Before September 2012, basketball was my sport. I had never considered running before. I thought running outdoors in a continuous straight line for longer than a minute baffling - why would you do something so tedious? However a change of location due to a new job gave me a new perspective and I decided to put my perceptions to the test.
After trying, I quickly realised just how wrong I was about running. I liked the fact it was free, I didn't need special or expensive gear and I could do it in my own time (after work in my case). Despite my previous misconceptions, I found running very enjoyable.
My iliotibial bands (a common site of injury to the outside of the knee) soon became a problem. In 2013 during the Great Ireland Run, both knees were on fire for the entire race. After that I decided to step back and take the pressure off myself and my knees. I became my own physiotherapist, changing my training programme and improving my strength work. My goal was to complete the Belfast Marathon which I successfully did in May 2014.
In achieving this I learned so much about running and training. Setting myself a target was a key part of my training. If you’re planning to run this year’s VHI Women’s Mini Marathon you should give yourself enough time to prepare, plan how you will achieve it and start off slow, building up your training gradually. Set a goal and always know what your running motivation is. After that, all you need is consistency. The general rule is to increase your mileage or speed by no more than 10% each week.
I think running is so rewarding but it can easily become repetitive. What I do to avoid this is to vary my running route as much as possible including direction, surface, distance and gradient. Another important thing to remember is, don't avoid hills! They are challenging but really help your proficiency in speed and endurance. Facing small challenges while you run will give you mini accomplishments and motivate you to keep going.
Taking a break from running is vital. Rest days and appropriate recovery should always be part of your plan. You can include cross-training such as swimming, cycling or walking. And remember recovery won’t happen without appropriate nutrition, hydration and sleep.
I also learned the importance of good footwear. Above all, your footwear should be comfortable. Have a few good pairs so that you can alternate them during training. If you are worried about the biomechanics of your lower limbs visit a Chartered Physiotherapist who will assess you.
Another important tip to note especially coming from a Physiotherapist runner with knee issues, you don't need to be in pain to see a physiotherapist. Physiotherapy screening is useful in determining any specific weaknesses or decreased muscle activation that a tailored strengthening programme can help. This leads to improved running efficiency and decreases the risk of an injury occurring later.
Best bit of advice I can give you as a running physiotherapist is relax and enjoy yourself!