recovery

Recovering from The Woodlands Marathon

It’s been a month since The Woodlands Marathon. The decision to walk at mile 15 is paying off and I am running again. My knee pain is non-existent and my shins are healing. Though my volume is reduced from my typical non-training running volume, I can now go for a 5-6 mile jog and come home without pain. Last week I ran 27 miles, my longest run was 7 miles on Sunday.

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Monday morning my shins woke up ever-so-slightly tender so I decided to give them a day off and instead of running, I swam for an hour (1600 yards). Yesterday, the tenderness was gone so I taped my shins in KT tape, as a preventive measure, and ran 6 easy miles. No pain. No big deal. I think I can safely say that the shin splints are on their way out.

My new goal? Never let it happen again.

While letting my legs heal from The Woodlands I’ve spent a lot of time doing running drills and strength work to build my stability muscles. It’s evident from the problems I’ve had the last couple months that I’ve neglected all the supportive parts of my body. At the gym lately I’ve been doing a lot of box jumps, jump rope, clamshells, planks, wall squats, single leg balance, bridges, skips and stretching my hip extensors.

I can feel the difference that the strength work is making. I feel much more supported when I run and much less like Gumby, a change I welcome. Now I realize how poorly supported my body was toward the end of marathon training. With the intense speed work and high mileage (peak week was 82 miles, the month of December was 241 miles) no wonder my shin gave up on me.

My only goal right now is to heal properly and build my stability muscles and aerobic capacity. Ideally, by mid-summer I will be ready to begin strength training again in the weight room and anaerobic work on the treadmill. I don’t have any fall races planned yet but I know I’ll end up choosing one or two soon.

The question of the day is, do I want to run another full marathon before Boston in 2017?

It’s a bit scary to think that the next time I run a full would be in Boston but as far as reality goes I don’t have many choices.

For now I’m going to keep doing box jumps at the gym and standing on one leg while I make dinner.

Recovering from the Houston Marathon

For the record, I didn’t mean to run two marathons in two months. I’d been telling myself for years that I didn’t want to run the Houston Marathon until I time qualified for it and in December of 2014 I finally did. Then in January 2015 I was forced to defer my The Woodlands Marathon entry due to my IT band injury. The Houston Marathon is at the end of January and the Woodlands Marathon is at the beginning of March – seven weeks apart.

Coming into this spring I knew running two marathons in two months was going to be hard. I spent most of the summer doing strength training and plyometrics to get my body into peak shape. I knew I’d need that strength in the seven weeks between races to accomplish this crazy goal.

Five weeks post marathon and I feel like things are going pretty well. I have two weeks until The Woodlands marathon and though I feel like my body is back to normal my running isn’t.

My knee healed up almost immediately. I spent the entire week after the race stretching every day and the tightness that developed during the race was gone after three days.

Here’s where it gets tough. In the second week of taper prior to Houston I noticed some tightness in my right shin. Like a lot of people I battled shin splints when I first started running but over time they went away as my legs grew stronger. The 70, 80 and 70 mile weeks that made up the last three weeks of training took their toll on my body and shin splints made a return.

The week leading up to the race I wrapped my lower leg up in an ace bandage to provide some compression and wore my compression sleeves during the marathon and didn’t have a problem with the splints.

During recovery it’s been a different story. Since I’m trying to maintain my fitness for The Woodlands Marathon I’ve spent the last five weeks cross training. I’ve only run seven times since the Houston Marathon and each time it’s been painful.

The first couple of weeks after the race the pain was so bad that my shin ached sitting still. Not cool.

My original plan for the seven weeks between the Chevron Houston Marathon and The Woodlands Marathon called for three weeks of recovery, two weeks of training at 80% my peak mileage and two weeks of taper. That’s all been thrown out the window.

That phrase “listen to your body” comes to mind. It was time to do the smart thing and recognize that something isn’t quite right with my body and cross train until things heal up.

Since I already qualified for Boston by a hefty margin, I have no need to race the upcoming marathon. I am in good enough shape that I can cross train leading up to The Woodlands and take the race easy so I can leave with my medal and t-shirt. I won’t be breaking any land speed records but the last thing I want is to finish The Woodlands Marathon with an injury that leaves me unable to run for several months. That would suck.

Instead of following my original plan I have been cross training for the equivalent time duration. The past couple of weeks I’ve been alternating spinning, rowing, swimming and using the arc trainer so I will continue to do these activities in rotation until the race.

I had been doing a short run once a week (because not running is making me crazy) but I feel like that’s slowing the healing process so no running up to The Woodlands is the way to go.

With two weeks to go until race day my shin no longer hurts while doing daily activities. I don’t feel it much unless I am running (and the day after a run) so healing is happening. It’s just a slow process that requires patience – unfortunately, patience isn’t one of my best virtues.

Hopefully two weeks of solid healing will be enough to get me through my second marathon in two months. Because, yes, I’m crazy and maybe a bit stupid but I knew that already.

 

IT Band Rehab

(Note: I’m not a health professional. I am merely a runner who suffered an injury related to my IT band and am sharing what I did to get back on the road.) 

When I hurt my knee, I didn’t do the smart thing and go to a doctor – instead I went to the internet and self-diagnosed. I knew that ITBS and runners knee were two of the most common running knee injuries so that’s where I started and I found that ITBS symptoms exactly matched the pain I was having.

I quickly learned that a case of iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a two part problem.

  1. There’s the acute injury (inflamation near your knee that causes the knee pain)
  2. The underlying cause of the injury

They need to be treated separately. Step one was healing the damage done to my knee. We addressed the inflammation in my last post when I changed my diet and though diet did solve the chronic achiness, it wasn’t enough to keep the pain from returning when I ran and diet alone didn’t treat the underlying problem – which I still was unsure of.

I was sure, however, that I needed a fundamental change in my training strategy.

Prior to the injury, I’d been running 4-5 times a week through our neighborhood, mileage was between 25-35 miles. Our neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks so I run on the side of the road which is made of concrete and severely canted for drainage. Because safety is always my number one concern I always run on the left side of the road.

Also, I had switched the type of shoe I was training in. When I first began running I ran in the Mizuno Wave Creation. Later I switched to the Mizuno Wave Rider. The Wave Rider never suited me well. After a few weeks I developed pain the arches of my feet that never seemed to go away but for some reason I insisted that they were the right shoes for me and I continued running in them (that was stupid, don’t do that).

Finally, though I’d been consistent in my running I’d neglected everything else. I hadn’t been cross training, stretching, foam rolling or weight training. I knew I should be doing all these things but was just too lazy to do them.

The ITBS caused me to re-evaluate everything I was doing and formulate a new plan.

The first order of business was rest. I’d read online that it was safe to run until you felt pain, which for me surfaced around 1.5 miles. Knowing that I needed some kind of workout and knowing I couldn’t run further than 1.5 miles I started going to the YMCA. I set a 30 minute cardio goal for each visit, starting on the treadmill and ending with cross training. Run until it hurt, cross train the remainder. I got to know the gym equipment well. The elliptical, the arc trainer, the rower, the spinner, they were all my friends. I even started swimming again.

During this time I realized that I could run further without pain on the treadmill then I could outside. The softer, flat surface of the treadmill combined with the lack of turns (turns place torque on your knees) meant I could run 50% further pain free. Soon I was running almost exclusively on the treadmill.

It’s almost impossible to read about an IT band injury that doesn’t talk about weak hip and glute muscles. I read that if you couldn’t do a single leg squat then your hip muscles were too weak. I attempted doing one single leg squat, immediately my knee collapsed and I fell to the floor. Clearly the hip muscles needed some work. I bought mini bands and started doing hip exercises once a day.

One day, when researching ITBS online, I came across a blog post written by Peter Larson on RunBlogger. Peter was in a similar situation as me. He found that switching back to his old shoes made a difference in how far he could run without pain. That’s all the motivation I needed to dig an old, retired pair of Wave Creations out of my closet and take them on a test run. That day I ran 3 miles pain free – double the length of my last pain free run two days earlier. I immediately bought a new pair of Wave Creations online.

I gave my knee a few days rest and then started running in the Wave Creations and on the treadmill exclusively. After 3 weeks I’d gone from a 1.5 mile pain free run to a 7 mile pain free run. I finally felt like I was making progress.

All that time spent cross training made me realize just how weak my body was. Though my running muscles were strong, the rest of my body that supported those muscles weren’t. I could run a sub 1:50 half marathon but I couldn’t do 5 (knee) pushups.

I started lifting weights to build all my supporting muscles. I did the stronglifts 5×5 program which I modified to fit my abilities and my schedule.

By the beginning of March, two months after the initial injury, I was running pain free. My total mileage for January 2015 was 6.5 miles by March it was 70 miles. I declared myself healed.

I knew running the Houston Marathon and The Woodlands Marathon only 7 weeks apart was going to require some serious training, especially since I was coming off an injury so over the summer I focused on building my strength by weight lifting and cross training. By the end of the summer I could do 15 full body pushups and I started getting random compliments about how good I looked. All the hard work was paying off.

Training for the Houston Marathon started the second week in September. My plan included 6 days of running, speed work twice a week and strength training once a week. I’d never asked my body to do anything close to this but surprisingly it handled it fine – so fine, in fact that I signed up for the Cypress Half at the last minute.

The Monday before the race when doing my normal workout I felt it – that familiar pain in my left knee returned. Ugh.

I was confused. I had been doing my hip exercises. I was still running in the same shoes. I was still doing most of my running on the treadmill. But I learned my lesson the first time and spent the next 5 days cross training while my knee healed. I also started reading Scott Jurek’s Eat to Run. One of the things he mentioned in that book was his stretching routine and The Wharton’s Stretch Book. I bought a copy and started doing the stretches recommended in the book. That was the final piece of the puzzle – three days of following the stretching routine for runners outlined in the book was exactly what I needed.

I ran the Cypress Half that Sunday pain free in a massive 8 minute PR (1:39). The days that followed my knee still ached but after an additional week of stretching my IT problems were gone.

Occasionally I still feel tightness in my knee, almost always when I have gone through a period of not stretching regularly. When I do, I immediately get down on the floor with my piece of paracord and stretch out my legs. It works every time. It’s like my body’s way of reminding me that I’ve been neglecting it and it needs attention.

The pain did return during the Houston Marathon but this time I knew why and spent the three days after the race stretching. Two weeks later, it’s my shin that’s sore – not my knee and hip.

IT band problems are a very common and frustrating injury. When trying to heal my injury I found that testimonials from others who had experienced a similar injury was my best resource. I hope that by sharing my experience I can help someone else with their own injury and get back to running faster.

When I Don’t Run, I Remember Why I Do

When I don’t run my whole world falls apart. I don’t eat well. I don’t drink enough water. I’m grumpy. I have no energy. I start to feel pudgy and my pants get tight. Of course, it takes not running for me to realize exactly how important it is to my life and my happiness.

I’ve been struggling lately. My lazy side has gotten the best of me.

Since marathon training is no longer something looming over my head I find myself de-prioritizing (is that a word?) my runs. Marathon training and to some degree half marathon training forces you to run. You don’t have a choice.

You have 12 miles scheduled and your husband can’t watch the kids? Put them in the stroller and go.

Pouring down rain? Go.

20 degrees? Go.

That’s great when you’re trying to loose 40 pounds of baby weight so you can fit back into your pants. Being forced to exercise is good, until it isn’t. What I did was give myself a serious case of burnout.

I need to change my mindset from having to run to wanting to run. A task which is proving to be somewhat more difficult than I’d hoped.

Marathon recovery this time around was much worse than before. I pushed myself harder during the race and I think I tried to get back to running too quickly afterwards. I didn’t give my body enough time to heal itself from the damage I’d done. As a result almost every run I’ve done since then has been brutal. The first month after the marathon, during the “recovery” time frame, my heart rate would spike and I had trouble breathing. Most of my runs turned into runs with walk breaks.

The problems with recovery were followed by the weather, more specifically the wind. OH THE WIND. Nothing spells misery quite like pushing a 100 pound double jogging stroller into a 20 mph headwind. If I looked outside and saw the trees blowing (which seemed like every day) instead of doing the right thing and taking the kids to the Y I would just throw my shoes back in the closet and eat a handful of M&Ms.

Not cool, Joni. Not cool.

So here I am. Almost through April and I’ve only gone running eight times this month, three of those in the last three days. I’m struggling to find a groove.

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The last few days I’ve been trying to change up my routine, doing more to focus on the run and less on the work of running. I’ve altered my route to see different scenery. I’ve instituted a mandatory walk break halfway which is more to help me get out the door than is actually needed on the run. I’ve turned off my radio which is making me much more aware of my surroundings, not just the sounds but the sights too. We stop at the playground on our route to make it easier to get Evie in the stroller, which she’s been fighting lately. Most importantly, I’ve slowed down which makes running more fun, at least for me.

Thankfully, this struggle has a purpose.

By not running I am reminded of how important it is to my life and to my happiness. It’s not until I don’t run that I remember why I do.

I run because it makes my happy. I run to be strong both physically and mentally. I run to be the person I want my kids to become. I run because it holds my entire life together. Without running, I fall apart.

Ironically, do you know when I figured all this out?

On a run, of course.