Yesterday, after an all-morning faculty meeting in Montpelier, I ran through Hubbard Park, a labyrinthian trail system in a wooded area near the capital building. I ran the burnt sienna trails, winding through sunlight dappled ferns, plush moss, and rich evergreen, shedding work with each stride. After about 15 minutes, the ups and downs of the trail roused the stubborn ache in my hip.
The hip issue peaked in October, when I was at a 5-day meeting in Cincinnati. Perhaps it was exacerbated by sitting under fluorescents for 9 hours a day and leaping onto the pavement to run straight after… One afternoon, I found a fabulous run–5.48 miles back and forth across the bridges between Kentucky and Ohio: 4 Bridges Run
In spite of the tall bridges with skinny walkways, the run was a blast. I decided on a redo on my final morning. About 3 miles into the run, the hip pain began to stab, and I had to stop and walk back to the hotel. Back in Maine, I went to my doc, who sent me to physical therapy. It appears that I have a stressed piriformis, though the pain is elusive–regularly shifting to connected muscles (psoas and adductor, in particular). I’m following pt orders: running short, easy runs with light, structural sneakers; cross training, including running in the pool; Kinesio tape; and doing leg and glut strength training. Casual advice has been filled with contradictions: taking a month off of running all together, running only on trails, running through the pain until it passes, running only in flats (don’t get me started on the those 5 toed “shoes”), and more. I’ve learned a lot about running through the process, and about my own path for growth as a runner, but at this point, I’m ready to run without the ache!
Do you have any wisdom to add?
I wish I had some wisdom, but I have none. However, having been a runner on and off for over 30 years I do have some experience. The reason I refuse to call it wisdom is because what I have learned is so specific to my own body that I don’t know how generalizable it is.
With those caveats, what works best in dealing with injury for me is to force myself to rest for about 2 weeks, go for a test run of modest distance, take a day off and, if there is no pain, push farther the next run. If there is mild pain, I simply don’t have the patience to wait any longer so I run through it, carefully monitoring it to see if it gets worse. I have fought lots of hip and knee injuries and recently injured my calf after (probably) weakening at the Wineglass Marathon the week before. Right now I am at that stage of pushing through the calf pain. If the script plays out the same way it did with my multiple hip injuries, I will gradually stop noticing the pain and then, like magic, it will just be gone!
The great thing is that you do slowly learn things that make a difference. For instance, I used to be fanatical about keeping my speed up. I didn’t consider it a real run if I didn’t keep to 7 minutes a mile or less. Now, I run for a little over 9 minutes a mile most days and I rarely get hurt. The drop in speed is worth it. I’m not out to win races, I’m out to run for the sheer joy of it. And I actually experience that joy most runs, which is not something I can say about much else in life!
Wise advice! Through this first injury, I’ve learned so much about the human body in general and the specifics of my own. Actually, when the pain does subside, I know I’ll be a stronger, wiser runner. You make a great point about how unique each of our bodies is. Mine, for example, seems happier when I stretch out after a run, but not too much. I used to think that stretching before a run was the most important, and I know some athletes have sworn off stretching all together, so it must depend on the individual. At my most recent pt appointment, I learned something special about my toes, which I plan to write about later (should be scintillating reading! 😉
As for the speed issue, your approach sounds very smart. The fastest I’ve run is just under 8 minutes miles, and I still want to see what I can inspire this aging carriage to do, but I know that taking it slow is essential. I started adding mileage a few months ago (8+ very hilly miles on the pavement) and that might have started the problem.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I know Lowell is not a fan of stretching before a run. As a non-runner (but long-time, avid walker and worker-outer), I don’t think it’s a great idea either, because stretching is less injurious and more effective for warm muscles, not cold ones. But stretching after a run (or working out) seems like a good idea to me. I base this on my 20 yrs experience of working out with weights and experimenting with stretching before and after. I think that stretching, regularly, is key to mobility and independence later in life. Flexibility and a balance of strength in muscles (like hamstrings and quads) keeps us from the kind of injury that comes from one quick move in the wrong direction …
Can’t wait to read about your special toes!
I don’t stretch anymore. I’ve been running for 40 something years; thru aches, pains,and soreness, fast, slow, glory,and humiliation…
Gear up, get out the door, listen to your body, and the stories will follow.
Thanks for starting this blog and sharing your stories. See you at the races!