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Slowing way, way down and attending to the fundamentals

Working on my left VMO with a closed-chain, functional
exercise for knee extension, while paying close attention to
my right foot and the work of my foot intrinsics to ground
my first metatarsal head and keep my arch off the floor. 
In high school, I remember devoting twenty to thirty minutes of the beginning of every morning's piano practice to playing scales before delving into larger pieces. This was before triathlon ever entered my world, when my outlet for competition involved preparing three to four pieces each year to perform in front of an adjudicator in MusicFest Northwest, held at Gonzaga University every May. So tedious the attention to fine motor control, phrasing, and timing did practicing my scales on the piano contribute to better performance of larger and robust masterpieces.
If you read my blog post from April 3rd about getting back to focusing on the basics, when I pulled out my scale to better come to terms with what actual serving sizes look like and how I have paid closer attention to the ratio of foods I eat for better performance and strength gains, then you will appreciate this post about how I have literally started from square zero (one step below square one) to get back to running while managing my injured knee. After my race in Palm Springs last December, I took over 8 weeks off from running, laid face-up in an MRI scanner to expose the real problems, and have religiously practiced what I preach every day as a professional in the world of physical therapy.
So now, looking back so far as fifteen years ago, and comparing that kind of work to that which I have learned to embrace in the past four months, why did it take so long for me to understand the importance of developing the kind of strength, balance, and control that I needed to run more efficiently and steer clear of injury? Why did I not want to spend an extra twenty to thirty minutes before every run to engage my foot intrinsics through single leg balance exercises, or use a band to invite my quadriceps muscles to fire, or brace myself over an exercise ball to recruit my abdominals to hold steady my pelvis in anticipation of greater work to follow?
The MRI confirmed the presence of edema and inflammation around my patella and patellar tendon, but it also ruled out any serious tears. Therefore, while rest from the noxious stimulus seemed appropriate, tackling the root of the problem obviously spurred me into gear. I have devoted far more time to rehabilitation exercise, strength training, pilates, and yoga than I can every remember. My goals have varied at times, but in general, they have involved:
  1. Strengthen my glutes medii and maximii for improved lateral hip stability and control, as well as my adductors for similar hip stability medially, which is often overlooked.
  2. Improve my vastus medialis (VMO) engagement and eventually, strength, bilaterally to improve the tracking of my patella.
  3. Alleviate the tightness throughout my low back, hamstrings, and hip flexors for improved mobility to better engage muscles mentioned in the above two goals.
  4. Develop better awareness of my foot biomechanics to improve my foot strike and strength to support my body with each footfall.
  5. Maintain better balance in single leg stance for both the completion of strength exercise, as well as for better running mechanics.
Truthfully, I am still a work in progress, but today, after this morning’s run, I felt it. That elusive “I can finally run” feeling. Granted, my pace still rivals that of the fastest slug, and I am still months away from hitting any start line, but I felt it.
Where once I used to wake up on a Sunday morning, eaten a small breakfast, and then headed straight out the door for my hour and a half to two hour long run, today I performed about 45 minutes of exercise with a program I have resolved to follow, Pilates for Sport, and a few extra running-specific drills by Jay Dicharry. I like to think that a combination of turning 31 in March and signing up to race as a professional has required that not only I think like someone much wiser, but I also act like I am, too. In fact, where once I would have returned from my run and hopped right into the hot tub before throwing my feet up for the rest of the morning, today I got on the floor and stretched my hips, quads, and glutes like what I have watched the instructors do in the yoga videos I have found on Youtube.
All in all, this has not felt like much of the start to 2019 I envisioned back in December. I have experienced my fair share of meltdowns and what people describe these days as FOMO (fear of missing out.) What I have to remember and focus on instead are the lessons I keep learning about my body and the process by which I am learning them. I cannot forget this chapter of low. Hopefully, I can find myself in clearer waters in a few months and by then, have established a better routine that keeps me strong, healthy, and balanced.
To my faithful, devoted running partner and friend, Maci. You have my heart. 

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