I’ve mentioned on the blog before that I’ve been having some difficulty with my running training. On some days, my shins and calves feel super tight, to the point where I have to stop running. And on a couple of occasions, I have started to have bad knee pain. None of these things are much fun, and if I’m going to continue running beyond my half marathon in November, I really want to be sure I’m running properly.
So about a week ago, I met up with a trainer who was willing to try to help me. This guy has actually run a marathon in every state in the country! I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around that concept.
Anyways, he listened to my concerns, checked out my legs and knees, and looked at my shoes. He then had me walk and run on a treadmill and run down a hallway.
His thoughts? First of all, he said that I don’t over pronate very much. This was interesting news to me, considered multiple shoe stores had told me differently!
Regarding my shin and calf tightness, he said that he wasn’t too concerned about that. He just gave me a couple of stretches that he said I need to do consistently after I workout (not before running … it’s not good to stretch cold muscles).
For your viewing pleasure, here is a couple of pictures of the stretches he recommended to me!
For my shins, he gave me this band to use:
I’m supposed to point my toe and then flex. This move helps to work my shin muscles.
For my calves, I need to do this stretch:
I’ve done this one before, but I realized that I wasn’t keeping the heel of my back foot down. That really helps to get a good stretch.
Then to stretch the deeper calf muscles, he said to just slightly bend the back leg.
I love doing these stretches. They seem to really be helping!
The other thing that has really been helping with my calves?
The foam roller that I’ve mentioned before. I have found that if I use it right before I run, it helps warm up my calves.
Regarding my knees, he thinks that part of the problem may be due to a weak “VMO muscle.”
VMO stands for Vastus Medialis Oblique. The trainer said that these small muscles are often weak in women. When strengthened, they can help keep the knee cap in place. He explained something about how women have wider hips and when running, somehow the alignment of our knee caps can get messed up because of wider pelvic bones. I don’t know … don’t take this information as scientific fact because I’m just trying to remember what he told me. I’m by no means an expert on these things!!
The point is, he gave me some tips on how to strengthen the VMO muscle. One exercise involves small ankle weights (mine are each 2.5 lbs).
I just start in this position:
And then raise one leg up until it is horizontal.
He said to repeat this move for 3 sets of 10 on each leg.
I also found this article that recommended squats as a means of strengthening the VMO muscle, so I definitely plan on doing more squats!
After doing those moves for just a few days, I already seemed to notice a difference … particularly in my shins and calves. On Saturday, I ran 11 miles on a treadmill (it was cold out and Brandon and I were whimps). I felt just a little tight for the first couple of miles, but nothing major. For the last 9 miles, my shins and calves felt great. My knee started hurting a little near the end, but it was only minor. So I was able to push through and complete all 11 miles! This is the longest I’ve run to date!!
And have I mentioned my new favorite running fuel yet?
I tried all of those gu’s and gels and such and they made me feel nauseous. So since Janae always posts about using candy as her fuel, I decided to follow her lead.
I usually eat a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter pre-run, then Brandon and I share these during the run. I don’t know if they really make a difference or not, but they don’t make me sick and they sure are tasty!!
When I got home from my run, I stretched, foam rolled, ate (peanut butter and banana on toast, followed by oatmeal cookies … lunch of champions. ), and iced my knees.
The next day, my legs felt a little tight, but not bad at all!
I’m going to keep using the tips the trainer gave me, and then go back and see him in a week or so as a follow-up. I’ll let you know how that meeting goes!
Question for ya …
What’s your best piece of running advice?
Do you stretch after you workout?
What’s your favorite running fuel?