Twenty days might not be enough, BUT this will make you a better runner if you stick with it!

How my achy knee stopped me from running
I won’t bore you all by rehashing the drama that is my knee (feel free to look back at my earlier posts on my knee diagnosis if you like). To sum it up, I’ve been shut down from running for going on two months now as my knee continued to ache and swell. Since this IS Running After Baby, and I very much WANT to be running, we’ve got a problem.

Poor form + weak core = BIG PROBLEMS

After my home-brewed solutions didn’t really work (e.g, icing my knee with bags of frozen corn, downing Advil), I made a visit to the sports medicine doctor and an exercise physiologist. Aside from osteoarthritis, my running (and walking) form was deemed “not so good”. Now I’ve been walking on two feet for…well, a long time. To find out I’m not even walking correctly was a bit of a surprise. Was changing how i walk REALLY going to make a difference? Not to digress too much but being told I don’t know how to walk reminds me of the Seinfeld episode featuring Molly Shannon as the woman who can’t swing her arms when she walks…here’s a clip in case you forgot.

Of course, weight was also cited as a factor (how much SHOULD I weigh?) but as you’ll see if you spend time here it’s kind of hard to lose weight if you’re NOT exercising. We’ll come back to that another time.

The real root of my problems — my weak IT bands, hips and core. My body was trying to compensate for these weak spots by contorting my form, causing damage to the joints in the process. Ok. So, if I can strengthen these areas and maybe learn how to walk, my joint issues should improve! Seems pretty straight forward.

It’s not too late to strengthen (and stretch) those hips!

In addition to the exercises my doctor gave me, ive also created a list of IT band strengthening exercises. Many of these are identical to what the doctor recommended. I’ve tried to focus on doing these ~5x/week for the past month to see what changes i notice. As I mentioned I’ve also been restricted from most impact activities like running, so most of my energy has been spent on stretching exercises.

Twenty days to stronger IT bands, hips

  • No magic improvements. Twenty days of stretches did NOT make me feel 100% better (nor should I have expected it to). More on this in a minute, but the more pure strengthening exercises seem to do more for me than just stretching.
  • Greater muscle awareness. This sounds silly but one of the main things I noticed right away after doing these stretches was how INFLEXIBLE I’ve become. Hard to measure this one but I do feel like I’m making some improvements here. Yes it will take me more than twenty days though.
  • No more swelling. Now this might be just my lack of activity, but listing it anyway. The knee doesn’t seem to swell up anymore. Still hurts but small victory. Fingers crossed.

I wish I could sum up the challenge in a more quantifiable way but am struggling to think about how to do that. Yes, I feel a little better. I still have a long way to go to get back to normal. Twenty days is WAAAY too short a time frame to start evaluating. That being said, I’m ready to start my walk-to-run training program (more details to follow!). Assuming I can continue walking.

What about your bands?

Runner’s World/Sweat Science blogger Alex Hutchinson recently wrote a post about whether it is better to STRENGTHEN or STRETCH your IT bands. Research suggests it may actually be better to strengthen hips…what are your thoughts? Anyone have any experience here? Let us know!

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