Rolling on the Diagonal

If this doesn't make your stomach do flips, then you clearly aren't Texan.
If this doesn’t make your stomach do flips, then you clearly aren’t Texan.

I’m always thinking (stop snickering….the Apocalypse hasn’t happened…yet).  Driving Alli back and forth to volleyball practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays gives me even more time to think!  What I was thinking about Thursday night was how I tend to put a positive spin on everything.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the challenges in situations – it’s just my personality to try to find the #silverlining (or #goldlining, if it is especially amazing!).  And I’ve been doing that with running.

Running has been going REALLY, REALLY well.  But it hasn’t been all roses.  I don’t like sharing the less than great stuff because I don’t want to seem like a complainer.  And I guess part of the reason I don’t like to talk about the thorns is because every runner is ALWAYS dealing with one issue or another.  It’s just the nature of our sport.  Hamstrings tight?  You focus on the hamstrings with extra foam rolling and stretching maintenance and are so proud of yourself for working through the issue.  You consider throwing a party to celebrate your happy hammies, but realize that sometime during the hammy episode your calves became as tight as guitar strings.

It’s no secret that my ITBs are tight.  ALWAYS tight.  I wonder sometimes if that is my cross to bear as a runner.  I’m doing all the right things: strength exercises, self-massage, stretching, and workouts that aren’t too advanced for this stage in my base building.  (OK….now that I have a partner who isn’t afraid to tell Crazy Jen ‘NO’, my workouts are appropriate.)  So I’ve been focusing A LOT on my ITBs.  I haven’t been satisfied with the results of the foam rolling and have known that something had to change.  I have known that I was making ZERO progress.  All this focus on my ITBs caused a slip in my attention to the rest of my legs, mainly my quads.  I began to realize about 10 days ago that my quads were stuck.  (And when your quads are stuck, your ITB will be as well.)  Like fused together.  Not good.  And foam rolling hurt.  I don’t remember foam rolling my quads ever hurting before.  So I’ve been rolling on the meat grinder until I get over the urge to scream.

Trust me.  It HURTS.
Trust me. It HURTS.

Luckily, Wednesday I had to take off to be home while we had a new AC unit installed.  And even luckier (#goldlining), my myofascia guy had an appointment open late in the afternoon and I was able to go see him as well.  He worked my tight left glutes (did I mention my glutes are always tight as well?  It isn’t always a good thing to have a tight ass.).  He released my ITBs.  Then he got to my quads.  He didn’t say a word.  NOT ONE WORD.  And since I’m uncomfortable with awkward silences,  I said, “Ummm, my quads are stuck, aren’t they? ”  And his reply? He just nodded his head.  They were THAT bad!!  But he was able to tear all those fibers loose in no time flat and within the hour, I felt like a new runner!

Something interesting that we discussed was the proper technique for foam rolling your ITB.  I have been rolling the “seam” of my ITB where it meets the quads in the front and hamstrings on the back.  However, I had the foam roller perpendicular to my leg.  Steve said that the only way to break the fibers loose, like he does during a release, is to have the foam roller on a diagonal to the leg.  It sounds easy in theory, but practice is an entirely different matter.  If you aren’t careful and apply plenty of counter resistance, your leg won’t stay straight and will go with the foam roller.  I used the foot on my free leg to leverage and pull my body so that the leg being foam rolled would stay in the proper position.  I could feel the difference right away!  It takes a lot more energy and focus than I generally expend during foam rolling, but I am hoping to keep those cross fibers from forming with this new maneuver.  He also mentioned that if your adductors are tight, it can cause a chain reaction that ends up in your ITB being angry.  So stretch those adductors, people!

I genuinely believe that there will NEVER be a time that I am not giving some TLC to one body part or another.  I would go as far to say that it is a mathematical impossibility.  Too many factors are at play and the top two are: over 40 and distance running.  And I am OK with that.  Because since my injury some amazing things have happened.  I have learned somewhere along the way that I don’t need to panic over every ache and pain.  I simply need to manage it wisely: scale back training when necessary and proper maintenance.  Any of my runner friends that know me realize what a huge accomplishment this really is.

And now, because I am FOREVER the optimist, I will leave you with a list of positives – things that I have been able to successfully work through in order to get to this stage in training today:

  • Tight hips:  OK, YES, I said my hips/glutes are still tight, but I’m talking left hip wouldn’t move because it was fused to my SI joint.  I did have a little help from my myofascia guy, but I have been able to keep them fairly loose since.
  • Stirrup muscle weakness:  I was beginning to have some major issues with my stirrup muscles (the muscles on the outside of calf that wrap under the foot), and their insertion at the ball of my foot.  A shoe switch is the biggest game changer, but I gave this area A LOT of extra care and attention and all of it paid off.
  • Tight calves: Ugh.  I’ve never had calf issues, but lately my calves have been so tight.  LOTS of stretching and foam rolling seems to have gotten this problem in check (for now).
  • Lats:  My lats on my left side have been sooooo tight! Tight enough that twisting my torso had been almost painful.  The entire muscle was tight from my lower back all the way to my shoulder blades.    That is terrible, people!!  I started yoga about a month ago and almost all that back tension is gone!  To further prove my point, my massage therapist was so surprised last week when she found no knots in my neck or back….she commented on how unusual that was!  I am still fighting some tightness down by my pelvis, but farther up the muscle is finally feeling OK.
  • Glutes:  My glutes are always tight, but they do not feel like bricks.  So I’m #winning

Happy Friday, All!!

Jen

Things I NEVER thought I would say and Daylight Savings is coming!!

It’s been a while since I shared a training update.  It just seems so trivial to give updates on my *monumental* runs <read with sarcasm>.  There is only so much one can say about running 5 min run/1 min walking intervals x 6.  And believe me, it’s NOT interesting!

Treadmill runs aren't interesting, either.
Treadmill runs aren’t interesting, either.

The runs, while small and insignificant, have been going well.  And one thing to note: yesterday was my first run on the road since my marathon on 12/14!  I have been running a 1-mile loop at the park where I ran back when I first started.  It’s hard for me to get excited about running in a circle…whether its 1/4 mile or 1 mile!  I felt awesome to finally be back in my element on the wide open road!  (OK….maybe it isn’t WIDE open, but you get the point.)  The run was difficult, but I think it was just adjusting to the difference in terrain.  The route was flat, but not as flat as the concrete trail at the park.  Even though I felt I was fighting for much of the short 3.4 mile run, I smiled the entire time – especially when I realized that I was “attacking” the “hills”.  (OK – they weren’t “hills” by MY definition.  They were inclines, BUT I’ve been running little to no inclines on those virtually flat trails!)  The best part of that is that I didn’t even realize I was attacking the inclines at first.  That tells me that Jen still has the fire! (Yes, I have been questioning if Jen still had the fire…)

One thing that has made it hard to get overly excited about training is the lack of a training schedule.  I get up early every day to get in my stretch, foam roll and strength, but getting my runs in has been more of a challenge.  Between Alli’s volleyball, Logan’s games, and my work and reffing, finding time to run has been difficult.  Plus when I first started back, I needed more recovery time in between so I was forced to play each run by ear.  Even though I might have been ready to run, if it was on a volleyball day, chances are I just didn’t have time.

When the time changes this weekend, my entire training schedule is going to open up like a blooming flower.  (I admit that I may be a bit delusional in this aspect, but I really do believe it will make a difference in finding a more regular running schedule.)  The time change almost feels like a paradigm shift, of sorts.  I feel like I am finally transitioning from recovering runner to recovered runner;  interval runs are about to end and instead I’ll be building my base.  The mental shift is hard to manage.  It’s becoming more and more difficult to “stick to the plan” and “run smart”, but since I have managed to keep Crazy Jen locked away this long, I might as well throw away the key.

The beauty that is just around the corner
The beauty that is just around the corner

So in honor of “sticking to the plan”, I am sharing a list of things I NEVER thought I would say as a runner:

  • Strength training is fun.  (OK it is NOT as fun as running, but getting stronger really IS fun!)
  • Turns out that cross training is NOT the Devil.  (Riding the bike trainer is riveting)
  • Foam rolling is the BEST way to spend your lunch break.
  • Getting up at 4:45 to foam roll, stretch and strength train is a FANTASTIC way to start your day!
  • Intervals aren’t that bad, after all.
  • I can’t think of anything I would rather spend my money on than myofascial release.
  • Not having a regular training schedule during the Winter months has been so freeing.
  • I REALLY wanted to gain those 5 pounds–I was TOO thin!

Happy Tuesday!!

Jen