I haven’t done yoga for so, so long, because – specifically – of ligament pain. You try lying down for three or four years and see what happens to YOUR ligaments. I’ve been doing other exercises aimed at slowly increasing the amount of muscle I have, and in the course of it have realised that my body is annoyingly inflexible, and this is affecting how I develop muscle. For a woman who was hypermobile as a norm, this is not permissible. So I’ve just done the world’d most wobbly, brief yoga set. I want to get my ligaments as elastic as they can be, for someone of my age.
I’ve also ordered some Vibram Five Fingers. Everyone I’ve spoken to who owns a set of these is a screaming fan. I don’t mean they’re all “Oh yeah, you must get some, they’re great ya.” I mean they pin you into a corner and talk at you about them for hours and hours and hours. Now, I’m a natural born toe-striker. I’ve never been at home with the “official” human gait. My guess is that this is partly because I have always had issues with my large muscles – the ones in the thighs and the back/abdomen. My smaller muscles seem to sort-of work ok-ish. But the big ones never, ever have, and this leaves me with some interesting weaknesses which applied even when I considered myself fully well.
Back in the day, despite this basic issue with some muscles, I was fairly – though intermittently – keen on exercise. I like it. I especially like running. I like to go late at night, and I like it best of all when it’s raining. I miss it keenly. Even if I can only get to the point where I can run 100 yards and even if it puts me flat on my back for a week afterwards, I want to run again, and that is what I am working towards. Just 100 yards.
So the fact that I’ve broken my left foot five or six times now – usually while running, but the last time, while walking – is an issue. The first time, it took six weeks to heal. The last time, it took nearly two years. (Honestly, you just get used to the pain and stop noticing it.) I don’t want to break that sodding foot again.
My strategy to enable this to happen has several parts. Getting my ligaments elastic again is one of them. I’m also working to put on as much muscle as I can (if I can) everywhere, because muscle acts as a cushion. I’m paying specific attention to the muscles which support the cuff of the hip, the pelvis, lumbar region, and torso, as it is these which – if strong and not tense – give us a healthy gait. I’m working to lose as much weight as I can, so I put as little pressure on my body as possible with each foot strike. Finally, I want to work on beefing up the structure of my feet. I have to get ALL of these issues sorted out before I will consider running a single step.
For exercise, we wear shoes that “cushion” us (they don’t really). They encourage us to heel-strike – and this takes about a third of the natural shock absorption we should have straight out of the equation, placing our feet, knees and back under pressures they’re not evolved for. Conventional shoes come up into the arch to support it and maintain the arched shape, and they constrain the spread of the forefoot as we put weight on it.
Well, the arch of the foot is a sprung shape which helps absorb the shock when we strike the ground. It’s not supposed to maintain a consistent form. It’s supposed to flex. The forefoot is supposed to spread. Combined, the flexing arch and the spreading movement and the structure of the ankle are evolved to spread the impact of a foot strike gently up the leg, taking much of the wallop out of it before it gets to the knee and back. None of which happens in conventional shoes, with a heel-strike. On an entirely personal note, it seems to be the flex of the arch which causes my foot to break. So you might think the answer is surely to wear very supportive shoes, and remove that flex from the equation.
No, that doesn’t work. Several of my breaks confirm this. I’ve done everything short of encase that foot in titanium in an effort to support it.
The main advantage of the Vibrams, as far as I can glean from talking to people and reading a kazillion barefoot running articles, seems to be that they let the foot build up its own natural support musculature. After a lifetime in conventional shoes, the muscles and supporting tissues inside the foot are pretty weak, so you have to go into Vibrams (or barefoot exercise) very slowly and build up their use over a month or two to give your body a chance to beef up your feet a bit, and for your gait to change.
It’s my hope that if I start wearing them for all sorts of things (slowly), I may build up some additional support in the foot to prevent yet another re-break.
Because if this goes again, that’s the end of it, I don’t think I’ll be able to run again.
(Except: this is me. Of course I will.)
 Hello new readers. I have ME/CFS.