Friday, March 7, 2014

Knees out

Guess who's running again, and looking super dorky doing it?  THIS GIRL!!!

A few months ago, I got a cortisone injection in my foot.  Afterwards, I was very cautious about starting to run again - or doing anything else that might injure my foot.  A couple weeks after the injection, it was feeling great.  I was finally able to stand around the house without pain, so I started walking.  I started with a quarter mile and worked up to 3 miles. 

After the new year, I saw a physical therapist again.  She cleared me to run a minute at a time, and I've been working up from there.

She also analyzed my gait, from which I got some very good news:  my gait isn't all that funky.  Meaning what led to the surgery wasn't the way I was running, but really was the shape of the head of my femur.  And that means my physical therapist doesn't expect to see me injured so severely again!  Cheers for no more surgery!!!

What little I am cleaning up about my gait is what is holding me back from running more/further/longer, but that is ok by me.  Every time I have tried to get back to running since my hip surgery almost 17 months ago, I have ended up with a new injury.  I'm cool taking it slow and re-training my brain and my various muscles to run correctly!

What I'm changing about my gait is two-fold:
1.  On my right side (where I had hip surgery), the muscles around my hip don't always fire completely right, and my right knee falls slightly inward.  Occasionally my knees even knock together (but it's entirely the fault of that right side - the left side looks fine).  This creates a whole chain reaction that ends with my right foot being whipped around, sometimes kicking myself in the left calf, and generally putting unnecessary straight on my hip and knee.

2.  I land a little harder on my left (non-surgical side, formerly stress fractured) foot, and in slow motion video it appears I'm actually over-striding and heal-striking on that foot while landing mid-foot on the right.  My physical therapist likened this to a realllllllly subtle limp - like I'm possibly subconsciously still protecting my right hip.

How I'm changing my gait is with cues and counting.  The cue for my knee is simple:  "knees out."  And it works!  In video of me on a treadmill, you can tell even without sound when my physical therapist tells me to start cuing.

For the uneven stride, I'm just counting in my head in a monotone and thinking musically about a fairly long, unaccented meter (usually 11/4).  My musical background comes in handy again!

I'm running and walking in intervals, so one running interval I'm to cue "knees out" and on the next I'm working to even out my stride.  This is fine when I'm running 1 or 2 minutes at a time.  I'm currently at 4 minutes running with a 1 minute walk break...and my brain just cannot stay focused on these things for that long.  Running is usually when I most let my mind wander!

This week, I got creative.  I did the usual cuing for my first two intervals, and then I came up with a funny way to combine them:  military cadence.

So this is what is going through my head while I run:

I don't know but I've been told (repeat)
It's not that bad getting old (repeat)
Knees out...  Knees out...  KNEES OUT!

If you have any ideas for me to throw in so I can mix things up, keep this fresh, and really solidify a better gait, please share.  I'm starting about halfway through the Couch to 5K next week, and once I'm done with that I'm planning to stop the cuing madness and check in with my gait whenever I think of it.

But, the good news is that I am running regularly and without pain!  And I'm feeling optimistic enough that I purchased the sunglasses in the picture topping this post.  They have interchangeable lenses so that I am ready to run in the bright New Mexico sun, a dust storm or two, and blowing snow next winter...when we'll be living back in Indiana!  The Beast got a great job, so off we go this summer!

And since my foot is feeling fine now, I'm getting out with the boys to the zoo and whatnot.  I'm looking forward to a little hiking in the mountains before we leave!!

I was happy to see him at the zoo.  I think the feeling was mutual.

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