Almost 2 months ago to the day, I had my last serious run. It was a 4km handicap race and at the time I was running on a sore knee and wearing Brooks Adrenalines with custom orthotics that were made for me about 5 years ago.
I do want to make the point now that when I first started running, I suffered from all sorts of pain in the knees and lower back. I was basically guessing at what kind of running shoes I should be wearing and essentially purchasing shoes more for aesthetic appeal. At this point in time I was probably running 3 times a week, no more than 20 minutes at a time and all on a treadmill. This was just part of my overall gym program at the time.
When I quit smoking in 2002, I felt like I needed to replace the bad habit with something good, so I chose running. The frustrating thing was that I couldn’t increase the amount of running due to my aches and pains. At this point I decided to see a podiatrist and was immediately diagnosed with very flat arches, and severe over-pronation at the heel. As explained to me, it was pulling all the other joints further up my body out of whack and consequently causing pain. Now that I look back knowing a bit more about foot strike with barefoot form, I realise that orthotics in highly cushioned shoes are simply forcing the foot into a position that is aligned and lessening stresses in other parts of the body. But this is also making muscles in the legs more dormant and weaker. The orthotics did stop my pain and I was able to go on and train for a few half marathons and the Melbourne marathon in 2005. I had a very good run with injury during this time.
This is probably now a cliché, but after reading Born To Run, I did start to question things about the running shoe industry and why people could run barefoot and in minimalist shoes. Then I really got into reading barefoot threads in forums like Coolrunning. Here I would read about people in situations like mine, flat footed, orthotics wearers transitioning to barefoot and not regretting it for a second. At this point in time I had no intention of doing this myself; the book had simply sparked an interest. Then I got injured.
I’ve already posted about my experience with my meniscal injury. If my health insurance had decided that they would cover the cost of this surgery, I would have had it 3 days ago and I would currently be recuperating. As it happens, I am waiting for a referral to go on a public hospital waiting list for this surgery. In the meantime I decided to suck it up and be pro active. I began taking a glucosamine supplement and even though it is supposed to have no effect on meniscal cartilage, I have had considerable improvement with my knee. Placebo? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter.
I’ve continued to do glute, core and quad strengthening as initiated by my physiotherapist and everything is going well to the point that if I was booked in to have surgery tomorrow, I would be having serious doubts about whether to go through with it.
It is very important to note that right now, my running schedule is 3 five-minute runs this week and I will increase my total weekly time run by 10%. In reality, this means a lot of patience required from me because I am effectively learning to run again. Even though I am at this very early stage, I already find it difficult to even just wear my old Brooks with orthotics, let alone run in them. So if I follow my program of pure base building, by November this year my weekly schedule would look something like this: Mon 35 minutes, Tuesday 35 minutes, Wednesday 60 minutes, Thursday 35 minutes, Friday 35 minutes and Saturday 120 minutes. This motivates me because I know that this will be achieved with no more than a 10% increment and will all be aerobic running. In the past, I’ve been too quick to include speed session and I have never really given myself an opportunity to build a genuine base. If I can get to this point, injury free, I will then begin training for a specific goal race.
The best thing will be that I will be doing this in a combination of barefoot, Vibram Fivefingers and Merrell Trailgloves, and I will have re-trained my body to run.