This past year has been an ongoing cycle of injuries. I would strain a muscle (piriformis), ice, rest a few days (meaning replace running with more swimming and biking), do a few sessions of dry needling, get healthy enough to do another race, then strain something else (hamstring), and cycle through the same pattern. This method was working for awhile. I was able to do a half Ironman, a full Ironman, and a marathon; however, I approached all of these races with the attitude "let's see if I can get through this", rather than being healthy and prepared.
Finally, this winter my body started to tell me "I need a break". I tried to ignore it for a few months. I hired a coach, signed up for races, and set ambitious goals; however, the injuries only got worse. My hamstring strain turned into tendonitis and I could no longer walk without pain (yet, I still thought running was a good idea - not smart). After months of things only getting worse, I decided to take a step back and figure out what was wrong.
In case anyone else is dealing with a hamstring injury, I thought I would share what I have learned. over the past several months:
1. If it hurts to walk, don't run and if it hurts when you are running, stop (simple, but hard to do). I am not a fan of the treadmill, but it has been very helpful the past few months because I could stop the treadmill immediately when I felt the hamstring flare up, instead of worrying about having to limp all the way home.
2. If you take a week off running, you won't gain 10lbs (one of my stupid, but real worries).
3. There are other things to do than run
Against everyone's advice, I never took cross-training seriously. I would do a core routine, some strength, and foam roll 1-2 days a week, but that was it. In my mind, cross-training took time away from swimming, biking, and running. Well, this injury has forced me to turn my 4-5 days of running into 4-5 days of cross-training. At first I was hesitant, but I must admit, all of the cross-training has been a wonderful change. I have found a yoga studio I absolutely love, I have strengthened my butt, hips, and shoulders with Pure Barre (my shoulder pain when swimming is now gone). and I have improved my imbalances with PT-inspired strength workouts.
4. Don't stretch a strained muscle. I started out stretching my hamstring because it felt tight; however, I soon learned that is exactly what you are not supposed to do. Instead, stretch everything around it - IT band, hip flexors, quads - but avoid stretching the hamstring itself.
5. I followed this amazing article very closely. It was more helpful than any of my PT appointments and I highly recommend it!
Here is what has worked for me:
- I took 2-3 weeks totally off running. I mean absolutely no running at all.
- Then, once I could walk and very low speed jog without pain, I moved onto exercises that gradually increased hamstring lengthening (my self-created workout is below). I included supine bridge walk outs, one leg deadlifts without weights, and 2 legged hamstring curls with my feet on a Buso ball. In addition, I started going to Pure Barre and yoga a few times a week. I SLOWLY returned to running, but per the article I kept it at a "speed no more than 50% of (my) maximum speed" (I just kept it at a very easy zone 1 pace).
- Once I was able to do my hamstring exercises without pain I added resistance to my strength exercises. I added weights to my supine bridge walk outs and deadlifts, I used the TRX for hamstring curls, I increased the number of reps for all of my exercises, and made other similar adjustments.
Here is an example of my strength routine I created; I tried to do it about 2-3x per week:
1. Stair Climber 15-20min
2. 15 Single leg squats each direction
3. 15 Standing tricep pulls in TRX
4. 15 Curtsey lunges holding TRX
5. 15 standing push-ups in TRX
6. Repeat 2-5
7. 15 squats on buso ball
8. 15 single leg squats on buso ball
9. Repeat 7-8
10. 15 side plank lifts w/feet in TRX
11. 5 each arm push-ups w/feet in TRX
12. 15 side plank lifts w/feet in TRX
13. 10 push-ups w/feet inTRX
14. Repeat 10-13
15. 50 clam shells w/theraband
16. 50 supine glut bridges
17. 25 supine glut bridge, walk feet out
18. 50 clam shells other side w/theraband
19. 50 monster walk w/theraband
20. 3x15 standing leg lifts w/theraband around ankle - 15 front, 15 side, 15 back
21. 15 single leg dead lifts
22. 15 Lunge walk with trunk rotation opposite hand toe touch
23. Repeat 15-22
24. ADD IN AS HAMSTRING HEALS
a. Hamstring curls w/weight on hips
b. Single leg hamstring curls w/weight on hips
c. Single leg glut bridges w/weight on hips
d. Single leg deadlifts holding weights
5. Accept the fact that it will take time - A LONG time. I have had to accept the fact that my "long" runs are now 6-8 miles (they used to be 15-18) and all of my runs are at a pace ~2min/mi slower than before.
I am not going to lie, I (like most of you reading this blog) tend to dread the off-season; however, I think it's best to focus on the positives of taking some time off!
1. Holiday runs: These are always a blast! I am going to try to do at least 3 holiday-themed races this year and join in on some fun group runs.
2. New indoor workouts: Hot yoga, Orange Theory, Pure Barre, spin classes, on-line workout videos - there are so many options and now is the time to give them a try!
3. Rehab exercises: This is a great time embrace those PT and strength exercises in order to avoid injuries in 2017.
4. Trail Running: I am a huge fan of trail running. This is the perfect time of year to get out on the trails - explore new parks, challenge yourself with new courses, and enjoy the beautiful scenery!
5, Setting new goals for 2017
Marathon PR? Full and/or Half Ironman race(s)? Trail races? Maybe an ultra? So many fun choices! Now is a perfect time to figure out a fun race schedule for 2017.
6. Making time for all the recipes and crafts I have pinned on Pinterest, but never actually done
Now is the perfect time to discover new recipes, make race collages and medal signs (those race bibs have to go somewhere), bake holiday treats, and create gifts for family and friends.
7. Most importantly, enjoy the holidays and spend quality time with family and friends!
What a great day for a marathon! The Indy Monumental Marathon turned out to be one of my absolute favorite races.
I wasn't sure how to pace my run since my speed has been all over the place this summer with training for IM Chattanooga. I decided to start out conservatively behind the 3:45 pace group and see how I felt.
The first half of the race ended up flying by. I ran into a girl from Cincinnati, so we ran and chatted together for the first 13 miles.
After passing the 13 mile marker I decided to pick it up. Surprisingly, my leg started to feel good with the faster pace. I haven't run <8:00min/mi pace for several months, but somehow my legs started to pick up to a 7:40 pace. I was excited to feel good with the faster leg turnover.
Note: I forgot to start my watch so I missed the first 3 mile of the race (mile 10 on the pace chart is actually mile 13).
I was happy to end my 2016 season with a negative split 3:34:36. It wasn't my fastest marathon, but it was a fun race with wonderful friends and great memories.
Indy Training Update
First, a little update on my training the past few weeks. The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon is only 1 week away (boy, time sure does fly by). I really have no idea what to expect. I have had some good runs and some not so good runs. My pace has picked up since Ironman training, but my long runs are still about 1:30min/mi slower than when I ran my last marathon (Boston 2015). I have been trying to stay consistent with strength workouts, but of course some weeks have been better than others. I have been feeling pretty healthy, but this past week my body has just been really tired (no clue why). My plan is to take it easy this last week and run the marathon at a very conservative pace; however, I am still unsure what a conservative pace is - 9:30min/mi? 9min/mi? 8:30min/mi?. I would love to qualify for Boston again, but I don't want to get my hopes up.
On another note, I have started reading the book below and I HIGHLY recommend it! I plan to do a blog post on it soon.
The Three C's in Life: Choice, Chance, and Change
This quote could not be more fitting. In 2 weeks I will be moving to Raleigh, North Carolina. This will be the 4th city I have lived in during my 20s: Williamsburg for college, Cleveland for graduate school (my hometown), Cincinnati for my first “real” job, and now Raleigh for work. I have learned that moving to a new city isn’t easy; in fact, it is one of the most difficult challenges I have faced.
These challenges, though, have made me who I am today. I have learned valuable life lessons, gained self-confidence, and made lasting friendships. When I moved to Cincinnati 4 years ago I was lost. I was no longer a Division 1 athlete or a student and my dreams of going to medical school were fading. Furthermore, I didn’t know anyone in Cincinnati, my job wasn’t challenging, and I didn’t have any hobbies. However, eventually things changed. I decided to join a running group and through this group I developed a wonderful group of friends and goals to work towards. I completed my first half marathon, marathon, triathlon, and eventually my first Ironman.
Looking back, moving to a new city was a challenge, but it was most definitely worth it. I am looking forward to new choices, chances, and changes in Raleigh :).
A few reasons why fall is my favorite season:
It has been three weeks since IM Chattanooga. Usually it takes me weeks to recover from a running race, but for some reason my recovery is always much better with triathlons. Since I was feeling good, I decided to jump on the fall-marathon bandwagon and sign up for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I have never done this race, but I have heard great things about it. During IM training I lost a lot of my speed; my focus was on building endurance with slow runs and staying injury free. So, I am going to approach Indy with no time goals or expectations.
In order to prep for Indy I have been trying make time for more strength training. This summer my strength, PT, and stretching really fell by the wayside (there is only so much time in a day). My goal for the next few weeks is to do core workouts at least 3x/week and strength training at least 2x/week.
One of my favorite plank routines:
I have found the Nike training app and some youtube channels to have some great workouts. Here is a great core workout: