Definitive Answers.

I’ve been in two minds about a bunch of things to do with my running lately.

My main concern was with my knees. You always hear people saying running inevitably smashes your knees, and I was wondering if I was going that way. I overheard talk about two other drivers who had to have replacement knees and were in a right state. My mam has had it done and, after the pain of the operation and recovery, seems to be fine with it. But either way, you don’t want to be thinking you are hastening your knee destruction. Then there’s the stretching and cross training I’ve been doing on the rowing machine. Is that good or further stressing my knee? Should I rest until it’s completely better? I can see arguments for and against everything.

Today I went to see my physio. He had a look at my knees and stretched and pulled me in every direction to pinpoint the problem. He said it was just inflamed tendons. Huge relief. While I was there I asked all the questions.

Running smashes your knees? Exactly the opposite. The cartilage has no blood supply. The only way you can build and strengthen it is through movement and exercise.

I said I was worried I was going to end up needing new knees. “If you stop running, and put on a lot of weight, you might need new knees in about 20 years. Maybe.”

I asked about the stretching and he said it was fine. And he advised cross training (such as rowing, cycling or swimming) as it is low impact. Maybe not to close the angle of my knees as much on the rowing machine (stop before my heels meet my bum, sort of thing) but basically it’s all good.

What about total rest? Absolutely not. It’s tendon damage and inflammation. Tendons have poor blood supply, so massage them and exercise them to stimulate blood flow to aid recovery. Also tendons fray when they are damaged. If you just rest they eventually repair, but messily. If you exercise they knit together tidily.

So many good answers.

He also had me doing eyes-shut one leg balancing. Then he was stretching my about. He said I had the responses of a 20 year old man. Apparently we old dodders are only able to hold 5 or 6 seconds, knee up, balancing on one foot with our eyes closed. A good 20 year can last 20 seconds. I do it every day (with my eyes open) as part of my post run stretching, so I aced that. More wobble getting settled on my right though, which is the worst knee, so it exposed the problem. Also the leg raises are supposed to be a problem past 70 degrees. I swing to head height daily as part of my warm down.

He was well made up with me.

He’s given me a bunch of stretches and exercises to add to my regime and told me to crack on. Don’t add any more miles until my discomfort level drops (I’m on 55 or so miles a week now, that’s not a problem!) but apart from that, have at it. Brilliant!

While I was there I remembered about my shoulder. Since breaking it if it’s proper cold on a run it really hurts. I mean seriously painful. I used to get a stiff, painful shoulder if I was in drafts and such beforehand so I didn’t hold out much hope. He gave me the once over and said it’s another trapped nerve. Seems you’ve got one that runs from your neck, under your shoulder blade/ over your top rib and down to under your armpit. Odd routing, but I don’t make the rules. Anywho, seems my lumpy shoulder bone is pressing down, the cold is making my chest and shoulder muscles bunch up, pulling the rib up and trapping the nerve. Genius. He said to lay on my back, interlace my fingers, then stretch my arms right back, arms brushing ears. Do that daily and bob’s your uncle. And later to put a tennis ball between my shoulder blades while doing it.

Amazing fix. So great to meet an expert and take all the guesswork and second guessing out of it.

Talking of, I wanted to test whether this plan is doing any good. I tried in the week to do a flat out 5K race (4 mile out, to warm up, flat out 3.1 miles back, jog home). My method, it being such a short distance, was to flat out sprint, then hold on as it all went south. I’d start out at 5 minute mile pace, within half a mile I was 5.30, scrape in the mile just under 6, then hang on for dear life. It occurred to me this might be counterproductive as if you go too fast you flood your muscles with lactic acid, which naturally slows you down as your muscles can’t process oxygen fast enough. Or something. Anyway, I asked that guy who represents GB as an age grouper at short distance triathlon. He recently ran a 16.40 5K, which is mighty impressive, so he’s doing something right.

As usual, I’m exactly wrong. He said start (relatively) slow, then go faster in the second half.

I tried again today. My 5K PB was 19.34, first mile 5.58, then died. I set off today at 6.15, which oddly felt quite do-able, I slipped slightly with the second mile (6.17) then went for it with a 6.12, and a sprint finish at 5.53 pace.

New PB of 19.19!

I’d only ever broke 20 minutes once and that near killed me. Just knocked another 15 seconds off it. I am very happy with that. More so because I now think I’ve got a plan of attack. I don’t think I’m any faster yet, I just think that was the correct way to pace it.

Also it was Wendy’s birthday yesterday so I made a meal for her and her brother and sister in law and I ate a load, so I had tons of fuel for the run. Dieting is not conducive to PBs.

Another boring running blog, but it’s been a great day for me, so I wanted to record it.