My new identity as a runner has surprised me – I always hated running, and I identified as a swimmer for most of my life, athletically (if i identified as anything athletic!).
For reasons that aren’t clear to me, a year or so ago, I started running regularly. Maybe it was simply because last year I lived in Federal Hill, in Baltimore, and there were lovely scenic flat paths to run on, surrounded by the harbor. In June, I ran my first 10K, which felt like a more serious running commitment than the 5Ks I had done to date. And, immediately after running that distance, I signed up for another – the Across the Bay 10K in November.
And, because I signed up for that 10K, I decided to get more serious about my training. I’ve been reading some blogs about running, and had been feeling a bit overconfident every time I read anything about injuries. I was running three/four times a week, and hadn’t had any problems – what was this injury thing all about??
And, then, I was running one of my training runs – 3 miles, followed by 20 second fast intervals. I did the 3 miles just fine, and was pushing off to start the first fast interval when I felt a sudden sharp pull in my left hip! Ouch.
I went in to work where my colleague, a family practitioner with a lot of expertise in orthopedic/sports medicine diagnosis, told me it was probably my piriformis. That’s a muscle deep in the buttocks, below the infamous gluteus maximus:
And I started to institute my own personal PT regimen (guided by a useful website I found athletestreatingathletes.com).
The main thing was deep tissue massage, using a foam roller, and a tennis ball. Followed by stretching.
Here’s the stretching exercise they recommend:
So, I did these stretches and the exercises they recommended religiously. And I was feeling better, so I stupidly tried to run again 3 days later, on August 11 – within a 1/2 mile, my piriformis spasmed, and I had intense pain in my buttocks, and I had to slowly walk the rest of the way. I backed off, kept stretching, and exercising. Ice became a lovely friend, and I recognized the benefit of cold that I had never appreciated before. And Monday morning, August 21, I tried again. And failed. Ended up walking to stretch it out, and realized that I was going to have to be more patient.
So, I’ve been stretching every day. Paying attention to whether I’m feeling pain. And today, I thought, I’ll give it a try.
I started off.
And my left hip hurt, but it wasn’t the spasm of pain that crippled me, it was just a dull ache on the lateral side of my hip. So I kept going. Slowly, gently, and after the first mile and a half, it eased up, and I was able to complete 3 miles without pain, and then finished another mile plus to get home, walking, to loosen up the hip. As soon as I got home, I stretched, and then took a hot bath, and the hip is feeling good.
I am humbled, and respectful of the need to stretch. I have 54 year-old bones and muscles, and they deserve respect. But I am loving the feeling of using them, and toning them, and being more “in my body” than I may have ever been in my life. Swimming is great, and I will always love getting in a pool and immersing myself in the weightlessness and freedom of being surrounded by water, but I am loving the new feeling of bearing my weight, and pounding out the miles – it’s a totally different feeling. I can’t even explain it. I get why folks get sort of religious about running – it really is a high, in a very odd way, and very addictive. A good addiction. Other than the risk of injuries, which I am much more appreciative of now. And I will keep stretching.