August 23, 2007

Knee-Deep in Rationalizations

Crabby has written before about her attempts to get her aerobic exercise by means of Race-Walking. And for those who don't mind Clicking on Things, she has just written more about this topic over at Diet Blog. (The article was posted yesterday, but don't worry, it is still Piping Hot and Almost Fresh!).

However, shortly after she e-mailed off that very article to Diet Blog (encouraging everyone to look like an ass like Crabby does and give Race-Walking a try), Crabby went out on her own morning Race-walk and did a very silly thing. She broke into a run! And she kept running the whole way. Bad, bad Crab. She just said the hell with her screwed up knees and hoped that somehow they were magically different knees now.

It was warm but raining lightly--way better weather for running than walking, and the songs on her iPod were really running songs, not walking songs, and she had that little burst of energy that comes from perfectly-timed caffeine ingestion, and there was a soft dirt trail to entice her off the hard asphalt one and everyone else was running too and... she just couldn't help herself.

Oddly enough, her knees hurt afterwards. Is this perhaps the reason she has given up running over and over and over again? She knows from experience that if she keeps running, her knees will continue to hurt more and more until regular walking is painful too.

But maybe this time it will be different?

Crabby first began to have knee problems when she started running at 17. She is now 47. Yeah, sure, maybe this time it will be different.

But, damn it, she likes to run so much better than she likes to walk!

Over at Diet Blog, she limited herself to one complaint about Race-Walking, which is that it looks absurd. But she has others; mainly that it doesn't feel nearly as good as running does. When Crabby is power-walking she always wishes she were running.

Yet there have been times in her life when running has been only minimally injurious. She could actually do it for months or even years at a time before having to give it up again. Crabby keeps hoping to hit that magical sweet spot again.

Here are some things she has tried over the years, some of which worked for awhile:

  1. Running in only really expensive running shoes.
  2. Running only on soft surfaces.
  3. Running only uphill.
  4. Running with orthotics.
  5. Running with a different pair of orthotics.
  6. Running while wearing huge hideous neoprene sleeves with funny looking kneecap holes cut out of them.
  7. Running only once or twice a week and alternating with:
  • a gym stair-climber;
  • an old-fashioned regular aerobics class;
  • bicycle riding;
  • a step-aerobics class;
  • a squeaky home stair-stepper;
  • a low-impact aerobics class;
  • a rowing machine;
  • a gym elliptical machine;
  • uphill walking; and
  • race-walking.
To be fair, Crabby has not fully explored medical options, other than orthotics. She has never had an MRI, for example. (She had trouble enough getting health insurance without actually having the audacity to use it for something.) And her knees actually function pretty well--as long as she doesn't try to run on them.

Which would be really dumb, since there are other perfectly good aerobic alternatives. Like, for example, Race-Walking.

Crabby should not be so foolish; she promises herself that she won't go running ever again. Probably. Possibly. At least not unless it rains again and the music is really, really good.

How about you all? Any aches or injuries keep you from exercising the way you'd like?


  1. oh crabby, be careful! knee replacements are much more expensive than MRIs and conservative treatment.

    As for me, yes, I have joint issues and this causes problems. I bought an exercise bike, but my hips don't like it at all. I bought an elliptical and my ankles don't like it.

    I like to golf but, you guessed it, another part of my body doesn't like it: my back.

    But it's not age, it's just my not-too-cooperative body. It's the only one I have so I have to figure out how to make this work.

  2. I never could run well. After about 20 feet or so my ankles gave out and/or I'd trip over air.
    I tumbled over the handlebars of my bike into middle-age a few years ago and thoroughly bunged up my right knee. I had to rest the lateral colateral(sp?)ligament and was too good to it. My knee was so weak that driving hurt.
    Much rehab later I bike ride, but I Did Something To My Back recently and have to Not Bike Ride for a few more days.

  3. On May 15th I stepped off a retaining wall and blew out my knee. I tore my MCL and ACL and bruised the bones in my knee joint. Because of the bruising I had to wait 6 weeks for surgery. I had a jointed brace that allowed me to bend my knee, but had to wear it 24/7. My surgery entailed ACL reconstruction which was accomplished harvesting a section of hamstring tendon and attaching it to the bone joints with two screws and a washer. During my surgery, as anticipated, they reinjured my MCL, so I was back in the brace for five more weeks. I have been in physical therapy two times a week since my surgery which was July 3rd, and have about 4 more weeks to go. In addition to bending, straightening and strengthening, I have to learn to walk again. I have to stay on Motrin 24 hours a day in order to handle the swelling. I hope that will be done at some point. I am 45 years old.

    I am not telling this story to whine or complain, but to encourage you to love your knees and appreciate the fact that they work at all!

  4. Crabby!
    I'm sure you already know about Patellofemerol syndrome. If not, it's usually easy to fix with leg extension exercises. (Low weight, high rep.) Also, the newer treadmills have flex decks which add a lot of cushion and you might try one one these to see if that helps. Mrs.J found one at our health club after being a 'walker' and she is a runner again!
    Sorry for the advice, but I can't stop myself :-)

  5. I have to admit if I couldn't run anymore I would at a's my joy. I had knee surgery in high school and every time I run my mother fears for my life, as though my knees may spontaenously combust and to be honest they did hurt for awhile. But as I continued to build the muscle around my knees and if I alternate outdoors and treadmill, I've made it work...the race walking does look funny, but it is still great exercise and can be harder than running!

  6. I just have a problem with my broken brain, which convinces my body that I am too lazy to exercise. Help!

  7. Marijke,
    I love having nurses and doctors who are regular readers, because that is indeed sensible advice! (I'm still hoping they soon invent some sort of injectable fake knee cartilage that can somehow, with no need for surgical fussing around, fix bad knees. C'mon scientists!)

    Sorry to hear about the bicycle tumble! And I love the way you put that--had you not fallen over the handlebars would you have managed to avoid middle age? I'll make a note to be careful of bicycles! (Though I seem to have already landed squarely in Middle Age myself, despite my persistence in thinking I'm about 28 years old).

    Wow. I knew you were recovering from a grueling knee surgery, but I had no idea how awful the whole thing was. I've heard a lot of people complain about the difficulties of post-surgical rehab too, so frankly, I don't think you're whining or complaining nearly enough! Good luck with the rehab--and yeah, I'm lucky to be able to walk at all!

    Hi Dr. J!
    As I said to Marijke, I love having medical professionals comment!

    I realized after I posted this that I'd left off the various strengthening and stretching exercises I do. Which may be helping, who knows--perhaps the problem would be worse without them. But yeah, I do the leg raises--can't do the bent leg kind (seems to aggravate it) so I do the straight leg kind. I've also gone back to "wall sits," which seem to be a form of quad strengthener my knees can tolerate better than squats or leg presses. Will have to check out the "flex deck" thing though!

    Amanda, I had to giggle at the idea of your knees bursting into flames! That's somewhat encouraging, though, that yours improved as you ran more.

    Too funny! The only quick fixes I can recommend for a broken brain (exercise region) are the obvious ones--high doses of caffeine, an iPod filled with great tunes, and... Oh wait, here's a new one: have someone drop you off a couple miles from your house stark naked. That'll get you motivated to run pretty quick!

  8. Me? I have the whole flat footed + asthma thing. With the right shoes and stretching after exercise my feet and legs no longer ache, but man...I really have to ease into any exercise I do or I have to stop altogether because I suddenly lose the ability to breathe.
    Funny how breathing well allows me to run further? :) I slowly built up to where I'm at and take walking breaks in my running and it seems to work. I'm a little unnerved at the moment as I took a break from running on a holiday and then got next week I'm back at the running...I'm hoping I can still do it without the old inhaler.
    It's funny how we convince ourselves that although things have happened in the past, our bodies just won't notice *this* time we do something. I'd have trouble stopping running now if I had to...

  9. I think you should check out some physio for those knees. I hear world famous trainers (aka alwyn cosgrove) bitching about doctors telling patients they can't do squats because their knees are bad. Yet squats are what you do everytime you sit in and get out of a chair. instead of avoiding it he suggests fixing it. Plus I just finished a round of physio on my jaw (not nearly as sexy as knee problems from running, I had jaw problems from chewing gum. very dorky) and it really helped a lot.
    The only thing that keeps me from exercise is my broken motivation sometimes. I just work around other aches and pains.

  10. Crabby!
    Look into platelet injections. I just remembered reading about it being used for 'tennis elbow' with a very high success rate!


    Here it is!!

  11. Missicat said...
    I just have a problem with my broken brain, which convinces my body that I am too lazy to exercise. Help!

    Must be Patellocerebral syndrome :-)


  12. After I got my treadmill, I was using it for jogging and gave myself shin splints. I've stuck with walking since then and they've gone away and dangit, I really want to be able to run. I especially want to be able to run more than half a block at a time when I do silly things like *ahem* almost missing the bus. :p

    I used to hate running and avoid it at all costs, but now that I'm not completely, utterly out of shape, it's kind of fun. If I could keep it up and also not hurt myself. :p

    Since I'm in better shape now and have been walking regularly for a few months, will the shin splits be less likely to come back? How about if I stretch a whole lot and do nice, long warmups?

  13. Oh no! Be good to your knees!! But, bummer it means you shouldn't run. I know you said you've tried everything, but have you bought the really expensive running shoes that were recommended after running on a treadmill hooked up to a computer or had your running analyzed in another way at a running store? The right shoes and posture are so important.

  14. I've been out of triathlon for a couple years with a tendonitis issue in my right hip. I can do everything I need to do in a tri-- swim, ride and run-- but I have to tape myself up to run, and tape doesn't stick if you're wet from the swim and sweaty from the bike. Not to mention the whole time/privacy thing of stopping in transition and pulling down your shorts to swaddle your back and hips in tape.

    So no triathlon for me for the last couple years. :-(

    I'm optimistic about eventual recovery, though. Especially now that I've got a fancy gym a short walk away and am setting up my exercise studio for easy weight and yoga workouts. :-)

    I think racewalking is a great activity. I used it as an alternate aerobic activity to get myself to my first marathon after developing an incipient stress fracture 8 years ago. Even once I started running again, I was fast when I walked the water stops!

    I'm of the opinion that unless you've got "hard" limiters like illness or physical handicaps, there's always a way to get a workout of some kind, even if it's just light weights and stretching. It may not be the workout you want (and it's okay to admit that) but there's nearly always a way to do something if you want it bad enough. It's usually just a matter of getting creative or working with a good physical therapist or trainger to find the right activity.

    I interpret exercise rather loosely, though. Walking, dancing, gardening, yoga... it's all good and good for you!

    What annoys me is hearing someone who is whole and healthy saying they "can't" work out. It's perfectly okay to not want to work out. Just be honest and say so! But people train for Ironman with cancer, and I know someone who ran the Badwater Ultramarathon on an artificial hip. There are marathoners with artificial legs and feet, and people playing basektball in wheelchairs!

    If you want it bad enough, you can usually find something active to do. Just don't say it's not possible, because it is. Better to be honest and say you just don't wanna. To me, that's much more respectable than what my husband does, which is make excuses about rain, dirty socks, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

  15. Since I was a tyke I've often run and even walked for no particular reason on the balls of my feet (I still ascend every stairway this way). It's given me legs so muscular my uncle has claimed my calves if we're ever in a plane crash in the mountains, but at the same time the weakest ankles a guy who drinks as much milk as I do could possibly have.

    I've broken both of them, sprained both of them, strained, twisted, rolled hundreds of times. Whenever I go running, I immediately hit two problems:

    1) I am horrendously out of shape and want to die when I run for more than a block.
    2) Any impact exercise--even on a treadmill--immediately makes a long, dull, rising ache set in my ankles, reminding me of every injury they've ever suffered.

    I suppose I could talk to an ortho and get some kind of training regimen to strengthen these ankles back up, but hey, then I'd lose out on all the painkiller opportunities.

  16. I have much trouble with squats and squatting-like-actions. My knees (the joints, not the muscles around them) hurt really, really bad whenever I do them or just crouch down.

    I've had to alter the laboring positions I've been practicing because of it.

    Any advice for that? :)

  17. she likes to run so much better than she likes to walk!

    Oh, man. I don't even run at gunpoint!

    However, I feel your pain. Well, not literally. My best friend (who was always the fastest girl back when we were in school) had to give up running after she had children because of her knees, too.

    I'm a roller blader. A recent roller blader. I give up on lots of different exercise, but I've roller bladed longer than anything, so maybe it'll stick.

    I have back issues, though, so whenever I think I might fall (I haven't fallen, but I freak myself out all the time) my body jerks and tenses up, which is probably almost as bad as falling in the first place.

    So I guess don't do as I do!

    Take care of yourself... =)

  18. Geosomin,
    Wow, not being able to breathe would really take a lot of the fun out of it! Good for you for persevering anyway.

    Now that also sounds encouraging. While I hated squats, I used to love the leg press machine and it would be great to go back to it some day. (And i REALLY HATE wall-sits, which even though they hurt like hell I've read don't do all that much for you.) I think physio is probably what I should be investigating. Maybe this post was a concealed "cry for help" to get people to tell me to stop whining and get some professional help!

    Dr. J,
    Will definitely have to find out more about platelet injections! Thanks!

    Chicken Girl,
    I love to know I'm not the only one who bargains with my body parts! I think I used to have better negotiating skills though.

    Norabarnacle--those sound like good suggestions too! I sure would like to get back to running.

    Bunnygirl, you make such great points! I think it's interesting how many readers here are trying to find ways to exercise despite sometimes debilitating injuries--yet we all know those people who give up trying to do anything at all at the first time they get a blister. I think it's cool there are so many people trying to stay active, no matter what it is they're trying to do.

    Ouch Jim! That sounds way worse than what I have to deal with. Two questions: does Chew on That have any tasty human calf recipes in the event an plane crash does indeed force your uncle to resort to eating your lower extremities? (I think they'd be rather tough with all that muscle!) And can we please swap pain killers? Mine are just ibuprofen and don't seem to have any recreational potential at all!

    Hi Lisa!
    Gosh, I'm afraid on anything labor and birth related, I have no clue at all! Though I'm guessing they'll be enough else going on when you're in labor that the pain in you knees might not seem quite so noticeable! :)

    Well, it would probably take a loaded gun to get me into roller blades, so we're even! (Actually, about 6 months ago I actually was induced to go to a roller skating rink. Went around one time clutching the railing; the next couple of times I felt like I was getting the hang of it; by the seventh or eight revolution I was was feeling pretty darn suave and confident; then, trying to exit the rink my legs went flying out from under me and I fell flat on my back. And it f**cking hurt! A whole lot! I didn't remember that as a kid--and in fact little kids were wiping out all over the place and didn't seem to mind at all. But I said never again!) So I consider you very, very brave and athletic for even putting the darn things on.

  19. When I jog or run the outer edge of my left foot usually aches. I'm hoping a nice, new pair of well-fitted shoes will do the trick for it... I've had the same pair of running shoes for 5 years!!

  20. Hi Jessica!
    Yep I'd say 5 years=Way Too Long!

  21. Running has never been comfortable for me. I can't do a pushup to save my life and chin ups are a foreign concept. Typical strength and endurance exercises just don't seem to want to happen for me. I did try a bit of running last summer though . I expect the throbbing will stop any day now.

  22. Hi Hilary,
    I expect probably by Christmas you'll be ready to run again! (Always a good skill to have at Christmas, especially if you have relatives visiting).

  23. I think you shouldn't run. Be gentle to your body.
    I can not run at all. It kills my hips and makes everything super painful.
    I thought that it would be great to run too and I tried, got special shoes, saw a chiropractor, and even had xrays. My doctor concluded that I should never run because it will damage my hip and oddly enough my spine. So bye bye running, hello walking and yoga.
    I am a firm believer in being gentle on your body. If your knees hurt, you really should figure out why. Then if you are able to correct it, you might be able to run pain free and for longer than if you injured yourself.

  24. Samantha, sounds very sensible. The catch (to me) is finding out what you did.
    Yesterday, for the first time in weeks, I parked the bicycle in the garage and drove the evilSUV to work. While at work, I got up from my chair. Heck, I've been doing that for years. Only this time my knee complained. Next thing I know, it was complaining when I cycled to work this morning.
    What? What did I do? Can't figure it out.
    I've always thought that running was like crack in two respects: people seem to feel good when they do it, and they always seem to get hurt. (Three respects -- they lose weight doing it.) Despite my goal to lose weight, I've avoided anything that involved getting hurt.
    I was feeling smug with my pain-free knees. Maybe pride goeth before a hurt?
    [Okay, yes, I know running and crack are not exactly what you would call equivalent. My attempt at humor.]

  25. I'll second the advice to get your knees checked out! ::gentle nag::

    Oh injuries, let me count the ways....broke left ankle, then found out it was still broken 5 months after getting out of the cast. Then there's my chronic fatigue syndrome & fibromyalgia (12 years), and sometimes my chronic daily headache (3 years) is bad enough to keep me out of the gym.

    There's also another injury I have, but due to legal reasons I can't talk about it online ::cue mystery music:: LOL

    Narcotic painkillers are my *friends* ;)

  26. Samantha,
    I think that's probably a really good idea! Sounds like you've been smart to listen to your body (and the dr's) and let go of the running thing. I need to use a little common sense here!

    I think running & crack are very much alike--very good analogy! Running seems so healthy, but it sure has messed a lot of people up when they get addicted. Funny how when it's someone elses' knees I'm very able to say--be careful, you should go easy!

    Oh my goodness, you have it way worse than I do! And I don't even have any mysterious musical accompaniment!

    Thanks all--I'm getting the clear message to either stop running or get more sensible about getting help for the knees!

    I've been avoiding the dr. because I was denied insurance by Kaiser a couple of years ago because I checked a box admitting that I'd once gone to the doctor for hurting my back. Never mind that he gave me Motrin and it got better--just admitting to any musculuar/skeletal problems made me uninsurable! I hate the American health care system! So while I did manage to get Blue Cross, I've been reluctant to put more injury stuff on my medical record. But hell, I'm paying for the insurance, I should be able to use it!

  27. Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with running. I love the quick payoff of running.

    Frankly, I've found nothing that works quite as well from a fat-loss or a cardio heart-health perspective. Trouble is, I have two issues: IT band problems and back pain. IT issues because I'm female (so I'm told) and back pain because I have horrible posture.

    I tend to alternate between periods of running and time off to heal. I'm currently in off mode, but plan to get back into it. I do find that if I'm diligent about cross and strength training balanced with stretching, I do much better and can run sans pain. It's hard to find the time for that much diligence, though.

  28. ugh, as an ultra runner, truly I feel your pain :) my main niggly used to be bouts of sciatica. But now that i keep in running shape to ride the horses, the only thing that slows me down is after the occasional "unplanned dismounts" which dont score 10 from the judges.

    Fortunately i'm the proud owner now of one of those eventing vests.

    If you can avoid the knife... do so.. keep on keepin' on
    happy trails
    gp in montana

  29. I'm a sporadic runner. Only because every time I start loving it and getting into it, I ALWAYS get injured. So for me, it's a once or twice a week delicacy.

    (and for the record, I totally agree about the healthcare system. Augh! We are self-emplyed in our household. "I'm sorry, you want me to pay HOW MUCH for crappy coverage?" We had WAAAY better coverage when we lived in poverty as students and qualified for Medicaid!
    end of rant)

  30. Hi SmartCookie!
    Yeah, the stretching and crosstraining have been pretty much mandatory for me when I've tried to get away with running. But I'm with you, it really does seem the best for quick & easy cardio and calorie-burning! Good luck with your love/hate relationship. Mine at this point is sort of an unrequited crush--I like running but it doesn't much care for me.

    Hi G.P.,
    Wow, an equestrian! I'm way too uncoordinated to even get on a horse, let alone weather the "unplanned dismount" part. I'm not exactly sure what an eventing vest is, but it sounds like something I could use just to walk down the street without hurting myself. Glad the sciatica has improved and thanks for stopping by!

    Hi Katieo! Yeah, the insurance thing really bites if you're self employed. Not only do you pay more for less, they deny you any coverage at all for the silliest of reasons. I'm really healthy but had a hard time even getting covered, and the Lobster who's a bit older got turned down several times for no real reason at all! So we both have coverage but are wary of ever using it.

  31. I've never had the knee surgery in question - but a family member did (both knees), I think you'd be surprised in how short the recovery time actually is - she was up and on her feet in 3 days.

    regardless if you decide to go under the knife, so time exercising in a pool will give you a great workout and give all your joint a break from the concussive torture of running.

  32. Thanks Saul, that's good to hear!

    And I know the pool is great place for knee injuries--I just seem to like it even less than race walking. But for those more amphibious than I, it's an excellent idea.

  33. Hey Crabby,

    I was off on vacation for a week....

    I would love to run. In theory it sounds so... great. But when I was in about 4th grade it was discovered I had asthma, and it was practically killing me to be forced into running in gymn class. Now I'm truthfully not sure I really have asthma at all. (I had a lot of test done, and it was thought it could just be anxiety) But recently I was bored on a walk so I ran a little bit and I was breathing so loud that I probably looked like a fool. So I don't know.

    I also happen to have some pretty crappy ankles and kness, largely because of how obsessed with dance I was. There's a lot of forms of exervcise where I can screw up my ankles real bad. I've sprained both of them so many times in my life.

    My biggest problem, now, is my knees. Even if I go for long walks I wake up the next morning with sore knees. And I'm one of those Catholics who loves to kneel and I will kneel on hard ground in churches that don't have kneelers. I can be on my knees for an hour before the Blessed Sacrament and I'll stay there through the discomfort (when it really hurts, I get up) because I happen to feel God better that way. So I get home and that night I can hardly walk.

    Injuries are indeed bad. And when I was younger I was so into dance (even developing an eating disorder) that when I got injured I wouldn't rest it and I'd keep dancing. I'm sure the best thing to do a few days after spraining your ankle is to put on a pair of toe shoes... So yeah, I wish I'd have been smarter then and realized I was hurting myself. And I'm not very old now, so I can only imagine how things could get in my future.

    Running and also going back to dance are two things I would just love to do though...

  34. Welcome back, Meg,
    That's too bad about the knees and ankles, isn't that frustrating? Dancing and running seem like such natural human things to do.

    Lucky for me I'm not a church-goer, I never even thought about the kneeling thing!


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