I won the Edinburgh Triathletes Club Championship last year, and got this rather splendid trophy: look it has my name on it! It is a little large for drinking malt whisky from, but I gave it a good go on the awards night. In truth I sort of won it by default: I competed in more of the club’s target races than any other lady, so it actually didn’t matter how well I did. In most years the competition is a bit fiercer, and I wouldn’t normally stand a chance. But hey, I’m proud of my achievement! I’ve never won anything for sports before, so this means a lot. The reason I mention this fantastic achievement, in passing you understand, is purely because part of the prize was the physiotherapy equivalent of an MOT check, which I finally claimed this week. (MOT = car safety and roadworthiness test in the UK).
So I toddled along to ProActiv physiotherapy and sports injury clinic for my MOT. Given that my right leg had been bothering me for almost two months now (hamstring, knee and calf) I asked for a targeted assessment of this problem. As Dale, the physio, noted down my training and injury history it became pretty obvious that the sudden increase in training had a lot to do with the onset of the pain. In fairness, I think I already realised the obvious connection – they don’t call me Sherlock for nothing. Actually, they don’t call me Sherlock. (But maybe they should.)
Dale quickly concluded that I’m wonky (technical term): the muscles in my right leg are weaker than those in my left, and my pelvis is a bit tilted. I also have a hypermobile knee, meaning my leg can straighten a bit further than it should. A weak hamstring connected to a hypermobile knee is not good: when my leg extends forward as I run my weak hamstring is unable to sufficiently control this movement, so my knee over-extends with every stride, and my leg is then not in a strong position when my foot hits the ground. My knee then gets a bit of a beating from the impact, which can also cause ‘micro-tears’ in the muscles. And long-term wonkiness + increased training intensity = perfect recipe for pain. I think that’s the gist of what he said anyway.
Can I do anything about this? The good news is that I can, and also that if I work hard at the exercises I should see improvement by the time of the race in August. But it means some adjustment to how I’m training, and the addition of an extra discipline: half an hour of calf, hamstring, glute and hip flexor work every day. I’m usually very bad at doing physio homework, but this time I must stick to this regime. I’ve got this far through the training that it would be a shame to waste it.
I went for a 50 minute run with the aim of thinking about my technique and working out how to avoid stressing my legs as much as I have been doing. With each stride I concentrated on keeping my knee soft and not flinging my lower leg forward as far as it would go. This meant considerably shorter strides and a slower pace: 9.5 minute miles compared to my usual run-all-day pace of 8.5 minute miles. Still, it was a beautiful morning, and running along the seashore (Portobello Prom for those in the know) I felt optimistic that things were looking up for my sore leg.
I’ll report back on my progress in another blog post. Hopefully there will be progress to report!
But in the meantime I wanted to take this opportunity – we were talking about MOTs after all – to crowbar in one of my favourite landmarks on my usual cycle route. I’ve spent a lot of time (I have a lot of time when I’m cycling) pondering whether this sign outside a garage is as pointless as I think it is. As an MOT is a test of whether a vehicle is legally safe and roadworthy, isn’t this sign just saying that your car will pass its MOT if it meets all the criteria required to pass its MOT? Which is probably the case in every MOT test centre. Or am I missing something? Answers on a postcard please…