The Frustrated Runner
One year ago I dusted off my running shoes, donned a slightly snug fitting jersey and some shorts and set off on a run. Well I say run, I stumbled along like bambie on ice, huffing like a steam engine, red faced and drenched in sweat for about 3 kilometres. Then collapsed on the floor and decided that was a silly idea. However it turns out that one run on a sunny day is just about all you need to get hooked!
After a few months of trying to stick to a regular 3 runs a week running between 3 and 5k runs I decided I needed a bigger test. So I entered my first half marathon! I had 4 months to get ready for this, I had my training programme and I had my enthusiasm. Nothing could stop me….. could it?
Now the problem with the enthusiastic amateur is well… being keen as the proverbial mustard will only carry you so far. This is something I try to explain to all my patients, particularly the ones who are new to running. This time of year sees literally 1000’s of people attempting to run a marathon for the first time, whether it be for a charity or as a personal life goal. The key message to all new long distance runners is this; it is not as simple as putting one leg in front of the other as I found out.
At first everything went well and I progressed through my training steadily, first getting 10k distances done then completing 30-35k a week, improving my times as I went. Thoroughly enjoying running until 4 weeks before the race. On one particular run, the longest run I had done to date I developed a bit of a niggle in my right knee. After a quick physio council we concluded it was indeed a case of the dreaded ITB syndrome. Ilio-tibial Band syndrome is extremely common, very painful and tremendously detrimental to runners. But why was this happening to me now? I had followed the training programme explicitly?!
After a quick assessment by Faye, it was apparent that my gluteal muscles were letting me down, or as Faye so eloquently put it, “your bum is useless!” So now I had 4 weeks to try and recover from injury. I had to try and swallow my own advice and rest whilst commencing a strengthening programme, using the pain inducing foam roller and sitting there with a very glum face. Two weeks on I attempted a run again. Same problem. The pain had stopped me after 3k this time. After a further weeks rest and another attempted and failed run it was clear I wouldn’t be able to run the race. Having done so well for three months of training it was a bitter pill to swallow and very frustrating. But it was a useful learning curve from the perspective of the runner. I see 100’s of patients each year who develop this problem and give each similar advice on including a variety of training techniques in their training. I have learnt the hard way the importance of engaging in muscular strength and condition training as well as running when training for long distance running. Frequently it seems that a lack of muscular endurance is as problematic as muscular weakness. So the advice from The Frustrated Runner is this, make sure you are including at least one strength training session a week, if not two, to help injury proof yourself in the latter stages of your training. Glute and core training especially, Jane Fonda routines are my personal preference. What are your best gluteal strengthening exercises?