Know when to run and know when to rest

Like most people who start running, I began with slow and steady runs, huffing and puffing my way around the local pavements and covering about 1km. Over time I built up through 2km, 3km and 4km until I finally reached the big 5K milestone! It had taken 6 weeks or so, and there were times where it didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere fast, but by adding just a little bit extra every week I’d made it! Over the next couple of months I followed the same method of adding little by little, and surprisingly I was actually getting quicker too.

What I hadn’t expected when I started was that I was going to get hooked on running. And I mean really hooked. If it’s been more than 36 hours since my last run I start getting fidgety, looking for when I can sneak out the door to squeeze a quick one in. Anyway, my new found love of running led me to start increasing my mileage fairly quickly, and this is when the problems started. My body, not being used to having all it’s moving parts shaken about so often and for so long decided to speak up.

It’s all about the knees

I’d expected a certain amount of niggles and aching limbs, which do come and go, but this was something more. Just to clarify, I haven’t been to see a physio, and I’m no expert on the subject, so I’d suggest anyone having issues seek professional medical advice – this is just my experience of my specific problem. And that problem was my knee.

To be specific, I was experiencing a dull ache to the inner side of the knee. Now I’d found out from Dr. Google that a lot of runners experience a problem called Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), but this manifests itself with a pain on the outside of the knee, around the area that the iliotibial band runs. So at this stage I’m not really any the wiser, other than putting the problem down to overuse.

It was a week before my second ever race, the Folkestone Coastal 10K, and I really didn’t want to have to pull out so I decided to rest my knee for the few days before the race, give it a regular icing with a bag of frozen peas twice a day and decide what to to based on how I felt the day before. The Saturday before race day arrived, and just in time my knee was feeling good again and I felt like I was ready to go. The race itself went great and I didn’t feel any aches or pains at any point. Hooray I thought, until the the following day when the dreaded aching was back!
After another few days of rest, and peas twice a day, I thought that normal service had been resumed again and I was good to go. But this time, when I was about 8km through a gentle run, I was hit with a different pain. Rather than just an aching the day after running which I’d experienced before, this was pain on the outside of the knee which, in contrast to the previous aching, actually went away when I stopped running. I didn’t know if this was ITBS, but what I did know was that it was now time to rest.

Know when to rest

I have managed to resist the call of my trainers sitting in the hallway and have had some much needed recovery time. The plan is three fold – to increase my milage back up slowly, introduce some strengthening exercises into my routine and to make sure I’ve got good running form (I feel I may have been over-striding a little previously).

So, I’ve learnt my lesson and realise that I need to listen to my body. If I feel anything other than the usual aches of recovering muscles, I’ll pay attention. In hindsight, when I look back over my Strava stats and check the distances I’d been running, it was clear that my mileage had increased quite quickly, even though in my head I didn’t think I was doing that much more. The number of runs might have been the same, but it was the distances of those runs that had sneakily increased.

If the pain comes back again this time I’ll be off to visit a physio to see what’s really going on.

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