July 23, 2006

Knee of ennui

Last Sunday I completed the Alcatraz Challenge aquathon (swim + run) with Tammy.
The swim was from Alcatraz to Crissy Field in the Presidio, and then we ran from there up to the Golden Gate Bridge, across the bridge and back.
The race actually went really well: I swam pretty fast (0:43) considering that there was a lot of chop in the water that day. My run wasn't bad either (7 miles, 0:56) even though I'd been having some knee annoyance for the previous couple of weeks.
However, when my left knee still hurt a couple days after the race, and in a very specific way, I knew it was time to go see a physical therapist. The verdict: the muscles in my left leg are unbalanced and I haven't been stretching them enough, so that my patella is getting pulled to one side all the time. My physical therapist (Presidio Sports Medicine) gave me 100,000 stretches and leg exercises to do for the next couple of weeks, along with a temporary ban on running (on land), and new shoes.
The therapist suggested water running, however, which I'd never tried before. Yesterday morning I went for a one hour session at the Y pool. It's really...different than running on land. You strap a buoyancy belt on, and try to keep yourself vertical and make running-like motions (except you use your hands at certain points to add speed). It wasn't as aerobically intense as regular running (possibly due to the traffic jam caused by lots of little old ladies running in front of me), but you definitely use all the same muscles, and the resistance helps build strength.
It also forces you to use your abs and hamstrings more than you might otherwise. When you do the equivalent of a "butt-kick" underwater, you can't just contract your muscle once at the start and have momentum carry your foot to your ass, as you would in air: the water adds constant viscous resistance along the way, so you have to continuously contract your muscle.
Anyhow, my knee is already feeling a little better. Mostly I'm just annoyed at having to take time out to do the stretching and exercises and attend PT appointments. But if it saves my knee, then it's worth it.
Posted by todd at 06:21 PM