Fiona McMahon PT, DPT and Jessica Babich PT. DPT
Fiona: Hi everyone! It’s been a few weeks since our last update. I am currently halfway to our $3,000 fundraising goal for the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York. Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and I are raising money by running the New York City Marathon and taking donations. If you wish to donate here.
As far as training, things have gone well. The last 12 weeks of training have largely consisted of building a solid base with a whole lot of speed play to improve my lactic acid tolerance (you know, that burning feeling in your muscles, when you are really working hard). This will hopefully improve my ability to hang in there at a consistent speed throughout the race. In the next 12 weeks the amount of speed play will decrease and the mileage will slowly start to build, culminating with two 20 milers before the actual marathon.
So far my average pace has been slightly faster than goal and I have noticed that for the most part I feel stronger and more powerful than I had in the past. Also, the nagging calf pain sensation I had complained about in the past is now improving and occurs much less frequently. I’ve been doing my home exercise program that my physical therapist, Jessica Babich, recommended on top of my pre-existing routine of strengthening, rolling, and stretching.
Here’s a little of what we worked on in our last 3 visits to help meet our goals, of running faster with less pain:
Week 1: Facilitation with theraband, core activation
On week one, Jessica worked to help get my core to fire more consistently. This is important to allow for greater push-off and power and can hopefully lead to reduced risk of injury. This stuff is hard! Jessica would put my body in a specific position and apply resistance to wake up my long dormant muscles. I broke a sweat but could definitely tell it was working.
Week 2: Ankle ( devil spawn)
I hated it. But I loved the results. In my earlier blog I wrote about how I hurt my ankle doing a handstand (again, don’t ask). In my initial evaluation, Jessica noticed that I wasn’t quite pushing off well enough through my right side. Basically, I was using my left side to get my power, and the right side was just going along for the ride. No good. Not efficient. Jessica worked on getting the bones in my foot to glide the way they need to in order to improve my range of motion in that foot. Once I had the new range of motion, she gave me some exercises to help teach (we call it neuromuscular re-ed), the foot what to do. The process wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it wasn’t too bad either. I’ve definitely subjected myself to training runs that felt worse.
Here’s what was super neat about this whole deal. I had been doing some plyometric work on my own to help train power and speed. Prior to this visit, one of the exercises I was doing, was the box jump. It is what it sounds like, jump up onto this special cushy box. I started off jumping 24 inches, but I noticed I was really just doing a glorified hop, using my left leg to do all the work. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. On my own I regressed myself to a 12 inch box and tried hopping onto it with each leg (to get right leg in on the action and pulling it’s own weight). IT WAS SO HARD. It was like my body had no idea how to get itself on to the box when I used my right leg, My left leg was more than happy to do single leg box jumps all day, but righty definitely wanted to take the L (that means loss, not the L -train) on that one. But after the ankle treatment with Jessica, a 12 inch single leg box jump was easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. In fact, I progressed myself to the 16 inch box the next gym session. Currently, I am doing 18 inch single leg box jumps and am back to 24 inch box jumps with both legs. Right?! Wild!
BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN ALL OF IT! I started to find on my shorter runs I could more easily keep a 8:30 pace (goal) without additional effort than I had spent on my slower runs. I eventually started doing those runs at 8 minute pace and 7:30 pace to spice it up. This past weekend I was able to do a 15K (9.3 miles) at 8:00 pace which is something I’d never dreamed of. It’s been really neat. I’ve had 3 rounds of physical therapy, and no one has ever addressed my feet which has made such a difference.
Week 3 : Myofascial release
This was the week of the monster cold(S), there were two separate colds and I was not able to run the way I would have liked. I still made my pace and snuck a couple in at 8 minute flat pace, but I did end up missing a few runs. When I saw Jessica, I was just about to slip into the terrible chasm of phelgmy awful misery for the next week and Jessica being extremely thoughtful and perceptive recognized what was afoot.
This session was the most passive of the sessions and she worked on my tight and tender leg muscles and I felt much better following the appointment.
This is where we put our money where our respective mouths are and see if there is any improvement on the test we conducted during the initial evaluation.
Lumbar protective mechanism (Institute of Physical Art) : We started with absent initiation in all four quadrants; meaning I had poor core control and was pretty wobbly.
Lumbar protective mechanism (Institute of Physical Art) : Right flexion 2/5, left extension sluggish 1/5, left flexion sluggish 1/5 right extension sluggish ⅕; what this means core is actually working to stabilize me while I run! It’s not super strong but it’s getting there.
So far I feel really good. I am experiencing less of my typical aches and pains and am feeling stronger and more confident in my runs. I have had several 6 mile training runs at about 7:30 minute miles, which is the fastest I’ve ever run that distance, which is so, so, so exciting. It’s hard to nail down exactly where my speed increase came from. I am doing more skilled physical therapy which has improved my core control and ankle range of motion, and I feel as though I push harder through the ground and float as I leave it. It’s an exhilarating feeling I haven’t had since running cross country in high school! And I also am much more focused in my speed workouts than I used too. Along with speed, Jessica has managed to inject a bit more joy into my running.
If you care to support New York Tisch Multiple sclerosis center through Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and Fiona McMahon’s running efforts please click here to help contribute to the ground breaking work they are doing for people with multiple sclerosis.