The long runs get longer

I’m notoriously bad at making time for the stretching and strengthening sessions in my plan. Then again, I’m bad enough with just getting each run in! Who has time for a warmup and warmdown stretch session, and a dozen different strengthening exercises each time they run?

Thing is, I really can’t afford to slack here. According to the physios and running coaches I’ve spoken to, I have all sorts of things wrong with me. I’ve worked on a few of them; I don’t rotate my upper body any more, for one. I’ve also shortened my stride, and tend to land more on my midfoot than I did before (though I find it hard to keep this up, especially when I get tired). Whilst this has helped quite a bit, there are still SO many areas to work on.

Firstly, I have really tight hip flexors and quads, which has gotten worse since I started cycling every day. I also have next to no strength whatsoever in my glutes and core, which means that my calves are still overcompensating (and then making my shins niggle. Fun times). But it’s silly – I know what the problems are, and yet I still don’t get round to the core conditioning I should be doing? I’ve been told which exercises I should be adding to my routine, and the areas I should be working on – but I don’t!? It seems so simple, but it’s difficult enough to motivate myself to run 3-4 times a week. But I’ve really started to realise recently just how important all of that extra conditioning is.

My long runs are starting to get longer, and the weekly mileage is creeping up. I’ve always found that past the 1.5 hour mark, things will start to play up if I’m not training properly. Last weekend, I ran 9 miles, and it was great. I ran it with a friend, which meant 1.5 hours of chatting and giggling (and being cheered on by an old man at the top of one of the longer hills – brilliant!) in the lovely crisp cold sunshine. We didn’t even need to take water or gels with us (which I usually rely on after about 10k). We just had some toast and peanut butter before we headed out, and we were absolutely fine. Then again, she’s already run 2 marathons, and can knock out a 10k at something ridiculous like 7:30/mile – but for me it was a pretty big achievement. My legs didn’t even start to ache until well over 7 miles, despite the hills!

Then I cross trained through the week (cycling to work and back) until Thursday, when I had a 5-miler on the plan. After the weekend long run went so well, I was pretty confident for this one. But barely 2 miles in, my shin and calves started to play up, and I felt some twinges along the outside of my right hip and thigh. Bugger. I pushed through it, but felt SO frustrated – I was struggling. I thought back, and realised that I had completely forgotten to stretch and foam roll after the long run. Rookie mistake, right? My legs (especially my right quad) had been a bit tight all week, but I’d ignored it.

I had a proper stretch that evening, and rested up until today, when I had a 10 miler scheduled. My legs were feeling pretty good, and the sun was shining, so I did some dynamic stretches to warm up, and headed out. Again, barely 2 miles in, and I began to have problems. There were the familiar twinges – hip, calves, shins – but also a really weird sensation in my feet and lower legs. It’s as if they suddenly became really weak – kind of like the sensation you get after pins and needles. I don’t know whether this was a circulation thing, linked to inflammation around the shin(s), or whether I just needed to work on my calves a bit more, but it really wasn’t something I could push through. Even the downhills didn’t help. I ended up having to run/walk home, ending with a measly 4.6 miles.

My left foot/shin still feels a bit tender. I know it’s a result of my weak core and tight hip flexors – as I run, my hip drops, left knee rolls inwards, rotating my foot and causing problems in the tendons at the bottom of my shin. I also know that there are a list of exercises that I should have been working through regularly, to strengthen the relevant areas and fix the weaknesses before the niggles even started. It’s just silly that it takes something like this for me to actually get round to them!

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and book myself into some classes at the gym – weights, core and lower body conditioning – and I’m going to try out some yoga, too. Hopefully I’ll be able to get myself into a routine – not just running regularly, but cross training. I’m going to work on it this week, and give my 10 miler another go next weekend – fingers are SO crossed!

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