We all have a tendency to go straight for the phone and “911” when we feel some kind of pain that we associate with any of the running injuries we may have come to dread in our running career. But today it was rammed home to be once again that it does not have to be this way – that we can overcome these pains, almost instantaneously, if we reset our thinking about their origin. Let’s have a look at today’s events and the sequence of incidents that led up to it:
#1 – A small mistake
Wednesday evening we completed a long and frisky fartlek of about 15km with some spare change. As this was on grass, in my Breathos, it was easy to get sloppy with technique and right enough I felt the classical posterior tibialis symptom – tightness on the left inside of the Achilles tendon and a sore trigger point at the top of the posterior tibialis muscle.
I did not get a chance to address this properly as I had a high-stress day on Thursday with little activity but still enjoyed a pleasurable run in my Aquas on Friday and then did a challenging 12km run on the very hard and rough “Glenmacnass road” route that I use for “Out and Backs”.
#2 – Dispensing with indoctrination
Waking up on Sunday and doing my squats and two-legged jumps I noticed there was a lot of tension around the left Achilles tendon and told Aoife to go off on our long run without me as I’d try to work it out. For a brief moment, I almost fell into old habits of thinking “give it a days rest and just do drills”. Now there’s nothing wrong with just doing natural movement drills – at least they are effective, completely specific to running and quite pleasurable – but it’s still only one step removed from the advice we have all been told is wise to heed by doctors and physiotherapists:
Rest, stretch and do strengthening exercises
Now, we know that passive rest is bad (unless you’re dying of some terrible malaise). We also know that static stretching has nothing to recommend it, except ingrained habitual folklore, like spitting over your left shoulder when you see a black cat cross the street, and indeed a lot to speak against it. And through Tony Riddle, I and many other Irish fitness professionals are now learning that the muscle-focused strengthening paradigm is misguided and potentially injurious.
In short: what we’ve been told is wise is in reality hog-wash – an example of the blind guiding the blind. So what’s the alternative?
#3 – Poor makes way for good
I decided that I was going to fix this and took on my Breathos and went out into our gravel yard. I reckoned my problem stemmed mainly from the fact that I have had difficulty getting my head around how to properly “pull” my ankle off the ground during the running stride. “I’m giving you a simple instruction but you’re over-intellectualising it”, is what Tony told me at the Expo.
Remembering back to one of our first sessions, I tried to take away the complexity and just focusing on pulling the ankle straight up off the floor as I ran around the yard. “Oh”, I said to myself, the pain was gone!
I decided to run 2.5km out Kevin’s Way and back to see if what would happen. Still no pain, so eventually I decided to run most of yesterday’s “Glendalough Trail race” in reverse in the hope of meeting Aoife. Now, Aoife had taken a wrong turn, so we never met up, but I ended up running on the hills for 98 minutes with no problems except some tiredness because running properly actually requires you to be better conditioned – full body – and I am still developing a lot much needed strength. I could have gone on but had left the house locked and did not want Aoife standing in the rain waiting for me least our evening could be ruined!
#4 – Paradigm shift
So going from the typical “I can’t run” sulk within one moment (“I was blind”) to “I can run pain free” (“But now I see!”) shows you the incredible power of good movement over bad movement – movement really is the only real equivalent of a Jesus or Simon Magi figure who can seemingly wave away injury from one moment to the next.
So why does not everyone just do this? Well, firstly, it requires trust in the method which you can only get by understanding the basics of how it works and by receiving the basic tool-kit allowing you to take the right steps. If you’re in a dark room and know there’s a light switch, you’ve got one hell of a task ahead of you finding it. If you know it’s next to door around hip height from the floor, you’re much closer. What Tony has passed onto me as a runner is really this – the knowledge on how to “switch the light back on” for my mind. Once this was inborn in all of us – as natural creatures – unfortunately now we have to be taught by the very few movement specialists who have sufficient knowledge to do so.
Hopefully, one day, this will again be something we can all “just do” meaning there’ll be no need for “injury free running” workshops and we can all just focus on making ourselves expert competitors or expert movers in our field instead. But that day is still far away.