As predicted in my last post, things started happening to me. They weren't good things. No sooner did I press the "publish post" button on that blog post than my butt started aching and my illitobial (IT) band started tightening up again. Bummer, right?
I conferred with Coach Tom after a painful run last Wednesday where I did the walk of shame home from about 2 miles out. That is clearly one of the more demoralizing experiences for a runner. You go out intending to run out and back and only get out. I was cold, in pain and very disappointed when I arrived home. It was hard to stay sad, though, when greeted by my two excited, slobbering dogs when I opened the door.
I rolled the crud out of my butt muscles on Wednesday night and gave her a shot again the next morning, deciding to run a short loop around my neighborhood. After a mile, I knew it was a no-go. So, I contacted Dr. Lau to try to get some advice about what I should work on, and Coach Tom decided to have me cross train for a couple of days.
I was cleared to run on Saturday but I didn't bother to ask what that run should consist of. I thought, while running along feeling great, why not pick up the pace and get in that tempo workout that was scheduled on Friday so I don't miss a workout for the week? I felt great throughout the 7.5 miles run at just under 7:00/mile pace and sent a note to Coach Tom telling him what I had done. He was not exactly thrilled with my judgment stating that, in the future, when I have a problem that keeps me from running for a couple of days, I should come back with a 20-30 minute easy effort and start from there. I felt the wisdom of that approach the next day when, during an easy run, I felt my IT band start to tie up again at the end of 5 miles. And, it got sore on Monday after 4.5 miles. I sent Coach Tom a message and quickly got a phone call where his first words were, "How pissed are you?"
Coach Tom explained that I have to be a lot smarter with my training and start thinking like a professional athlete. He explained that I am making a huge investment in this running thing and, if I want to continue to improve, I have to be more disciplined. He reminded me that I am never going to be lazy with my training. My challenge is to be more conservative, and if there is the slightest chance that something might hurt me, then I should opt out. Certainly, I should contact him if I have questions rather than relying on my own judgment. This is why I have a coach. I can't be trusted to make decisions for myself when it comes to my training. I will always tend toward the "more is better" end of the scale. While I have spent 6 years training pretty hard and remained almost completely injury free, my body is clearly going through some sort of adjustment period right now and I have to respect that. I guess I'm just not used to thinking of myself as breakable. I'm not fragile, God damn it!
The good news is that Dr. Lau was able to explain what's going on with me right now, and it's just your basic IT band shizzle. I will be butchering the physiological explanation he gave, but essentially what I feel is the IT band becoming locked up or adhering to my quad muscle. This is partly due to tightness in my gluteal muscles and some of my back muscles. He also confirmed that this is a different problem than the one I dealt with earlier this winter. The pain along the outside of my left leg is from the IT band tightening up and pulling because it can't slide freely over the quad muscle.
Dr. Lau unstuck my IT band, adjusted some other body parts, and said I'm good to go run. No real damage done. We also went over all of the things I should be doing to prevent this from recurring since I felt like I was doing a lot of stuff but didn't know whether it was helping or hurting me. The main thing I was missing was stretching right after I run. I like to lump all of my "maintenance work" into a chunk of time reserved in the evening. Dr. Lau explained that, with stretching, doing it at the end of the day was sort of worthless. If I don't do it while my muscles are warm, the muscles just harden in place (my words, not his).
I typically finish my run and then sit in my car or at a desk or do something that is probably the opposite of stretching. I need to stretch my IT band and glutes while my muscles are still warm within minutes of running to have the greatest effect. I need to keep that IT band sliding over the muscle rather than sticking to it. Dr. Lau said that stretching does this and that rolling won't help much with that issue. I remember reading a quote from Meb Keflezighi a few months ago related to stretching right after running. He felt it was the key to staying injury free. He suggested cutting your run 5 minutes short in order to get it in. He's a smart athlete! And, he's a professional!
I also showed Dr. Lau the various core and other strength training exercises that I do. He helped me work on doing them properly or not at all so I don't exacerbate my hip and lower back tightness. This requires modifying the yoga workouts I do to eliminate "boat". Apparently, that move strengthens abs but also tightens up hip flexors, and we runners don't need tighter hip flexors. I was doing many of the other core strength moves like pointers, bridges, and even one-legged downward facing dog in a way that tightened up my lower back and wasn't targeting the right core muscles. This stuff is going to take some serious work!
While I need to think like a professional athlete, I am not one and working to get all of this right is exhausting. I am learning, though, and will be a stronger, faster runner as a result. Luckily, I have professionals like Coach Tom and Dr. Lau to help me out!