Running… and injury

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.

Happy running!

3 thoughts on “Running… and injury

  1. Chava Gal-Or says:

    You are so inspirational! I can’t wait to join you on this journey.

    1. janaki says:

      Happy to have you! Glad you’re safe.

      1. Chava Gal-Or says:

        Safe….hoping!

        Water is rising, but tornado warning is over for now.

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