About that blogging hiatus.

It’s been a couple of months since my last post. Anyone who read either of my last two posts probably saw the hiatus coming, or at least wouldn’t be surprised by my blogging absenteeism.

In summary, I’d been struggling to try to train for the Paris Marathon fighting a stubborn case of ITB Syndrome. I’d seen some signs of improvement, then the injury came back with a vengeance. As my training derailed throughout the month of February, every long run ended up being abandoned because I couldn’t bend my knee without that signature stabbing feeling on the outside of my knee. And I just didn’t want to make myself miserable by reliving the whole experience just to write a blog post. So I stayed away from blogging, and I think it was a good thing.

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Alter G selfie from an 8 mile run – one of the longest I finished without having to stop.

Into March, training improved a little bit. I figured out how to loosen up and stretch out the ITB area when it locked up during a run. What this meant was that I’d run 6-10 miles at an easy pace, then once it started, I’d have to repeat the cycle of running and stretching until I finished, sometimes every third of a mile. Even though my training improved again in March, I never ran more than 16 miles, and then only once. I never ran more than 11 or 12 miles without having to stop to stretch. I knew I was way undertrained for Paris. I seriously contemplated bagging the marathon and just enjoying a vacation.

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I did enjoy SOME of my runs this training cycle.

In the middle of all that, some other things happened:

  • I got a new job. This was totally unexpected; I loved my old job! A former colleague – one of my favorites – reached out to me about a position in her group. My initial reaction was to “just hear them out,” but the more I learned, the more it turned into something I couldn’t turn down. I joined the Assurance Risk Management group at a global accounting firm, which basically entails doing all kinds of things to help the firm’s professionals perform the highest quality audits.
  • I got into the NYC Marathon lottery. So that was unexpected. And not great timing given how Paris training went. I’m keeping an open mind about running this year vs. deferring to 2017…going to wait until I get back into the swing of warm-weather running before making any decisions.
  • I let running be “just running” and let it go when I wasn’t training. I have a tendency to get a little obsessive about whatever “big thing” I have going on – this was definitely the case during my last marathon cycle. This go-round, I generally did whatever training-thing I had on the calendar, then went about the rest of my life without much thought of training (or lack thereof). I hosted a brunch shower for my friend Britt the day after one spectacularly bad attempt at a long run. I finally got to feed people my breakfast pizza!
    IMG_8032

    There was food too.

     

Beyond all that, I voted in the primary, tweeted nearly every debate, got a charcoal grill, made a bunch of new recipes, and played with friends’ kids. Truth is, playing with babies is a great way to chill out after the worst of possible training runs.

Then I went to Paris, ran/jogged/walked a marathon, and spent two weeks gallivanting around Europe. I’ll get to the Paris recap soon enough, but I felt like writing a catch-up post before diving into all that.

Congrats to all of you who finished London and Boston and did other cool things while I was away!

What’s the worst that could happen?

I’ve decided to try something new on the blog today: I’m joining Amanda’s linkup for Thinking Out Loud. I’ve been thinking silently for too long; time to set those thoughts free!

Thinking-Out-Loud2

In my recap of the last few weeks’ training, I was pretty frank with my emotions about how training has been going, and I really appreciated your encouraging comments.

My feelings then shifted to guilt. Why should anyone feel sorry for me? I’m training for a marathon, albeit not without challenges, IN PARIS. That’s such a privilege and I’m grateful for it.

So today, I’m thinking out loud about plans and perspective.

Happiness is the difference between expectations and reality (or is it?)

A friend who went to the University of Georgia said this to me to explain why UGA football fans are disappointed with (and fire their coach after) a 10-win season. It made some sense to me. (But I wouldn’t consider it a truth to live by. We would aim low in everything, right?)

I don’t think anyone signs up for endurance events expecting to get injured. Sure, we know there is a risk of injury, but we probably all think we have the super special formula to stay injury free. We expect to be able to go out, train consistently, and perform our best. Expectations.

I have no idea how I made it through my first marathon training cycle without an injury. Luck is the best guess I can venture. I didn’t know any injury prevention secrets I don’t know now. Dumb luck happens, and all we can do is enjoy it.

In reflecting on this, or any other situation that comes with plans or expectations, I don’t think we should feel guilty if we’re upset that reality doesn’t live up to those expectations. Yes, there are horrible diseases and wars in the world. No, that doesn’t invalidate anyone’s disappointment with having a running injury. But keeping it all in perspective is good practice.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Another friend posed this question to me in my mid-20s when I was freaking out about contemplating some challenge at work.

No, really, what is the very worst thing that could happen? Would you lose your job? No?

I’m a perfectionist, so this perspective shook me up. But, it wouldn’t be the way I want it! I might not get an excellent performance review!

My friend sat with me and forced me to come up with the very worst-case scenario, then proceeded to help me see how my hugely-stressful-thing really wasn’t worth the anxiety and stress I was giving it. There’s a big difference between taking pride in your work and letting the pursuit of perfection (or aversion to risk) rule your life. I was in the latter category for a long time.

Now whenever I feel myself getting stressed/frustrated/anxious/fearful, I ask myself what’s the worst thing that could happen. And as far as I can tell with Paris, the VERY WORST thing that could happen is I go to a beautiful city with a bum knee and cheer on my friend who’s running a marathon. I’m pretty sure I can cope with that situation.

I’m still spending a lot of time doing everything I can to keep myself on the marathon training wagon, because an even awesome-er scenario of running a marathon in Paris with a friend is still a real possibility.

St. Jude marathon finish

The moment right after I finished my first marathon. I want that feeling again.

(I wanted to end this post with a 90s-rapper-style shout out to my fellow perfectionists, but I am way too old and CPAish to get the tone right…it sounded sooooo dorky.)

Anyway, let me know in the comments if you’re someone who struggles with the lofty expectations of perfectionism. Do you have any tips to keep things in perspective?

Paris Marathon Training – Weeks 7-9

The recap in which training gradually falls apart

I’ve gotten behind on these training recaps. I’ve had more than usual going on personally and professionally – some good, some bad, none expected. I had already written most of the week 7 recap, so it’s more detailed than the others.

Week 7: 1/25 – 1/31

Monday:

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:00/mile + rehab exercises + strength

Um, totally forgot the strides, but it was a gorgeous day for a lunchtime run. I decided to go ahead and deal with the nuisance of getting a running photo, which I promptly forgot to Instagram.

atlanta beltline running

So I’ll add my graffiti running photo to the Internet’s collection.

Seriously, this was more of an ordeal than it was worth, and I seriously wonder how people who Instagram running photos multiple times a week do it. #shareyoursecrets

I went to the gym for my strength workout, and it was – unfortunately – a day to get the opportunity to check off new feats of strength to see how strong you’re getting! Unfortunate because I get way too competitive with myself in these kinds of situations and work harder than I should considering I’m also training for a marathon. So shortsighted. Anyway, the feats of strength were related to variations of squats, strict pull-ups, and bar dips. I did a lot better with dips than pull-ups, and right now I’m just not limber enough to do what’s next for squats, which is a full butt-to-heel pistol squat. After attempting the feats of strength, there was a workout to challenge the muscles I had just worked to failure – pull-up negatives, rows, stuff like that – so it was hard. Even lunges with racked kettlebells made my arms feel like chicken wings.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Rest day

HOLY MOTHER OF DOMS. There was not one direction that I could move my arms without nearly recoiling from the soreness.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 5 miles w/ 6 x 1:00 @ 5k pace, 2:00 jog recovery + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest

The thought of swinging my arms for just an easy run would have brought me to tears, so after a full day of lecture-style training with a nasty headache, no way was I getting through a faster workout, even if it was a relatively easy cutback-week workout. No unplanned rest day has ever been such a no-brainer.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 5 miles w/ 6 x 1:00 @ 5k pace, 2:00 jog recovery + rehab exercises + mini-strength

Annnnddd we’re back. I didn’t get to this workout until after dark, so I decided to take it to the treadmill in my office gym. The faster portion was fine, but the other miles were so boring.

I didn’t have time to get a proper strength workout in, and my upper body was still pretty angry, but I did a mini-strength workout focused on lower body after my rehab exercises. My office gym has a few kettlebells, so I did 3 sets of 20 kettlebell swings, 3 sets of 10 kettlebell deadlifts, 2 sets of 10 goblet squats, and 2 sets of 10 Bulgarian split squats.

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Rest day

I thought about skipping the rest day and taking this run really easy, but I ran about one minute and decided my body needed the day off.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 12 miles w/ last 3 @ GMP (9:25) + core
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 9:52/mile + 4 strides

Slacked on the Myrtls. GUILTY.

I’ve had a couple pairs of shoes wear out on me lately, and since I’ve had an injury recently, I decided to head over to see what the pros recommended shoe-wise.

I don’t want to take over this post with the nitty gritty of what went down (although I learned some interesting things that may warrant a future post), but a proper video analysis at West Stride confirmed what I expected – mostly neutral/slightly supinated gait. I tried on a few pairs in the “daily trainer” category, and to my surprise I ended up in the Brooks Ghost. I’ve previously tried out Brooks shoes from the Pure line, which never really felt quite right on my foot. But the Ghosts were the shoes that felt so comfortable on, fit like a glove, and allowed me to go through a comfortable stride without feeling like I had to really “muscle through” any part of my stride (unlike others I tried).

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Sunday:

  • Plan: Yoga
  • Actual: 12 miles w/ last 3 @ GMP (9:21/8:59/9:09) + 26 minutes core + 15 min stretching-oriented yoga

The elusive marathon pace. I’m not of the mind that “I ran faster, yay me” because I don’t feel like I’m ready to run a whole marathon at those paces, so I kind of screwed up the point of the workout by running faster than I should have. But it did feel nice at the time.

During the GMP miles, I felt my shorts chafing my right thigh, but decided to sacrifice my skin for the confidence that would come with executing my GMP miles. I implore you, please never do this to yourselves. One week has passed and my skin is still not 100%. Once I was finished with the run, I looked down and saw blood all over my right thigh. This wasn’t just a slight chafe.

silver comet running

You didn’t think I was going to show a bloody chafe photo, did you? I’m far too queasy to ever see blood on purpose.

Week 7: 23 miles

As for my resolutions to run healthy in 2016:

  • Rehab/core work – C: I did 3/4 of the planned core/rehab/Myrtl routines on my schedule.
  • Sleep – B: I hit my 8 hour goal every night except one, but I didn’t feel rested. Most nights, I was waking up in the middle of the night and I’d have a hard time going back to sleep. By Thursday, I was exhausted and went to bed before 9pm, which may have helped me “reset” – I haven’t had serious sleep interruptions since then.
  • Nutrition – C: I’m going to have to find a reliable way to track my fruits and veggies. I didn’t do it this week. I know I had some good days, but the point was to actually keep track.
  • “Body maintenance” – B: I did the bare minimum of stretching and foam rolling, and I checked the box with Sunday yoga, but after moving my schedule around I wasn’t up for much more.

I didn’t track these resolutions over weeks 8 & 9.

Week 8: 2/1 – 2/7

Monday:

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:20/mile + rehab exercises + strength

Felt some discomfort near the bottom-inside portion of my left thigh, close to my left knee. UGH.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: Rest

I was at work late (unexpectedly), then saw my late night as an opportunity to let whatever was bothering me on Monday’s run rest and heal.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 7 miles w/ 3 x mile @ tempo, :90 jog recovery + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest day

I had a morning dermatologist appointment, and I told the doctor I’d had my eye on this spot on my chest. He said it didn’t concern him much, but he’d do a biopsy to be safe. This was my first skin biopsy, and it took more skin than I expected. When the nurse gave me care instructions for the wound, one of the explicit instructions was to keep it dry for a day.

Me: So, does that mean I can’t go for a run?

Nurse: Well, do you sweat when you run?

Me: [head drops] yes.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 7 miles w/ 3 x mile @ tempo (8:35/8:32/8:28) + rehab exercises + strength

Left quad pain was still there, maybe at a 3/10 on the pain scale.

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Chiro + 3 miles @ 10:08/mile + Myrtls

I got in to see my chiro that morning, who worked on the area and diagnosed insufficient quad strength as a contributing factor. He gave me an exercise to do, which I could do at my desk (it’s just using the quads to straighten the knee from a bent position).

My run did not go well. I had to stop around the end of the second mile to stretch/massage that spot in my quad. It started bugging my left knee a little bit as well. I skipped the strides.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 15 miles + core
  • Actual: 1.6 miles @10:42/mile + lots of foam rolling

Since I’d moved my tempo run to Thursday, the plan was just to get in 3 easy miles and some strides. I stopped as soon as there was discomfort – no point in sabotaging the long run.

Sunday:

  • Plan: 15 miles + core
  • Actual: 15 miles @ 11:04/mile + core

This run was horrible on so many levels. 1) I didn’t feel fit at all. 2) that spot in my left quad was bugging me for the majority of the run. 3) I was angry at everyone and everything because of 1&2. (How dare that asshole on the bike pass me so quickly? Brag about your modern technology a little more, jerk.)

In the last 6 miles or so, I made a concerted effort to be positive. One thing I noticed was that my right ITB didn’t hurt at all. That was the best thing I could come up with (and it was indeed a good thing!)

I got home and alas, my right ITB felt like the last two months of rehab hadn’t happened. Mega pissed. Mega discouraged. I don’t have anything positive to say, other than I’m glad I have other things going on right now to distract me from how training is going (or, not going, as the case may be).

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Current mood.

Week 8: 30 miles

Week 9: 2/8 – 2/14

Monday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Nada

Right knee at ITB insertion point hurt just walking around. Lot of ice. Lot of foam rolling. Panicked call to the chiropractor’s office.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: Chiro + rest

My chiro was out of town, so I got squeezed in to see his partner, Dr. Glass (who is so nice – I really love their practice). Dr. Glass wasn’t as concerned about the whole situation as I was, seeming to think it was just a setback. As he was testing my hip range of motion while I was lying on my stomach, it was so obvious that my right hip isn’t moving nearly as well as my left. The difference was pronounced.

I got some homework which is just a simple variation on foam rolling + static stretching, but I really like it. The idea is to sandwich some light static stretching into your foam rolling – so if you’re rolling your quads, take a break in the middle and do 5 5-second static stretches, then resume rolling. As for hip mobility, Dr. Glass’s recommendation was just to do a few leg swings intermittently throughout the day. So simple. That I can do.

He recommended a test run Thursday, and to do my long run on a loop so I could stop if needed.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 7 miles w/ 3-5 @ tempo + rehab exercises + strength
  • Actual: Rest

I considered going to the gym and cross-training, but after staying late at work again, I decided to focus on rolling and stretching. Oh, and I found out Jeff had the flu. Influenza B. So there was some care taking involved.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 3 mile test run @ 10:30/mile + rehab exercises + PT

This run didn’t feel too bad. I could sense that my quad pain was worse the more I flexed my knee, and I also felt a dull ache under my left kneecap post-run.

I had a PT appointment, and holy smokes did that spot in my quad freak out when he needled it. I felt cautiously optimistic that it would really help.

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtls
  • Actual: Rest day

I was pretty sore from the needling. Much needed day off.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 16 miles + core
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:15/mile + strides + Myrtls

I really got after the foam rolling and stretching post-run. I felt ready to take on my 16 miler after this run.

Sunday:

  • Plan: 16 miles + core
  • Actual: 8 miles @ 10:37/mile + core

I normally actively avoid repeating loop routes for a long run, so the loop I chose was one I’m not terribly familiar with, and it really wasn’t ideal (unavoidable road camber + too much opposing traffic to get off the side of the road). I called it quits shortly into the 9th mile. My left quad and right ITB had been feeling angry, then my left ITB started hurting. I felt like collapsing on the ground in dramatic fashion, but I would have probably hurt something else picking myself up. So I just stopped running and walked the rest of the way back.

None of the pain was horribly acute, and if it had been a race, I absolutely could have kept running. My level of discomfort felt about like last week’s run did, which sidelined me for several days. I hope that by cutting it short, I gave myself a fighting chance to get back on track with my training. What I did last week didn’t work, so I’ll just try something different and hope for the best.

Week 9: 14 miles

Right now I don’t have anything positive to say about training. I don’t want to train for a marathon anymore. If I were training for the Publix Marathon or something else close by, I would absolutely throw in the towel and let all this junk heal properly before training for another race. Any hopes of a PR in Paris are wild dreams right now. All I can hope for right now is to be healthy enough to continue training, finish the race, and stuff myself with croissants, cheeses, and Bordeaux when it’s done.

Paris Marathon Training – Week 6

Ahhhhh, the return of the federal holiday and the four-day work week. This week was set up to be great on both ends. It began with a long weekend and ended with a dear friend’s wedding. And all the training in between!

Week 6: 1/18-1/24

Monday: 

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + rehab exercises + optional strength training
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:25/mile + rehab exercises + strength training + chiro
john lewis quote

This quote from Rep. John Lewis is painted on a wall just down the block from my apartment. I love being in an environment where I’m reminded of the work we have before us to reach the true ideals of our country’s founding – for everyone, not just land-owning white males 🙂

I have a real fondness for MLK Day for a couple of reasons: I live in Dr. King’s old neighborhood, and about 90% of my running routes go past the MLK Historic Site. I love seeing all the tourists and catching snippets of the history they’re getting on their tours of the site. I guess you could say that being in the neighborhood keeps the importance of the civil rights movement on my mind. Also, I extra-love MLK Day because I never got MLK Day off during my time working in public accounting, because busy season. Practicing CPAs, all my love to you these days. Stay strong and treat your body as well as you can. If you have to cry, I’ll be with you in spirit in the last bathroom stall.

My street was closed off for the MLK Day March. I couldn’t drive to my normal flat route, so I took a hilly route out my front door instead. It was an okay run, but afterwards I knew my ITB still wasn’t ready for the hills. The discomfort wasn’t intense, but it felt like I’d regressed in my recovery by a couple of weeks.

My chiro did some much-needed work on my right hip and knee, and unfortunately there were some new nasty spots in desperate need of release.

I tried to take it a little easy with strength training that evening since I’ve been struggling with DOMS into Wednesdays each of the last couple of weeks. The workout was heavy on back/arms/core, and it included LONG negative push-ups (20 seconds! It took me until the third set to get the timing right), alternating one-arm kettlebell swings, leg raises against a resistance band (love), and my very favorite new exercise – I’m actually considering writing a post to commemorate my love for this one – half Turkish get-ups with a press.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 4 miles easy @ 10:06/mile + strides + core

Cold, windy, dark, unremarkable run. Except that I rocked this awesome navy-on-navy outfit under my reflective vest. With Monday’s gym workout being somewhat core-heavy,  I streamlined the core work to focus on the types of movements that weren’t a part of Monday’s workout.

cold weather running outfit

You’re welcome for the running fashion advice. #notafashionblogger

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 6 miles w/ 2 x mile @ tempo (90 sec jog recovery) + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: 6 miles w/ 2 x mile @ tempo (8:36/8:30) + rehab exercises + strength training

We got some cold, rainy weather in Atlanta so I decided to take this workout to the treadmill. I so appreciate how this training plan is easing me into the longer tempo runs that I know are coming. This was a pretty fun, satisfying workout that didn’t leave me beat.

I felt like I recovered from Monday’s strength workout better than expected. Maybe my body is adapting to regular strength training. This workout was pretty tough: 5×5 deadlifts (I’m adding weight cautiously, so after the warm-up I did 2 sets of 105 and 3 sets of 115), man-makers, jumping split squats, and Tabata kettlebell swings (a surprisingly tough workout for just 4 minutes!)

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Rest day + PT

All the needling yet again. He hit all the usual spots (right hip, glutes, quad) and got into my left hamstring and calf (OWWW calf needling). I’ve had a gnarly spot in my right outer quad close to my knee that almost made me jump when it released. I’m hoping that’s a sign of good things to come!

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides + Myrtl routine
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:20/mile + travel to Dallas

I squeezed in 3 miles on a really iffy hotel gym treadmill in between landing in Dallas and my friend Laura’s rehearsal dinner. We got stuck in a nasty security line situation in Atlanta and didn’t have time to grab lunch to take on the plane, so I had a JD’s Chippery cookie before my run. No warm-up, no Myrtl routine, no strides.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 14 miles + core
  • Actual 14 miles @ 10:14/mile + nap

I had a nice run around White Rock Lake in the cold and sunshine. The only downside was there were more hills on the east side of the lake than I remembered, and I definitely felt that dull ache in my ITB come and go throughout the run.

white rock lake running dallas

I skipped the core work for a nap, ate a lot of Mexican food, then spent the evening celebrating the Bruders!

dallas wedding

the happy couple + adorable flower girls

college pals

college pals

dallas arboretum wedding

pretty bride

It was such a fun wedding – we danced most of the night to a fun band (even though they didn’t play any TSwift…I will forgive them.) Laura had college friends come in from all 4 time zones and more than one continent! She is that kind of person and friend – it’s not at all surprising that many friends would make long journeys to celebrate her. I loved every second of hanging out with this fantastic group of women, and as my friend Carly said, I wish we could do this every weekend!

The groom’s cake was Mexican Chocolate cake – yum! – and in addition to wedding cake there were also donuts. Who doesn’t love donuts? Between the dancing and the 14 mile run, I hit a new high for steps on my Fitbit – 37k steps. *pats self on back*

Sunday:

  • Plan: Optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: Travel home

I was really exhausted form the weekend and took not one but two naps. I did make some  food to kick off the week (with lots of veggies!), so I wasn’t entirely worthless (just mostly worthless).

Week 6: 30 miles

Not the best week for my resolutions to run healthy in 2016:

  • Rehab/core work – B minus: I got in all the rehab exercises, but I skipped core work after my long run in Dallas.
  • Sleep – B: I didn’t meet my 8 hour/night goal (I was around 7.5 hours on average), and I woke up in the middle of the night nearly every night.
  • Nutrition – C: I lost track mid-week of how I was doing against my fruit/veggies goal. I know I had some good days, but C seems like a fair grade given that I don’t know for sure how I did.
  • “Body maintenance” – B plus: I skipped yoga for the second week in a row (oops) and didn’t foam roll on my weekend away, but I did well with stretching/foam rolling during the week, and I had my chiro + PT appointments.

When you go out of town over a weekend, do you typically get your long run in beforehand or do you fit it into your trip? 

Do you try to have decently coordinated running outfits, or do you just grab what’s comfortable and weather-appropriate?

Paris Marathon Training – Week 4

If the work week is an endurance event, then the holidays really zapped me of my work-stamina. Wednesday felt like it should have been Friday, and that’s my week in a nutshell.

Week 4: 1/4-1/10

Monday: 

  • Plan: 30-60 min cross-training + rehab exercises + optional strength training
  • Actual: chiro + 40 min strength training

Last week, when I posted about how not planning enough time got in the way of my doing all the “little things” to keep myself injury-free, this was the day I was thinking about. I didn’t plan my day well and didn’t get the work done that I needed to do. The strength workout was a lot of shoulders/chest/triceps/back/core.

For the third chiro visit in a row, I got a resounding vote of confidence from Dr. Eng to keep up the good work and run all the miles. I’m starting to really notice how much better my hips, glutes, and quads feel with the work he’s been doing and my rehab exercises. He introduced the idea of getting on more of a “maintenance” schedule where I come in once a month. I think I could get on board with that idea next month, but right now I see the biweekly appointments as a security blanket – I know he’ll take care of whatever’s bugging me at least every two weeks.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 4 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 4 miles easy @ 10:06/mile + strides + core

Just a nice easy, sunny, chilly run at lunchtime. I love winter lunchtime runs. I felt the slightest tinge of ITB pain after my run, so I spent some extra time foam rolling and in pigeon pose.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 6 miles w/ last 3 progression to tempo + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: Rest day

My core was pretty sore from the last two days’ workouts, and when some unexpected appointments took up a part of my day I hadn’t planned for, I decided to switch my Wednesday and Thursday workouts.

I noticed that when I take the train to run errands (like grocery shopping), I get quite a few extra steps in my day. My Fitbit registered over 13k steps – which, with my desk job, is pretty good for a rest day.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: 6 miles w/ last 3 progression to tempo (9:12/8:50/8:23) + rehab exercises + PT

Another chilly lunchtime run, gray and a little foggy but really nice weather, and the workout went off without a hitch. I remembered to stay relaxed during the workout – sometimes I get anxious about workouts (I realize that is crazy, but it’s true).

Piedmont Park oval atlanta

As usual, I went to the PT with a lot of tightness through my right hip and outer quad, this week so much that my right leg pulled to the side when I fully relaxed it. He needled my right quad, piriformis, TFL, glute med (where I’d been feeling some soreness), and both my right and left psoas – those little boogers have been knotted up for over a year. I REALLY felt it in my right glute med for the rest of the day.

Friday:

I didn’t want to move my long run to Sunday, so I added in a rest day to help myself recover from Thursday’s workout. And I do love Friday rest days.

The end of the week finally came, and we celebrated by staying in with homemade veggie pizza and a movie.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 12 miles + core
  • Actual: 12 miles @ 10:45/mile + core

WOOF. This run was awful. It started out feeling funny and just never got better. I’m of the superstitious belief that if all your training runs are magical, your race will probably suck…at least that’s what I tell myself after days like this. I’m glad I got it done and I was extremely glad when it was over.

silver comet mableton ga

I bought two Powerball tickets with the spare change in my car, and managed 8 minutes of core work before throwing in the towel. Later, we had a busy night celebrating one of my favorite people’s 30th birthdays (happy birthday Sarah!!) and seeing off one of Jeff’s grad school classmates, who got a job with a construction software company in Silicon Valley. It was a much later night than I am accustomed to.

Sunday:

  • Plan: optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:09/mile + 15 min yoga

I slept in and was lazy most of the day after the exhausting Saturday. I made further strides toward perfecting the breakfast pizza – one egg on the crust and another broken over the toppings. I barely made it out the door before dark for the run, but I managed to get it done just before the sun went down.

breakfast pizza

Breakfast Pizza v2.0: mozzarella, egg, thinly sliced potato, caramelized onion, mushrooms, fresh tomato slices, sautéed spinach, Italian sausage, and more egg/mozz.

Week 4: 25 miles

I have mixed feelings about this week of workouts – it was just an okay week. I also had mixed results with respect to my 2016 resolutions:

  • Rehab/core work – C: I was 1 for 2 on rehab exercises, and 1.5 for 2 on core work (I cut Saturday’s short). But I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t gone through the exercise of breaking it all down and coming up with these resolutions, there’s no way I would have done any core work on Saturday.
  • Sleep – B: I made my average of 8 hours/night, but that included one 10+ hour night and a couple of nights when I came up more than 30 minutes short. I’d like to be more consistent.
  • Nutrition – C-minus: I only got my servings of veggies 3/7 days, and fruits just one day. I’m really glad I started tracking this, because it’s an area that I can definitely improve. (Is it just me, or is it harder in the winter?) I did eat just 5 meals out during the week, which was better than I hoped to do.
  • “Body maintenance” – A-minus: I could have done more yoga, but overall I was consistent with seeing the chiro/PT, foam rolling, and doing what I can to stay loose and limber.

How was your week of training/workouts? If you set any resolutions or goals, how are they coming along?

The Process Behind the Goal: 2016 Resolutions

Internet-running-friends, I have loved reading about all your goals and resolutions for 2016. They are awesome and ambitious, and while I find myself dreaming along with you, I’m a little jealous.

2015 brought me more injuries (2) than PRs (1, by 19 seconds). Sure, getting injured sucks and I wish it had been different, but I hope 2015’s lessons will endure far beyond the 12 weeks those injuries kept me away from running.

I have one important goal for 2016: to make it to the finish line of the Paris Marathon healthy. More generally, I want to steer clear of running injuries entirely so that I can run more consistently and hopefully get faster long-term. (ETA: I would like to PR in the marathon, but that goal is so secondary to getting there healthy that I don’t consider it important by comparison.)

Goals are great – yay goals! – but how make them happen? I bring you the unlikely inspiration for this post, who popped into my head as I was waiting for takeout.

The devil himself.* And his process.

nick saban process

Photo credit: ABC 33/40
*Joking aside, I think he is a great coach and not actually the devil, but I’m obligated to dislike the guy. My brothers went to Auburn and my boyfriend to Tennessee.

For those of you who just got a little lost, Nick Saban is the head football coach at the University of Alabama, and the winner of four national championships. He’s been kind of successful. And he attributes this success to the “process.”

“[The Process] basically means just focusing on the little things and not getting wrapped up in the big picture.”

– Barrett Jones, former Alabama offensive lineman

That quote perfectly articulates how I want to approach my training to meet my goal for 2016. I went through a few basic steps to craft my own “process:”

  1. Listed out all of the “little things” that were important to meeting my goal
  2. Identified the most critical items based on importance and/or those I was least likely to do, to come up with a manageable number of items to focus on
  3. For the “little things” I deemed critical, I reflected on the underlying causes of why I’d struggled with them in the past
  4. Determined steps I could take to address the past struggles: my personal “process”

My 2016 resolutions are each of the items critical to achieving my goal. The “process” is my roadmap for achieving success with each resolution. Without further ado, here they are.

Strengthen the weak links

In 2015, I discovered that I enjoyed strength training, with an emphasis on fewer reps and heavier weight. One or two days a week, I’d run in the morning and strength train in the evening. The more I enjoyed feeling like a badass from lifting heavy things, the less I enjoyed the basic core/pre-hab work by comparison. I deluded myself into thinking that the strength training would take care of those areas too. Maybe that works for some, but I learned the hard way that I need to keep doing my clams and glute bridges religiously.

Often, I wouldn’t allow for enough time to fit in these essential “ancillary” exercises. GUESS WHAT? This just happened to me yesterday. Maybe one day I’ll learn. To change this bad habit, I have to accept three things: 1) these exercises are essential, 2) they take extra time, which is time invested in my health, and 3) I have to plan for that extra time.

RESOLUTION: do rehab exercises at least 2x/week, 15-20 min of core work at least 2x/week
PROCESS:
– do exercises as run cool-down. (Or if I’m truly strapped for time, do a couple exercises as a cool-down then the remainder while watching TV or something.)
– add 30 minutes to the total time I plan for each run.

Sleep like a champion

In the past, I haven’t struggled to get enough sleep, but I’m including it as a part of the “process” because it’s so important. After being chronically sleep deprived for nearly 6 years in my old job, I treasure the feeling of being rested and refreshed. I generally sleep about 8 hours when I don’t set an alarm, so I just want to keep that up.

RESOLUTION: average at least 8 hours of sleep per night, add more if necessary as training increases
PROCESS:
– limit caffeine to before 3 pm.
– cut off TV before 10 pm.
– finish eating by 9 pm (I tend to be a late eater, so this would be an improvement!)

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition

Although I would like to lose a few holiday pounds, this resolution is more about making sure I’m getting all the nutrients I need than it is about cutting back.

I don’t like labeling foods as “healthy” and “unhealthy”. I’m of the mind that foods exist on a spectrum of nutritious to…not so nutritious, and true “healthy eating” comes from eating a mix of foods that together meet all our needs. For further reading on this topic, I can’t recommend Matt Fitzgerald’s Racing Weight enough.

I’m focusing on vegetables and fruits, because I’ve been inconsistent about getting enough fruits & veggies in my diet. I don’t like tracking food, so the less I plan to do, the more likely I am to succeed.

Don’t worry, I’ve carefully crafted this process to accommodate my love of pizza.

RESOLUTION: eat a balanced whole-foods diet
PROCESS:
– track servings of fruits & vegetables: 3-4 servings of each per day (veggies can be put on pizzas and eaten with salad).
– limit myself to 7 meals/week at restaurants by staying on top of grocery shopping & food prep

Give love to hardworking muscles

I am an admitted hater of foam rolling and stretching. I’m also not an expert on which body aches and tight spots are serious and which ones aren’t too much of a concern. I am, however, an expert at ignoring issues until they become injuries. All of this shall change.

RESOLUTION: proactively identify and address tight/weak/sore areas.
PROCESS:
– foam roll/stretch every other day or more as needed. if necessary, self-bribery with beer or TV is acceptable and encouraged.
– see sports chiro/PT at least monthly or as needed
– practice yoga at least once a week

I just re-read all of these process points, and dayyyum, that’s a lot. I have been doing some of these things – just not consistently – others, not at all. It’s entirely possible that some of these resolutions are too ambitious, and others not ambitious enough. Time will tell, and I’m willing to make adjustments as I see room for improvement.

Because I think that each of the four resolutions are essential to my goal of running healthy in 2016, I’m going to keep myself honest in these areas by tracking them in my weekly training posts.

How about you – is there an area of running/life that is important but hard for you to stick with consistently? 

Do you set resolutions or goals at the beginning of the year? If so, what’s on tap for 2016?

Paris Marathon Training – Week 3

Whew! After last week’s Christmas Adventures Across Tennessee, I was happy to spend a laid-back week at home. I watched a lot of football and got to play with my new Christmas toys, especially my pizza stone! As of today (Sunday), I have made 5 pizzas in the past week. Maybe I will get sick of it someday.

Week 3: 12/28-1/3

Monday: 

  • Plan: 30-60 min cross-training + rehab exercises
  • Actual: Travel to ATL + 30 min spinning + rehab exercises

Not the greatest cross-training session ever: I couldn’t get my wireless headphones to connect to my phone, and about 15 minutes of the 30 were spent halfheartedly spinning while fiddling with the headphones.

Tuesday:

  • Plan: 3 miles easy + 4 strides + core
  • Actual: 3 miles easy @ 10:05/mile + strides + core

I went back to the Beltline for a nice run with the weather still in the 60s! As is my game day superstition, I planned my run outfit in Baylor’s school colors. For a while, I had been guiltily eyeing these overpriced fancy black and gold-reflective shorts from Lululemon, so I was happy to snap them up once they were marked down to well over 50% off. The game was a huge success for the Bears, and I’m pretty sure my spirit was a contributing factor.

Wednesday:

  • Plan: 5 miles w/ last 2 @ steady pace + rehab exercises + yoga or strength
  • Actual: 5 miles: warmup @ 10:31/mile, last 2 8:57/8:53 + rehab exercises

Jeff is in grad school at Georgia Tech, so he let me join him as a guest to Tech’s huge and really nice gym. This was my first “workout” in several weeks, so I’m out of practice being uncomfortable. This run wasn’t too terribly hard, but I’m glad my plan is easing me into more challenging workouts.

georgia tech rec center

The gym was closing as I was finishing up my rehab exercises. I did maybe 10 min of yoga  poses focusing on hip flexibility before heading out.

Thursday:

  • Plan: Rest day
  • Actual: Rest day + New Year’s Eve

I cleaned house all day – no fun but much needed – then we joined our friends Randy and Sarah to ring in the new year with football and pizza. I got to use my new pizza stone, which was a gift from Jeff – it was perfect because I have been contemplating buying one for over a year but never pulled the trigger. (It is also a perfect gift for him because he gets pizza out of it.) I’m not great at working with the dough, so my pizzas are oddly shaped.

 

Friday:

  • Plan: 3 miles + 4 strides +  Myrtl routine
  • Actual: 3 miles @ 10:18/mile + 4 strides + Myrtl + New Year’s Day

I went back to the soft, flat half-mile loop I’d been running during week 1. One of the downsides of this spot is that it doesn’t drain well when there’s been a lot of rain, so this was the first day I thought it might not be a giant mud puddle. There were a few puddles left, and geese were loving the puddles.

piedmont park geese atlanta

I did not eat any black eyed peas this New Year’s Day, so I suppose there goes my prosperity for the year.

Saturday:

  • Plan: 10 miles + core
  • Actual: 10 miles @ 10:01/mile + core

My IT band pain had been bothering me on and off since Wednesday’s run, so I was pretty nervous for this run. I almost put it off until Sunday. I drove out to an asphalt rail-trail that is long enough to do a full out and back. If you’ve ever taken much time off from running, you probably know the feeling of your stride being awkward and the motion of running feeling labored (or is that just me?). This run was the closest I’ve felt in the last three weeks to running feeling natural, a sensation that felt like my body would run whether or not my brain told it to. I was encouraged by how the day went and hope that runs like this one become more frequent!

running trail cobb county

Sunday:

  • Plan: optional cross-training + yoga
  • Actual: 15 min bodyweight strength work + 75 min gentle yoga

I spent Sunday enjoying the last of my days off for the holidays. I don’t think my Fitbit even registered 5000 steps! I did a quick 15 minute set of bodyweight strength exercises focused on hips, glutes, and hamstrings, then caught a gentle yoga class.

Week 3: 21 miles

This week went as well as I could have hoped. I got in all my workouts – not too much of a challenge given that I didn’t have a full work week – but they went as well as I could have expected.

How did you spend your New Year? Do you eat black eyed peas every year, or pass?

The ITBizness

It’s been a while since I updated the blog, but if you follow me on social media, you probably saw that I decided to can the St. Jude Half Marathon after dealing with an IT band injury.

I didn’t feel the sense of loss that I expected to feel after missing out on a race that I trained hard for. In retrospect, I think I was on the verge of – or at – a state of burnout. I don’t think I had enough respect for what the Savannah half took out of me, even though I didn’t really “race” it. I’m not entirely sure I had an all-out, goal-race effort in me for St. Jude anyway.

The week after Savannah, I ran 43 miles. All those miles while feeling really drained and uninspired. I thought I was being disciplined by running all the miles, but I failed to heed some warning signs. While I had the “discipline” to run all the miles and even skip a rest day (whyyyy? I don’t know anymore), I was so beat that I skipped all my “prehab” core/glute/hip strengthening work that I struggled to be consistent with this whole training cycle, even before Savannah.

I dug up this old tweet in the injury post-mortem. Clues of possible burnout did exist!

The following week, I couldn’t deny my fatigue or the chronic nature of the soreness in my left glute and hip flexor. I skipped an easy run, didn’t do any strength training, and made it through the work week, which included an accounting conference in hot, rainy, muggy Orlando. Florida runners, my heart goes out to you in the biggest way.

I considered cutting back on my long run that week, then I decided to head out and play it by ear. When I was 14 miles in, I was running down a hill, and without warning I felt that awful stabbing sensation on the outside of my right knee. I’d never had ITBS before, but I’ve heard enough about it to know exactly what it was. My right leg didn’t feel like it could bear weight. It was a clear “oh, shit” moment. I took an Uber home.

Since then, I’ve been seeing a sports chiropractor regularly, doing all the prehab rehab exercises diligently, indoor cycling, and yoga. I’ve gone through a couple rounds of dry needling, which I strangely love even though it feels weird. I spent 3 weeks not running consistently, with a few unsuccessful test runs sprinkled in. Last week, I ran 18 miles without any noteworthy pain, all on a half-mile gravel loop. It’s the most boring route I’ve ever run.

foam roller

I’ve been doing a lot of this. (This = foam rolling, not gratuitous leg-showing. Sorry.)

As for the cause of the injury, I had some imbalances and some really gnarly tight muscles that just weren’t going to put up with hard training anymore. Hard training is a risk, and this time I came out on the wrong side. It’s easy to spout platitudes about “being in touch with your body,” but it’s not a magical injury prevention strategy, although I do think it’s something we should all strive to do.

What I’m trying to say is that by “listening to my body,” whatever the hell that means, I was aware enough to know I needed to back off. But I didn’t know enough to do anything beyond doing “less.” I finally see the importance of seeing a trained professional from time to time during normal training, to see (and treat!) the warning signs that I’m not trained to see or treat (as a person who lives my professional life in spreadsheets and memos).

I got my training plan for Paris today. The mileage is lower than what I was running for my last marathon. I wish I were healthy enough to take more advantage of the base that was built into my St. Jude training. But it’s not just any marathon near home that I can skip and not feel too bad about, it’s the Paris Marathon. The PARIS #*$&ing MARATHON. I’d rather finish this marathon – even if it’s slow – than get injured again from taking big training risks. So I’m (reluctantly) on board with the less-mileage plan.

I don’t know how it will go. (I guess we never really do.) My goal is only to PR (my PR is 4:20). Maybe if training goes flawlessly, I will think about going for sub-4:10 (the GMP in my training plan is a 9:25/mile pace). At this point, that kind of goal-setting is premature – everyone I’ve talked to mentions that ITBS can be a stubborn injury. I’m really excited to get started with training. I’ll start back up with weekly training posts next week for this abbreviated 15 week cycle.

Have any of you had ITBS? How did recovery go for you?

Have you ever had dry needling? Like it, or not so much?

My Recovery from Knee Injury

In a separate post, I described my knee injury that kept me from running for two months earlier this year. I’ve been wanting to write a how-I-came-back-from-injury post for a while, so I’m glad I can now say that my knee feels strong. I’m ready to start real training: I’ve signed up for two half marathons in the fall, and I may run a few shorter races for fun in between.

Weekly Mileage Post-Injury

I began my return to running with a 9-mile week (3 miles x 3 days), on a flat route. I didn’t run on consecutive days, and I added 1-2 miles per week (except on the weeks I added hills, I kept my weekly mileage flat). I added uphills first because they are lower-impact. I walked downhills for two weeks, then added downhill running. As early as week 2, I designated a “long” running day each week, and I built up to 17 miles per week on three days of running a week (runs of 4, 5, and 8 miles).

Since then, I’ve been running four days per week, and my average weekly mileage has hovered around 20 (going as high as 25 and as low as 13 based on how I’m feeling and life). It’s been nice to keep my average running volume around 20 miles per week and feel myself get stronger as the weeks go by.

One KEY aspect of my recovery has been doing an appropriate warm-up before each run. I always begin my warm-up with the first two glute activation exercises described below and leg swings. If I plan to run longer or harder than normal, I’ll add the lunge matrix or do this warm-up routine. I’ve also been foam rolling my adductors before some runs when they feel tight.

Strength

As I mentioned in my earlier post, a huge contributing factor to my injury was that my glute muscles weren’t activating when I was running. I had a remarkably similar experience to this Runner’s World author – lying on a doctor’s table, unable to perform the simple act of contracting my glute muscles. I also learned that my right glute was stronger than my left.

Initially, I was given exercises that weren’t very challenging physically, but were to be performed with attention to how and when I activated the muscles involved in the exercise.

1. Prone leg lifts

Lie face-down on ground, yoga mat, whatever suits you. Contract one of your glutes (with my dead butt, this took poking my glute muscle at times). Then once the glute is contracted, simply lift the leg up off the ground 6 inches or so. It’s important to let the glute disengage after each repetition, because this is an exercise to train the brain that the glute should initiate this motion. Perform 10x per leg, 1-2 sets.

2. Glute bridges

glute bridgesLie on your back with your knees bent, feet together on the floor. Contract the abs first (not too hard – about 30% effort), then the glutes. Push up into a bridge position, keeping knees and feet together. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat.

At first, I had trouble keeping my balance, which can indicate either weak hips or that the glutes are not firing. I had to be patient and really focus on the glutes, because my hamstrings wanted to do all the work. A trick that my chiro gave me to “turn off” my hamstrings was to put my weight in my heels and lift my forefeet off the ground. Because brain-training is an important element of this exercise, I was instructed not to become over-reliant on this trick. I used the heel-trick to cue my brain and body to know what the movement should feel like, so that I could perform it for the next rep with my feet flat on the ground.

To begin, I performed 2 sets of 10 repetitions. I also incorporated some hip strengthening work into this exercise by looping a Thera-band around my knees and doing bridge-clamshells. Now that 2 sets of 10 repetitions is pretty easy, I perform the second set alternating between single legs. This is really hard on the left side, so I know I still have work to do.

3. Squats and Lunges

After a couple of weeks of just performing the above exercises (in addition to cross-training, core work 3x/week and hip strengthening 2x/week), we added squats and lunges – classic lower-body exercises that seem to be good for everything! At first, doing lunges put pressure on the injured knee. I worked on this with my chiropractor, and found that the pressure was relieved if I contracted the back glute hard prior to performing the lunge motion. After trying it out, I think the lunge is a more challenging and effective exercise when I consciously engage my glutes and core before performing the motion. I began with 3 sets of 5 per leg, then progressed to 3 sets of 10 per leg. This was really easy with the right leg, less so with the left leg.

Image result for racked kettlebells

Photo courtesy of bodybuilding.com

When I first did a squat in the doctor’s office, my chiro noticed that I was leaning slightly to the right side (favoring the stronger glute) and my left knee buckled in slightly. She had me do squats in the mirror, watching my form carefully. I began with 3 sets of 10 and added weight once that became relatively easy. I’ve found it’s easier for me to keep good form by adding weight in front, rather than a typical back squat. I like doing squats with racked kettlebells, like this guy. Another good option is a pistol (one-leg) squat. I can’t do more than a couple of (shaky) pistol squats on my left leg, so I’m progressing by beginning in a seated position and driving up through my leg to a standing position.

If I could highlight one key thing about my introduction to lower-body strength work, it would be that my chiropractor eased me into it carefully and with attention to performing the movements correctly. It feels great to get stronger, so I’ve upped the strength training to 2-3x/week and doing more complex movements with a trainer – more on that to come!

Mobility

My least favorite thing I’ve been working on is mobility. It’s not glamorous, just doing more of those not-fun things I need to be doing like foam rolling. I’ve been enjoying yoga a lot more since my injury, and I have been practicing 1-4 times per week (sometimes a formal class, other times for 10 minutes in my hotel room).

I have two new favorite mobility tricks: “foam rolling” my calves with my shin, and the “couch stretch” (it’s a long video, scroll to 2:20 for the stretch itself). The couch stretch is an awesome (read: tough) hip flexor stretch. I’ve read that there can be a link between tight hip flexors and inhibition of the glute muscles, so if you’re like me and are trying to get your glutes firing on all cylinders, this stretch could be good to add to your rotation.

I’ve never found foam rolling to be that effective on my calves, and I have found that “The Stick” is awkward to use in that area. So I loved this trick I learned at a Yoga for Runners class at Infinity Yoga, which allowed me to get into those tight spots in my calves for a little tough love. I found some tight spots I wouldn’t have even noticed foam rolling.

1. Starting on hands and knees. cross your opposite shin over the calf that you want to “foam roll.”

2. Press into your calf with your opposite shin. Move the shin around over the calf, and identify trouble spots.

3. For any spot that needs a little more tough love, position your shin over the area and lower your weight into it to create additional pressure. You can hold this position, or you can wriggle your shin around under your weight – whatever feels right!

The photos to the side illustrate each step – some days I can sit with my full body weight on my calf, other days, I can’t. I’ve found that this exercise is most effective when I do some good “yoga breathing” into my calf, and imagine the tightness melting away. Translation: breathe and relax into this movement.

Consistency & Patience

For all of the above, consistency and patience were key. Even though I was back to running a few miles per week in late March/early April, my knee did feel a bit “shaky” for a while. I tried to stay tuned in to how it felt, and definitely got a few “yellow lights” from minor pain that caused me to cut some runs short. For those of you who have experienced a knee injury, you know that recovery doesn’t happen overnight. My knee didn’t feel strong until late May/early June. I’m glad I had great resources to turn to over the course of my recovery, and I’m excited to get back to “real training” again!

Have you ever had a running injury?

What did you find most helpful in your recovery/injury prevention?

Knee Injury: A Breakdown

oprah running quote

I didn’t expect to take nearly two months off from running and blogging when I tweaked my left knee in a 5k race, but injury is an unpredictable beast. I naively believed that I was immune to injury since I did the good core/hip/glute strengthening exercises that runners are supposed to do. As I think about Oprah’s quote, running has been an excellent metaphor for life, because it has given me what I put in most of the time. But there are also times when you do all the things you think you ought to do and the results still fall short, as happens in life.

Most of all, I’m grateful that this injury popped up after the marathon. I have learned a lot from the injury, and I hope the lessons learned will help me be stronger and healthier in the long run.

Breaking down the injury

It took a while to figure out what was actually going on with my knee. I was referred to a great chiropractor who specializes in working with athletes and is an Ironman triathlete. Early on, she did the tests for all the nasty knee injuries – torn ligaments and such – and eliminated anything really serious that could require surgery.

1. Dead Butt

In my first appointment, my chiro tested my glute and hip strength. Thanks to the good exercises, I demonstrated sufficient (if not bodybuilder-esque) strength in those areas. The real surprise came when she asked me to call on my glutes to lift my leg while lying face-down. I couldn’t do it! I thought about contracting my glutes and my hamstring fired instead. Many of you have probably heard of “dead butt,” which is when the glutes just don’t fire. It’s common among distance runners and people with sitting-down-jobs, and is an injury risk factor among distance runners.

2. Poor Range of Motion

My chiro also noticed that my entire lower body was super tight. I had a knot in my left quad, just above my injured knee, that was probably the size of a golf ball. My adductors and IT bands were abnormally tight as well. This problem was totally avoidable – I really don’t like foam rolling or stretching, and don’t do either routinely, even when I’m training hard. Oops.

3. Unbalanced Glute Strength

The third major issue that my chiropractor unearthed was a hitch in my running form caused by a relatively weak left glute, as compared to the right glute. As I understand it, strong glutes provide stability to the running stride, helping the knees to move in straight lines forwards and backwards. My running stride included a slight inward buckling of the left knee, presumably because my glute wasn’t doing its job to keep the knee stable. I also found that this imbalance is causing a hitch in my squat that has been REALLY frustrating to try to counter!

The solution is ongoing, but it predictably involves a lot of glute activation and strengthening exercises, along with flexibility/range of motion work. I’ll write a separate post about all this later.

A frustrating thing about this injury is that it doesn’t fit the common running knee-injury diagnoses, like ITBS, runner’s knee, or patellar tendinitis, so there isn’t a standard course of treatment and recovery. The pain I’ve felt has occurred on the inside of my left knee. It begins as pressure, and progresses to pain if I continue to run through the pressure. My chiropractor thinks that the hitch in my running stride may be causing pressure on my meniscus, and as the pressure persists, it becomes inflamed and causes pain. The activation, strength, and flexibility work I’ve been doing has slowed the pressure-pain progression, and I’ve been able to run 11-15 miles per week pain-free for the past three weeks, with a day of rest between every run. We also think that hills further aggravate my knee, so I’ve walked to a flat area for each run. Next week, I will begin to introduce uphill running (I’ve been told to walk down hills) into my routine to see how my body responds.

Have you ever had a knee or other running injury? 

How long did you sit out from running, and what did it take to get healthy?