25 November 2010

don't look for the pain

A couple of weeks ago I was riding with Justin A (my running mentor) when the conversation turned to, you guessed it, running.

At the time I was contemplating my first run after taking seven weeks off to let my right IT band inflammation heal up and I was curious how long/hard I should go on my first outing and then if it went okay, how long/hard my future runs should be. The last thing I want to do is the classic rooky maneuver of feeling like I am healed, doing too much and then setting myself back much farther than if I had just built up slowly.

What Justin said was interesting; I think it went more or less like this.

Athletes tend to look for the pain. If they are healthy they go until it hurts and then try to embrace the discomfort and hold it as long as possible. If they are injured they tend to go until it hurts before they stop.
I'm honestly not sure if I remembered the first part correctly but I am sure about the second part. His point was NOT to look for the pain when you are coming back from an injury. If you go until it hurts, you have already gone too far and your body will need time to heal again as the pain is an indicator that you are causing damage.

Instead he suggested that I run for five minutes. And if it feels fine stop. The next time I run I should try like six or seven minutes and if that feels good stop. You get the idea... Each successive run should only be a little longer than the previous one and none of them should hurt. If it hurts I am doing something wrong or am doing too much or am doing it too hard. Only by progressing slowly and without pain will I build up my body (my right IT band in this case) so that it can handle the stresses I want to subject it to in the future.

Sounds easy, right? And totally makes sense, right? But it is amazingly hard to follow through on.

After seven weeks of no running whatsoever and an MRI on my right knee and four weeks of using a foam roller on my IT bands and four weeks of massage and stretching and two weeks of taking horse pill Naproxen tablets I was finally ready to give it a go.
ASIDE – okay, I guess I lied. Once in those seven weeks I did try to run on a treadmill at my gym. I lasted maybe 10 steps. The impact hurt so much. It was this event which finally caused me to seek professional help.
Nervous? Hell yes I was nervous. I got on our treadmill at home and started walking. By this time walking around on the flats and going up and down stairs was not hurting me at all so I was guardedly optimistic that I could finally try running again. Up until just two weeks ago I could still feel my right knee going down stairs and when I was spinning easy on the bike. Interestingly going hard on the bike did not hurt at all.

After 10 minutes of walking I dialed up the speed and started running.

No pain. Hallelujah.

I kept it up for exactly five minutes and then slowed it down to a walk. Two days later I tried seven and a half minutes and today I did 10 minutes. No pain at all.

Shelley has been so incredibly supportive of me trying to come back and of me sticking to this more cautious and more sane building program. Especially the later. :) Which is good. Left to my own devices I would no doubt try too much and end up on the couch with an ice pack on my leg whining about how much injuries suck.

Thanks to everyone that has helped me get over this.
  • Shelley – my wife
  • Neal G – my PT
  • Tucker R – my LMP
  • Justin – the guy I look to for all things running
And here's me actually getting over this and not backsliding.


Andrew Nestingen said...

Also try hip raises to prevent further problems -- when I had a bad IT problem, that was what finally made it go away (also did the other stuff you mention.) Evidently weak hips typically cause instability in the stride, which the IT band overcompensates to stabilize, bringing about the injury. Strengthen hips with following exercise. Lie on your side, back, butt, and heel against a wall or flat surface. Flatten the back plane of your body level with the wall. Then point the toe on your upper leg toward the ceiling and raise your toe about 18-24 inches. Start with 2 x 15 on each hip, to maintain symmetry. Increase the number and sets to 3 x 20, and start using ankle weights after a couple weeks.

Martin Criminale said...

@Andrew - thanks. Sounds like you and my PT and my sports medicine doc are all on the same page. I have been doing exactly those exercises for some time now.

Andrew Nestingen said...

Maybe the same PT -- Carolyn at Hec Ed. Anyhow, it's a frustrating and persistent injury and it was interesting to read how you worked through it.Cool blog. Best of luck with the running!