“I’d give anything to be able to run again.” Have you ever thought that? I know I have. Wistfully watching the local club trooping through the park, or passing someone serious-looking with a CamelBak on the canal towpath, I long for the good old days. Running a long way used to be second nature to me. While some people find it boring, I loved the simple thud, thud, thud of trainer hitting ground.
Trouble is, all that thudding, and precious little strength and conditioning, took its toll. Like so many runners, I’ve been injured with roughly the same problem on and off for years. And although I’ve often conjured up the imaginary violins and uttered the “I’d give anything…” line, the truth is I don’t give that much at all. I’ve tried lots of different physios, osteopaths, people with strange machines – nothing has really got me running consistently again, not like I used to. I’m sure some of this is down to the fact that their suggestions just weren’t right for me, but often I just haven’t stuck to the homework I’ve been set.
So when Women’s Running’s fitness editor Anne-Marie Lategan – a rehab specialist – offered to help me out, I had to give it everything. On a photoshoot for our workouts, I’d been chatting to Anne-Marie and our model for the day, Kim Ingleby, about “the good old days” and how I was currently injured again, only able to run/walk for a few kilometres twice a week, if I was lucky. “This has been going on too long,” said Anne-Marie, decisively. “Come and see me.”
Anne-Marie is not a lady to be messed with. She’s an ultra-runner who gets up at 4am to make sure she can do her long runs. Lack of commitment is simply not something she understands. So I knew if I went to see Anne-Marie I’d have to put the hours in afterwards. This was part of the attraction for me, as well as the fact that she obviously knows what she’s talking about. I won’t go into too much detail about the two-hour session with her, except to say that it covered everything from how I sit at my desk (you don’t want to know) to some pitiful attempts to stand up straight.
I left with a set of exercises to do to start to tackle the problem. In the past it has been diagnosed (mostly by me) as ITB syndrome, sciatica, piriformis syndrome, and just plain old lazy glutes – and all of those things have been part of the problem at some point, bringing pain in the left hip, knee and sometimes right down the leg – along with a clearly wonky pelvis position and overpronation. Anne-Marie explained how everything was linked, which I expected it to be, but was able to demonstrate how the very root cause of it was poor posture and weak abs, particularly on the left side where I tend to lean as I sit.
The exercises I’ve been given to do don’t look that tough, but they are difficult for two reasons. Firstly, they require intense concentration to switch on muscles that barely know they exist. Secondly, like all rehab exercises, they’re kind of boring. But every time I feel like skipping them or my mind wanders away from engaging the elusive transversus abdominis, I just remind myself: I’d give anything to be able to run again!