aware of this and told to practise on an ergo-rower, treadmill or when walking and running.

Aspiring to twenty-six miling without expiring #04

Twenty six days to go and it hasn’t escaped my attention that there is one day left for every mile I will have to run. I feel that this is somehow apt – the marathon is not only run over the 26 miles on the day, but over the many more miles run over the days and months leading up to it. This miniature mountain of time and distance (and hills) already covered is what makes my sensations heighten as the event draws nearer – I have put in so much effort to get this far that I don’t want to miss out due to injury or illness at this late point.

The exercises John has recommended have adjusted my posture to the point that the right calf is much less problematic, although this adjustment does seem to have ignited soreness in the left achilles. I am working on my gait to push right through to the toes on the trailing leg, increasing speed and reducing effort in the legs. This weekend will be my last truly long run before the marathon. As long as that goes well it will be all about keeping the legs ticking over for a few weeks and giving absolutely everything on the big day.

Aspiring to twenty-six miling without expiring #03

COUNTDOWN TO MARATHON: 56 days

I feel it is no coincidence that this Christmas I was given two books which are undoubtedly related: Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, and Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’. Both describe the immense efforts of people to overcome multifarious obstacles in order to capture a monster far bigger than themselves (although I haven’t read Moby Dick yet). It may be over-dramatic, but in some way this is how the marathon has become for me.

Particularly since the calf problems, it has been a daily struggle to stay on top and build the mileage back up enough to make the marathon plausible. I put in calf-strengthening exercises daily, I now also slot in postural exercises and some ‘neural flossing‘ as recommended by John. I am careful to warm up and down thoroughly around each run. I run three times per week, unsure each time whether the calf will fail again, but monitoring and adapting my runs accordingly.

Add to this that I will not be satisfied purely with finishing the marathon, but I would like to run a reasonable time. My running is currently limited not by my fitness but by the leg, which sometimes does not allow me to run further. This is concerning given that my longest mileage since the injury is 15 miles. Still, I believe that my approach is giving me the best chance possible. It combines patience, determination, and discipline. Keep doing the exercises even though you may be bored. Keep training even though the weather may be terrible. Keep believing even though other people may not hide their doubt. There is never a guarantee of success, but you can always put in your best effort possible.

Aspiring to twenty-six miling without expiring #02

COUNTDOWN TO MARATHON: 64 days

On my second appointment with John, he once again demonstrated to me the flaws in my posture. With me standing casually, a quick profile photo showed that my pelvis and nose stuck out in front of My forward-leaning neckthe rest of my body. I am curving my lower spine backwards and then my neck and head are pushing too far forwards from my shoulders (see photo); as John rightly pointed out, I am a two-pillow sleeper. These extra curves in my skeletal frame mean that the nerves strung over that frame have further to travel than they should, and therefore have less give in them.

 

 

My first prescription was to sort out my posture during the many hours I use a computer (at the office and particularly when using my laptop at home, for which my posture is really pretty terrible).

In the first photo you can see the sofa is low and I am hunched over; the second I am sitting more upright, although the screen still needs to be higher!Me using laptop on sofaIMG_1930

Following this, we tried some little hops as if skipping, first on both legs then switching to one leg, showing that this was much worse on my right side. Similarly, when balancing on one leg, I would lean my upper body much further to the side on the right leg than when balancing on the left. It seems I am literally a lazy arse, at least on the right side, where the upper glute muscles do not want to work to keep me balanced. Prescription two was the sitting-to-standing posture exercise from the physiotherapy.co.uk website to wake these muscles up. You or I may well ask what all this has to do with my calf injury? I believe John’s answer might be that you treat the body and not the symptoms of injury, and the rest follows…there is a logic to this, and as a scientist I see that you can only test this theory by following the advice, so fingers crossed and here goes…