In 2004 I became serious about running. I joined the Runner’s Den in Westdale in September with the goal of running a 5 km race sometime in the spring. We ran 3 days a week. At the end of October I ran my first 5km race. Well to be honest it was run-walk intervals. Probably 5 min run, 1 min walk but I don’t really remember. My husband also joined the Den and I think his goal was to run a 10 km race. But in October he ran his first half marathon.
We were hooked.
The Den made it easy to love running. All the runs were organized with great leaders and they had all the gear you needed to run in all weather conditions. I am most proud of the fact that we ran through the winter–outdoors. I felt like a winter warrior!
In the spring my husband decided to train for a marathon in the fall. The group I was running with set a goal of a half marathon in the fall. Half marathon…21.1 km. That is a few km more than my original 5km goal! But I decided I would do it.
The training was manageable because I ran with such a wonderful group of people. It wasn’t until the summer that I started to get intermittent pain in my left foot. I found that if I stopped to stretch my calves or massage out the trigger points in my tibialis posterior (muscle in the lower leg) I was fine. I completed the half marathon at the Okanagan Marathon in October 2005.
Two months later, my husband away in China, I was struggling to run 10 km. I was exhausted and had no idea why.
I was pregnant.
I decided that I would continue running throughout my pregnancy. However, after 3 falls while running, I put it on hold until the baby was born.
The guidelines for return to activity postpartum are typically 6 weeks. That is assuming it was an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. I birthed my child vaginally but I denied the fact that the delivery was traumatic and caused a lot of damage “down there”. My left leg was now mysteriously weak, so much so that I had to hold the walls/banister to walk down stairs. At 6.5 weeks postpartum, I joined the Runner’s Den again. On my second run, I rolled my left ankle and sustained a third degree ligament tear.
I spent 3 months treating my ankle at home and then I tried running again. No go. Now my left foot hurt. For a few years I tried foot/ankle exercises and the occasional physio appointment to “fix” the problem. However I was so busy with being a new mother and trying to return to work that I gave up.
In fall 2010–now a mother of 2–my left foot hurt to walk. Given that we only had one car and I walked, bussed, or cycled everywhere, this was a real problem. It was a year before I finally sought help. I had a cortisone injection and was finally able to walk pain-free. Just not run.
Fast forward to 2015–and 3 children–I decided it was time to get back to running. It was time to get serious about my pelvic floor issues.
Wait, what? Didn’t I say my foot hurt?
I have always believed that there is a connection between the dysfunction in my pelvic floor and my left foot pain. And my urinary incontinence.
Yeah I said it. I leaked.
The leaking actually started when I was in my early 20s and was trying to run (yes, running and I have had a sordid past. Don’t ask about my elementary and high school years).
I decided to try an approach outlined by Julie Weibe PT. It’s called the Pelvic Floor Piston. The theory is that when you breathe in, your diaphragm pushes down and your pelvic floor must relax and move down. Imagine a canister moving down toward your pelvic floor. When you breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and comes up while the pelvic floor contracts and lifts up. Imagine a canister moving up toward your diaphragm.
I knew that I had a lot of tension in my pelvic floor and left hip. This was effectively blocking the canister from moving down as I breathe in and likely affecting forces that were transferred through my pelvis to my left leg and foot.
Yesterday I decided to focus on this piston approach while running. When I started to feel pain in my left foot, I imagined my pelvic floor and hips relaxing and opening with each breath in. I pictured the piston moving down with each inhalation and up with each exhalation. The pain stopped. Seriously, I didn’t have any further pain in my foot for the rest of the run. I actually had to stop and walk several times because I was tired, not because my foot hurt.
Today I used the piston approach for the entire duration of my run. No pain. Seriously, none at all!
It might be time to set some running goals 🙂
P.S. More on the piston approach