Sunday, 5 January 2014

A focus on form

I've been consulting Dr Google and Nurse YouTube about my not-quite-plantar-fasciitis, looking for different stretches and strengthening exercises to do (as well as looking for - and finding - people who say, 'Of course you can run through it!').  During my searches, I came across a different application of KT tape for arch support, a video by a foot doctor which demonstrated the massage techniques that Adam used on me last week, and advice from Danny Dreyer, Mr Chi Running himself, to walk barefoot on gravel for 5 to 10 minutes.  (This apparently acts as a mini-massage to break up any adhesions in the plantar fascia.  Really.)  I also kept reading about the importance about decreasing both distance and speed while you are healing.  Bummer.

Poppity poppity pop
Still, I am nothing if not sensible.  I have been doing my stretches religiously but last night I also used the cross-friction massage technique; I used it in a much more gentle and tentative way than Adam did but damned if I too didn't feel the bubbles along the plantar tendon that he had quite merrily popped.  So I popped them too.  It didn't exactly hurt but it did make me shiver.  Not quite as much as the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard might do, but it was close.  However, whether it's coincidence or not, my arch didn't wake me up in the middle of the night with major aching and cramping.

Today, then, was my long run.  I used the new taping configuration and found it much more comfortable than the previous one, which was so irritating that I stopped in the middle of my 5 mile run on Friday to rip it from my foot.  I'm not enthusiastic about decreasing my long-run distance - I have a half-marathon to train for after all - but I did stick at the 8 miles that I've done for the last two long runs and did drop my pace by 60sec/mile.  It felt like a really, really slow jog but rather than grumble about this to myself for 8 miles, I used the time to focus on my form.

Chi running is big on body sensing, which involves doing a series of scans for any areas of tension or stress in your body and then relaxing them.  Body sensing also helps you to keep track of what your posture is doing and of where your feet are landing.  What I discovered was that, as long as I kept my strides short and my turnover high (as a good Chi runner is meant to do), there was no tension in my ankles and feet at all.  The first sign of a heel strike made my arch tighten; reverting to midfoot striking made it relax.  I also carry a huge amount of tension in my shoulders and neck, and relaxing them also meant that my lower body relaxed too.

So I finished the run - on a beautiful cold, crisp, windless day - with feet that felt relaxed and that certainly weren't hurting.  Even now, almost five hours later, my arch feels okay.  I'm aware of it being a bit stiff but that's about it.  The big test is how it feels in the next 48 hours, but I am cautiously optimistic that I've now turned the corner.

Just to be sure, though, I'll be out walking barefoot along my neighbour's gravel driveway tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Return of The Bumblebees

The ache in my left medial arch has been a fairly constant niggle since my last post.  It doesn't bother me at all when I'm running - and I even completed a quick(ish) and strong 8 miles before Christmas - but it had begun to ache so much at night that it was keeping me awake.  I decided to take some days off running, but this didn't help and the ache kept getting worse.  Finally, on 30 December, I broke down and texted Adam.

When I saw him a couple of weeks ago, he couldn't really find anything wrong aside from some plantar fascia tightness and was confident that things should resolve themselves fairly quickly; in fact, he was so confident about this that we arranged our next appointment for well into January.  Fortunately, he had a cancellation the afternoon of the 30th and I went along with some trepidation, fearful that he would diagnose plantar fasciitis and tell me to stop running.

Thirty minutes of towel-bitingly painful massage later, I got the good news.  While there is 'plantar fascia involvement,' this has not YET developed into the dreaded PF.  Adam found some scar tissue this time (Adam:  'It feels just like the bubbles in bubble wrap; time to pop the bubbles!'  Me:  'Aaarrrggghhh!') and the usual tightness, but nothing that unduly concerned him and nothing that made him think that I needed to stop running.  There are, however, some adjustments to be made.

I need to diligently use my therapeutic rolling pin to roll out the plantar fascias on both feet on a regular basis.  I need to stretch my calf, achilles, and plantar fascia several times a day.  I need to keep my long runs to single digits for the next couple of weeks.  And I need to break out The Bumblebees, with their 12mm heel-toe drop and better support, at least for the next week or so, to give my foot a bit of a rest.

It's all eminently sensible and I'm happy to comply.  I've been rolling and stretching away the last couple of days, and dug The Bumblebees out from under the stairs for today's 3 mile easy run.  (I was taken aback all over again by how yellow they are but, hey, this is a medical emergency; fashion gives way in the face of not-quite-plantar-fasciitis.)  Everything felt fine, and my legs felt fresh after their 5-day holiday from running. 

Post-run, my arch still feels okay which is a good sign.  Fingers crossed that whatever Adam did has put me on the road to recovery...Here's to staying below the Running Gods' radar in 2014!