Physical Therapy is HARD.

I was easily fooled by last week’s physical therapy session into thinking it wasn’t so bad.  This week it seriously changed and I practically had an emotional breakdown afterwards.

First thing’s first, I mentioned locking my keys in my car when I came in.  They fessed up to noticing and watching me from the gym… apparently I had a little audience witnessing the embarrassing act.  I make great first impressions, clearly.

So we started off by reviewing some of the previous week’s exercises; time to move onto the serious stuff.  Now I’ll preface with: if you ever have the chance to see me standing still in shorts, I’m knock kneed.  I tried hopping a ditch on a bike when I was younger (I sucked at it) and fell pretty badly, my knees were swollen for a while but I never got them checked out.  Since then my knees have been crooked, for lack of better words.  I’m sure this is partially to blame for my funky stride and unfortunately, it doesn’t help when I’m trying to demonstrate proper form in classes.  It’s not normal to lunge and have your foot face forward, but your knee point to the left/right.  I just look silly.

Back to PT… the first exercise is a typical calf stretch – one foot forward flat on the ground, other foot back, lean into the stretch and feel it in the calf of the back foot.  The second exercise is similar but instead of leaning into the wall for the stretch, I drop my knee a little bit (this is where my knee points inward) and I’m supposed to concentrate on the flexion in my ankle on the back foot, while keeping my knee out.  It’s basically training my ankle to bend in a way it probably never has, which is preventing my arch from collapsing.  Ouch, ouch, ouch.  It wasn’t even a muscle hurting after this, it was my entire ankle bone/joint.

Then we modified the stretch from last week with my knee on the ground and one leg up at 90 degrees.  I was lifting a really heavy (as in, I probably shouldn’t have lifted on Saturday and Sunday) kettlebell above my head while keeping my core tight and not arching back.  Then I had backward lunges with stretching the opposite arm that goes back, similar to a running motion.  After that, I got these fancy bands around my ankles and knees and practiced stepping sideways off my opposite foot with keeping myself in “athletic position” — slightly bent knees, hips hinged forward, core engaged.  I had to work on keeping my knees out so my arch didn’t collapse here either.  Talk about exhausting.  Then we practiced hinging my hips forward, which I did with the physical therapy assistant.  Finally, she had me on a bench with one leg off — I was supposed to point my toe up, dig my heel down (of the foot that’s off the bench) and with the bands on, move my leg out.  This is all balancing on one foot.  Also while in that stupid athletic position.

Hell no.

The assistant had me super bent over, then the actual PT came over and corrected her.  “She’s a runner, I need her upright and in running formation the entire time.  Everything we do with her needs to mimic good running form.” It was so frustrating.  The student had me in correct form, then she made me bend over more and when I tried to do what I thought was right (and comfortable), she corrected me.  Finally to have the PT come over and correct her and put me back where I was trying to be in the first place.

I think they could all tell I was frustrated in the end.  It was really busy, so it was nice to be able to work with somebody during the exercises rather than on my own, but it sucked at the same time because I didn’t feel like I was really relating to the assistant.  She’s nice, but what she was explaining to me wasn’t effective for me.  The student and PT explain things in running terms for me, or even using technical terms.  I wanted to say, “Yes, I’m in physical therapy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s what with my body.” Just frustrating.

In the end when I got my stuff together, the PT came over and was really reassuring.  He knew I wasn’t feeling great and he said (not in these exact words), that they are very, very picky which might be different than what I’m used to if I’ve had PT before someplace else (I haven’t).  They aren’t trying to settle for just getting better, but they want to prevent future injuries and get their athletes to the best form, creating the best habits, so everyone can perform their best.  It makes sense and I understand, I’ve just never been told to do something that I actually could not do.

An hour of having somebody correct you – turn your knees out, push down on your big toe, keep your core tight, are you squeezing your glutes?, long upper body, unlock your knees! – is really draining.  I’m used to “Hey, we’re running quarters, here’s your target pace.  Get there each time.” and doing it.  I’m used to being good at what I do.  It sounds stupid and a little cocky, but it’s the truth.  I don’t do many things besides run, but I’ve never completely sucked at something I’ve tried.  Yesterday, I felt like I completely sucked.

Anyways… I notice a difference already.  Despite how much it hurts to work on flexion in my ankles, I immediately notice my walking change when I finish those reps.  My arch doesn’t fall and if I bend my knees, I do it facing forward.  I can’t go as low as I’d like in my lunges or squats, but at least I’m doing them the way I should be.

In good news, I apparently could have started running last week to see where I’m at so I’m doing that really soon.  I took today off because I’m still so exhausted (I canceled my training, too) but tomorrow might be a good bet for half mile.  I’m not too heartbroken about another DNS tomorrow.

But really, I can’t wait to start running again.  My first race back is going to be my 10k in August, which I was hoping I’d crush last year’s terrible time for (something like 55 minutes?), which I probably can still do as long as my groin doesn’t start up again… but I’m not aiming for a crazy time, I’m just going to enjoy that I’ll be able to do it.  And thank God, too.  In the 5 weeks I haven’t run, I’ve gained 4 lbs, lost 2% muscle mass, and gained 1.5% body fat.  I must be gaining in my arms and losing in my legs or something!

Soon enough I’ll have more exciting blog entries… it’s right around the corner, I can feel it.  And I still have a good 4 months of solid great 5k weather to go sub 22.  I haven’t given up on that dream this summer.

Oh, and little tidbit: the women’s winner at the Ironman at Lake Placid this weekend?  A physical therapist from Rochester, NY.  (Go Upstate New York!).  Funny tidbit I learned yesterday?  She works with my PT.  Yep, a little claim to fame for him (and all the more reason I’m listening to everything he says and taking it like gold.  GET ME THERE!)


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Just a 20-something homegrown Buffalo sports loving, distance running, gin drinking kind of girl.

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