When I first started running, I didn't really stretch. I would stretch out my quads and hamstrings briefly after a run but that was about it. As I added mileage and started taking running a little more seriously I started adding in stretches for my glutes and calves and holding static stretches longer after each run. I've never been much into dynamic stretching before runs, but if I feel particularly tight, I'll do a little.
When I was in physical therapy I did lots of stretches, particularly for my hip flexors. If you google any running injury the cause will probably be something about hip flexors.
Tightness in my muscles has always plagued me and I always thought I needed to stretch more. I tried more than one yoga studio but always felt like I was going to get hurt somehow.
The somewhere I read that being too flexible is actually bad for runners. I had heard bad things about yoga and runners, too (with the exception for whatever reason of Bikram which I have only heard amazing things about from ultrarunners). I already have a hyperflexible spine, meaning I just have an increased range of motion than normal. My newest physical therapist diagnosed this, though I have always been able to easily bend over and put my palms flat on the floor in line with my feet, even with my feet together.
Stiff muscles combined with hypermobile joints creates a problem. Basically it creates an imbalance that hurts the joints. This is said to be seen more in female runners than male runners. Having a pelvic tilt definitely doesn't help.
In other words, what I really need is a massage!
But that's why foam rolling helps. And it's why the right stretches help. Stetches for stiff muscles. While they make you feel more flexible, it's just the release of tension in your muscle, not an actual increase in the flexibility of the joint.
After I read "flexibility is bad" I misinterpretted this and stopped stretching. In retrospect, I felt awful. I sit all day at work (though I do get up often, I have a slightly compressed work day, and when I work at home I stand) so I'm already tense and the lack of release on my muscles was building up.
I also stopped foam rolling- not for any reason other than because (a) it wasn't hurting anymore making me think I didn't need it as much and (b) I was lazy.
Fast-forward to this past Sunday when I was in what can only be described as pure agony using that thing on my IT band, quads and even my calves where I hadn't felt a THING a month ago.
I spent Tuesday night before I went to sleep in the bed (on the heating pad because I had some debilitating back pain) stretching everything. I held glute stretches (these) for thirty seconds. I realized how much harder that was on the left side than the right. In fact, it was nearly impossible at first, but I think I have a joint issue on the left side. After I slowly tried it a few times I was almost able to hold it longer than the right. I held hamstring stretches for 30 seconds at a time. I stretched my hip flexors (ok, I had to get out of bed for that one) for 30 seconds at a time. But what I realized was when I got up to do the hip stretches was that my back pain was GONE. The heating pad hadn't helped much the night before, so I was attributing it to the stretching. I did my nerve glides (complicated to explain but basically a way to release tension on the nerve in my ankle) which doubles as a front-of-your-calf strengthening exercise. I also did some loooong static crunches which actually made my abs sore the next day (woot). Anyway, the next day I felt amazing. My back didn't hurt and my foot didn't hurt.
I wore low heels to work that day (as I always do) and at the end of the day my foot was a little sore again. I kid you not, i stretched out my glutes and it COMPLETELY went away. I went out for a run and NOTHING. It was so amazing.
I can't wait to get back into stretching. It's going to change so much more than just my running.
This is probably the most boring post in history, but I will be thanking myself later when it comes time to diagnose something else.
Alternate title: Google to the rescue
When I went out of town, I threw my Saucony Virratas in my bag and didn't think twice. I wanted to take a newer pair of shoes because I thought I might do a lot of running. The only Kinvaras I have are really old and the cushioning is deflated to the point where it sounds like I'm running in Converse. The Saucony Virratas are lighter and thinner and thus, they pack well.
Fast forward to after my epic run (ok, really about 7-8 miles in) when I noticed some major calf soreness and tightness. It wasn't pain, but I think it could have escalated to pain. The next morning both calves were really stiff and I was reminiscent of the exact same symptoms in January when I was running mega-mileage. ...
I had switched between a few different shoes. And I now really regret that decision.
My go-to's are the Saucony Kinvaras. I absolutely love these shoes, as many of us do. There's a reason they are incredibly popular. I love the light cushioning, the neutral design, the array of colors (ok, not really, I wish they had plain grey), and the perfect amount of flexibility.
Back in January, I thought it would be a good idea to transition to zero-drop shoes in order to pick up a little bit of speed. In retrospect, my body simply wasn't strong enough to support this. I had no idea at the time the huge difference between 4mm and 0mm. It's just so much bigger than you think it is.
The other mistake I made was trying out a pair of Sketchers Go Ride 3 (I think that's what they're called). They were men's and they were on clearance, plus I had a coupon so I think they were basically free. Free running shoes.
You get what you pay for.
I made the decision to switch between the Saucony Kinvaras and the Virratas to work different muscles. I also only had about 50 miles left between two pairs of Kinvaras I still had. I was still running trails in my Montrails probably once a week. When I would run in the Kinvaras, I felt great. When I ran in the Montrails I felt great. When I would run in the Virratas I would feel great for a mile and then I would get wicked calf tightness and soreness that wouldn't wear off for a few days. When I would run in the Sketchers Go Ride 3 (which I did actually do a 20-miler in those bitches) I would feel GREAT for 8 miles, and then the feeling that they were destroying my feet would ignite underneath my toenails.
Let's rewind to when I was training for my 50k. I was putting in a ton of miles. I wore ONLY Kinvaras and Montrails. I easily ran a 123-mile October even having taken off 7 consecutive days to get married. Pain? I never felt a thing. In fact, after my ultra, I felt absolutely amazing. I recovered in a few days, and I was back to running big mileage in a couple of weeks. Because: LA.
Back to January: I destroyed my ankle. I ran on it in pain for six weeks and thought it was ok. This was stupid. But really, I TRIED resting it. It didn't get better. I tried running on it, and it didn't get worse, well, until it did.
And full-circle to this week: "What is causing that calf pain when I run in these Virratas?" I pondered aloud in my car because I talk to myself in my car. Cue Google: I quickly search "zero drop calf pain." The hole in the story is why I hadn't done that 10 months ago. I assure you, I'm leaving out nothing. I scan the results and click the article with "Dreaded" as the first word in the title because that's a dope word.
Don't click down there yet. You are interested in how the plot unfolds, right?
So I'm reading and looking at this cut-away image of my calf. I decide to look for myself instead of skipping to the part where the blogger diagnoses me. I realize it's the deeper cut-away pic on the right that displays the muscle smack in the middle of my calf - the posterior tibialis. Buzz word. Why so familiar? Because this happens to be the tendon I destroyed. Thanks to this guy for solving all my problems forever.
"After look at the above image I am confident that the strain that I developed is in the Tibialis Posterior." Wow, me too, dude! (Glad I kept reading for that little extra validation.)
I am so ridding myself of minimalist shoes forever. I picked up a sweet pair of throwback Kinvara 1's on Ebay plus a rather ugly pair of Kinvara 5's that I'm pretty stoked about. I am not seriously under the impression that I will now run injury-free forever. But I feel a little better knowing a) I'm not alone and b) I have a couple more things I can do to try to get this under control.
Tomorrow I am volunteering at the Ray Miller 50/50 and I'm hoping to get some running in while I'm out that way. Look for the recap next week! (here)
More accurate title: How I Enjoy Cross-Training on a Road Bike
First things first, I don't have a road bike. I have a Giant Hybrid. For me (as a runner) this was a splurge, as opposed to something off Craigslist like I should have gotten. I definitely didn't need this. If I wanted to cross-train while getting ready for a race, I could have found a spinning Groupon for 10 classes for $60 and saved about $340. But I decided I would USE the bike. I thought I would commute on the bike. I would love being outdoors. I would take my bike to different places and ride around.
Spoiler alert: NONE of that happened. In fact, after a few bike rides, I was back on Groupon almost buying spinning classes. I decided it just "wasn't for me." I hated putting on a helmet (maybe because I bought a cheap helmet and it looked(s) awful). I hated pedaling and pedaling only to find out it had only been 32 minutes. And I hated trying to maintain a respectable pace that mimicked a hard run. But I told myself I committed to the bike, and so I can't do indoor cycling (because we have perfect cycling weather like, 90% of the time). So instead of not cycling and not indoor cycling, I did... NOTHING. For weeks I did no exercise WHAT. SO. EVER. It's also when I was not updating my blog out of shame.
Fast-forward to me being able to run again and I actually LIKE getting on my bike.
Psychology tells me since I don't HAVE to ride the bike, it becomes more enjoyable. I am sure that's true. But I made some tweaks to my approach. And, thus, I have general advice that applies to everyone because this is the Internet and I can make those claims if I so desire.
1) I ONLY ride on a designated (closed) bike path so I don't wear the helmet (I'm sure I probably should, but I only cross one really small street and it's the same street I cross when running and I don't wear a helmet when I run).
2) I use my headphones and listen to podcasts. (This sounding more and more dangerous, right? I assure you, these are like, closed bike paths. I still turn on my blinky lights if that makes you feel better.)
3) I don't go for pace. I love the jell-o feeling in my legs when I get off the bike, so instead of using momentum (spinning), I make sure to WORK MY LEGS (pushing). For most rides I use the largest chainwheel. A friend showed me this. It works your inner thighs and glutes oh so good.
4) I don't try to go out for more than an hour. Sure I could get more out of it if I did 1-2 hour rides. I could use it to build my aerobic base. Maybe one day I will, but for now I am perfectly content using my bike as strength-training on days when I don't have the time for a long workout.
So basically the "purpose" of my riding shifted from NEEDING to ride to stay in marathon shape (which would have been possible if and only if I was super-dedicated) to WANTING to reap the benefits of daily workouts and additional strengthening. And it's totally working.
Holy crap... what a summer. Of not running.
Sadly, it was a nice, mild summer. We didn't have nearly as many 100-degree days as is typical, and how glorious it would've/could've been to enjoy it.
But alas, I was bumming around on some peroneal tendinitis... or was I? I mean, freakin' tendinitis couldn't possibly take me our of running for SEVEN MONTHS. Even with the inflammation of the sheath and the micro tears... we're talking MICRO tears. This should have healed in a couple of months of not running and only walking in orthotics, max. Sooo what's the deal?
Likely culprit: NERVES.
I have had pretty rad sciatica for a few years now. It's like a plague in my family. My dad even has it dubbed "the dreaded leg." So when I first had no idea what was wrong, and I called my parents (because they are still the best diagnostic advice even at 29) my Dad confirmed my Mom's fears: it was the dreaded leg.
Fast forward three years, and it's no better and no worse. It sometimes aches enough to keep me from sleeping, and sometimes doesn't rear its head for a few weeks at a time.
After a job change, an insurance change, and a physical therapist who quit the place where I was going anyway, I saw a different PT and his diagnosis: neural tension. Makes total sense.
Because details are boring, basically my spine is whack and it makes my foot hurt. I do a few spinal twists and some self-medication a la foam-roller, I'm up and running (pun intended) for a few days before it hurts again.
Other tips I can offer: stretch your calves and hamstrings, but only slightly. Hold for thirty seconds.
On to the fun stuff... I AM actually back on my feet. After not biking and not swimming and my bike doing a triathlon without me, I come to the conclusion that running is where it's at, and if I can't run then I just won't exercise. Or I'll just hike.
I have done several hike/runs! Usually about 2 hours, but I think I pushed to 2.5 on one occasion because I walked the whole thing. It was amazing to get hot and sweaty and suffer running nausea. Seriously. When you haven't done something you love in that long, you even enjoy the nasty side effects. Like almost passing out. Yeah, not waking up early on Saturdays in August in Los Angeles has it's consequences. And if you are a masochist, you punish yourself by doing your run anyway, in the heat.
I also have been doing a few 4-5 mile runs, I ran my first 5k, and I also ran my first 5k RELAY.
More on those soon! Off to stretch my calves.
Before you do anything else, go over and read my recap on volunteering at the Griffith Park Trail Marathon.
After the race on Saturday, we spent the afternoon at the pool and it was perfect weather for it. Now for the best part... I learned how to swim! Yep, I can now swim for more than 20 minutes without becoming completely exhausted. Whoo hoo! Thanks to my dear friend who not only lets me borrow her pool but also gives me lessons, I now feel like I could actually swim in public without looking totally ridiculous. I swam for about an hour and I think I was only totally wiped out because of the early morning wake-up call and the heavy lifting from earlier in the day.
I also feel that I am making great progress in physical therapy. My ankle, while still in some pain, has shown improvement in strength and flexibility. I will be working with my physical therapist to determine which races will make sense to prepare for this year. I am hoping for a 50k and a 50-miler, and would also like to run a road race, whether it's a half or full marathon.
Since I was learning to bike and swim I thought to do a triathlon. I am struggling with this decision for so many reasons, but it seems to come down to having to commit so far ahead of time because they sell out so fast. The Classic distance at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon is already sold out and it's still six months away. I would have to commit to the (longer) International distance of a 1.5k swim, 40k ride, and 10k run by putting up my $200 very soon, and I just learned to swim three days ago. That's A LOT of cash to not get back with no option to defer to next year in the case of injury. The second part of the equation is while I'm sure there are plenty of beginners in every event, this is a major triathlon in Los Angeles and I especially don't want to go into the International distance unprepared. Conclusion: I would want to do a Sprint triathlon a month prior to test out my skills - another $125.
Once I pow-wow with my physical therapist, I can make a decision. If I won't be able to start running in the next few weeks (to prepare for Bulldog in August), I'll bite the bullet on the tris, and MAKE myself ready. Having a race on my calendar is just the added pressure I need to push myself!
Running in Australia
How to Volunteer at a Race
Running in NYC Part I
All my recaps
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