Well it’s been a while since I posted anything about running or cycling (actual cycling, not just bike porn!). I’m really enjoying the bike. I’ve been to various places on it now and it feels pretty awesome on anything you can throw it at. The suspension seems to be set up pretty nicely and feels balanced between the forks and the shock. I’m slowly gaining confidence on it too, some of the descents on the natural trails at the Peaks, for example, are pretty technical. On the flip side it’s really fun to take it to Chicksands bike park for the jumps.
The extra cycling has come at a good time where I’ve needed the cross training for the Rat Race this year too. I worked my way up to 16 miles running and felt pretty confident but developed some shin splints in the form of a tight and aggravated posterior tibial tendon but I don’t think that’s the root cause and I’ve been able to cycle without any problems. The pain appears on the inside of the leg, down behind the ankle bone and in to the arch of the foot to a degree. It got worse over the course of a couple of runs so I’ve been going to see Tom at Body Management in Stamford to try and nip it in the bud this time and avoid the complete saga I had with my IT bands. He diagnosed the issue and has been massaging the tightness out of my calves. It’s been pretty successful so far.
I follow The Gait Guys who cover all kinds of aspects to do with human bio-mechanics from a physical and neurological point of view. I find the whole subject really interesting. They post videos, write a blog and publish a one hour pod-cast roughly once a week. They also read listener emails and try to offer advice, sometimes through the pod-cast. The following videos perfectly explain the issues I’m having. They aren’t the best quality. Unless you find bio-mechanics interesting, you’ll probably be pretty bored too! I find his explanation really makes it easy to understand though.
So I’ve been doing some specific stretches in tandem with the massaging to try and regain flexibility and function. There’s three stretches, the first one is your usual calf stretch just like this:
Do that both sides as normal. In addition to that, raise the knee of the leg you aren’t stretching up to your chest and lower it again, repeat that quite rapidly (roughly every second) for 30 seconds then do the other side. The third stretch starts in the position above. Raise the leg you aren’t stretching to about 90 degrees, this time rotate the raised leg to cross over the stretched leg and out as far as you can. You should feel this rotating action stretch both sides of the calf muscles. Again, repeat this quite rapidly for 30 seconds and do the other side. You could repeat the whole set a couple of times a day for maximum benefit.
I’ve noticed a difference in my everyday activities while walking already. I went for a run for the first time in a couple of weeks last night. It was a bit tough to start with but once I’d warmed up and got in to it I felt pretty good, had zero pain in my posterior tibial tendon and felt faster too which is all a good sign. Ideally I would have done an 18 mile run last weekend and a 20 this weekend. Then that would have given me exactly 3 weeks to taper but I feel pretty good still. I’ve built up more overall mileage leading up to the race this year than I did last year.
The next step is one more massage session this week which should help alleviate the last bit of tightness left in the calves. Then it’s an appointment with the podiatrist to asses my gait and feet further. From that I’m told I’ll get a 4 page report of his findings which should be interesting. I have flat feet, no two ways about it which kind of sucks. I don’t know if that’s hereditary or developed over time. I could have even developed from a young age in which case it’s not going to change over night. There’s a chance that the podiatrist will want to give me orthotics to support the flat arch in my foot although hopefully only temporarily. I really don’t like the idea because it’s completely in the opposite direction to where I want to go with my footwear. I’d like to go down the more minimalist route. I already run in a pair of fairly minimal Inov-8 shoes which I love. They’re light and fast. I suspect I need to do a lot of work to get to the stage where I can wear them all the time. Fortunately The Gait Guys have some ways of gaining strength and control in your feet. This video seems like a good starting point. Notice how much control and range of motion he has over his toes! I’m a long way off that but I’ll continue working on it…