Sara Picken-Brown, ‘THE FIGURE GENIE’ is a U.K based Nutrition & Fitness expert. A former classically trained professional ballerina her career has twisted and turned from dance to a professional Figure Athlete career spanning a decade. Her online nutrition programs, 1-on-1 bespoke Coaching and Rejuvenation Retreats have helped thousands of women love their bodies and live inspired healthy lives.

Half Marathon Prep & Knee Pain

FigureGenieFiles half marathon preparation, knee painHaving a goal is a brilliant way to keep your training and mental focus on track. Which is why after many years of goal setting with my own fitness and achieving some very satisfying personal bests, I have decided to tackle a half marathon. I was never a ‘runner’. Memories of horrible forced cross country running activities at school in the middle of winter haunted me for years. Coupled with the fact that I was always more of a sprint/power style athlete; 100m races I was unbeatable, long distance I always came last or close to it. I then deviated as far away from running as I could with a successful bodybuilding career, even ballet is an anaerobic physical pursuit. So needless to say, ‘endurance’ has never been a ‘comfortable’ place for me. So why set a goal that is clearly waaaaaay out of my comfort zone? Well, because a half marathon it is waaaay out of my comfort zone and clearly this endurance aspect of my health,  fitness and mental focus needs developing… a lot!

I began really focusing on a weekly consistent run of 1x 3km and 1x 5km (in whatever time I could muster) the key was to do it and do it regularly. I discovered that running outside was not a favourite thing to do, running alone was not fun. But since April 9th I have built up a good consistency and seen big improvements in both my fitness and enjoyment of this activity.  I still have not broken the elements barrier yet, you know ‘if it ain’t raining, it ain’t training’ as Bear Grylls says. But I will get there.  Consistency in action is always going to be far more productive for your long term health.

I am now 23 weeks into this adventure, I have an event planned (Hampton Court Half Marathon on Sunday 17th March 2019), which is 25 weeks away. I have as of this week completed my first 10km distance, and aiming to build up to a 30km per week distance broken into a variety of distances and heart rate training zones.

However, I have recently discovered a troublesome issue! My left knee starts to hurt, a lot at about the 4km mark. After a little enquiry, seems that my patella tracking on the left side is a problem.  Stemming from a tight ITB (thats been a long term issue that requires management) and potentially weak glute medius and glute maximus, (what weakness after all this strength training? Good grief).

The body does not lie, so fix it I must! A new program that includes: Functional strength training focusing on the hip and glute area, balance work to stabilise the femur into the hip girdle and a lot of quad stretching and adductor stretching to lengthening. A focus on maintaining greater balance on the clearly imbalanced working muscles.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT on behalf of Sharecare Fitness Fitness states,  “Kneecap pain while running is often caused by tightness in the rectus femoris, which is the main thigh muscle, and your biceps femoris, which is the outside back of your thigh muscle (the outer hamstring). Tightness of these two muscles, increases the pressure on the kneecap (patella). There is usually also weakness in the inside thigh muscle (called your vastus medialis obliquus), and the upper outer hip muscle (gluteus medius). Weakness in these two muscles allow the thigh to move inward when the foot hits the ground. The combination of the thigh moving in (caused by muscle weakness), and the kneecap being compressed (muscle tightness), causes kneecap pain.

To deal with this, here are the 4 main things that you can do:
1. Foam roll the outside of your thigh.
2. Stretch the thigh muscle (rectus femoris).  Try the kneeling hip flexor stretch and hold the stretch 30 seconds.
3. Stretch the outside thigh muscle (biceps femoris). Perform the 90-90 outer hamstring stretch and hold the stretched position for 30 seconds.
4. Activate the inside thigh muscle and the outside hip muscle (gluteus medius). Perform side lunges to balance, side to side tube walking and stability ball squats.
In addition, make sure you ice the knee when you are done running. “

Being injury free is a massive focus for me, I do not believe in ‘running through it’ or ‘running it off’, the body is very good at telling us when we need to pay attention, and this is certainly what i intend to do. I am, despite the knee niggle, actually enjoying running and running outside now. In my book that is a big win, so long as i eat properly in preparation for my sessions, I believe this half marathon, will be completed in a very reasonable time, one I will be competitively proud of. Now I don’t just want to ‘finish’ I want to do well.

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