Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In which I need professional help

Not the first time I've stated - or heard - that, by the way.

Regardless, after I finished my first half-marathon a couple of months ago, I decided I needed expert advice when it came to running.

I knew I could run hard - and long - but I wanted to learn how to run smart. I wanted to become an efficient runner who, ideally, could enjoy whatever ability she had for as long as she could.

My theory with running, at least my running, is this: It's like gambling. The longer you gamble in a casino, the greater the odds the House will eventually get all your money. The longer I run without improving my form, the greater the odds I will get reinjured. And that is not what I want.

When I developed a neuroma earlier this year, I asked my bootcamp director (also a physical therapist) for advice on a good local podiatrist. The doctor he recommended was so popular, I wouldn't be able to get in for 8 weeks, so I went to another, who ended up being just fine.

But when I decided I wanted gait analysis, I made an appointment with Dr. Popular - and, yes, it took 2 months to get the next appointment. But it was worth it because not only is he a podiatrist, he's also an ultramarathoner and an Ironman. This man knows his stuff, to put it mildly.

I went a couple of weeks ago and it was fascinating. First off, this guy is extremely intelligent and built like Batman. Therefore, I renamed him - at least in my head - Dr. Batman. I am also not unconvinced he has a utility belt and fights crime at night.

Dr. Batman put me through a series of stretches and movements and then watched me walk on a treadmill. He didn't even need to see me run to deliver a diagnosis: I'm asymmetrical.

Basically, my muscles are all tight and twisted on my right side, so I'm lopsided. I knew this from bootcamp - I can do many exercises much easier on my left side than my right because my left side is loose and flexible and my right is not. And, this also explains why my neuroma and back problems all appeared on my...you guessed it...right side.

So, what do I do? Basically, learn how to move symmetrically once more. I'll be starting PT in late August and learn how to walk, stand and move in the correct way so that my right side will eventually mirror my left. Dr. Batman says that will automatically correct problems in my running form.

And he also recommended a technique, ChiRunning. I've been reading the book and watching the DVD for a week now and it's fascinating. The bottom line: Many people use their muscles and joints incorrectly when they run, which leads to injury. Use your muscles and joints the way they were intended and you can run pain-free and efficiently.

No wonder why so many hate running and say it's hard and painful. It is hard and painful, because we're doing it wrong.

It's going to take many hours, miles and months to improve fully, but I'm on my way. I went out for an hour this morning, and it was fun. Well, as much fun as it can be running in humid, 75-degree weather in July.

New things to think about, a new goal to shoot for. It made the hour go quickly, I'll give it that at the very least. Employing the ChiRunning techniques felt weird. Not bad-weird, but different. And that's a good thing, in my book.

You know how I feel about goals, I love them. I need them. They keep me interested and engaged in a healthy lifestyle. And I love that running correctly is my new goal for the foreseeable future.

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