It’s been two and a half weeks now since I ran my first marathon and recovery hasn’t quite gone as well as I hoped. In my dream world, I would have taken a break from running for a week and a half, eased back into it, then I’d get to capitalize on the fitness I gained during marathon training. I’d run some solid 5Ks and 10Ks because I was coming off such a good training segment.
No such luck. Whatever I did to my knee during the marathon has stuck with me. This is the pain that I developed on the outside of my left knee about halfway through the race. It faded after a few miles and came back once I finished, and it hasn’t completely gone away yet. I felt fine three days after the marathon…aside from my knee. It took a few more days before I could go up and down the stairs normally because my knee didn’t want to bend. I woke up in the middle of the night a few times in agony. I had a tendency to twist my knee the wrong way whenever I’d roll over in bed. A couple nights of pain finally led me to take Aleve for the next week. I felt twinges of pain or discomfort throughout the week occasionally when I walked. Walking was the only real form of exercise I did during the week following the race. I easily walk at least 2-3 miles most days at work, so at least that was something to keep me moving a bit.
I knew my body needed time to recover, so I was smart about not doing anything for a solid week. By the end of that week, I was getting squirmy and needed to do some other form of exercise. I got back in the pool, which I’d neglected for nearly three months. I swam a mile of free and took it easy. Luckily, it didn’t bother my knee at all.
I got back to strength training the next day and took it a little easier since I had taken a three-week break from weights. I made sure not to do much with my legs yet. I got on a stationary bike to see how my knee would feel. It was not good. I only made it a mile and that was probably pushing it. My knee started to hurt and I knew I had to quit. It was pretty frustrating, and it was clear that I still needed more time to recover. I did more strength training later in the week but kept resting my legs. When the weekend rolled around and my knee seemed to be okay, I decided to play some Wii dance games for about an hour. I hoped to work up more of a sweat than I actually did, but at least I bounced around a bit and it didn’t bother my knee. I also went for a nice walk on the trail at Yates Cider Mill with some friends.
I thought I was finally feeling good, but walking in the cold for a little while was enough to make my knee feel pretty stiff. I thought I’d finally try running this past Sunday, which was the two-week mark following the marathon. The stiffness from the day before told me I’d better wait a little longer, so I swam instead.
I got some more strength training in this past Monday. I tried doing some leg exercises, including walking lunges while holding free weights. My knee held up fine and I saw that as a good sign. My strength sessions had dropped down to once a week when marathon training got really serious, but I’m hoping to get back to twice a week now.
After that, I made my first attempt at running – two weeks and a day after the marathon. I figured the treadmill would be the best bet in case I had to bail. By the time I hit half a mile, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. I started to feel my knee just before that. The pain wasn’t that bad, but it was enough to make me cringe. It was enough for me to realize that pushing it wouldn’t be a good idea. I walked enough to finish a mile and stopped. I was very frustrated. I had to do SOMETHING though, so I tried the elliptical next. I felt my knee a little bit at first, but then I seemed to be okay. I did a couple miles and managed to finally break a sweat and feel like I’d gotten some real exercise.
The next day I came across an article about exercises that can be done to beat IT band pain. The article talks about inflammation of the tendon near the outside of the knee, which sounds exactly like my issue. It gave me a little bit of relief to read that and gave me hope that I haven’t totally screwed up my knee. I’m already well aware that I should be doing more exercises to work my hips and glutes, and the article reinforced that. I did about 30 minutes of exercises at home on Tuesday, mostly putting my ankle resistance bands to use. I used stability balls for a few as well. As the marathon approached, I had slacked off on doing those exercises and I really need to get them back into my routine.
I’m pretty frustrated right now because all I really want to do is run. It’s hard to jump from a schedule of running six days a week to practically nothing now. I might make another attempt at running tomorrow, but I’ll be ready to quit if my knee flares up again. I know I need to let it recover. I’ve taken as long as a month off in the past in an attempt to let my shins recover and somehow I survived. However, I was able to bike, which I don’t think I can do now. If I can’t run, hopefully I can at least use the elliptical. Now is a good time to rest because I don’t have anything coming up that I need to train for. So much for the 5/10Ks I had hoped to run! There are a couple on the horizon that I wanted to do, but I purposely did not sign up in advance because I wanted to see how I recovered from the marathon. I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself to attempt running a race that I really shouldn’t run. Right now, things don’t look promising. As frustrated as I am, I need to be smart and take things slow. If I have to start from scratch whenever I start my next training segment, I’ll manage. It might not be what I hoped for, but I’ve done it many times in the past. In the meantime, I have to try to be patient and hope my knee gradually improves.
Ugh. Stay smart! A little rest now pays off long term… I learned that the hard way! (I pushed through for 3 months and ended up down for 6. No bueno).