We Can Rebuild Him (Phase One in which Doris gets her oats…)

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Equipment, Run, The Plan
Tags: , ,

You might remember that I’ve recently begun the tedious process of rebuilding myself to once again compete in future long distance triathlons.  Ironman, here we come…again!

Thus far, this year has been someone disappointing; a fact, I’ll address in a future post.  I’ve spent the majority of this year rebounding from one injury to the next, specifically with my left foot, calf, shin, knee, you freaking name it.  It totally sucks and led to some very frustrating training days to the point where I stopped running altogether at least three times for extended periods of time.  But I’m putting all that behind me now and that shit is about to stop…tout de sweet!

The process began a few weeks ago with my visit to see Dr. Kristen Burr at the ‘Legacy Health & Performance’ center in St. Catharines.  The rehab has been going particularly well and things are beginning to look very optimistic for the coming months as I start to put back together a decent foundation for running strong and – fingers crossed – comfortably.  To aid with this overall process, I have been assigned a very strict strengthening program that targets not only my poor weakened feet, but the lower leg and core muscles that are particularly key for running.  There’s no more half-assing it anymore, it’s time to pack a lunch and get to work.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Here are the essentials for Phase One of what I am now referring to as the ‘We Can Rebuild Him  plan:

  • A set of ‘tune-up’ balls (or a set of tennis or racquet balls)
  • A foam Pilates block (or anything else you can comfortably lean your foot against at a 45° angle)
  • A towel
  • A toning balance disc (or a pillow)
  • A can of soup (yes, a can of soup)
  • Corn pads and Traumeel gel (because, well, sometimes things get ouchie)

Now, bear in mind that all these particular items (tune-up balls, Pilates block and balance disc) can very easily be replicated by simply substituting for the more commonly found alternatives I’ve listed above; all of which you probably have lying around the house already.  Hey, I am a ‘Tightwad Triathlete’ after all.  So there’s no real need  to spend any money at all, however, knowing this is going be my focus for the coming months I figured I could justify dropping the $40 or so in total; not a bad investment on my general well-being.  Sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles.

The following are examples of the exercises I will do on a daily basis to start strengthening my feet, legs and lower core muscles:

1.  Using the Tune-up balls, massage the muscles all around the bottom of my feet.  Standing in ‘Mountain Pose’ for a count of 10 slow breathes I move the balls to different points of my soles including the ball, arches, plantar fascia and heel of my foot.  This feels amazing, particularly after a run as I can literally feel my foot muscles loosen up and relax.  The intent of helping these muscles relax is to widen my feet and thereby assume a broader base of support and, therefore, also achieve more balance and stability while out running.  I am also using this exercise to improve the range of mobility of my toes and achieve that desired ‘monkey feet’ effect I mentioned before.

2.  Three sets of 10 calf raises with either the Tune-up balls or Pilates ball between my legs and/or heels while rising straight up on my tippy toes (like I’m trying to peek over a tall fence).  This exercise is to strength the muscles in my forefoot (including my toes) and ankles as well as stretching out my calves and glutes, all the while improving my general balance. Sometimes these calf raises are done while standing straight with my feet perfectly perpendicular to one another, at other times with my feet splayed out at 45° angles to target different muscles.

3.  Three sets of “toe curls” with a towel.  Yup, it’s exactly what it sounds like.  Just like this:

 

Now, if you think this is easy…think again.  Simply scrunching up that towel with my left foot takes about 110% of my total concentration and effort.  Seriously, my toes literally sweat they’re working so freakin’ hard!  When was the last time you actually saw your toes sweat, I ask you?!  When I get more capable with this exercise, I will place that can of soup at the other end of the towel to add some weight and resistance and make it even more challenging.

4.  Using the gel balance disc, I stand on each foot and simply try to maintain my balance for 30 seconds.  Yeah, this is infinitely harder than it looks.  The gel disc (or use a pillow to recreate a similarly unstable surface) is all kinds of wobbly and will definitely improve my balance and the subsequently strengthen the sets of muscles in my feet, ankles, shins and calves.

5.  Three sets of 10 squats.  And not the standard ‘ol squats that I’ve been doing at the gym (albeit incorrectly), but squats up close against the wall to make certain that I am a using good form incorporating a straight back.  Besides my lower legs (quads, hamstrings, calves, et al,) this maneuver also works my glutes and the muscles in my lower back.

6.  Three sets of 15 calf stretches.  While standing in ‘Mountain Pose’ and propping my foot at a 45° angle on a Pilates block (maintaining a straight leg on my bent foot side), I slowly roll down into a ‘Forward Bend’ , or ‘Rag Doll’ pose, before slowly rolling back up again.  This stretches absolutely every muscle from my toes through the sole of my foot to my shins and calves and all the way to my hips…and it’s not altogether comfortable.  In fact, it’s pretty damn difficult as I’m now properly stretching muscles that I haven’t stretched for, like, ever I guess.

Hopefully, this exercise program will start to establish that strong foundation with which to begin working on regaining an effective running form before I begin to ramp up the mileage into the fall and winter.  Soon, I will also undergo a ‘Biomechanical Running Analysis’  workshop also with Dr. Burr, as well as re-initiate a solid weights and functional strength program at the gym.  So there are definitely more phases to come in the overall plan (stay tuned!).  So in a way, I am actually starting my run program from scratch.  I’m like that wobbly-legged baby deer learning to walk.  Well…not really.  I’m infinitely cuter.

Hopefully, this strategy (not to mention patience) will help me not only regain, but surpass my former pre-Ironman run fitness.  Next season, I don’t want to simply feel satisfied in having survived the marathon, I want to rock the shit out of it.  I think I have it in me.  In fact, I’m banking on it.  I want to have the confidence in my ability that after a strong swim and bike, that I can similarly perform on the run as well.  I know I’m currently nowhere near where I was, nor where I want to be…but I’ll get there…eventually.  I also realize that it’s going to be a slow, uphill battle.  But, as they say:  ‘no pain, no gain’.

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