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When the body says no…

Well, the last post I wrote was about my comeback after a small foot operation. I said that I would spent the coming weeks judging my shape and then start to plan my 2013 race season. At that point I was counting hours, and couldn’t wait to go riding on my new bike, to run again, and to be back in the pool. In short, do the sport I love. I got started but the joy was short. My foot was fully recovered after the operation, but my knee could not cope with the training. And now I feel more injured than before. The pain already occurred the week leading up to the operation. My foot was free from infection this week, and I was able to get on the bike. At the same time, we had the first days of spring in Denmark, the sky was blue and on days like this I can’t think about anything better to do than riding my bike. If I only follow my heart, I would stay out there all day, but I am a smart girl and do try to also listen to my body, and made sure not to over do it. I tend (and I think that is something I share with a lot of you) to get knee pain on the inside of the patella when I start building up mileage on the bike. But as it is a known thing for me, I know how to treat it – stretching the inner thigh, keeping the thigh muscles smooth by using a foam roller and doing some work for the VOM (lower part of the inner thigh muscle. I knew I would have 10 days with nothing else than band work and core stability after the operation, and did not worry too much about the knee pain, which normally comes and goes. But, as I started again, I had a huge battle between feelings and common sense. I had my new bike (Specialized Shiv) waiting, and my motivation was over the top. But communicating with my coach, Helle Frederiksen, we made a plan based on keeping safe and sensible, that would bring me back into shape. Despite overruling my feelings and desire to go all in, and all my stretching, foam rolling and strength work for the knee, the pain quickly came back and it got swollen.

When something becomes swollen, it is the body protecting itself. It does it to defeat infection, but it will also minimize the muscle activity in the area. This is a very smart process, but not that convenient in my case, as it prevents you from using a muscle that needs to be used in order to get strong again. When you go biking, you do a lot of repetitions of knee flexion. The patella is designed to slide in a track up and down during flexion. But it is the muscles of the thigh that makes this move, and if the outside one is stronger than the one on the inside, it will pull in an odd direction. If you do this many times, it will start to cause pain.

The pain occurred when I moved the knee, when I flexed it, extended it after a flexion and was very bad when it got cold again after exercise. The pain was worse when I was doing easy stuff with high cadence compared to when I tried to push it a bit. My guess is, that by pushing harder I managed to activate the muscles better. A muscle action requires brain signals, and by working harder you will send more signals to the muscles involved in the action witch in this situation will allow the inside to pull patella straighter.

Unfortunately my knee is now so bad, that what I thought would be a comeback is now a setback, and I have been ordered not to do anything else than swimming, core and simple strength work for the knee. Right now, it will be one week followed by rehab training and then I will hopefully be back on track. But if I found it hard not to be able to train before, I can’t describe what it is like now. It hits you so much harder when you have passed your original deadline –  have overcome the original problem and feel like ready to start again. But my knee did not agree and now I am back to scratch. But I am allowed to swim, and it is no secret that that is my weakest discipline in triathlon so I am trying to make the most of it and do what I can to improve. I am happy to say that it is going surprising well in the pool.

What I am trying to say is: the body works as one unit and has to stay in balance – you will never be stronger than your weakest link. This means that you have to overcome your feelings and desires and instead listen to your body. It might be easy to give advice to a friend, but when your own feelings get involved it becomes difficult. You can have the best intentions, but if your body isn’t ready, you need to bring all this energy into doing rehab work and get back on track as quick as possible. You might feel you have done all within your power and find it unfair, but the body reacts like it wants to, and the best thing you can do is to stay positive and patient.

Throughout these months I have had more spare time, and created this new website. -thanks to Mikael Stær and Ben Powell for their help. The site is made to allow you to follow my life and thoughts. I hope you like it and I am more than happy to get feedback.

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