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Not Born to Run, but Trying Anyway

Not Born to Run, but Trying Anyway

Posted on February 25, 2014

By Angela Wilson Pennisi, PT, MS, OCS

About four years ago, I successfully returned to running for exercise after not having run for more than 10 years.  I had stopped running due to injuries in my 20s.  Imagine that!  I had problems with patella-femoral (knee cap) pain and eventually sacro-iliac (SI) joint pain.  I would intermittently attempt return to running after my children were born, but these old problems would creep up, and I was unable to progress.

A few years ago, after reading the book Born to Run and some of the research related to minimalist running, I decided to try again.  This is not without controversy, and in fact Vibram has reportedly recently settle a lawsuit over claims made about their shoes.

In the past, we have treated patients with foot fractures following initiating running in minimalist shoes, and I have not shared this story with patients in the past out of concern that they would try to follow in my footsteps.  I initiated a walk/run program very slowly, even carrying my shoes in my hands and changing partway through in order to avoid straining my foot and ankle muscles.  I paid significant attention to avoiding training errors, and over the course of a couple of months, I successfully built up to running three miles, two to three days per week with no recurrence of SI joint or knee pain.  From time-to-time, I would try wearing regular shoes to see if I could give my feet a break, but every time I experienced recurrence of SI joint pain.  Having awareness of the ground seems to improve my proprioception enough that I can avoid some of the compensations that are my undoing.

Having worked so hard over such a long period of time to regain this skill, I was determined not to lose it again, ensuring that I always ran a minimum of twice per week.  Over a few winters, I would do some of those runs in January and February on the treadmill and return outdoors as soon as the weather allowed.  However, last year I was spoiled in that we did not have a single week in which I could not find two days suitable for running outdoors.

I started out this winter hoping for the best, but I had not built the time into my schedule for extra trips to the gym and found week after week would pass without any running.  Though I have continued light workouts on the bike at lunch or taking a yoga class, I must now acknowledge that I, your trusty 41 year-old physical therapist, did not follow her own advice.

Over the next 5-6 weeks, I am restarting my run/walk program, and I hope to back in fine form by spring.  By the weather today, I would say I have plenty of time!  Follow our blog for weekly posts on my progress (hopefully not setbacks).  You are welcome to join me!