I was trying to decide which of my two blogs to write this post on, and selected this one. Both of my blogs, in one way or another, concern fitness. You cannot hike - or at least not without being miserable - without some level of fitness. Nor can you do a marathon or a half marathon without some level of fitness. When we are in our cars, 26 or 13 miles seems so short. When we are running, those distances are not short at all - trust me on this if you have never done it.
I'm coming off a hard running season where I ended up with sore knees. For the last two months of run training, my knees hurt all of the time. I gutted it out. I was determined to complete the Shamrock half-marathon in March to celebrate 10 years surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma, and I did. Then I ran a 10K 13 days later. These came at a price - a left knee that hurt at every step. Since my knees are the same age, I know it cannot be old age, but what is it?
I stopped running for the last two (almost) months but still did some walking and some hiking -nothing too strenuous, and for me, a semi-couch potato. I finally saw a doctor who specializes in sports medicine, and she told me that the root cause is probably weak hip muscles - which also contributed to my plantar fasciitis last year. She told me that I have tremendous strength moving forward, but not enough side to side. So this causes excess friction in the tendons and in the IT (ilea-tibial) band - the big wide strip of tough tissue that connects the hip to the knee. This is a common problem in runners and in power walkers.
So in addition to drugs (short term) and knee bands (short term), the long term solution is better general fitness. The cool thing is that a lot of the exercises that I am doing now are those also recommended by Backpacker Magazine for improving general conditioning for hiking. These include a series of exercises with an elastic band around one's feet, like side to side stepping and moving one foot away from the others in several different manner. But it also includes things like one legged squats - squatting to a seated position but with one foot off the floor and then standing - and balance exercises, such as standing on one leg for 30-60 seconds. I've been pretty religious about these for the last week or so. It sure would be easier to stay in shape if one didn't have to work for a living! One trick I have now is trying to actually take my 15 minute work break and do a few of these at the company fitness room - as well as some of my old standbys from last year like side planks and leg raises.
It was another good reminder about how we think we are in good shape, getting lots of exercise, but then a reminder comes along about how important it is to attain total body fitness - and how much we have to work at that and just make the time for it. That is what I am attempting to do, knowing that my efforts may fall short. My knee hurts less, and these workouts will make me a stronger hiker and walker - and runner, if I take that up again. The jury is out on that one - I enjoy running, most of the time (sometimes I hate it). But I love walking, and especially hiking, and would hate to do something to my body through running that would mess that up for me. I have a lot to think about as far as whether to run again or not. Maybe I will do another marathon or half marathon next year, or maybe I will stick to 10K's. Or maybe I should just stick to walking to make sure I can still do that for the rest of my life. Speaking of, here I am, awake way too early this morning and on the computer. Perhaps I should go for a short walk in the 30 minutes I have left before preparing for the work day? Bye!
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