I’m just back from the hospital with a nice light weight stookie and the go-ahead to run, so I’m a bit happier now. I’ve become quite adept at doing things with my left hand but you really don’t realise how one-sided you are until you’re forced to use the other side.
I read an interesting article in a cycling magazine while I was in hospital. It was discussing the effects of muscular imbalance in cycling, but this could equally apply to running. If one leg produces more power or moves in a different way to the other, your performance will be affected. More worryingly, the repetition of the same imbalanced movement over a long period of time will put undue stress on certain muscles and joints and thus increase the likelihood of injury.
Nobody is completely symmetrical so we all have various imbalances in our bodies. If you didn’t run you would probably never even know they existed but once you start upping your mileage these imbalances will become magnified and may lead to injuries. And unfortunately you probably won’t notice until it’s too late.
There are various causes of muscular imbalance, including biomechanics, previous injury and participation in another sport. Even when running, we tend to always push off with the same leg and hold our water bottle or key in the same hand; and if you stick to the same route there is probably a disproportionate number of left or right corners. Regularly performing certain tasks with one side of the body encourages small muscular imbalances between left and right to develop, and to compound this we tend to favour one side when carrying out everyday tasks such as brushing our teeth, holding the phone or carrying our bag. The cumulative effect of these small acts allows imbalances to develop. As the body compensates, these imbalances get worse, and the ‘chain’ of imbalance gets longer and longer.
It’s important to identify these imbalances before they manifest themselves as injuries and take preventative steps to stop this happening. I will discuss this in more detail next week.
As a footnote, I’d like to thank the nurses in station 11 of Ayr Hospital who were absolutely fantastic at looking after me and keeping my spirits up while I recovered from my op. We really are lucky to have such a great health service.
•Toni McIntosh is a former international runner, personal trainer and sports massage therapist. Contact her to find out about her running groups.