There was that pain again. In my right hip – the same one I injured when I fell off a horse aged seven.
I was in the middle of long hard winter training and the mileage was starting to take its toll. Usually my hip hurts and I am well used to it, and indeed resigned to it by now. But then for some reason, niggles and pains started to attack the rest of my leg. First it was my iliotibia (IT) band, the muscle that lies on the outside of the thigh. It would ache just like it had 8 months previously, when I got tendonitis in the same muscle after running the GL3day, a 3 day run over 100 mountaineous miles. Next it was my knee that started hurting, right on the side and at really random times.
I hate going to see doctors and other medical experts and admitting that something is wrong. I hate being told that I’ve been training too much and that I’ve been doing things wrong. But sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet and admit when you need help.
I went to see the most recommended physiotherapist in irish mountain running and adventure racing circles. Aidan Woods has a practice on Pearse Street, just close to Trinity College Dublin. An accomplished triathlete himself (National Duathlon Champion), he has worked extensively with Irish Rowing Team to ensure their qualification in the last two Olympic Games.
I explained the source of my pain: hip, thigh, and knee. I didn’t tell him of my other worries: that I’d never run again, ever train again, ever compete again. He made me squat and lunge. He poked and prodded and waited until I screamed. The prognosis came quick. A weak hip joint was causing my IT band to over compensate. With the band being crucial for stabilising the knee during running, that helped explained the knee pains.
Immediately I was put on daily diet of one-legged squats and lunges to strengthen up quads and hamstrings. I was also told to take glucosamine to help joint mobility, and help form and repair cartilage. This was back in January of this year.
Just last week, I ran the Wicklow Way Ultra, 44km of tarmac and trail. I finished the race without the slightest niggle or pain. The treatment had worked! Admittedly, the one legged squats were a circus balancing act for the first six weeks. Once I got the hang of not falling over, they were excruciatingly tiring before even finishing the first one. The glucosamine tablets were like horse pills that I would automatically gag on taking. But in the end, the squats and pills did the trick, and my hip, band and knee are now all wonderfully in tune.
I was so excited by this miracle cure that I’ve now gone back to get my two year old mountain bike injury fixed from when a bunny jump went slightly wrong. Aidan has in turn given me a daily course of 60 press-ups and other killer arm exercises to do. Ah well, no pain, no gain.
Someone once told me that everyone always says their physio is the best. In this case, I know I’m right. Aidan has put me back on my feet pain-free and strengthened me up for my next adventure. So I’d definitely add my voice to the other mountain runners and adventure racers who have painfully lurched into Aidan’s office and bounded happily and freely out of it: he’s definitely a miracle man.