I wrote an email to a friend in response to her question about how things were going with my minor running issue. As I neared the end of that email exchange, I joked with her that I might just copy and paste it into a blog post. Anything to break the silence here. I just can’t seem to get ahead these days.
But it’s not a bad idea, so I’m running with it.
If you follow me on Instagram, I mentioned back in January that a nagging pain that had started in December on some of my longer runs was still sticking around, despite having rested for several weeks during the coldest and darkest days of winter. A couple of miles into a run I start to experience a sharp pain on the outside of my left knee that doesn’t let up as I continue to push through it. After running, the pain continues for a few hours – not while walking around, but I notice it when heading up and down stairs.
I self-diagnosed it as an IT Band issue, and when it still persisted through the end of January, I decided to tackle it head on before spring running weather rolls around. I made an appointment for my routine physical, and my doctor agreed with my assessment, and wrote me a referral for PT. I contacted the PT that my dear friend (of earlier referenced email fame) recommended with “1000 stars”, and I saw her for the first time on Monday where she confirmed the diagnosis.
Turns out I’m really lopsided in how I engage certain muscle groups. My right (dominant) side is fine, but on my left side I’m using other muscles to do the work for me, and my left hip flexor muscles are way weaker than my right. So it’s time to target and build those up. As I’ve increased my strength training in my Body Pump class (if you have access to Les Mills classes, I highly recommend them), my larger muscle groups have been worked, but those smaller muscle groups can start feeling neglected. I didn’t ask this during my first appointment, but I have wondered about it since – I’m curious if always defaulting to starting with our right side – in Body Pump or Power Yoga or PiYo – means that the left side (then more fatigued) defaults to engaging the larger muscle groups over the smaller ones when doing the same work. I think I’ll ask that at my next appointment.
Other contributing factors? I cross my legs while sitting, and often sit with my left leg tucked under my body. In December I probably spent 100+ hours in that position while working on holiday cards (outside of the hours I sit on my tush in the office). Now I’m using a small platform for my feet, and catching myself every ten minutes on my leg positions. Breaking bad habits is so tricky.
I learned something else new – did you know that there is an ideal angle that an ankle bends to for running? I didn’t. That angle is 20 degrees. One of my ankles is three degrees, the other is zero. Zero!! This is why my heels never touch the ground in downward facing dog! I know I’ve got problem feet, and the rods in my feet probably aren’t helping here, but building some more strength and flexibility in my ankles will also help. That will reduce the stress on my upper legs as well when my feet hit the ground.
Next week I’ll have a running analysis, and I’m pretty sure that my Hoka days are numbered. (Also might have helped contribute to this problem.) I’m glad that I decided to get in front of this and talk to someone specializing in running health and strength, rather than throwing a bunch of ideas and gear towards the problem. I’ll let you know how it goes. And how exciting it is to do a zillion reps of strength building exercises while focusing on ONLY engaging the correct muscles. It’s a lot more thinking about my butt than I generally care to do!