Healthy Changes

I recently went to a sports medicine clinic due to some knee pain that I had while running. I probably should have gone after I ran the half marathon a year ago when my knee hurt so bad for weeks that I couldn’t put any weight on it, but I didn’t. Better late than never, right?

I knew that I have tilted knee caps and from a more recent X-ray, it turns out that my right knee is significantly more tilted than my left. Ironic, since it was my left knee that was bothering me. It was suggested at the clinic that I strengthen my hamstrings and my hips so that I don’t irritate the tendons and ligaments below my knee. Also, I should get some orthotics since I pronate my foot. Here’s a good article I read on Running Times magazine about hip stabilization.

One of the first steps that was suggested is to not run with my quads, but to run more with my hamstrings. I’ll be the first to admit, that I am still a beginner when it comes to running, so I had no idea what he was talking about. Google to the rescue! After reading a ton of blogs/magazines/ websites dedicated to running and also talking to the sports medicine doctor, I realized that I don’t run with my hamstrings (my foot should be hitting the pavement and I should “scrape mud off my shoe”. By doing this, I use the ball of my foot to push off the pavement). Instead, I would classify myself as a “shuffling runner”, if there even is such a thing. I tend to run with barely lifting my legs off the ground. I ran at a good pace, but I was not running like I was supposed to; hence, my knee pain. Now I need to rethink how I run, which is a lot more difficult than I thought. I’ve tried to use this technique twice this past week and I can definitely feel a difference. First, I can’t run nearly as long as I could have before. Second, I can feel my hamstrings being used more  after my run. However, I have to think about every step that I take otherwise I fall back into my old pattern of running. I’m guessing that eventually I’ll be able to  just go out and run the more I get used to this new technique. But as for right now, it’s a lot more work.

Next thing he suggested is to work on some hip/glutes/hamstring/core exercises. After doing them the first day, my legs killed all day at work. Bending down to pick up something I dropped was not something I was excited to do!

The first exercise I do is squats (2 sets of 10) with two 2-5lb weights and a chair in front of me so that I keep my knee on top of my foot instead of my knee going over my foot. This is much harder to do when I am accountable with that chair in front of me, which I am not supposed to move.  To do this squat, you put your knees and shins against the chair. Then while dropping your hips back (like you are sitting in a chair), you raise your hands with the weights up and away from your body, but no higher than shoulder height, all while not pushing the chair forward. You then pull the weights back in to your body as you stand up.

Next, is a side plank with a single leg raise (2 sets of 10 each leg). While laying on your side, you bed the leg, closest to the floor, in 90 degrees and you lift up your upper body off the floor by engaging your elbow, which should be even with your shoulder, and your core. Then, lift your top leg up while trying to not rotate your leg. 

Souvenir Bird is the next exercise, but I know this move as a single leg dead lift (2 sets of 10 each leg). This is done by lifting one leg back behind you (without rotating your hips), while bringing your upper body down so that from your head to your foot, you are on an even plane. When you don’t rotate your hips, you can feel it in the hamstrings of your standing leg.

Plank. Not much needs to be said about these. I can feel my whole body shake as I contract in my core while doing these. I do 5 sets of 5 breaths, if that makes sense. Or, about 30-45 seconds.

Nordic hamstrings. If you Google these, I see most people slowly go all the way down to a push up and that propels them back to their starting position on their knees. I was taught to do them by starting on my knees with someone holding down my ankles. I then throw my body forward a few inches, just enough so that I can engage my hamstrings and bring my body back to where I started. If I throw my body too far and I can’t bring myself back, I drop into a push up. But, that isn’t the goal. This is really hard to do and I can feel it instantly, so I only do 1 set of 5.

Incorporating these new strengthening exercises with my running, should help me get back in shape and become more healthier. I know that I had given up on working out for the most part this year and I’m not going to make up excuses or feel bad with the choices I made. All I can do is move forward. I want to teach my kids that exercise is an important part of being healthy and Dave and I would like to do all that we can to be around for them for as long as possible. Also, Dave recently found out that his hemoglobin A1c is on the high edge of normal and he needs to monitor his carb intake, along with continuing to exercise (he already runs 3-5 days a week). For a carb loving family like us, that is hard. But it’s not something I want him to do on his own. We can learn to eat less crap, too. I’ll be sure to write about new foods that we’ve tried and how this change is helping us to be healthier.

Have a great day!