Back a few years ago, my life changed and I began finding myself in the process. Right about this time, I started running. I would do a little running. It was nothing much, just a mile or so every few days. Then one day I ran 5K on the treadmill and I decided that I would like to keep doing that and maybe run a 5K race.
So I signed up for my first 5K race that was to be on my 40th birthday. I felt like this was a great way to kick off my forties. The last leg of the race was all down hill and I laughed to myself as I thought how ironic it was running to hang on to my youth but really it was “all downhill from here!”
I never did a race before so I wasn’t that concerned with time and I finished it in about 30 minutes All that was about to change when I decided I wanted to improve my time, so the very next week I did another one and shaved 2 minutes off my time. A month later, I did a turkey trot and shaved more time off and finished a cold hilly turkey trot with a push from my speedy little sister in just over 27 minutes. I felt great about my times improving so i wanted to go faster and faster!
That ended up being stupid because every time I ran I was trying to beat my time. Not on races, but every time I ran until one night I hurt myself on the treadmill and did something to my left knee. It has given me trouble ever since.
At first, I was in denial and kept trying to do the elliptical at the gym but that was aggravating it too. I had to come to terms with the fact that I am not a little man from Kenya and I should not have tried to do so much so soon.
Over that last 4 years I have been searching how to help my knee heal and how to run without hurting my knee more. I searched the internet, read running blogs, went to physical therapy, an orthopedic doctor, had cortizone injections and ate tons of ibuprofen. Throughout this journey, there are two things that I have learned thus far. One is to eat anti-inflammatory food such at dark leafy greens, turmeric, ginger and coconut oil and avoid inflammatory foods such as processed foods and sugar, vegetable oils, breads, gluten and legumes. Also to fuel my body with nutrient dense carbohydrates and proteins. The other important thing I learned was that I needed to build muscle and strengthen my leg muscles to support my knees better. In order to do that, I started focusing less on just running and more on strength training and in doing so, I was not beating my knees on the pavement at the same time that I was strengthening them.
I started doing a boot camp class and that was probably the best thing I ever did. I discovered that I really love classes! In classes, the trainers plan the workout and you just do it. It’s great! I have learned so much from them. In addition to the boot camp, I started going to a gym and doing more classes; body pump, yoga and spin. Another benefit to classes as opposed to doing it on your own at home or at a gym, is that you feed off of the energy of the trainer who feeds off of the energy of the class and they are inspired to motivate you even more and then people in the class motivate each other. It’s like an energetic cycle of motivation. I discovered quickly after doing these classes that I pushed myself a lot more in this setting than when I worked out on my own and was very encouraged by what I could do.
Without putting so much emphasis on running alone and consistently going to classes, my knee has been much better. I have decided that running will just be a thing that I will do sometimes. Maybe do a 5K once or twice a year. I did my best 5K a year ago in 25:13, placing first in my age/gender but my dreams of doing a half marathon are on a shelf indefinitely. I would rather be able to continue working out, gaining strength than blow out my knee.
That being said, I have a 5K coming up this weekend just after my 44th birthday. I went for a run tonight, this time focusing on my gait. Landing mid foot, lightly and not striding too far. Keeping shorter quicker revolutions of my foot falls and with my knees facing forward and my body upright, slightly bent forward. I bought a Rehband knee brace. I think my muscles are going to be sore tomorrow.
Stupid running. I hate you but I just can’t stay away from you. You are the devil but I love you. Okay. I will do this race on Sunday, but after that, no more! Don’t call me again because we are never ever ever getting back together ….until the next race.
UPDATE: I ran the 5K, beat my previous PR by a few seconds for 24:58 and won 3rd place in my age/gender group. That’s why I love running. It feels great to reach your goals! But I hate it because it’s a bitch.