Hamstrung

Popping in for a running update. I talked a little about what’s been on my mind regarding running since the early fall back to back half marathons, and I guess it was a bit of foreshadowing. I had always planned to keep my general running fitness up because, while I don’t have any real races on the horizon, there are a few fun runs I had my eye on. I signed up for the Turkey Trot 5 miler Chris and I did last year as well my favorite 5k, the Big Chill at our alma mater. I used to run the Big Chill every year, but in 2011 I was sidelined with my IT band thing, and last year, I had an all day prep class for my professional exam. Unfortunately, things aren’t looking too good for either race this year either.

In my last post, I mentioned stepping back from running to give my body a little time to recover, and now it seems like I’ll be forced to. In that post, I mentioned IT pain and an imbalance in my stride. Luckily, the IT pain seems to have disappeared. I think it was just fatigued after the races. Unfortunately, the problem now seems to be my hamstring (and I think it’s what’s effecting my gait). Though I have been feeling hamstring soreness since Philly, I always thought it was attributable to something else (weight lifting, high impact house projects, hikes, etc) I was doing, but it’s been a while since I’ve done any of those activities, so I’m thinking running is causing or at least exacerbating whatever is going on. My hamstring starts out a little stiff when I begin running, but as I get tired, it gets more and more sore and tight rather than loosening. On mornings when I run, I’ve noticed lingering pain in my hamstring and even up into my lower back throughout the day. I’m sure sitting at a desk for 8+ hours doesn’t help, but I don’t think my employer would appreciate me pacing the halls all day. The pain generally goes away the next day but has been returning as soon as I start running again.

I thought it was just soreness, so I’ve been pushing through it, but, I’ve been pretty rested lately, and it’s still painful, so I’m thinking it’s something more. A quick trip to Dr. Google reveals the most likely diagnosis is High Hamstring Tendonitis. Basically, it’s a muscle strain that comes from overuse and weak legs. As I confessed in the previous post, I ran Philly at a faster pace than I had trained for which was dumb, and I’ve always been bad about weight training, so this isn’t really a huge surprise. Still, it’s a bummer. I ran today and probably shouldn’t have finished, but I did and found myself in pain, so I’ve decided (in conjunction with the good doctor G) the smartest course of action is a full break from running.

I’m nervous because I had a hard time coming back from my last full break with running due to my IT band in winter 2011 (and that was only a month off!), but I guess if I had to pick a season to be off my feet, this is the one. I’m optimisically (delusionally) hoping that if I take off until the 5 miler, I’ll be able to run it, but a) I probably won’t feel better by then and b) am not the type of runner who can run 5 miles happily after a few weeks off. It sucks, but I’ve been meaning to volunteer at a race, so maybe this race will be it. As for the Big Chill, it’s becoming a joke at this point. Thank goodness there’s no registration fee (you bring an unwrapped toy on race morning) otherwise I’d be broke from registering and DNSing.

There are some silver linings around this dark cloud though. My heart hasn’t really been in my runs lately (possibly because they’ve been painful and difficult), so I’m not as bummed as I’d normally be to give it up. I’m sure that will change after a few weeks out of the game, but for now I’m not devastated. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little stressed about forgoing my favorite form of cardio during the busiest eating season of the year, but I’m luckily past the point in my life where this kind of news will send me into a tailspin and very luckily significantly past the point where I’d just ignore the pain in order to BURN ALL THE CALORIES. The holidays only come once a year. I’ve got pants a few sizes bigger I can wear if I need to. No one has ever gained 25lbs in one season (have they??). Life goes on.

Also in the “pro” column, there are some regimens online for this sort of thing, and they don’t require P/T which is blessing for my wallet. Mostly, they involve 4-6 weeks of non weight bearing cardio (biking, swimming) combined with exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hamstring (glutes, quads, hips) to take some pressure off the area and allow it to heal followed by 2-4 weeks of non-impact cardio (elliptical, stair master) and exercises to regain hamstring strength and flexibility. I only ever do strength training when forced to, so I guess this was bound to happen. Maybe this time I’ll actually keep it up. Maybe.

As far as the chiropractor, I went last week and was underwhelmed. I had so much success visiting a chiro for my back injuries, but what this doctor did for my hips/hamstrings is nothing more than I what I already do at yoga, which I find much more enjoyable and cost-effective, so I won’t be going back. I don’t feel like the appointment was a total waste because he provided me with the comfort of knowing there’s nothing neurological going on, which I guess is a concern with anything near the sciatic nerve.

I took my third yoga class on Monday, and I am really falling back into it. It’s pretty good for gym yoga. I just wish they’d adjust the temperature from “Intense Cardio Class Tundra” to “Soothing Yogi Warmth” but until then, I’ll layer up. I tried using the spin bikes at my gym (they’re the sweet ones with the monitors that guide you), but they keep timing out after 20 minutes. I’m not sure what that’s about, but I have a plan B…

I’m trying to convince Chris that we NEED a spin bike at home. We have a basement now, so we talked about getting a treadmill, but we have low ceilings, and I think the base of the treadmill would make it an awkward fit. Plus, they’re not cheap. A bike on the other hand would be a great fit! Chris prefers cycling to running, and they’re much cheaper!! I’m pushing hard for “this can be our Christmas present to each other!” but I’ve already said that about 10 expensive things (mostly house projects), so my capital there may be running low.

That’s about the extent of where I’m at now. I’m going to start doing the exercises on the regimen and just go by feel. If after the first 4 weeks I feel no hamstring pain, I’ll move on to phase two. Hopefully I’ll be back on my feet in 6-8 weeks, but I’m prepared if it’s longer. I’m nervous, but I think I’m making the right call.

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