A (literal) pain in the butt

Despite resolving not to make resolutions, I think it’s impossible to get through January without considering fitness goals. So, I figured it was time for an update on my current state. Unfortunately, the update is not to be had. There are no changes. My hamstring (butt) pain lingers on continuing to get no better or worse. Plus one for consistency. Minus one for general suckiness.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure this means running is off the table for a while. I was started to think I could get back into it this month until I had to dart across the street (you know to avoid getting run over and all) and as soon as I quickened my step, I felt my hamstring. Bam. No good. Fortunately, this was never going to be The Year of Running. Before the hamstring stuff even started, I decided not to run a half marathon this year. I just think it would be too much on top of the wedding planning. Also, running a lot leaves me in less than ideal shape, so I’m hoping by shifting my focus I can tone and tighten before the wedding.

Still, running is a big stress reliever for me, and I’m a little nervous about what I’ll do if I can’t run for a few months. It’s already been a month, and while I’d be lying if I said I was itching to get out there (sub zero temps? No thanks), I am starting to miss it.

Thanks to my new longer work/commute hours and not great insurance, going to the doctor is now reserved for those ailments where it is truly necessary. I googled around a bit and aside from diagnosing it properly and prescribing PT (which I certainly do not have the time or $$ for), there’s not much a doctor can do. So I’ve ruled out seeing a doctor unless it gets worse.

The Internet recommends rest (doing that), ice (will have to start doing that) and can’t agree on whether stretching is absolutely necessary or completely detrimental. Ugh. I guess I’ll go by feel on that part. Usually, my leg feels better after some stretching and foam rolling.

In the mean time, I’m still doing the spin bike which usually creates a little soreness. I think it’s just due to the pressure in the area from the saddle. As long as I take it easy on the climbs, I’m generally ok. I haven’t been to the gym since before Thanksgiving. It just doesn’t fit with my schedule. I got a membership so I could run somewhere safe and warm in the morning, but since I’m not running, I just do the bike at home. I thought about taking classes, but usually coming home only to turn right around and head back out the door for a 7:30 class is the last thing I want to do. So I’m dropping it or at least dropping the class pass portion.

Chris and I did a couple more circuit workouts in the basement, and I’m really digging those.

Some days the only exercise I get is my 4 mile walk commute, and I’m ok with that too. So, think happy thoughts for this lousy muscle of mine. Fingers crossed I’ll be back out there before I’m a Mrs.!

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Weekly workouts anyway

Oh well, my hamstring situation isn’t getting any better, and according to Dr. Google, I can expect not to run for at least a month. The good news is that it isn’t getting any worse. It’s an odd feeling. Mostly, I just notice my hamstring the entire time I’m running. Then, when I finish, it’s stiff and sore whenever I’m climbing stairs or walking on any type of incline. Because my commute involves 4 miles a day of walking, and there isn’t any way around that, I’m not too interested in pushing it and really hurting something. So, for now, running has take a backseat. I should be stretching and foam rolling more, but I never want to. Here’s what I’ve been up to instead :

Monday-Wednesday-45 minutes on the spin bike. I probably shouldn’t be doing any standing climbs, but it doesn’t hurt during or after, so I’m just being careful.

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Thursday- Chris and I did our own little turkey trot around town so I could test things out. It had been a week and a half since I last ran, and I was interested to see how I felt. I planned on doing 2 miles but felt good enough to do 3. As I mentioned above, it’s not excruciating pain, and it doesn’t force me to stop, I just feel it the whole time. I was hoping I’d feel good enough to tackle Saturday’s 5 miler, but I just couldn’t justify it based on how sore my leg felt the rest of the day. Luckily, I was able to drown my sorrows in Turkey. And stuffing. So much stuffing.

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yes that’s turkey (under the cranberry relish) AND chicken cutlet. we are Italian.

Friday- 60 minutes spinning with a video I found on YouTube and then some arm and shoulder weights. It felt good to pump some iron (5lb weights like a boss). I wrapped it up with some foam rolling.

Saturday & Sunday- rest with a healthy side of race support. Chris ran the 5 miler that I skipped, and he did so well. And since it’s a local race, nobody gave me the stink eye for enjoying the steaming hot soup served post race. Hey, supporters need delicious warmth too!

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So that was my week. I’m not running, and it kind of sucks, but it is what it is. It could be worse. It could have come at a worse time. I, trying to keep myself busy and do the things that will get me back on the road (treadmill) sooner. Really, that’s all I can do.

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.

What’s next?

My mileage for the year peaked in August with 77 miles and has been on the decline ever since. Surprisingly, I’m not that perturbed by it. I did something I didn’t think I’d ever do by running two half marathons 6 days apart, and I’m really proud of that. I backed out of marathon training this year, and I’m happy with that choice too. It wasn’t the right season of my life. My heart just wasn’t in it. Yet.

While it has been nice and relaxing doing whatever workouts I wanted between the end of September and now, I like a plan, so I’m in the process of doing some brainstorming to figure out what my goals are and where I should go from here. The first thing on my mind is getting healthy. I put a lot of miles (for me) on this body this summer, and I’m still feeling the effects. I raced the Philly half, and I’m happy with that, but I could feel the pains creeping in during the Newport half, and I never really addressed them. It started with IT band pain, which is an old friend of mine, so I foam rolled a bit and lowered my mileage, and that seemed to subside. Then I began noticing this other weird thing.

When I was running, particularly if I was tired or sore, my heels would scrape against my opposite calve. It’s hard to picture if you’ve never had it happen, but between when I would lift my foot up and when it would strike the ground, my left toes would turn out and my left heel would kick the inside of my right calve (and vice versa). Aside from the scraping being uncomfortable, I figured this was probably the harbinger of some misalignment. Add to that, a nagging pain in my right hamstring that has not gone away since Newport, and I figured I was dealing with some sort of muscle imbalance.

As someone who is naturally inflexible and does almost no weight training or balancing exercises, I am not a stranger to misalignment. Months of P/T revealed strong muscles compensating for weaker ones as the cause of my IT band issues. We did tons of strengthening and balancing exercises, and it helped so much. Of course, I stopped all of them once I was feeling better, and shockingly am now feeling out of whack again.

I no longer have the Cadillac health insurance that allowed all those P/T visits, so I’m exploring other options. I used to go to a chiropractor when I was younger (I’ve had a weak back following a weird horseback riding fall), and found it really effective, so I sought out one in my new town. It’s not cheap ($110 for the initial visit and $35 for subsequent care), but it’s cheaper and he has night and weekend hours, so I’m pouncing on it. I made my first appointment for Thursday. Fingers crossed.

I’m not making any definite plans until he tells me what I should be doing, but I found out my gym offers yoga so I plan on aiming to hit at least one of those classes weekly. I took my first class on Monday night, and it was … humbling, and wonderful, but boy does fitness not transfer between running and yoga. I think it’s probably time to start doing some guided strength training too, since I don’t really know what I’m doing and am always worried about doing more harm than good, so I’ll try and incorporate those classes into my schedule too.

I vowed (pun intended) not to set any spring/summer running goals so I can focus on marriage preparation and wedding planning fully, so I’m piggybacking off that in order to undo some of the damage I’ve done to my body with years of running by aiming for a more balanced approach to physical health. Watching the marathon on Sunday made me realize that I would like to do a marathon someday, and I think the first step is getting my body to it’s most healthy place. So, that’s the plan. We’ll see what happens.

Working out while sick

So, no sooner did I say to Meg in the car on the way back from the Finger Lakes on Sunday, “I got sick a lot in college, but now I never really get sick anymore” then I find myself sick as a dog. It sucks. I totally forgot what it was like. I mean I’ve had chronic stomach troubles for almost a year now (worst anniversary ever), but I forgot about colds. Luckily (?) because I can’t breathe through my nose, and I can’t eat and breathe through my mouth at the same time, I haven’t really had an opportunity to eat much, which my stomach appreciates. So, silver lining I guess.

Anyway, I’m sick. I hate it. I had such a good run on Sunday that it pained me to take Monday off for this cold, but I did. Then by Tuesday I started getting antsy. I felt like a baby for not working out. The Internet based rule of thumb logic seems to be that if a cold is from the neck up, it’s ok to work out. So, if you have a stuffy head and a sore throat but no muscle aches or fever, go for it. So I did. I did a weights workout on Tuesday night, and I went to the gym before work on Wednesday to run a couple (literally 2) miles. Then I thought, “this is so stupid.”

In my head I told myself that I was running for all the reasons the internet proclaims. You know, endorphins make you feel better and get healthier and blah blah blah. But really I was running because I ate a bag of Cheetos and a dozen s’mores on my weekend away. I felt bad about it and came back with high hopes to get “back on track” in the coming week.

So I ran, and I was blowing my nose while running, and then I came home and got sick in the shower. I mean, how dumb is that? Do you know what makes me feel better when I have a cold? Rest and time. Hot showers and soup. That’s it.

Maybe it won’t kill me to keep running with a head cold, and maybe it’s good to know that if I’m ever training for something important and don’t want to take the week off, but it’s kinda crazy disordered thinking to feel like I needed to get out there just because I could without dying. And it’s gross. I’m sure no one at the gym appreciated my deathly pallor invading their personal space.

I’ve come a long way in changing my thinking about food and exercise and body issues, but every once in a while I catch myself doing something crazy for the wrong reasons. It was disordered to think that I needed to undo my bad eating from the weekend with exercise and “clean eating.” That’s not really a thing. It’s not like a bunch of kale would clean all the neon orange Cheetos dye out of my veins (I have a loose grasp on nutrition). It was disordered to think that I should push through and go to the gym when walking up the stairs to the train was leaving me winded.

So, I took the rest of the week off to take care of myself and get better. I didn’t eat better because I wasn’t working out. I ate food that made me feel better like salad and juice but also like chocolate and lots of bread. I felt bad about not running and worried at times about what all those carbs would do without a healthy dose of cardio because it’s really hard to totally change your thinking patterns. But I always wish I could go back in time and tell younger me not to be so hard on myself. I can’t go back, but I can practice a little self-kindness now. I can become the kind of woman who doesn’t view eating as something to be scrutinized and perfected and exercise as a means of absolution. There is more to a healthy lifestyle than eating right and exercising. I chose rest over running because I care more about my well being than my waistline and I’m cool with that.

Too early

I hate being late. Like it drives me bonkers. I don’t like when other people are late, but I usually understand. I cannot stand being the one not on time. Running parallel to this, I’m a horrible estimator of… everything really. I can never guess the prices of things. I have no idea how many people are ever in a given room, and I have no clue how long things take. Put these two together, and I tend to give myself wayyyyy too much time to get ish done. It sounds like a good trait, but it’s tricky because it usually results in a lot of extra time that could have been spent on more productive efforts.

So anyway, long intro to say that I went to the gym this morning! This is the first time in a long time that I’ve worked out in the morning, and the first time ever that I’ve done so with a gym I need to drive to. I figured that since I usually wake up at 5:45 and leave by 7:10, if I wanted to fit in a 30 minute workout with 20 minutes of driving, I should get up 50 minutes earlier. And while we’re at it, let’s just give ourselves an extra 15 minutes, so I set my alarm for 4:40.

I actually popped out of bed like a daisy. It’s always like that the first time I need to get up earlier. My body gets extra excited and nervous of oversleeping, so I sleep pretty lightly. I figured I’d be in the car by 5.

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I was already at the first light here. Turns out there’s no traffic at 5am so my ten minute drive to the gym is actually a five minute drive.

The gym was surprisingly busy. I ran one miserable mile. My stomach was not yet awake and protested furiously. I hopped off and got on the elliptical to round out my thirty minutes.

I went home, ate breakfast, showered, saw I was way ahead of schedule, took the extra time to straighten my hair and actually try on my makeup. Then, I was ready for work! At 6:15. An hour earlier than I needed to be. Oops. I could have gone to work early, but let’s not be crazy. So, I read the whole internet and wrote this. Would I have preferred to sleep? Absolutely. Do I have any idea why it takes me the same amount of time to get ready in the morning whether I go to the gym or not? Nope. No idea. Seriously, where do those 40 minutes go??

Ok, so now I’m tired, and I’ll probably end up buying coffee and a bagel and undoing my stupid 30 minutes of cardio, but hey, bragging rights, right??

I did it.

I finally joined a gym after weeks (months?) of contemplating, I did it.

And I’m excited! It’s so ridiculously cheap compared to Jersey City. For 1/5th of what I’d have paid back in JC for a standard membership, I got unlimited classes and guest passes which means I basically paid for Chris’ membership too. Hooray!

Plus, things work! I started to get bored on the treadmill (the obvious downside) staring at the blank tv screen when I thought, “I can watch this!” I was so used to the TVs being broken or not connected to cable that I didn’t even consider the option that it might work!

It opens at 5 which is the latest I could work out and get to work on time and the last classes start at 7:30 which is the earliest class I can make. Minorly convenient. It’s now dark on my commute home, so I’m thankful I have another option, and I’m excited to ride this wave of enthusiasm over the shiny new-ness of the gym and actually try some different things.

Monday I ran 3 quick miles and remembered why I was so much speedier in college when I mainly ran on treadmills- they are so boring that I’ll run faster just to be done sooner.

Tuesday I rested. I had another Newcomer’s Club (I’m making lots of mom friends! Hopefully they don’t shun me when they learn my 2 and 3 years olds are actually cats) meeting at 7:45, and just because the gym is open before work doesn’t mean I’ll actually make it there.

Wednesday I straight killed it with a 3.5 mile run with 2.5 miles at tempo, plus planks and squats and more! I was on fire! And I left feeling soooo energized. That’s been the most notable difference. Running outside is the best, but it would lull me to sleep finishing out my runs in the setting sun. Something about the bright lights and loud music at the gym send me home with enough energy to cook dinner and still accomplish like 3-4 more things. It’s awesome.

Yesterday I came crashing back down. I aimed to run another 3.5, but was plagued with tight stomach muscles from like .25 miles on. I forced myself to get to 2 then quit and rounded out with 20 minutes on the elliptical. I was bummed because I wanted to do more, but it wasn’t in the cards. Oh well. I picked up a six pack of Sam Adams Pumpkin Ale on the way home and had one with dinner which made me feel much better.

Today I was supposed to get up and go to the gym but even a 5am workout would have had me leaving the house too late, so I skipped it in favor of using my early wake up time to blow dry and straighten my hair for the first time all week. It looked awesome for 20 minutes then the 115% humidity did it’s thing, and well, that’s that.

I’ve got a nice long weekend ahead of me. Fun secret plans tonight. Family party (SO MUCH FOOD) tomorrow, and possibly engagement photos on Sunday. Doubtful with this weather, but who knows? I haven’t picked out anything to wear, but I guess I’ll just wing it. #worstbrideever

I took Monday off partly because my bank employed fiancé has off for Columbus Day, and I’d like to spend some time with him and partly to knock out all my annual doctor’s appointments for which I am overdue given my previous lack of health insurance. It’s a party. I’ll tell yeah. I’m hoping to get some new opinions on the #stomachfullofnightmares but am not expecting much other than, “Do you think maybe you could be stressed?” Oh I don’t know, if everything you ate or drank filled your stomach and lower intestines with hot knives, would that stress you out? Maybe.

I’m trying to convince Chris to adopt this old dog a friend of a friend’s grandmother needs to give up. He’s 14 and he’s adorable. I was this close to sealing the deal when the cats embarked on a four day reign of terror, the likes of which have not been seen since their early warring days together. It’s been madness. They’ve been literally scaling the walls with their razor sharp claws. They broke into our bedroom and tore ish up. I suspect they knew about my dog plot and took the opportunity to remind Chris of how superfun pets are. Dog plan foiled. Cats: 258. Kate: 3.

Happy weekend!!