Just about a year ago my right hip area started bothering me. When I went to the physical therapist he said my pelvis had tilted due to the muscle imbalance in my glutes. Basically, my right glute was weak. I did some PT, went to the chiropractor and kept on doing strength training.
This year, around May, I stopped doing strength training. It happens every year, and I told myself I’d pick it back up after summer. It’s now mid-October, and I have yet to restart strength training. I was thinking it probably wasn’t a big deal because all the trail running was enough to keep strong what needed to be strong.
About a month ago the back of my left heel started hurting, like where the Achilles attaches to the heel. With enough stretching the pain would go away, but it came back after every run. My PT doc said it’s because my left leg is doing so much more work than my right leg. If the imbalance, or asymmetry, was corrected, the heel pain should go away.
These words entered my brain, but that’s about as far as it went. I didn’t put two and two together until last night. The spot just above the inside of my left ankle was bothering me all day at work yesterday. Nothing bad, just annoying. By the time I got home the area straight up hurt and was swollen. I put some ice on it, took some ibuprofen, and sought wisdom from the mighty Oracle, Google.
Many searches and foot/leg anatomy diagrams later, I came to the conclusion I likely have posterior tibial tendonitis. It can be caused by high-impact activities, like long-distance running. In the early stages the tendon is merely injured, which is probably where I’m at. In the later stages shit hits the fan, the foot can become deformed, ankle degeneration can occur and you can become flat footed.
Why am I only having this problem on one side of my body and not the other? Asymmetry. My left leg is working harder than my right leg. Duh! I’ve been told this for over a year, yet in the past six months I haven’t done anything to strengthen my right leg so it can carry its own weight.
After every run I would look at my running stats, like vertical oscillation, ground contact time and ground contact time balance. My GCT balance is usually a little off with more time spent on my right leg. These past two weeks, for some unknown reason, I stopped looking. Well, I certainly should have looked because I would have noticed the GCT balance shifting significantly. This might have clued me in to be more conscious while running. And it might have kick started me into resuming strength training.
Now I’m like a lot of runners, working to fix injuries instead of preventing them. But I did learn some fun facts about leg asymmetry that I wanted to share!
As you probably already know, humans are not symmetrical. We also tend to favor a body part on one side versus the other, whether it be an eye, hand, foot or whatever. For the hand it makes sense, right? If you’re right-handed you tend to do more with your right hand. The same goes with legs and feet. When kicking a ball you probably predominately use one side. Most right-handed people also kick a ball with their right foot. We just tend to me more right side dominant.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but I assumed that because I was right-leg dominant that meant my right leg was stronger. I mean, that’s how it works with my arms and hands, why shouldn’t the same be true for my legs? Well, I assumed wrong.
When kicking with your right leg, or even stepping forward with your right foot first (which I do), it is your left leg that is supporting your weight and balancing you until that right foot touches the ground again. Folks who are right leg dominant use their left leg for support because it is stronger and more stable.
After reading this I had an ah ha! moment. When doing yoga it was always easier for me to do one-legged poses on my left leg. I assumed this was because of my janky right ankle, but it was probably always that way. When doing unilateral leg exercises my right leg always tires before my left leg. Two PT docs and one chiro told me my right side was weaker. Yet somehow in my crazy brain I instinctively thought my right leg was stronger because it was the dominant leg. Idiot!
This is not to say the right leg doesn’t have a “leg up” on the left leg. The reason the right leg is dominant is because it is faster. It is more dexterous. So, the left leg or non-dominant leg is strong, and the right leg or dominant leg is quick.
Anyway, my new goal in life is correct this asymmetry by doing unilateral exercises, and either doing more reps on the right side, or using a heavier weight. And for the next week I shall resist running. Instead I’ll walk, hike and bike. Hopefully after a week of taking it easy I’ll be back to running.
Endlessly seeking adventure.