During the course of Sunday’s 17 miles I noticed a pain in my hip. After 6 miles it was nagging, after 10 it had travelled down to include my knee and by the final few miles to say it was pretty sore would be an understatement.
The pain cast a shadow on an otherwise really enjoyable run; the weather was perfect, the company excellent, the route interesting, and, pain aside, I felt pretty good in terms of my cardio fitness and muscular strength.
What concerned me was that it was the sort of nagging pain that I knew could turn into a serious injury if left unchecked.
I’ve suffered with similar hip pain in the past but I’ve never had it properly diagnosed or seen to, just rested and let it pass. However this time, with marathon training at risk, I decided to book myself in for some physio, and pronto.
It was this decision that saw me in shorts, laying on a physio table at 7:50am on Monday morning.
After a good chat about my training schedule and injury history, I undertook various exercises so my consultant could better assess the situation.
It seemed that the problem was caused by a combination of my calves being too tight (unsurprising being a toe-striker), a slight kick-out to one side on my right leg as I run, some instability around my hips and some laziness in my glutes.
Now, I’ll admit that on my lunch runs, with having to dash back to the office and with the freezing cold and darkness after my evening runs, my post-run stretches have suffered somewhat and I have noticed my calves getting tighter. I also concede that it’s completely feasible that my hips are unstable and perhaps I could do more to strengthen them. But lazy glutes?
Still, having started doing the exercises prescribed, including heel raisers, calf stretches and bridges with one leg elevated, I’ve noticed how weak some of these muscles feel and how much my running could potentially benefit from developing them.
I’ve also been working on my running technique, focusing on keeping my stride and kickback straight and using my glutes to power me forward, rather than relying on my hamstrings.
One of the interesting things that I’ve also learnt is that when you run faster your technique is generally better, it’s when you artificially slow down that your form gets worse and injuries start. This is interesting given that in my longer runs I do generally go slower to make sure I can finish them, so here more than anywhere I need to concentrate on my technique.
My physio prescribed pulling back on the running this week, dropping down to 3 runs – 2 shorter and 1 long – and a swim, so that we can resolve the problem before it gets worse.
I’ve been doing my exercises vigilantly morning and night and my runs on Tuesday and Wednesday felt fine, so much so that I sneaked out again on Friday for a quick lunchtime run.
I swam on Friday and had a second physio session to review my hip before Sunday’s 18 miles.
Here I jumped onto a treadmill for some gait analysis. It became apparent that as well as focusing on using my glutes to pull my leg back and keeping my stride straight, I also need to work on engaging my abs to keep my tailbone down and to stop my bottom sticking out!
What all of this has highlighted is the importance of keeping up strength training and stretching as well as cardio.
So, from my plank position I will wish you a weekend of happy running (and properly stretching afterwards)!