Friday, February 22, 2013

Gear Report: Strength & Stretch Edition

I promised you awkward pictures, and if there's anything I'll deliver on, it's awkwardness.

A little history before we get to the meat of this post, and the real reason you're all here. My knees began hurting after the 2011 NDN Half. This isn't surprising, considering my lack of preparation. I had never walked 13.1 miles, let alone run. (I don't think I'd ever walked more than six, unless you count rotations around the classroom or speedwalking Busch Gardens.)

After much research regarding where my knee pain was located, what times of day it was better/worse, etc, I self-diagnosed my problem as ITBS. I began going to the gym with M and focused on hip abductors and adductors, which really helped. Strengthening my hips, core, and glutes has really made a difference. I'm not very good at sticking with these exercises, and if I go a few days without doing them - especially if I've increased my mileage - I can feel the difference almost immediately.

Taking those two weeks off and then running six miles (including a race) on my first day back left my knees achy. Barely a mile into my short run last night with M, my knees were killing me and slowing me down. So, I've decided to do my stretches and strengthening exercises, and recruited M to take photos. The lengths we go to for education, yes?

1. Begin with a flat loop resistance band. I got mine at Sports Authority for $9. It's a medium strength band because I'm a weakling but I like to challenge myself.

I should have kids just so I can embarrass them by making posts like this.
2. Lie on your side with the band looped around both legs at the center point of your calves. Keep your resting leg slightly bent/relaxed, and keep the active leg straight. Raise and lower your active leg in a slow and controlled motion. I usually do two sets of 12 reps per side.

It's not a real workout tutorial without a cheesy grin.
Repeat for the other side as well. (These are just glorified leg-lifts, but do the same as the hip ab/adductor machines at the gym.)

3. Lower your active leg, stomping on the band (which you've now moved closer to your ankle). Lift and lower the leg that was resting in a slow, controlled motion. (This exercise sucks but helps your inner thighs. I hate it and rarely do this one.)

Hard to explain...Hopefully this photo is enough, because I quit after one rep.
4. Phew, I'm tired from all that resistance work! Time to stretch!

Always stretch with a spotter. Preferably a spotter that matches your shirt and foam roller.
Foam rollers are awesome. I got mine at Target for about $25. It came with a DVD I never use because Runner's World has so many great videos. Next time I buy one of these, I'll go for the black one, which has a higher density. But this green Gaiam is good for a beginner like me.

Rollers are great for all-over body massage. They allow you to use your own body weight to work out knots and tight muscles. I seriously don't know why it took me so long to buy one!

This is a thumbs-up, not a boob-grab.
As someone whose major issue is the IT-band, I spend most of my rolling time like this. You simply balance as much pressure as you can stand on the roller, and roll hip-to-knee for about 30 seconds at a time. Three full minutes of rolling is optimal.

I take calf-massages very seriously.
Rolling your calves is nice because it doubles as a core exercise. So does rolling your quads, which we can't forget, of course:

"Drop and give me twenty!" he chirped adorably.
I also like to do planks for core work, and I got a giant stability ball I'll take some photos of next time. But I think for now, this is enough embarrassment.

Remember to do all exercises purposefully. If you're rushing through them you risk injury, and you're not getting the full benefit of the routine. Remember, too, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. New runners rarely know how important cross-training and strengthening exercises are...until they get injured. If I had been smart about my habits when I first began running, I wouldn't be dealing with knee pain two years after my original injury.

So be consistent, spend a few minutes a day where it counts, and enjoy your run! Good luck!


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  1. Replies
    1. Archie is highly-trained. I've very lucky to have him. I hope the pics are helpful enough to offset their awkwardness haha