This Body Still Works

Today, I’m finally feeling sore. The good kind of sore. The sore that informs me I did something yesterday. Finally. I put this body to work.

Sitting on the sidelines takes a lot out of you: Passion. Dedication. Energy.

Not being able to run is almost (almost) as draining as running ten miles.

I’ve been feeling that weakness, that all-to-familiar drag of my body. As much as you try to ignore it, it’s there. You can stay positive, put on a smile, but inside—damn it, you just want to run! And when you feel that passion, dedication and energy sucked out of you for doing what you love, those feelings seem to be voided in other areas as well. Healthy eating, cooking, writing—they’ve all taken a hit.

After I ran the Green Bay Half Marathon in mid-May, I didn’t run a step for weeks. It took almost two weeks before what felt like my pubic bone, the bone that you sit on, finally stopped aching. Sitting, laying, it didn’t matter—it nagged me.

By early June, it felt better and I got in a handful of short bike rides. I decided it was time to put it to the test—after all, I had rested and done practically nothing for three weeks, so it had to be better! At a running club meeting, I went for an easy 3-mile jog.

Lying in bed that night, I cursed the running gods. I hurt again.

I had gotten advice from some running club friends, who had similar symptoms and had gone to PT, trained through it, and were fine. Turns out what worked for them, didn’t for me. It pays to pay professionals.

I’ve been going to PT for two weeks now, and it’s improving—slo-o-owly, but surely. The nagging pain is almost gone, but it rears its head if I sit too much. I’m thankful I have a work desk I can stand at.

Tendonitis, the PTs say. The adductors running along my inner thigh were imbalanced, too weak, and the adductor brevis/longus and gracilis that attach to the pubic bone are pulling on it, thus the pain that feels like it comes from the bone. We’ve been working carefully on building strength back up in my legs, butt, and core.

I was allowed to walk 15 minutes last week as my “workout.” Do you run? You can imagine how I felt. But I put on a smile, and thought to myself: You do this now, so you can run for many years later.

In everything, a bright point: I’m sore today, because I finally hopped into a pool for a swimming workout yesterday. I’ve wanted to try swimming for a while—honestly, a couple years. I don’t know why I was so nervous to try, but I was… Maybe because it was new, I didn’t know how one does a “workout” in the pool, and I was afraid of looking like an idiot. However, with no other alternative, this pretty much forced me into the water head-first.

And I totally loved it.

Only 15-20 minutes in the water, and I felt like I got a fantastic workout, with no increase in pain… Just this lovely soreness, that tells me my body does, indeed, still work.

Run-Walk Success

You guys, I did it! I ran yesterday!

Without PAINNN.

Take that, ITBS – you pain in the ass knee.

At my PT appointment on Tuesday, I asked my doctor to get real with me about when I could start trying to run regularly again. It’s been a couple weeks since my last real run, and I’m only a month out from the Chicago Marathon now. Sure, I’ve been biking a lot, doing some PT exercises to build strength, and working on my core muscles…but to complete 26.2 miles by foot, I need to get some lots of miles in on these legs. Plain and simple.

If my knee wasn’t hurting me, she said, I could try it, but shouldn’t go overboard. And of course, if it started hurting, I promised myself I would stop immediately and walk, so I don’t make things worse.

Naturally, on Wednesday I decided it was time to try a little running. Even after some massaging, exercises and stretches on Tuesday night, I didn’t have any pain or tenderness around my knee or IT band. The other doctor in the clinic had suggested I look up a run/walk plan for the marathon (since I told her I was getting nervous about it), so I figured I might as well start out run/walking now.

It doesn't matter how slow you go, as long as you don't stop.

I started my workout with a 45-minute bike ride, since I knew I needed to put in some real cardio time, more than I would be able to run. Plus, I figured this would be a great way to get my legs warmed up and loose, which would help to stretch them before I ran.

After the biking, I did some foam rolling on my IT bands, and then stretched really well.

Then I was off, almost holding my breath with each step I took. Except, you know, I was running and all, so I had to breathe.

I decided I would do 2 minutes of running, followed by 1 minute of walking, and repeat that. I didn’t really have a set time or distance in my head, as I had no clue how my knee would feel, so I just trotted off without a plan, happy that it seemed the run would go okay as I took my first steps.

I continued my run/walking iterations until I got to about 12 minutes. Ecstatic that I wasn’t feeling any pain or anything at this point, I decided I better turn around and start the 12-minute jaunt back home, just in case. I didn’t want to push myself too far, right away.

By the time I got home, I was grinning like a freak, sweating like an even bigger freak, and restraining myself from jumping around. In total, I did 24 minutes of run-walking (16 minutes of running/8 minutes of walking). Not a ton, but, 16 minutes of running was longer than I could run this past Saturday, and without any aches or pains. I’ll take it.

We’ll see tonight at my next PT appointment if the little workout did anything adverse—I bet I will probably be a little tighter than the last several days, but hopefully the doc can continue to work out the tightness and knots in my IT band.

I’m taking this all as a reminder that when you start losing hope and wonder when things will turn around, you should never really worry—because before you know it, a little miracle just might happen. 🙂

Thanks for all encouraging responses to my last few posts & on Twitter, folks! And to my everyday friends and runner pals who’ve heard me yak on and on about all of this. You poor souls. I lova ya.

Running Withdrawals

Hi all! I realize my blog posts haven’t been as exciting lately—mostly due to the fact that I can’t run. Womp.

{However, I shall uplift this post with a sprinkling of funny runner memes.}

Ryan Gosling makes everything better.

Ryan Gosling makes everything better.

I’ll admit, I’ve been trying to stay positive, but it’s been tough. I was sure everything would be okay the first week my knee started bugging me. I thought I’d just enjoy several days’ rest and then take my runs easy for a few weeks, and I’d be A-OK and back on my way to marathon training bliss.

Then the next week moseyed on by and my knee was still bothering me. Not to worry! I’d just take the whole week off, go see a PT, and all would be fixed.

But, no. Now I’m on week three of injury patrol and it’s starting to wear on me. Gone are the positive thoughts and relaxed attitude. Enter the psychotic, cliché, injured runner symptoms of worrying and obsessing over the fact that I can NOT run.

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I find myself constantly googling things about my injury online, reading articles, posting on message boards, babbling the ears off of anyone who will listen, and seeking out advice from every other runner I know. I’m doing all of this while already seeing a professional physical therapist…who should really be the only person I’m asking for advice from, not the interwebs.

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But alas, I’ve arrived here, to the injured-runner-exile, where self-pity and crabby pants abound. And I am so not about self-pity and crabby pants type of person, so on top of not being able to run, you can imagine how much this all annoys me.

So forgive me, dear friends and fellow readers, for my lack of oomph and passion and fun posts lately. You see, I choose to just keep my crabby pants to myself, to spare you from the headcase that I’m slowly becoming. You don’t need to see the slow unraveling of wits that is starting to fray at the seams.

Yes. Wine does help.

Yes. Wine does help.

The bike, foam roller & PT are my new BFFs, and while they’re all good listeners, they just doesn’t compare to my oldest friends…my running shoes.

I hope we’re reunited soon.

Since I can’t write so much about running right now, what would you like to hear more of? My PT & cross-training, other various workouts? Or something entirely different?

Wedding planning is on the upswing, so I’m thinking that will be making a regular appearance soon. Promise that I’ll get creative and come up with some happier workout posts & healthy eats soon, too, though.

It’s All in the Hips: Anatomy of a Knee Injury

After two visits to the Physical Therapist, I’m a couple steps closer to running again!

On Tuesday, I went to the PT office for a 15-minute chat with the doctor to give her the background on my achy knee. In case you haven’t read it, here’s what’s going on.

Then, I had an hour-long exam on Wednesday (thank you, last-minute scheduling gods) to really dive in and discover what’s going on. The physical therapist tested the range of motion in my knees, legs, and hips; she even measured my feet and arches! She poked at my limbs for painful spots along the hips and knees, but as I’ve had no pain unless I’m actually running, I felt quite unhelpful telling her that, nope, there was no pain anywhere. Then she has me perform several exercises, like squats, single-leg squats, and running around the room, so she could see how my form looked.

Finally, my doctor told me what I half-suspected was the root of the knee issue…

Problem #1: Weak hip adductors.
My hips were tight and relatively weak. In fact, they were laughably weak. To test the strength of my different leg muscles, the doctor pushed or pulled against them slightly and I’d have to keep my leg from moving. It was no problem when she put resistance against my quads, hamstrings, [thunder] thighs or shins. But as soon as she had me lay on my side and barely pushed down against my hip muscle, it was like my leg had a 50-pound weight on it and it couldn’t stay up, no matter how hard I tried to keep it level. I was in disbelief!

Problem #2: Tight piriformis.
Piri-what? I’ve heard of the muscle before from other runners who’ve had tightness or pain, but I never knew what it actually was. It’s located in the upper butt/lower back area, behind the hip joint:

piriformis muscle injury

So, I have a tight piriformis muscle. Well, THAT makes sense, because for the last few weeks, I’ve been having a lot of pain in that area. I thought it was just my lower back being crappy, as it’s always had a tendency to ache due to misfortunes in snowboarding forays in junior high school… I figured it was completely unrelated to all these other issues. But of course, everything in the body is connected and affects everything else. Basically, because of the tightness in my hips and piriformis, it’s no wonder my knee is hurting.

So, how to reconcile these issues?

The ironic thing was, I had already been working on strengthening my hip adductors. Knowing that weak hips often cause issues for runners, and having had knee pain/ITBS issues in the past on my right leg, I was doing my own PT exercises at home (on both legs) and foam rolling the crap outta my right leg.

The doctor asked me to show her the exercises I was doing at home. She said, Great! All good exercises to do for your hips.

IF you do them CORRECTLY.

…Which I wasn’t.

She showed me how my form was incorrect for most of the hip exercises I was doing. I wasn’t isolating the hip adductors correctly, so instead of working those muscles, I was letting my hips fall back and my stronger muscles around them (like the hip flexor or quadriceps) take over. Turns out the hip exercises that I was usually rushing through at night and thought were pretty easy, well… After she showed me the proper way to do them, I realized just how hard they can be when you do them right!

At the end of the appointment, the physical therapist gave me several stretches and exercises to add to my normal routine of stretching & strengthening.

In case you too are battling tight or weak hips, these links to videos below are similar to what my doc gave me to try out. Remember, all of these stretches and exercises are tailored to my specific needs or weaknesses, so if you’re really hurtin’ or have a goal race in mind, go see a professional! There’s a reason we pay them the big bucks.*

Exercises for the hip adductor:
• Side Lying Hip Abduction (10x, 1 set)
• Clam Shells (10x, 1 set)
(I am doing this without a band, as shown in the video. Also, I’m only able to open my knees about half the distance this woman is, she must have hip adductors of steel!)
• Lumbar Quadruped Alternating Leg Lifts (hold for 3 seconds, 10x, 1 set)

Stretches:
• Piriformis Stretch (hold for 30 seconds, 2x a day)
(note: I don’t come close to being as flexible as the woman in this video, only stretch as far as feels good for you!)
• Hip Flexor Stretch (hold for 30 seconds, 2x a day)
• IT Band Stretch (hold for 30 seconds, 2x a day)

I go back to the physical therapist tomorrow for another hour-long session. She mentioned at the last appointment that she’ll start trying to work out some of the knots at the top of my hip adductor and around my piriformis. I can already tell it will be one of those things that will hurt so good—just like my friend, the foam roller.

Here’s hoping I’ll start to getting stronger, and get the go-ahead to try running a few miles on Saturday!

Have you ever had knee pain, hip or piriformis issues? What kind of exercises or stretches do you normally do to help them out? 

*Don’t let the big bucks thing scare you away. My doc wants me to come in 3 times a week, but it’s $50 a visit, so their office worked it out so I only have to pay $35 a visit instead. They said it’s more important to them for me to get better, than to miss an appointment due to money! Very thankful for that.