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Better Running – A patient’s story

I’ve always been the sports active one in the family – running, cycling, golf, strength training and now also stand up paddling. My sister has always been the “culture vulture”. Debating and ballet have been her natural go-to over conventional sports such as running. So it has been with intense fascination that I have watched her journey into the world of running. Going from couch to 5K and beyond, I have felt immense pride for her. It hasn’t been easy and she has learnt some great lessons along the way. So I asked her to share her story. To motivate, to inspire and also help other runners to be better and stronger on this running journey.

Let me introduce you to my big sister, Elke.

Wife to Daryl (an avid runner himself), mother of 3 (a beautiful teenage daughter and twin boys that keep her on her toes), business owner (she is a brilliant Quantity Surveyor if you ever need one), green-fingered gardener, DIY home decorator and fast becoming a stronger better runner.

better running elke

Here is Elke’s story with a bit of commentary from the proverbial ‘physio peanut gallery’.

Elke’s Story

Elke: My journey with running started in February 2019.  I had no idea what lay ahead of me, all I knew was I had to do something to keep the weight off. I had managed to lose 20kg with medical intervention, only to be told to immediately stop taking the pills and my first thought was, what am I going to do now because under no circumstances can I gain all that weight again.  So, I started running!

Carmen: Let me jump in right off the bat and say, quick fixes never work. Fortunately Elke found out about the negative side effects before it became a major health issue. 

Elke: I listened to the all the advice and started with a run/walk routine which became running only and before I knew it I was able to run a whole 5km which turned into 8km which turned into 10km.  And because I was building up slowly, I was injury free which was great.  I was even attempting trail runs.

Carmen: Slow and consistent, built on good habits is the best principle to start exercise on.

Elke: By March 2020, I was comfortably able to run 15km and then lockdown hit.  The era of garden running!  At first, this adjusted way of running was rather fun but short-lived.  It then only became more and more difficult and for the first time I started noticing some pain niggles on the side of my hip and in the arch of my foot that I had not experienced before.  But, as all “naughty” runners do, I ignored it and carried on.  Just run through it – a phrase I have heard often from runners – and that is what I did, after-all, I am a runner.

Carmen: The garden running was a change in the physical load on Elke’s body. Couple that with the extra load of the stress we all felt during lockdown and suddenly the usual distance she had built up tolerance to (conditioned) was exceeding her capacity and this resulted in the niggle.

Elke: Finally, some of the lockdown restrictions were lifted, amongst which was that we could run on the road again.  This was music to my ears! I still had that niggly little pain on the side of my hip, but I ignored it and carried on running.  And then, two weeks in, the wheels came off.  My planned 10km run became a 6km run due to unbearable pain in my hip.  It was the longest and most uncomfortable 4km walk home.  I realised that I needed help and decided to consult a physio.

Carmen: Luckily for Elke, she has a physio in the family.

Elke: I did a virtual consult with Carmen.  I had explained my issues and she immediately identified the problem.  Spot on! And then, the devastating news – no running for two weeks and I would need to do regular strength exercises.  This time I decided to be a “good” runner and listen to the advice of my physio. For two weeks, I diligently did the strength exercises with no running. I was even teased because apparently no runner ever listens to their physio, let alone actually do the exercises at home as prescribed. I could not wait for the two weeks to end.

Carmen: Family are normally not very compliant with exercise and advice, so I was really delighted to see how seriously Elke took it. I just want to mention here that we don’t always make every runner stop running completely. Each person is an individual and is treated as such. When the tissues are very sensitised, we have to reduce load dramatically for tissues to become less sensitised. But we NEVER fully stop activity. Rest is not always best (read more HERE). Relative rest, yes, but with added exercise. It is a balancing act because we need to teach the tissue to handle load again, to put enough pressure on so that it adjusts and becomes better for full return to activity.

Elke: Two weeks are over, and I can finally go for my first run.  As strictly prescribed by my physio. It may not be more than 5km and had to be at a slow pace and a few other parameters. Wow, what an amazing run it was! I experienced no pain and felt incredible power across my lower body while I was running. I was so inspired by that amazing feeling that I continued to do the exercises, as I slowly increased the mileage week by week.  By mid-July, I was back to running a 10km distance, quicker than before. My performance had improved.

Carmen: Strength training will improve your running performance, in fact it is strongly corroborated by researched evidence. It is also the best (possibly only) tool to prevent injuries of the lower body.

Elke: As life was starting to semi-normalise again after mid-July – kids returning to school, face to face work meetings taking place, etc. – time had become a luxury.  Unfortunately, doing the strength exercises was put on the back foot, and ever so slowly my running started to regress.  As Carmen is also my sister, we were chatting about this running regression over a cup of coffee one morning on our camping trip at the end of September and how it is causing me to feel down. That is when I had a light bulb moment.  Physios do not only need to be consulted when injured!  With that in mind, I had asked Carmen whether she would put together a basic routine suitable for working, running mothers to build up strength across the lower body specifically for running.

Carmen: Obviously I said yes.

Elke: And, voila! Mid-October I received the link to a YouTube video on basic running strength! I am very excited to see the upward progression in my running, and to experience that amazing powerful feeling in my running once again.

Carmen: If I can help one person feel stronger and more inspired to exercise, I want to do it for more. I know that people participating in running, walking or any form of activity that requires the lower body will benefit from this video. So please, take a look and follow the video. And actually do the exercises. Here it is below. Subscribe to the YouTube channel because I will be releasing progressions/variations of this programme in the future. And leave your comments and stories below. Even better, make suggestions of what you would like to see here in future.

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