My husband is somewhat older than me, and his sister is significantly older than me (she never reads my blog, otherwise she’d kill me for saying this). It came as a big surprise to me recently that they can both easily touch their toes, keeping their knees straight. I can only reach about an inch below my knees, and I’m supposed to be the younger and fitter one.

I’ve known for a few weeks that my muscles are tight. I found my slow pace getting ever slower, and I was quickly losing sight of the 5 mile and 10k PBs I’d achieved in January. I knew that I was at risk of pulling a hamstring or quad, but I had no idea that my flexibility was so far from the norm. So I headed to see Laura, a physio at the Performance Clinic in Celbridge, to see what she thought. She was pretty much gobsmacked that I was so far from touching my toes! Very quickly she deduced that I was one tight band from my back, right through my hips, thighs, calves and into my feet. So she started sticking needles in me – the kind that she kept moving until I yelped – that’s the only way of knowing that she’s hit the right spot (or so she said). When the initial pain of the needles subsided, she flicked each one, just because, lifting me out of it again. This is supposed to increase the blood flow to the most effected areas and so help to release the tightness.

Laura summed it up as follows: I didn’t develop this level of inflexibility overnight, so it wouldn’t be sorted overnight. She reckoned it would require a programme of 8-12 weeks of stretching, strength and conditioning and big-time working on my running form. She explained that, being a very slow runner, I was probably slogging it out, and was therefore likely to be very heavy-footed in my running. This placed a huge load on my calves and made everything more difficult for me. Laura also stated that 80% of my recovery would be down to what I do at home. I assured her that I would be as committed to sorting myself out as I am to running itself and left with a programme of stretches to be done morning and evening for the next week, at which time I return to her for more.

Now, in fairness, Laura did not tell me anything I didn’t already know. We all know that we should stretch, that we should work on our core strength, that we should cross train, and we know the correct form. There’s so much information out there, and I have great instruction from my coaches at Le Cheile. However, I suppose up until now, I’ve only been dabbling, using bits of information when it suited me. Not any more. I’m so determined to keep running for my physical and mental fitness that I have to commit to working on my form, strength and condition. So I’ve made out a chart with the days of the week and the stretches I’m required to do. It has been ticked off every time I’ve done my stretches, at least twice, sometimes three times a day. I can’t say I can see any difference in my toe-touching capability, but I’m confident I will over time. I think one of my worst habits has been finishing a run and just getting into the car, instead of doing a proper warm down and stretch. So don’t be surprised if you see me stretching in all sorts of ways after my runs in future. I don’t embarrass easily and am determined to get on top of this.

Until then, I will have to be satisfied that I managed to complete my 81st parkrun, this time in Malahide – another lovely venue, especially with the crocuses and daffodils declaring that spring has sprung. This, and the lovely parkrunners I met, brightened up an otherwise grey, drizzly morning.

Next week I have the final race in the Lord Mayor’s Challenge, a 2 miler in St Anne’s Park in Raheny. Can’t wait.

Teresa McCarthy, 50+ Fit4LIfer,

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