Still in recovery mode

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog update and unfortunately not much has changed. I still can’t run more than a mile at a time. I guess I can put a positive spin on things by calling this my off-season…right?

I’ve tried rest and at this point I don’t think that’s going to be enough to solve my problem. I took over two weeks off following the marathon, attempted to run three times, and each time my knee was in pain by the time I completed a mile. I took another 10 days off before my next attempt and it was the same thing. I gave it eight days the next time, but nothing has really improved. I made it a mile on the treadmill yesterday. Rather than stiffening up half a mile in and hurting by the time I reached a mile, the stiffness started around 0.8 and just started to approach pain by the time I hit a mile. That’s not really what I’d consider progress.

I think it’s pretty clear that I have an IT band issue, and yesterday was the first time I felt discomfort down the side of my leg while running before I felt the pain in my knee. Ultimately, it’s the knee that hurts enough to stop me. At least I’ve been able to bike and swim.

In the recent past I’d gotten used to swimming once a week, but now that I can’t run I’ve bumped it up to twice a week. I can already see progress, so that’s something positive. Because my knee has been so iffy, I decided to buy a pull buoy and rest my legs. I feel like a superstar in the pool when half my body gets to float! My freestyle is practically all arms anyway. Without my legs dragging me down, it’s given me a chance to work on breathing on both sides. Whenever I take the pull buoy away, sudden the breathing gets a lot harder for me. This past week I’ve gotten back to kicking again without pain. I’ve been getting to the pool one morning during the work week which means I wake up crazy early, but the pool is usually pretty peaceful then and I don’t have to worry about trying to share a lane like I’d have to if I swam after work. I usually get in 1-1.5 miles each time I swim, so at least it feels like I’m doing something.

I’ve also been biking a little more the past couple weeks, doing around  9-12 miles two times a week. I’ve found that my knee is fine until I set the resistance to a more challenging setting, so I haven’t pushed that much yet. I know that as I begin to think about the triathlon season next year, I really need to work on biking. For months I’ve been thinking about getting a bike set up in the basement, and finally getting rid of our air hockey table recently has made it more of a possibility. We suddenly have plenty of open space and now it’s just a matter of what kind of bike to get. At first I thought I’d get a trainer and use my current bike. I realized that when it gets warmer, I won’t want to go through the process of setting it up and tearing it down each time I want to ride my bike outside. Although it’s probably not that much of a hassle, I know well enough that I won’t want to take the time to deal with it. We’ve visited a few stores to see what’s out there, and I think I’m leaning towards a stationary bike like I use at the gym versus a spin bike. I’m comfortable on the stationary bike and think that will be good enough for me.

The whole idea behind getting one at home is so I can watch whatever I want to watch while I ride. There are a few bikes at the gym that have TVs on them, but I’m limited to a few channels. We have a nice collection of concert, TV, and movie DVDs at home that we don’t watch often enough. If I have a bike in the basement, I’ll finally be able to put those to use. Sometimes it becomes a struggle to want to keep going on the bike, and being distracted by something I actually want to watch should make a big difference. One bike that I like is 20% off this weekend, so we might go for it tomorrow.

I also finally ordered some medal hangers from Allied Medal Displays. All of the medals we’ve collected the last few years are in piles. We’ve been meaning to do something with them, and maybe we’ll put them up in the basement near the bike. For now, we got a male version for Matt and a female version for me:

Medal hangers from Allied Medal Displays

Medal hangers from Allied Medal Displays

I’m not sure if all of our medals will fit on these, so maybe we’ll get some extenders to add to them or order some additional hangers with different designs. I’m excited to finally hang them up!

Getting back to the whole injury thing, I know the left side of my body is a mess from my hip down to my knee. I started seeing a chiropractor around this time last year when I just couldn’t seem to shake my problem with shin splints. Gradually, it actually did help. Although I still have issues now and then, the pain has decreased dramatically. I actually had no shin pain after the marathon which was kind of amazing to me. Of course I don’t have any now that I can’t run. Seeing a chiropractor helped level out my hips, which may have been one source of the problem. However, I have other issues going on that haven’t been solved. I’ve had a literal pain in the ass for a good year and a half that makes sitting very uncomfortable. I believe it’s most likely related to the piriformis. As Runner’s World explains, the piriformis muscle is deep behind the glutes and can impact the rotation of the hip. It can compress the sciatic nerve and send pain down the thigh. I’m on my feet for a lot of the work day, but now and then I’ll sit for an hour or two and it gets painful at times. Sometimes it only takes 10 minutes of sitting before I get really squirmy. Aside from the sitting pain, my left hip has hurt since August or September. That pain hasn’t faded with rest. Between the sitting pain, hip pain, and IT band/knee issues, something is clearly going on.

I’ve been debating what I should do about it – get a massage, try physical therapy, go to an orthopedist, etc. I’ve read a bit about active release techniques (ART) and I’m intrigued. Some chiropractors do it, but not the one that I go to. I guess the idea is to apply pressure as muscles work through certain movements and it can help deal with scar tissue and overuse issues. I’ve read about a number of athletes who have been helped by ART. I was flipping through the injury sections of some of my running books, and Kara Goucher’s Running For Women addressed an issue very similar to mine. Kara had a sore left hip and pain running down her IT band to her knee. ART treatments seemed to help her deal with the issue.

At this point, rest hasn’t been enough and I need to figure out something that can help me get back to running. I’m willing to try anything that might help, so I may give ART a shot. Of course the thought of paying for whatever treatment I might need has made me hesitate, but I’m really getting anxious. It’s been hard for me to find people in the area who specifically practice ART, and it seems like I’m only finding chiropractors. The people who I have found are good with athletes and dealing with sports injuries, which gives me hope. I think in the next week or so I’ll finally build up the courage to see somebody.

If anybody out there has other suggestions, please feel free to share. Hopefully soon I’ll report back that I’m making some kind of progress and that I can run more than a mile!

– Janet

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Marathon Recovery

It’s been two and a half weeks now since I ran my first marathon and recovery hasn’t quite gone as well as I hoped. In my dream world, I would have taken a break from running for a week and a half, eased back into it, then I’d get to capitalize on the fitness I gained during marathon training. I’d run some solid 5Ks and 10Ks because I was coming off such a good training segment.

No such luck. Whatever I did to my knee during the marathon has stuck with me. This is the pain that I developed on the outside of my left knee about halfway through the race. It faded after a few miles and came back once I finished, and it hasn’t completely gone away yet. I felt fine three days after the marathon…aside from my knee. It took a few more days before I could go up and down the stairs normally because my knee didn’t want to bend. I woke up in the middle of the night a few times in agony. I had a tendency to twist my knee the wrong way whenever I’d roll over in bed. A couple nights of pain finally led me to take Aleve for the next week. I felt twinges of pain or discomfort throughout the week occasionally when I walked. Walking was the only real form of exercise I did during the week following the race. I easily walk at least 2-3 miles most days at work, so at least that was something to keep me moving a bit.

I knew my body needed time to recover, so I was smart about not doing anything for a solid week. By the end of that week, I was getting squirmy and needed to do some other form of exercise. I got back in the pool, which I’d neglected for nearly three months. I swam a mile of free and took it easy. Luckily, it didn’t bother my knee at all.

I got back to strength training the next day and took it a little easier since I had taken a three-week break from weights. I made sure not to do much with my legs yet. I got on a stationary bike to see how my knee would feel. It was not good. I only made it a mile and that was probably pushing it. My knee started to hurt and I knew I had to quit. It was pretty frustrating, and it was clear that I still needed more time to recover. I did more strength training later in the week but kept resting my legs. When the weekend rolled around and my knee seemed to be okay, I decided to play some Wii dance games for about an hour. I hoped to work up more of a sweat than I actually did, but at least I bounced around a bit and it didn’t bother my knee. I also went for a nice walk on the trail at Yates Cider Mill with some friends.

The trail at Yates Cider Mill

The trail at Yates Cider Mill

A view of the Clinton River at Yates

A view of the Clinton River at Yates

I thought I was finally feeling good, but walking in the cold for a little while was enough to make my knee feel pretty stiff. I thought I’d finally try running this past Sunday, which was the two-week mark following the marathon. The stiffness from the day before told me I’d better wait a little longer, so I swam instead.

I got some more strength training in this past Monday. I tried doing some leg exercises, including walking lunges while holding free weights. My knee held up fine and I saw that as a good sign. My strength sessions had dropped down to once a week when marathon training got really serious, but I’m hoping to get back to twice a week now.

After that, I made my first attempt at running – two weeks and a day after the marathon. I figured the treadmill would be the best bet in case I had to bail. By the time I hit half a mile, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. I started to feel my knee just before that. The pain wasn’t that bad, but it was enough to make me cringe. It was enough for me to realize that pushing it wouldn’t be a good idea. I walked enough to finish a mile and stopped. I was very frustrated. I had to do SOMETHING though, so I tried the elliptical next. I felt my knee a little bit at first, but then I seemed to be okay. I did a couple miles and managed to finally break a sweat and feel like I’d gotten some real exercise.

The next day I came across an article about exercises that can be done to beat IT band pain. The article talks about inflammation of the tendon near the outside of the knee, which sounds exactly like my issue. It gave me a little bit of relief to read that and gave me hope that I haven’t totally screwed up my knee. I’m already well aware that I should be doing more exercises to work my hips and glutes, and the article reinforced that. I did about 30 minutes of exercises at home on Tuesday, mostly putting my ankle resistance bands to use. I used stability balls for a few as well. As the marathon approached, I had slacked off on doing those exercises and I really need to get them back into my routine.

I’m pretty frustrated right now because all I really want to do is run. It’s hard to jump from a schedule of running six days a week to practically nothing now. I might make another attempt at running tomorrow, but I’ll be ready to quit if my knee flares up again. I know I need to let it recover. I’ve taken as long as a month off in the past in an attempt to let my shins recover and somehow I survived. However, I was able to bike, which I don’t think I can do now. If I can’t run, hopefully I can at least use the elliptical. Now is a good time to rest because I don’t have anything coming up that I need to train for. So much for the 5/10Ks I had hoped to run! There are a couple on the horizon that I wanted to do, but I purposely did not sign up in advance because I wanted to see how I recovered from the marathon. I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself to attempt running a race that I really shouldn’t run. Right now, things don’t look promising. As frustrated as I am, I need to be smart and take things slow. If I have to start from scratch whenever I start my next training segment, I’ll manage. It might not be what I hoped for, but I’ve done it many times in the past. In the meantime, I have to try to be patient and hope my knee gradually improves.

– Janet