Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let's Get Physical, Physical, I Wanna Get Physical

Ah, the classics never die.

So as I mentioned in my last blog, my knees have been really bothering me since I completed my ½ marathon back in late May. Bothering me to
the point where I have been “resting” during the week (not walking up and down the metro escalators like I usually do, wearing flip flops 24/7…even in the office…, keeping my left knee constantly wrapped, etc., etc.) and not completing the necessary mileage for training during the week. I sometimes feel like I have an 80 year old man living inside of me. I mean, what 27 year old complains about how painful it is to get out of bed in the morning or how they don’t want to bend down or try to stand up from a low seated position? Me, that’s who. I had made an appointment to see a Physical Therapist back on June 1st (thank you for the recommendation Gideon), but they couldn’t schedule me in until Wednesday, June 24th. Apparently lots of people are crippled in DC. So in I walk last Wednesday, shake hands with my new P.T., Matt, and get down to business. He pops me up on the exam table and starts poking around.

Matt: Does this hurt?
Me: Well, no.
Matt: Does it hurt when I do this?
Me: Nope.
Matt: How does this feel?
Me: Ah, just fine actually.

“I’m such a fraud,” I kept thinking. It’s just like all of those times I have made a doctor’s appointment when I really and truly was sick, to show up with absolutely no symptoms, swearing up and down I spent the last two days in bed. *Sigh* He does a few more things, which mostly entail bending and stretching my legs in different directions, and then asks me to sit up. He explains that my legs, especially my IT band area, are quite tight and I have some muscles that are underdeveloped, which is probably causing my gait to turn inwards, putting an off balanced pressure on my knees. Multiply that with high mileage, and badda bing, my knees start to hurt. It’s kind of like being pigeon-toed, only I’m pigeon-kneed. With sneakers off, I stand flat footed on the ground so that he can check my arch and again points out that my inward turned knees are apparent even in my typical posture. How have I not realized this before? Inward turned knees – never would have guessed.

I wanted to chat with Matt a little bit about running shoes while I was there since I was passed due for a new pair. The weekend before, after our team run, I headed into Georgetown Running Company with the TNT folks to check out their stock of women’s running sneakers. The problem is, each time I go to get fitted for sneakers at a running store I hear a different story, making me skeptical that they actually know what they are talking about. I knew the shoes I had been using were not only past their mileage, but a completely wrong fit for me (I actually threw them out as soon as I got home to make sure I never used them again). I was desperate for a new pair, but everything I put on that day didn’t feel right. Truthfully, the day went downhill as soon as they measured my foot:

Sales Girl # 1: Okay. You’re a size 4 and half.
Me: In men’s sizes?
Sales Girl # 1: No. In women’s sizes.
Me: What!?!? That has to be wrong. Measure it again.”
Sales Girl # 1: No, it’s still…
Me: (cutting her off) Okay, measure the other one.
Sales Girl # 1: Let me get…hey, (Sales Girl # 2), what does this measurement say?”
Sales Girl # 2: 4 and half.
Me: Oh, for crying out loud.

Who wants to buy shoes from a store that clearly has broken equipment? ;)

Matt ended up recommending the shoe that I had picked out for myself before ever going to a professional – the Saucony Progridtm Omni 7 Moderate W – and I bought them off line to avoid any additional unnecessary embarrassment.
I absolutely love this shoe.

The only thing I hate is that they keep coming out with a new and “improved” model each year. I have to learn to buy running shoes in bulk. This shoe is good for people who are moderate over-pronators and would like a combination of cushioning and enhanced stability. Although I will swear by this shoe for myself, the Rules of Thumb for buying running sneakers are:

1. One size does NOT fit all. Make sure you get the right shoe for your foot;

2. Never, ever base your purchase on color, only fit. Who cares if they are neon green with purple stripes? Trust me, when you are out on the trail, in your third hour of running, you won’t notice or care what color they are, but you sure will notice and care that your feet/ ankles/ knees hurt;

3. If you are going to run long distances (8 miles and above) on a regular basis, be sure to buy a shoe that is ½ - 1 full size bigger then you normally purchase. (Disregarding my last experience, I now feel like a regular person when I go to buy running shoes. “I’ll take a size 6 please!”)

*** I do highly recommend the Balega Running Sock line though (pictured left). They are expensive (average is probably 10 bucks a pair) but well worth the cost. I don't run in anything else now.***

After completing some painful stretches and exercises, Matt cleared me to run that weekend and gave me some homework to do before I saw him again. Like a good student, I only missed one day of homework, and by the time I saw him next, I was already feeling better. I had run twice – once on Saturday and once on Sunday – my knee was wrapped both times and had minimal discomfort afterwards. I was still choosing to ride the escalator instead of walk it, but my other day to day activities were slowly become less painful. On our second visit, he asked me to do something very very simple – too simple, I thought at first. Step up and down on a Step, watching my knees as I did it. Wow, there it was. My knees instantly pushed inward as I stepped up and stepped down. I had to consciously force my knees to align each time. It felt like I was forcing myself to go bow legged, but my mirror image showed nothing but a straight up and down motion. By my 20th time stepping down, the pain was nearly gone from my right knee (my left one…well, we’re stilling working on it). I left feeling very satisfied – half of me could step down without pain! I felt brazen later that day, and walked the metro stairs, remaining aware that I had to keep my knees from falling inward. No pain, not even from the left one. Spectacular. I have walked the metro stairs, virtually pain-free, since. Riding the metro is another story. Here’s hoping that the Red Line starts running normally soon, and my 5’3” self no longer has to be crammed in someone’s armpit, in July, in DC.

In tribute to MJ – my new favorite running song:
Dirty Diana

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