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I hope you have a happy new year so far. Eleven days into the new year and I still do. I never thought that less than two weeks into the New Year I will experience this much already…

Left knee

First I got to find out that there was a pinched nerve that caused the pain in my left knee. It turned out to be nothing major. Fortunately. But through this I learnt several very important lessons:

    1. Doctor selection: It is extremely important to visit doctors who really know what they are talking about. I wish I would have a fool proof advice here, but I just don’t. But a recommendation from a family friend turned out to be an excellent choice. I can just wish you similar good luck that I had with the doctor selection.
    2. Stretching: Through my painful experience I have really learnt the importance of proper stretching after running. Until now I spent two-three minutes at most with stretching following my runs. Short, long, easy, strong running: did not matter. Short stretching and I was ready to get going. Finally after a year of running it took its toll on my legs. Nothing is more devastating, then cutting back on weekly miles, resting and still not being able to get rid of the pain. So please keep stretching!
    3. “Flossing”: just like flossing your teeth, there are techniques for nerve flossing. This is with the intention to loosen up muscles. Interesting that by moving your head at the same time you are moving your head you can increase or decrease tension on the nerve. I found this clip on YouTube that shows the leg movement and body position about 2 minutes into the clip. My doctor recommended me to tilt my head back when stretching out my leg and lift up my head when bending my leg. Simple rule: I should only see my knee and not my foot => when I lift up my head, I bend my leg. This is what creates that nerve flossing movement.  (click here if the YouTube clip with the nerve flossing exercise would not appear below)
    4. Running shoes: I understand the importance of using the proper running shoes as well as the importance of replacing the running shoes when they start to wear off. However I never found a good recommendation of exactly when to replace my running shoes. After how many miles? After what condition of the shoes? What to look for? Here is a clip again from YouTube I found. If offers some great tips, but still too generic: 300-500 miles and depending on heavier or lighter runners. But I am not sure who is considered a heavier and who is a lighter runner. I kept checking my shoes regularly and they started to show some wear and I definitely wanted to get a new pair soon, but when I mentioned that my shoes have about 400 miles (rough estimate) already, that definitely means it is now time for me to get new shoes. But what really convinced me is a simple evaluation my doctor showed me: placing the shoes onto the flat surface, verify if they are wobbling on the flat surface or not. If they do, it is time to replace them as they are not going to be provide proper support for my feet while running either. Makes good sense. (click here if the YouTube clip showing a wobbling worn shoe would not appear below)

Core strengthening

I started to read more about this and set up a workout plan for myself strictly focusing on core strengthening exercises. I decided I will start easy and I will spend the next 3-4 weeks of intensive core strengthening and then slowly balance out the weekly schedule between core strength related exercise and running. Let me honestly say: I have a long way to go. So many muscles I will have to get stronger. My balance was not so good either. Just another area for me to improve. But still, after the first workout I felt really-really good. Strange and difficult to explain with words here, but definitely my whole body felt so much fresher, despite that I was sweating already from the various exercises.

Sweating

Since I brought up sweating, here is another thing I learnt. I decided I will give soccer another chance. I joined a team after skipping eight years. I read many times on the internet that for runners, especially who plan to run a marathon soccer or other intensive sports, where there is high load on the knees, legs is not a good cross-training exercise, I was still poised to get back on the field again. And I think playing soccer will help with the cardio strengthening as well with the continuous acceleration/deceleration on the field. So last Sunday I had my first game in eight years. Let me tell you that somebody stole every molecule of Oxygen from me as I was trying to catch my breath after spending just a couple minutes on the field. It is definitely a very different kind of running from a Half Marathon… Of course I knew that, but I was expecting my body will take it better. So as I was asking for substitution and tried to catch my breath again on the sideline, I felt like I was sweating through my ears drums… I know it sounds weird and I do not think it is possible, but that is how I felt. So in other words 2013 brought me a funny surprise: showing me new body parts where I can keep sweating. That game must have been a real workout…

I am looking forward to keep having a happy new year and I wish you all the same! How is your new year so far?

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