Running Update: Setbacks & Moving Forward

Running was going really well for me during the late fall and early winter. I PR’d two races (5 miler and 5k) and was crushing workouts and loving the run. I was running 6 days in a row with a long run, a tempo/workout run, and 4 “easier” days of running all together. It was a big adjustment to the type of “training” I’ve done in the past, but it was already producing results, and I felt great. I was being diligent about my pre-run warm-ups, and was actually doing post-run prehab, albeit not as frequently as I should have. I let time get in the way of things, and found myself coming in from a run, hopping right in the shower or getting started on dinner, and then going about my business and forgetting to do the routine that was scheduled. Well, that naturally resulted in a little bit of an overuse injury – dreaded ITBS.

I noticed a twinge when I would go from sitting down to standing up after a 10 mile run on December 21st. I didn’t think much of it, and continued the next week as normally scheduled. Looking back, I should have spent some extra time foam rolling and doing some strength work, but I didn’t. By the time I got to Christmas Eve, as I finished up an epic tempo run, I felt that dreaded tightness on the outside of my right knee. It’s a feeling I know all too well, as I’ve experienced it during almost every marathon I’ve run around mile 21. It wasn’t painful, but I knew exactly what it was. Since it was slight, I was hopeful that it wasn’t much of anything, and Christmas morning’s 4 mile run would be fine. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Yes this is what I wore when I ran Christmas morning.
Yes this is what I wore when I ran Christmas morning.

Christmas morning’s run was painful, and I knew the ITBS I thought I had was, in fact, ITBS… and that it wasn’t going to just go away. The run on 12/25 was the beginning of a month of on and off runs, most peppered with knee pain. The pain would start about a mile and a half in, and come and go depending on my stride. Sometimes it was brutally painful, and other times it was manageable. But I’m happy to report that after a month of rest and rehab, I’m back on the streets and running! I think it’s so important for runners to take the time to do a warm-up before they start a run, and to also do some type of post-run prehab routine. There are a few things in particular that I found to be extremely helpful as I battled ITBS, and I wanted to share them with you!

  •  Strength Running’s ITB Rehab Routine – If there’s one thing I’ve learned with the injuries I’ve sustained over my short running career so far, it’s that having strong hips, glutes, and core can be the difference between pain free and fast running, and sitting on the couch whining about how you can’t run. This routine focuses on strengthening the glutes and hips, which is where the ITB starts. All you need is a resistance band and about 5 minutes post-run. I did this daily during the month of January, and now do it 2-3 times a week.
  • Mrtyl Routine – This also focuses on the general glute and hip area, and doesn’t require any equipment. I also do this about 2 times a week.
  • Core work: Strength Running’s Standard Core Routine & Dr. Lesko’s Dozen Routine – Let me tell you, having a flat stomach does not mean you have a strong core (not that my stomach is flat). I always thought my core was decent, since I swam for so many years and a lot of power comes from your core, but I’m learning that is not true. Both of these routines are more than just crunches, and they work your entire core. The supine leg lifts in the Standard Core routine are killer, and I dread that part of the workout every single time… but I know they help, and I’m looking forward to the day where I can get through it without shaking uncontrollably and not counting down every second of the minute.
  • Foam Rolling – it’s awkward and it hurts, but it works. I don’t particularly enjoy it, and for awhile, I just didn’t do it. I bought a foam roller about 2 years ago when I had tight hips, but I just couldn’t get into a regular routine. I learned quickly, though, that the foam roller is really helpful – whether you have an injury or not. I try to spend about 5 minutes everyday foam rolling my hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves. If nothing else, it helps build my upper body strength as I’m trying to hold myself up while using the roller.

I’ve been running again consistently for two full weeks and am just starting my third. I have my fingers crossed that this little bout of ITBS is behind me, and I can carry on with training as scheduled for the month of February. How do I feel about finally being back in action? See below.

Hooray for pain free running!
Hooray for pain free running!

That being said, I don’t think the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on March 16th is going to be a PR attempt. Unless training over the next few weeks goes fantastically (and it warms up and stops snowing and being icy), I don’t think I’ll have my fitness back up to where it was in December. So, my plan is to run the Shamrock Half as a workout, and run a goal half in April instead. There are quite a few around me, so after weighing my options and chatting with my coach, I decided on the Asbury Park Half on 4/26! This is the day before the New Jersey Marathon, so I’ll be able to cheer for everyone running the half or full on Sunday! Since it’s down the shore it should be relatively flat – I just hope it isn’t a windy day. I’m also planning to work a few other short local races into my schedule, but I haven’t committed to anything yet (as you can see from my Races page).

Tell me…
Have you ever dealt with ITBS? 
What’s your favorite runner specific strength routine?

Running Lately

Let’s face it, running in the heat of summer isn’t always fun. But, I’m finding the best way to get through the super sweaty, red faced, feeling like you can’t breathe well runs is to be thankful that I can run at all. It may sound cliche to be “thankful for the opportunity to do something that others can’t,” but I really feel that way. It really is a privilege to be able to lace up my sneakers and head out the door without any health worries! That isn’t to say that I haven’t found myself struggling here and there the past few weeks, though.

It seems as though every so often, my feet like to give me some trouble when it comes to running. A few weeks ago I noticed a little soreness right below my ankle bone towards my foot, but kept plodding along, simultaneously loving and hating my weekly workouts.I tried getting ankle braces, like the ankle braces for men since they are known to lend comfort. The discomfort would come and go, usually disappearing within the first 10 minutes of running. After my birthday, I noticed the pain more frequently – both when I started a run, but also when I was just walking. This obviously put me on high alert, and I started icing like crazy, doing ankle and foot strength work, and taking my runs easy. I ran the Firecracker 4 miler Race on the 4th of July like I do every year nice and easy with Ashley, but then decided to take a little more time for my foot. After three full days off I got back to things two weeks ago, and had no problem completing all of my workouts. But then last week, it hurt during every workout, and afterwards as well. By the time my weekend long run came around, I only got through 8 of the scheduled 14-16 miles.

I'm no stranger to injuries, unfortunately.
I’m no stranger to injuries, unfortunately.

After struggling with this on and off discomfort for a little over two weeks, I decided it was time to go to a Podiatrist. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, and I didn’t know if the pain I was feeling was the “run through it and stick it out” kind of pain, or the “you need to stop immediately” pain… which is something I struggle with from time to time. So I called on Monday morning and was able to be seen that evening. Being the type of person that I am, my first thoughts were of the worst – I’d be in a boot, I wouldn’t be able to do the Disney Dumbo Double Dare, I’d have to drop down or out of the Richmond marathon… etc. I’m a really “glass is half full” kind of girl, if you couldn’t tell! But eventually I realized that no matter what they would or wouldn’t find if I went to the doctor, it was better than being in pain, potentially making things worse, and, no matter what it could always be worse. Of course when filling out the paperwork I made sure to mention that I am a runner (marathon training) and that I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture (the dirty words of the running world). When the doctor came in he asked if I was training for my first marathon, to which I replied it would be my fourth. Apparently I can’t do math, though, because Richmond will actually be my fifth. But I digress.

We took some x-rays, the doctor poked and prodded all around my foot and ankle, moved it a bunch of different ways, and even had me walk and jog in place for him. I was really glad he took the time to ask me questions, listen to me, and do a thorough exam. The verdict? No stress fracture! But, I do have some weird stuff going on, that I wasn’t aware of at all. Apparently, my right (problem) leg is slightly shorter than my left. It also bows out a little bit when I walk, and my knees tilt in towards one another a bit when walking and resting (fondly referred to as knock-knees). No surprise to me, I have tight Achilles. Additionally, it looks like there may be some early signs of arthritis in the front of my tibia where it meets my talus (but he said that wasn’t a big deal). And the kicker? My tibia, talus, and lateral malleolus seem to love each other so much they kind of rest up against each other, not leaving much room for movement, which the doctor said looks like at one point I must have had an injury there that healed on its own and is likely the culprit of my pain. All in all, nothing major or super worrisome; which was a huge relief.

He gave me a cortisone shot (which apparently people don’t take well, because he was impressed with my “taking it like a champ”), a light brace to wear when I’m working out, and ordered me a pair of orthotics to try out in hopes of easing the pressure and correcting the way my feet fall when I run. Naturally he told me to stay away from flats, flip flops, and extremely high heels … so basically my entire shoe wardrobe. Of course I had to ask what it meant for my running, and it doesn’t seem like much. He told me to take it easy for a week or two, and to obviously continue icing and doing the stretch and strength exercises I’ve already been doing. So my plan is to take this entire week off, and do some short and slow runs next week with the orthotics to see how everything feels. I’m hoping this is just a one-time hiccup, and not something I’m going to have to deal with long-term and I’m definitely going to baby it and play it safe to make sure. 

It amazes me how much running, something that I do for “fun” and is just an extra curricular activity in all reality, can make or break my mood so easily. When I was replaying all the different outcomes before going to the doctor yesterday, I couldn’t help but laugh at how devastated I knew I would be depending on the results. I just kept repeating to myself, “this is not your job. This is for fun. You will be able to run again at some point, no matter what. It’s FINE!” These kinds of bumps in the road make me realize that running really can be a lifestyle, and I’m so thankful that I’ve found something I can (usually) do on a regular basis, have so much passion for, and am basically obsessed with.

Anyone ever deal with ankle and/or foot injuries? 
Have any good stretch or strength exercises I should be doing?