I’ve been relatively lucky in my path to being fit as far as injury goes, though I’ve had to contend with some issues that could have been serious had I not had a good doctor to help me through some of the hurdles. As far as accident injuries go, such as falling from my bike and twisted ankles from catching a poor angle while running, the worst I’ve ever suffered was a raspberry or two and a bruised ego. Not that I haven’t twisted my ankle on a run before, I have, but it’s never been bad enough to sideline me.
I have been through a lot of over-exertion injuries though. Plantar fasciitis, leg soreness, tendonitis (too much golf and too many push ups), things of that nature. I’ve mentioned the leg soreness before – at the beginning, my problem centered around shoes that didn’t fit properly. Now, let me be clear, fitness hurts – or more to the point, building muscle. Many of us fitness folks learn to enjoy that muscle soreness that comes naturally with exertion – if I can feel it, I know I’ve pushed myself… This is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about pain, the kind that limits one from walking up a flight of stairs without help.
The first problem that I ran into had to do with shoe size of all things (but I didn’t figure that out for quite some time). I had been a size 10 for all of my adult life so that’s the size I stuck with when I bought my running shoes. By the time I’d worked up to a ten-mile run I was so sore when I wasn’t running that I was miserable. I pushed through that for almost two years and at its worst, I had to take four months off from running. Finally I went in to my local running store and explained my problem in detail, and for the first time in more than a decade, I had my feet measured. My shoes were a full size too small and once I changed shoe sizes I haven’t had that pain. Now this is important: At a size 10, my shoes fit in the manner that is suggested at a regular shoe store, a little room in the toes etc. so it’s not like I was running around with my feet crammed into a running shoe as a hockey player does with his skates, they just weren’t big enough for running because my arch and the arch of the shoe weren’t lining up right as I ran.
Beyond that, I’ve had a few bouts with plantar fasciitis and I know a lot of people who struggle regularly with it – especially the Clydesdale’s (I intend that term endearingly – one of my very best friends is a heavy guy and the fact that he puts in the miles that he does is inspiring). My inspiration for writing about it today is that I’ve developed, with the help of friends, my doctor and some trial and error, a way to recover from leg pain in a matter of days (my last bout was lasted only three). Many people I know have suffered through a half of a season taping themselves up and switching from running to swimming to deal with it.
Before I get into my remedy, let it be known, I’m not a doctor and I don’t know if my results are typical – I’m just sharing my experience in hopes it might help someone else and it certainly beats some of the alternatives.
Every leg problem I’ve ever had, including plantar fasciitis, has started with my hamstrings. I’ve got some unbelievably tight hammies and I have to keep them stretched out. When plantar hits I can actually trace the pain up to them so I always start out with stretches that I got from my doctor. The stretches helped out immensely in getting me back on the road after the months off and I pull them out whenever I run into unnatural pain in my legs. They get me right as rain, quick (they’re posted at the end).
I did the knee flexor exactly as shown. With the knee extender, I actually sit on the floor and put my leg up on the couch, hold for 10 seconds and switch…extending the knee is great, but I’m going for loosening the hamstrings. The Heel-Toe Wiggle is what it is. Now on the Foot Loop… I did the stretch as is shown but I added to it. When I’ve got my foot looped in the towel, I pull my foot up 90 degrees, perpendicular to the floor to stretch my hamstrings. 10 seconds per leg, 3 times.
That covers getting the legs stretched out, now for the plantar, I’ve got a rubber Kong dog ball (about the size of a tennis ball) that sits under my desk. If I’m dealing with a bout of plantar, I take off my shoes and place my foot on the ball, right on my arch, and roll it around. My doctor recommended ten minutes or so, I do it all day long, alternating feet. Also, I apply ice to ease the swelling.
Some of the things that causes plantar faciitis are:
- Foot arch problems (both flat feet and high arches)
- Obesity or sudden weight gain
- Long-distance running, especially running downhill or on uneven surfaces
- Sudden weight gain
- Tight Achilles tendon (the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel)
- Shoes with poor arch support or soft soles
Let’s stop there a minute… Long distance running, tight Achilles tendon the one that connects the calf to the heel…what does the calf connect to? There you go, the hamstring. I’ve never been big into stretching – if you’ve ever seen the Woody Harrelson flick, Zombieland, I’m with Woody: “I’m not for it, you ever see a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?” Uh, no – but there are times when it helps and these stretches keep me on the road and off the couch: