A few of you have been asking for an update on my knee, and some others have inquired about how my 2018 goal of returning to running is going — so I figured I would mush both of those questions into one update post. Here goes.
Basically, my knee is still my knee. Which is to say, I have no idea how to answer these questions. At the moment — like right now this very instant — it seems to be happy. I’m starting to ride more after a few months focused on strength work, core stability and mental health, and, well, so far so good. I’ve been riding my dirt bike more frequently, and last weekend Macky and I snow-shoe hiked 3,000 vertical feet in three miles, which was pretty insane and something that in the past would have probably meant IMMEDIATE KNEE BLOW-OUT.
Or, like, maybe not because my knee is notoriously unpredictable with these things. And therein lies the problem. I have a lot of ideas about what makes my knee irritated — front squats, long drives, walking on concrete, running, hiking downhill, standing in line for extended periods of time, telling someone my knee is better — but the reality is that those things only sometimes cause me problems. This results in a lot of anxiety and fretting over “should I do this” “should I do that” blother blather blither, not to mention a lot of 20/20 hindsight. And of course, ironically, avoiding all potential triggers for my knee has made it weaker and more likely to be triggered. KIND OF A LOSE-LOSE SITUATION, AMIRITE?
The point of the above paragraph is that I haven’t been writing updates on this issue because, while I am cautiously optimistic, I have no effing clue.
But in the interest of transparency and the hopes that maybe my process can help some others, here’s what I’ve been doing to get my knee ready to try running again:
1. CORE STRENGTH, STABILITY + MOTOR CONTROL — After my flare-up in November, my physical therapist Dane (from Revo PT and Performance in Boulder) and I decided to take a big step back to the basics with my strength program. Since starting to work with Dane in 2016, I had gained a TON of strength but unfortunately beneath all that strength I had some fundamental motor control issues, largely thanks to tip-toeing around my knee and toe issues for the past nine years. So for the past two months, I’ve been doing box jumps, lateral hops, step-ups and HEAPS of core work. The jury is still out as to whether this is fixing my knee, but it isn’t hurting it (and I’m not going to lie, i had some SERIOUS doubts about what would happen when I started doing jumps and hops, so this is good progress…).
2. TOE YOGA, INSOLES + CALF STRENGTH — For the past two years, we have spent a lot of time focused on my hips. My hip mobility was definitely a contributing issue to my knee problems, but now that it’s gotten a lot better, it’s clear that there is more going on. The next frontier? Ankle mobility, calf strength and toe dexterity. As Dane told me, most cyclists with anterior knee pain like mine can resolve their issues by improving hip mobility, but I’m special. I guess in this case being special is not great, but one positive is that I have learned a TON about body awareness and proprioception.
So I’ve installed some new insoles in my bike shoes, I’m doing some calf strengthening exercises and I’ve started a daily toe yoga practice. This is not as exciting as it sounds (er, does it sound exciting?), and mainly involves me staring at my toes and willing them to move in ways they are not inclined to move. But, you know, baby steps. Or in this case, baby toe twitches.
3. TAPING, STRETCHING + FOAM ROLLING — Basically, just continuing what I’ve been doing with a good stretching practice, daily foam rolling of my cranky quads and keeping my knee taped with RockTape to relieve some of the pressure on the patellar tendon. None of these are fixes in and of themselves, but they are all incredibly necessary. If I’ve learned anything from this process, it’s that the little things done consistently are actually the biggest things.
Sooooo…..what about the running thing? I got the go ahead from Dane to start incorporating VERY short runs (like, 30 seconds of running, 30 seconds of walking), but it’s going to be a slow process. At the moment, I’m focusing on getting back into riding, continuing with core and motor control work, and adjusting to my new bike shoes and a few other set-up tweaks. Not much good can come from rushing this process, but hopefully I’ll have a running update for you sometime in the next few months.