Weaknesses & What I’m Doing About Them

I consider myself pretty lucky when it comes to my health. In general, I don’t get sick often and I’ve never broken a bone in my body. Even in my running career, I’ve only had little niggles and just had a brief period of tendonitis in my lower leg after my first marathon in October. I think one of the main reasons why I haven’t had to deal with major injury in the past year or so is that I’ve always allowed for an appropriate amount of rest. I’m not the type of runner that can workout 6-7 days a week and have the energy to go about my daily life. (If you’re one of these people, then I consider you to be superhuman.)

But if you consider yourself a long distance runner and you have several training cycles throughout the year, you’re probably going to have to deal with a little bit of pain along the way. And just because the pain is minor, doesn’t mean that you feel any better about the fact that you’re “injured”.

A couple of weeks ago, I started to feel a weird tenderness in my right calf. I couldn’t really find the right words to describe it at the time. But it felt like a huge knot in the outside of my calf that followed with some uncomfortable pain shooting down my leg toward my ankle. It was weird. And I didn’t like how my legs felt before, during, or after my runs. I figured it was just something that I’d have to massage and wait out. But it the discomfort didn’t go away after a couple of days and I started to get worried. I had felt this kind of pain before–my right calf was feeling exactly how my left calf felt right before I was diagnosed with minor tendonitis in November.

Warning sign.

I knew I didn’t want to mess with my leg anymore and risk lower mileage and easier workouts for 3-4 weeks. So I chilled. And didn’t run for a few days. I was sad that I couldn’t go for a run. I wanted to brush it off and pretend like the pain wasn’t there in the first place. Coach and I decided I’d test the leg out during a speed session with slower splits than previously planned. My leg felt great all day at work and I was anxious to do the speedwork once I got home.

It turns out I didn’t need the slower splits. My legs were ready to GO that night and I felt like I could run them even faster than I had. My legs feel like they’re “back to normal” now and I’ve had some great runs lately. I think I needed just a few days rest to let them work out the pain on their own. But the pain scared me enough to make me realize that I had to change something. There had to be a reason why I was experiencing the same symptoms in each leg within a few month’s time.

I’m still working on how to strengthen certain weaknesses, but I’ve settled on the fact that the pain stems from hip weakness. The only type of ‘strength training’ I do is typically yoga and I know that I need to be doing more to strengthen muscles that I don’t use when I’m running. If I’m always using the same muscles to move in the same exact way, I’m most definitely going to be injured this year.

There are two small changes I’ve made to my routine and I can already feel a difference:

The first– the Lunge Matrix. I do this just before or after my warm-up. In coach’s words, this engages certain muscles so that they can be used properly during either a speed or tempo workout. The first time I did the matrix, I did 10 lunges on each leg for each of the 4 lunge types and ended up walking funny for days. I was SO sore. At that point, I realized how weak those underused muscles were.

The second– the Myrtl Routine. I do this either as a substituted or additional cooldown after any type of run. I even do it at home while watching t.v. at night. It’s helping me find range of motion in my hips and use muscles that haven’t been stretched or strengthened in awhile. You wouldn’t think such simple exercises would make you feel strong, but this routine definitely does.

Myrtl Routine

I’ve talked to a lot of running friends lately about hip weakness and there seems to be a resounding YES when I say that hip muscles are neglected by many of us. Hope this is of use to some of you runners out there!

-J

 

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Creative Scheduling & Training

We’re all busy, right? We’ve all got obligations and responsibilities that we work around. An unexpected meeting pops up on the calendar or you have to reschedule a task. And the one thing that usually takes the beating is often your running schedule. Such is life. Among all the other non-work things you must get done within 24 hours, you still need to figure out how to stay active and stick to a training plan, if you have one. I’m sure a lot of you are thinking, “easier said than done, my friend”.

Here’s my 2 cents:

I find that if you’re disciplined enough to have a training plan AND creative enough to fit the runs into your schedule, everything will be okay.

Even in the past 5 days, I’ve made several changes to the plan that I scribbled in my planner. Last Thursday, I was debating when I should do my long run of the week. I had plans to go to Indianapolis over the weekend (no, not for the Super Bowl) to help my twin sister find a wedding dress. Whenever I’m home, the days are full of activity and the last thing I feel like doing is heading out for a run–much less a long run (I’d rather be cuddling on my mom’s big red couch!). So I decided I’d get up super early on Friday morning to run those 10 miles before work. I’ve had to “suck it up” and do this before, but it had been awhile. I just knew I’d feel better if I got it done that day instead of wondering whether or not it would happen over the weekend.

Sure, I was sleepy that day at work and the drive to Indy was pretty uneventful, but I was flexible enough to change my plan and determined enough to get it done on a tight schedule. I wasn’t anxious about not having the time to run the entire weekend and I was happy to take the time to relax with friends and family.

I’ve also learned something about myself in the past couple of weeks. I’ve realized that if I don’t get up and get moving on Monday and, instead, delay my ‘key workout’ until Tuesday, I consistently feel like a slacker and struggle to get my workouts in before the end of the week. So I began this week with a very strong speed session. That’s not the interesting part.

You see, I’ve started to do some calisthenics/drills before certain workouts. And it’s taken a lot longer to recover from Monday’s workout than I thought! Usually one day rest is enough for me to feel energized for another workout, but it’s now two days later and I’m struggling. I had every intention of running a few recovery miles last night and heading out for a strong 5 mile tempo this morning before work. But guess what?

It didn’t happen.

I know. Shocking! Last night’s recovery miles didn’t allow for FULL recovery. And I don’t mess around with tight legs that make me walk funny. (Ask my coworkers–it’s a quite entertaining walk to the water cooler after you’ve been sitting for 45+ minutes.) So this morning I scrapped my tempo workout and settled on the next best thing–an easy 30 minute bike ride to flush some more junk out of my legs.

I wish I could say that it worked and that I’m feeling normal now. But the truth is that I wish I could jump into a steaming hot whirlpool and sit there for 2 hours so that my legs turned to jelly again. I’ll have to settle for a good hour of stretching and foam rolling tonight while I watch t.v.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s really easy to say that your schedule will always allow for running, but it only happens when you’re disciplined and creative enough to make it a priority.

Greg (@PredawnRunner) wrote this great post about turning creative scheduling into a training advantage. Super informative, even if you are the person that ‘always sticks to the plan’.

How do you stay on track?

-J