Whatever you struggle with when you go out the door for a run, you hope if you keep running it will eventually fade away.
You want to believe it’s possible to recover from a longstanding, stubborn injury–whether you’ve got one now or just have that tiny spark of fear that you might someday.
Fundamentally, what you want is running that feels good, that you can do for the rest of your life.
Yesterday I showed you that these are not unrealistic hopes. I told you about Steve, who ran through plantar fasciitis for a decade before he finally reached the point he just couldn’t run any more. But now at age 68 he’s running regularly and feeling better than when he was much younger.
What Steve did is possible for you too… if you’re not afraid to think outside the box.
Why outside the box?
Let me tell you another story.
Isabelle, a triathlete, developed IT band syndrome on her left side in 2010. (If you’re not familiar with that, it’s an overuse injury that causes pain on the outside of the knee.)
She had a gait analysis with a physical therapist who said she wasn’t strong enough on the left side and gave her exercises. A hard worker by nature, she diligently did the exercises, was able to return to running, and… eventually the ITB syndrome came back.
So she went back to physical therapy and repeated the cycle. Seven more times.
Was the ITBS coming back because she stopped doing the exercises? Nope. She kept on doing them and it came back anyway.
“Every year I would get reinjured and so discouraged,” she told me.
This year, at her wit’s end, she asked the PTs why this kept happening to her.
They told her they didn’t know.
That’s because they were working inside the box of conventional practice, looking at her injury the way they’d been taught and treating it according to the research they’d read.
And all of their efforts, their training, and the research they encountered were based on the premise that muscular weakness is the cause of running injuries.
In other words, weak muscles (and sometimes tight muscles) result in your body not being able to handle the stresses of running, or result in your not running correctly, and in either case the result is breakdown.
So then the answer is strengthening, and a halpless triathlete with ITBS can expect to spend a lot of time doing clamshells.
This is the dominant paradigm.
When you go to a physical therapist what do you get? Exercises.
When someone critiques your form, what do they nearly always say? You need core strength.
When someone evaluates your technique, what tools do they give you to improve? Strength training and corrective exercise.
Sometimes it does help to some extent, but usually the results are tenuous, often injuries recur, and it’s not at all unusual for a runner to simply continue having problems.
Strength is not the answer to why you got hurt and what will get you better. Ditto for stretching.
Strength is a result, and weakness is a symptom.
It’s not a cause.
Think about it: before you started running, probably all the muscles you needed for running were weak. Then, as you ran more, the muscles you used got stronger.
So if any muscles that you’re supposed to be using didn’t get strong, it’s because you weren’t using them.
You can do some special exercises to get them stronger, but this doesn’t necessarily fix the fact that you don’t know how to use them when you run.
Movement comes before strength.
Improve how you move and the right muscles will get stronger.
Luckily Isabelle decided if her physical therapists didn’t know the answer, she would do some digging herself, and she stumbled across my blog.
She read my explanation of how IT Band Syndrome can be traced back to how well your shift your weight over each leg, and she tried what I suggested to learn how to shift her weight better over her left leg.
And it worked.
So she decided to put more time and energy into improving how she moved, and as a result pretty much all of her issues are resolved (including the nagging problems she wouldn’t have thought to mention when ITBS was her main focus). She now feels that both sides of her body are even.
She’s even running faster because can train without having setbacks from injury, and last month she finished an Ironman injury-free.
Would you like to learn more about how you can dig in and do the work to successfully improve how you move when you run and solve your problems–just like Isabelle and Steve did? Find out here.
May all your running dreams come true,
Jae Gruenke, GCFP
The Balanced Runner™