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When I want something, I want it now. That usually means chocolate. When I want chocolate, I want it now. But if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that you can’t rush results. You know, like recovering from knee injuries. 😉
When I first started running, I had no idea I was good at it until my sister – a seasoned runner – brought the little fact to my attention by saying, “You know you’re a natural at this, right?”
About a week later, I decided I was going to run a race and signed up for a 10k…which was set for about 6 weeks later. (In case you weren’t paying attention, that’s a total of almost 8 weeks of running.) Hard core training, from couch to 10k, filled my every morning and sometimes night. The first time I ran three miles, I cried! I was so proud of myself.
There was one little problem. I couldn’t go more than a mile without intense knee pain. I had to wear a knee brace as part of my running gear. One time I forgot to put it on, and about a mile away from home, I was really feeling it. I had to cut my run short that day. Going down a flight of stairs always hurt. Always. I just learned to deal with it, figuring all runners had aches and pains, right? Plus, I’m in my 30s, so I’m not exactly a spring chicken here. 😉 I didn’t know anything about knee injuries, but I was sure I didn’t have one. (Insert eyeroll.)
After I ran my 10k –
(and killed it!!!)
– I wanted to keep up with my running. I decided to push myself a little further, and do a 7 mile run with my brother in law. The furthest I’d gone was the 6.2 miles in the 10k, but this was less than a mile longer than that. No problem!
We got up bright and early and hit the road (literally) before the city was awake. About 3 miles in, my knee blew up. The pain was so intense, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t bend my leg. We were still almost 2 miles from home, so I pushed through, almost hopping on one leg for the last mile.
It was bad. I was worried! Had no idea what was wrong, I didn’t know anything about knee injuries!
I wore a heavy duty brace and babied my knee for as long as I could. Gradually, the pain went away, but I missed running! I valued my body more than the thrill of the run, but I knew there had to be something I could do to “fix” the problem.
After I consulted a professional, I was told that I had pulled my IT band. The iliotibial band a fascia (similar to a tendon) that starts in the lower back, wraps around the outside of the leg and anchors into the knee. My hips were so tight from never being stretched or warmed up that it put continual strain on the IT band anchor in my knee. After it had had too much, it pulled, leaving me confused and in a lot of pain.
Wait a minute, my HIPS were causing my KNEE pain?! Yep, you read that right. And my knee tried to give me lots of warning – remember all that knee pain? It was telling me there was a problem, but I didn’t listen. Isn’t the body a wonderful thing? 🙂
The solution? Stretching. Lots of stretching. Before and after every run, I warm up and cool down my hips by doing side lunges and side skipping. And then I stretch some more.
I shall teach you my stetching ways so that you may be knee pain free!
I started running again at the beginning of the year after a few months’ break, and I’ve been back at it almost as long as I had been when I first started. Last week I ran 4 miles with no breathing breaks. And guess what? No knee pain!
It makes me giddy with relief. I’m not broken! These hip stretches help prevent and treat knee pain. I will show them to you so you can incorporate them into your everyday life.
Half Moon: Stand with your right leg crossed over your left. Put your left hand on your hip, then reach your right arm up and over your head until you have curved your body into a half moon.
Stand with your right hand against a wall to help with balance if you need to. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then switch to left leg over the right, reaching with your left arm.
Butterfly: Sit with your back straight. Bring your feet in front of you with your soles touching.
Gently push your knees toward the floor until you feel the stretching in your hips. If it hurts, you’re pushing too hard. Tuck your heels as close to you as feels comfortable.
I feel the stretch with my heels very close, but my friend makes a diamond with her legs, like this:
And she feels the stretch better that way.
I like to take a deep breath and lean forward then arch my back as I straighten out. It feels really good.
Half Butterfly: Sit with your palms behind you. Raise your knees and put your feet flat on the ground.
Raise your left foot and put it on your right knee with your left knee making a half butterfly to the side.
Hold this position for 10-15 seconds, then push your left knee toward the ground a little. See the difference in the pictures below:
See how the left knee dropped? Hold for another 10 seconds. This should not hurt, but you will feel the stretch in your hip. If it hurts, back off a little until you’ve loosened up more.
Pigeon Pose: This one is really yoga. Start with your right knee bent in front of you and your left leg out straight behind you. Use your arms to push your back straight.
This one can be a little tricky. Keep your hips square, so they both face forward; don’t roll to one side. Keep your foot positioned where you feel the stretch, but you’re not in pain. Tuck it under you if you need to until your hips are looser and you and ease into the position better. After I’ve run and my hips are nice and loose, I can almost bend my front knee at a 90 degree angle (so that my foot would be in front of my hand, not behind.
Relax your shoulders and lengthen your back and neck to really feel this stretch!
As you do stretches, don’t forget to breathe. Take deep breaths and really let yourself settle into a stretch. If you’re holding your breath, your body will clench up! Relax. It should never hurt! If you’re hurting, then back off and ease into the stretch as you loosen up.
I do these stretches every day at least once, but usually three to five times on average. I do them before I run and as part of my cool down routine. I do them while I’m watching TV or reading a book. I do them while I’m waiting for my kids’ oatmeal to warm up, and a few times at night after I’m in my pj pants. The stretches where you’re down on the ground can’t be done in jeans. So I do those early morning or night when I’m in stretchy pants. The half moon can (and should) be done anytime.
And yeah, I’m in my 30’s. So what? I’m still very much alive and kicking. I take care of my body and I feel great! But does that mean I’m confined to a life with no reward? No indulgences?!
I say to you, “Nay!” I still reward myself. For sure! And even better, with DOVE® Chocolate Fruit & Nut, I get to reward myself with REAL fruit and REAL nuts and creamy chocolate that melts in my mouth and makes my body happy.
For example, this DOVE® Dark Chocolate Blueberry & Vanilla Cashew. Um, wow.
I seriously have no words to describe how delicious it is.
Oops, caught with my hand in the snack bag!
Of course I shared…but not much. Hey, I’m the one running my heart out. I’m the one who earned this delicious treat!
Pair it with DOVE® Dark Chocolate Cherries and DOVE® Roasted Almonds covered in Dark Chocolate and you’ll definitely have the motivation you need to finish that run.
With an indulgence like that waiting for you, you’ll run home just a little quicker.
Or if you’re stretching, try putting the DOVE® Roasted Almonds covered in Dark Chocolate just out of your reach and going for it. 🙂
Like all good things, DOVE® Chocolate Fruit & Nut is available at Walmart.
What are you waiting for? Get down there and grab these!
Wait, before you go, check out Dove’s website to see some of their other flavors. I’m dying to try the DOVE® Dark Chocolate Strawberry & Cocoa Almond. Which one will you try?! Be sure to look for their special DOVE® Chocolate Fruit & Nut display! And while you’re at it, grab this coupon.
What tips do you have for keeping your body happy and healthy? And if you need some motivation, check out my 30 Favorite Running Songs. Need a new look? Don’t miss out on how to make a Bleach Tee for Race Day!