Running. It’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. As a kid my mom would make my brother and I run laps around the house as punishment for fighting. I can still see her in the kitchen window, wooden spoon in hand, stirring supper and counting our laps. In junior high and high school I ran cross country. By the time college arrived I ran off and on, mostly for myself. By my mid-twenties I discovered that I liked racing, or at least racing myself against the clock. It’s always been there, sometimes more, sometimes less and I’ve never really struggled to do it. Until April of this year.
After discovering in January that the 50k I had registered for was not going to happen, due to the tragic deaths of the race directors, I kind of let my running taper off. I was busy with gym classes and then fire season started in March. My usual spring running warm-up season got put on the back burner. When April arrived I figured I better get my butt moving because I only had 2 months before the seasonal firefighters returned. Running with the group is big deal and if you can’t keep up a lot of yelling ensues. I HATE yelling so I started training. It would have gone smoothly had it not been for one not-so-small issue. A violently sharp stabbing pain on the outside of my left knee. 2.5 miles into any run, trail or pavement, and my gait was reduced to a limp. I kept trying but after a week of dismal results I figured resting was in order. The rest of April went on like this, me trying to run and being forced to cut it short. By May I was freaking out. Things weren’t improving and time was running out. Up until now rest and stretching have cured any running injury but not this time. I was sure it wasn’t actual knee issues because my knee still felt stable and didn’t hurt when I jumped, walked, hiked or rode, just when I ran. After talking to a few folks, they confirmed my hunch that it was the dreaded IT band injury.
Like any scientifically trained individual I researched what was causing the issue, what treatments have been effective and mapped out a treatment plan. Not a huge fan of conventional medicine for non-medical issues and having a few friends who’ve had success with other treatments I decided to forego the physician route. The plan of attack: ice baths, massage therapy, chiropractic, stretching, foam rolling, having my running shoes checked for fit, working on my form and most importantly, starting all the way over in my training. I also considered acupuncture but haven’t used it yet.
Chiropractic plays an important role in keeping my body in alignment when it comes to running. If I roll my ankle, off I go. Back is hurting? Time to see the doc. More headaches then normal, you guessed it. I know that my pelvis likes to get off kilter and that my left piriformis muscle is tight and has a tendency to roll my left femur outward. I’m pretty sure these both played a roll in causing this whole mess. My docs have been really good about fitting me into their schedules to help keep me straightened out through all of this.
The massage therapy and foam rolling has and will continue to play a huge roll in my IT band story and running life for a while. I love massage, although it really hurts and I end up with bruises for days after, the stretching and muscle release seem to take me leaps and bounds forward. The foam roller is a great daily option for keeping things feeling loose and happy . The difference between the foam roller and the massage therapist? The massage therapist makes me stop breathing is hurts so much, the foam roller just makes me want to cry. (I am told that it has to hurt this much for it to heal and it seems to be working but I’m still not a fan of pain.)
New running shoes. I had recently purchased a third round of my old shoes in February so I wasn’t particularly excited about shelling out for new shoes. Apparently, the old ones were no longer the ones for me though. After a special trip to see the awesome and super helpful folks Boulder Running Company (Thanks Micah!) I came home with a new pair of Asics and Nikes. Micah also watched my form and made a few suggestions. Between the shoes and the form, there’s been some awesome improvement.
Starting over in my training and stopping to stretch has been the most mentally tough part of the healing process. I took the running back to the very beginning of running. I started over with just 1 mile and slowly began working up in mileage. After every long run (I can’t remember the last time 2 miles counted as a long run!) I took a rest day and then started back at lower milage. Every time the IT band twinges I stop and stretch. I even planned my runs so that I can stop on green grass and stretch. Not stopping during runs was something I prided myself on. Talk about a re-learning curve.
For a while I thought the dreaded IT band syndrome was going to be the end of my running career. I can easily see how someone would quit running without the resources I’ve been able to access. I feel very fortunate and it must be paying off because I’m back to running, pain-free, 4 miles without stopping. It’s still a short run in my mind but pain-free is pretty awesome. 10k is my favorite distance and 13.1 is my standard fare. For a while there those were looking like an impossible goal. I’m not there yet and there’s a lot of work between where I am now and them but each day seems to be one step closer. I’ve had to learn to take things a bit more gently but I know in the long run it’ll all pay off!
How have you dealt with running injuries? What are your go to methods for helping your body heal?