As a runner, it’s fair to say I have had my fair share of injuries over the years. My first year of serious running (because it took me a couple of years to realize 5k wasn’t my limit) introduced me to the term “shin splints”, then it was IT Band Syndrome (numerous times) followed by patellofemoral syndrome then piriformis syndrome, the list goes on.
I think during that year, I kept some physios and podiatrists in business. I was prescribed orthotics to prevent over pronation, given tens therapy by the physio where they run electrical currents through the muscles, told to rest and recuperate meaning I would miss the first marathon I had planned to do. It was a tough time and hurt my back pocket a fair bit. Orthotics certainly aren’t cheap and physio visits numerous times a week certainly isn’t cheap. But looking back on it all, I can’t say I remember anyone looking at my running stride. I can’t remember anyone advising that I do certain strengthening exercises. Although I certainly remember paying for lots of expensive therapy that made me feel better. But due to the frequent recurrence of the injuries, it obviously never fixed the underlying problem.
It may be cynical of me, but would they have made as much money out of me if they had solved the underlying problem in the first place?
Fast forward many years with a bit more knowledge under my belt and a reliable therapist (thanks Shaun), the orthotics are long gone, I now run in barefoot shoes (VIVOBAREFOOT) so my arches have strengthened up lessening the over pronation. My stride has changed to a much gentler one since I no longer have massive cushions under my feet also having an effect on my pronation. I have strengthened my stabilizing muscles in the hip/glute region meaning I’m not overloading the wrong muscles and my injury rate has fallen substantially.
So what had the biggest effect on this change? Was it the diagnosis and the prescribing of the orthotics and hooking me up to a machine that relieved symptoms? Or was it taking a look at the body as a whole and sorting out the imbalances/weaknesses that were the underlying cause of the problem? I think the answer is obvious.
Quite often, we get stuck in a thought pattern that the quick fix is the way to go. We look for something that will make us feel better or perform better for the short term without looking at the big picture. Maybe slipping an orthotic in your shoe will mean you miss out on next months race, but can make the next one. Even if it causes you to strain something else in the process.
But the true cure quite often lies behind hard work, time away from competition, working on changing the patterns that caused the problem in the first place. Something that takes time and effort but holds the greatest rewards at the end. I’m in this for the long run (no pun intended) and want to feel fit and strong well into my 70’s or even 80’s. Not a burnt out wreck with artificial knees and hips due to a life time of incorrect stride or undiagnosed imbalances.
Long term health is my main goal, so everything in my life revolves around what is best for me and my body. The food I eat, the amount of exercise I do and the type of exercise I do and even the people I hang around with as I do believe you become the average of your group of friends. Hang around with unhealthy people and it will soon rub off on you. Although I admit that running ultras aren’t exactly conducive to a long healthy life, but you still need to live and have great stories to tell your grand kids!