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1371 Views 7 Replies Latest reply: Aug 25, 2012 4:41 PM by JamesJohnsonLMT RSS
Molly229 Amateur 17 posts since
Nov 12, 2005
Currently Being Moderated

Aug 21, 2012 7:24 AM

Wooden legs - after 25k

I have the strangest problem.  Wooden legs.  After my 25k yesterday they became almost rigid at the knee.  I've tried Epsom Salts bath, stretching, icing and today they are still rigid. 

 

When I step off a stair my knees don't want to bend, they want to remain rigid.   I'm hoping it's just soreness/stiffness and that it will pass.

 

Any thoughts/advice?

  • lenzlaw Community Moderator 10,321 posts since
    Jan 18, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Aug 21, 2012 8:13 AM (in response to Molly229)
    Re: Wooden legs - after 25k

    It sounds like soreness/stiffness, but it's hard to tell without knowing what other running you've been doing, your pace on this run compared to your regular training pace, and whether it was a training run or a race.  One piece of advice I will offer for the future (won't help you as much now) is to keep on walking after your running.  Walk at a comfortable pace at least another kilometer or two after your run.  If you can, stop at home and grab a bottle of chocolate milk (or recovery drink of your choice) to drink along the way.  Then walk.  The best marathon recoveries I've ever had included a long walk immediately after.

     

    Len





    Len

  • lenzlaw Community Moderator 10,321 posts since
    Jan 18, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Aug 21, 2012 9:56 AM (in response to Molly229)
    Wooden legs - after 25k

    Do you run the day before your long run?  If so, maybe it would help to take that day off.  How does your long run pace compare to your planned marathon pace and the pace on your other runs?  Your long runs should be 45 sec/km or more slower than your planned marathon pace.  If you're doing them too fast you will definitely feel it.  The changes from pavement to gravel and back didn't help I'm sure.  The walking afterward isn't required of course, it's just something that has always helped me.

     

    Len





    Len

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,145 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Aug 21, 2012 7:44 PM (in response to Molly229)
    Wooden legs - after 25k

    Sounds like you have been very careful. There is probably nothing more grueling about your schedule or execution this year vs. 6 years ago, but age is not the only explanation. There is an accumulation of muscular dysfunction that runs parallel to the accumulation of years, and which is frequently mistaken for the effects of aging because of its persistence and coincidence. Unlike chronological aging, though, this problem can be reversed.

     

    The effect of a dysfunctional inner quad is to weaken knee stability. On the other hand, a dysfunctional outer quad stiffens and locks the knee. If you were to guess which muscle accumulates dysfunction in runners the most, you would be right to suspect the outer quad.

     

    Years of training capped by long runs of increasing duration can mimic the effects of aging the way sore back muscles can cause people to limp hunched over before their time. Some people never solve their back problems even though they can be easily solved, and appear to age prematurely. Same goes for runners and their legs.

     

    The outer quad is infamous for accumulating multiple micro-contractions, or "knots" of sensitive tissue, that may or may not be based on micro-tears in the muscle tissue. Often there are neighboring contractions in healthy tissue that multiply until the flexibility and normal contraction force of the muscle are diminished. There is enough dialog between nerves in the muscle, specialized nerves at the ends of the muscle or in the tendon, and the spinal cord, to immobilize the muscle and render it useless. The purpose for this mechanism is to spare the muscle from further use and harm. You want to stick with the program but your muscles and nervous system are conspiring against your plans.

     

    It is a great system except for one thing: In extreme cases the system does not automatically reset itself. This can be a problem even if you rest, even if you stretch, even if you cross-train. Same goes for those who walk hunched over when older folks stand erect. It's not the advance of age, or the accumulation of mileage, but recalcitrant muscular dysfunction. Exercise in this condition can make the problem worse. Ditto for a stretch, which is an exercise in reverse and can also further strain the tissue. The presence or absence of a particular ratio of electrolytes and/or water can matter to normal tissue, but does not have to be involved with this problem.

     

    The early fix for this dilemma a half-century ago was to briefly refrigerate the skin with freeze spray and stretch the muscle. The superficial cold distracted the nervous system from the stiff muscle underneath, and the mini-contractions released long enough to allow a beneficial stretch to increase circulation and re-educate the neuromuscular connection. This therapy was often repeated until normal muscular function was restored.

     

    Fast forward to today, and the same benefits are had with simple massage. If you know what you are doing, you can do it yourself. We now refer to those knots as trigger points, and they respond to targeted pressure as well as spray-and-stretch. Some use rollers, and some use their hands. I prefer manual pressure because it is more specific and less likely to harm. Just don't overdo it, or the effects can be the same as overdoing exercise or any other therapy. Rollers, for example, are often used the wrong way on the limbs, against lymphatic flow.

     

    To know what you are doing, you need to know where to look, what to look for, what the known effects of dysfunction and treatment are, how to treat, and how to prepare for treatment.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/05/Illu_lower_extremity_muscles.jpg/250px-Illu_lower_extremity_muscles.jpg

    WHERE: The outer quad Vastus Lateralis shown above left is large as a big fish and covers the lateral thigh from the front (pictured) back to the outer hamstring. You should be able to insert your fingers into the crease between those muscles, especially near the knee. The average runner will have dozens of trigger points between this spot and the hip along the same path as the IT Band. Nailing all of them can take a lot of time, and they will tend to pop back up like whack-a-mole. If you are careful, consistent and proactive in your treatment over time, they will occur with decreasing frequency unless your training is too hard, in which case the activity ratio needs to tip in favor of rest and treatment.

     

    WHAT you are looking for are spots often so tiny they cannot be easily felt with the fingertips. They may or may not register pain when pressed. Sometimes pain will appear in a spot near or distant from the trigger point, which may be comprised of a few muscle fibers in a short hair-like band. Larger lumps are obvious, but may appear to move as the reaction spreads to neighboring fibers. There is no absolute definition of how these things work, but we're still studying Mars thousands of years after its discovery, so expect research on the fine points of physiology to be ongoing, too. One thing we know for sure is that massage is an effective tool for dealing with them.

     

    EFFECTS: When enough points accumulate to cause V. Lateralis to shut down, you will have difficulty flexing the knee. There may even be pain along the knee itself and tracking problems with a popping kneecap as it is racked to the side by the unyielding muscle. The stiffness becomes global in the muscle, even though the cause may be finite and local. If you can position your leg horizontally so the knee is straight and relaxed as possible, you should be able to probe with your fingers for areas that either feel different from surrounding tissue, or evoke telltale sensations that may include pain.

     

    TREAT: Moving your fingers across the fibers can identify which ones are tighter, betraying the presence of a knot in that fiber that tensions the entire length. Following the fiber can pinpoint the trigger. Applying moderate pressure to the point for a few seconds may cause it to relax. Gentle movement of pressure from side to side may bring it into greater definition. Holding pressure for several seconds can slow blood flow enough to force it to relax. This is known as ischemic compression. The relaxation may be temporary or semi-permanent. Permanent relaxation is not likely unless there is no stress to the tissue from exercise, or ironically, from too much inactivity to encourage circulation. Gentle movement often aids recovery, which is why walking helps.

     

    When training for the marathon, which I do every year, I often find the shift from moderately long runs to a couple hours or more usually hurts more than the move to even longer runs later. The physiological changes necessary for adapting to more than a couple hours of exercise are slow to get going, but once awakened, seem to improve with the miles. One thing that has helped me a lot as an older runner, is to follow the Galloway method of walking at fixed intervals whether I feel the need or not. For me that usually means 30-60 seconds after every mile as I sip water. When I get up to 28-30 milers, I'll walk 30 seconds every 5 minutes or so. In the actual marathons, a one-time thrill as the target event, I can shorten those walks to sipping time, or eliminate them altogether in the final miles. The breaks during training don't hurt performance at all; they just leave me with healthier legs for the final dance. If I can BQ that way, you can too. Best of luck in your recovery!

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,145 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    7. Aug 25, 2012 4:41 PM (in response to Molly229)
    Wooden legs - after 25k

    I've had problems all the way up to the day before the Marathon, that I was able to work out before gun time. A couple years ago a hamstring dogged me all the way there, then I got up the next day and had a great race.

     

    Wishing you similar good fortune..

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