I want to thank everyone who’s contacted me about my knee issues over the past few weeks. Many of you have provided me with encouragement and advice, including rawpaws who suggested that I get a pack goat for future expeditions. Too funny!
I clearly carried too much weight on my very wet 100 mile wilderness trip (9 days of food and saturated gear), and re-awakened my recurring Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB). The good news is that I know exactly how to treat this condition, while continuing to hike aggressively on weekends with a knee brace.
The key to curing and preventing ITB is quadriceps and hamstring conditioning. However, in my particular case, it’s also in correcting the imbalance between the strength of my dominant right leg over my weaker left leg.
I need to do 2 things to address this. First, I need to correct the strength imbalance using single leg exercises like split squats, lunges, single leg squats, single leg deadlifts, single leg hyper-extensions and so on, to strengthen my left leg. The harder part will be to retrain myself to walk differently, by not favoring my right leg over my left. This will require a lot of concentration and I may not be able to change the way I walk. Let’s face it, 50 years of habit is a hard thing to overcome. In the meantime, I can continue to backpack and hike as often as I want, as long as I wear a ITB strap around the fleshy area just over my knee to mitigate the symptoms that cause ITB. I may be at the point where I need to do this forever, but so be it.
There’s also a second way of avoiding ITB which I am also pursuing, and that is to reduce my pack weight and more importantly my body weight. Although I’ve been working out regularly for 30 years, I decided to get a lot more focused by buying a few sessions with a personal trainer and joining a new gym near my office, so I can work out twice a day, to avoid traffic.
I’ve also changed my schedule, waking up now at 5:15 AM and driving to the gym to work out before arriving at work by 9:00 AM. This was necessitated by a recent promotion that requires me to be in the office during normal business hours. This is a huge lifestyle change but one that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I am earlylite, afterall, because I like to get up early on the trail. Only now I can do it at home too! A special thanks to her royal highness, for changing her lifestyle too.
This new routine is starting to work nicely. I’ve lost about 10 lbs and hope to loose another 10 this winter. Plus working out with a personal trainer once a week for 30 minutes has taught me how to maximize the results I get from a gym workout. I used to do a lot of cardio and focus on a different muscle group every other day. Now, I mostly do compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once and I pack 30 sets into 30 minutes, one after another, alternating between opposing muscle groups without rest. It’s a very efficient workout and it’s yielding some great results.
If you are interested in learning more about this type of workout, I suggest that you read the following two books. The first is Mike Boyle’s Functional Training for Sports. His style of training is used by many well-known professional athletes. In addition, you should check out Jeannie Detz’s The Ultimate Core Ball Workout. The nice thing about the exercises in both of these books is that they can be performed at home with minimal equipment or on the road in crappy hotel workout rooms, if you need to travel.