My hamstrings have been awfully cranky lately. Am I sitting too much? Am I now officially decrepit? I’m familiar with the hamstring stiffness that comes from sitting at a desk all day, but usually it works itself out after 20 minutes or so of warmup jogging and I can do my workout with no issues. Lately, with the cold weather and wind, even a 40-minute super-easy warmup jog isn’t cutting it. My hamstrings bitch at me as I attempt to launch into 800m intervals on the track: their combined age is 82 years old, they’ll have me know, and they demand more respect!
Being injured as a runner is horrible. All runners know this. If you can’t run, you can’t do the thing you love. To make things worse, you also can’t do the thing that probably most helps you manage the stress brought on by being injured.
That’s the vicious circle of it all. Injured runners also get the same advice over and over again: Cross train while you can’t run. Focus on what you can do. Don’t abandon your nutrition plan. Use the time you aren’t running to invest in other hobbies or to spend more time with family and friends. That’s all good advice. It’s also kind of yadda yadda yadda. Meaning, it’s a good start, but it’s nowhere near enough.
Injured runners also need what I call Inner Circles. When I dealt with nine months of no running because of plantar fasciitis, people in the Outer Circle got the occasional update on the injury, a dash of woe-is-me, some kind of perky resolution and then on to other less boring topics. But personally, I needed a variety of Inner Circles to handle the more hard-core parts of mental coping while injured.
What do injured runners need from their Inner Circles and who might offer this sort of support?
Hugs and a shoulder to cry on. Injured runners tend to be crabby, grouchy and depressed. It helps a lot to find someone who can offer pretty much unconditional and limitless support. This person should never say things like: “Not being able to run isn’t such a big deal; it’s not cancer or something like that.” Even if that’s true, it’s not helpful. Instead, you are looking for someone who can say: “I know it’s awful to not be able to do the thing you love.” Over and over and over again. A spouse or partner is a good bet here, but a sibling or best friend or even a parent might fit the bill.
Reminders of past glories. If you’re away from running for a long time, it’s useful to have someone remind you of how great it is — and how great you have been. During an extended time off, you might lose touch with how much you love running or what it feels like to have running as a regular part of your life. Training partners can help with this. I’m not going to lie — it’s sometimes hard to talk to healthy runners who are currently enjoying all the things you are missing. But training partners can remind you of your own prior successes and why it’s worth it to keep plugging away at recovery. They might even be willing to cross train with you. Some of the camaraderie of running buddies can be found over coffee, lunch or drinks. Don’t lose touch with these folks even when it hurts to talk to them.
Faith in the recovery process. Injured runners need reminders that recovery is possible, even likely. Stories of other runners with similar injuries who are now better are solid gold, especially if those runners have gone on to major successes. Physical therapists and coaches are both potentially great sources of faith in the healing process. A good physical therapist should be able to measure your recovery concretely. The right coach can help chart a course back from the end of injury to starting to run again. Injured runners often need help remembering that the path back to running exists.
Company in the darkness. Sometimes pretending things aren’t all that bad is just too much work. It helps to have some folks to share the suck-fest with. It’s actually quite valuable to have someone who will simply agree with you when you tell them how awful everything is. A light in the darkness is a wonderful thing, but sometimes company in the darkness is even more important. Other injured runners are a likely choice here, but try to find someone with a deep well of compassion and remember to be their company in return.
Who’s in your Inner Circle? Are you in someone else’s Inner Circle right now? Do you have anything to add to this list?
Until recently, all I knew about float tanks was limited to the Simpson’s episode where Homer and Lisa are angry with one another and go to float tanks, and they get repossessed with Homer still in one. I never thought I would use one because, well, claustrophobia. But, a co-worker’s husband went to a new float tank place in town this week and posted a picture — these float tanks aren’t enclosed!
Floating is basically automatic in the tub — it uses 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts. The super-saturated solution, like the Dead Sea, makes you buoyant. Plus, the magnesium is believed to help relieve muscle soreness and replenish electrolytes — the reason many of us soak in them at home.
In addition to the benefits of Epsom salts, floating also adds a relaxing element because of the sensory deprivation even though that sounds super creepy. Similarly to meditation, you’re removing all distractions from around you. I am terrible at turning my mind off, and I didn’t quite get there with my first experience. But it was relaxing and felt healing — and I even booked a second appointment.
I scheduled my first visit online, and when I arrived at the facility I found it similar to a nice day spa, massage studio or yoga studio. There was a large, well-appointed lobby, a quiet room for post-float, a restroom, and private float rooms.
Each room is the size of a large bedroom and fashionably decorated, with a shelf area and bench, a shower, and the float tank (really a tub in this instance).
It did take me a while to “surrender” to the experience, and I was holding my head in a position that wasn’t comfortable, but eventually I relaxed my neck and it was great. Figuring out if I wanted my arms internally or externally rotated was the only other thing I had to figure out.
The room was slightly warm, matching the temperature of the water. Eventually the lights turned off and I did turn off the blue tub light. I am pretty uncomfortable in my own skin and expected to feel odd floating naked in a tub in a room, but it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. The tub is large enough that you don’t feel at all constrained in space.
At the end of the session music starts gently playing and the water starts circulating so that you know your time is up. After you get out of the tub, you take a shower in the room. They had great shampoo (I love unexpectedly great shampoo). I spent a moment in the quiet room to drink some water and I left feeling relaxed and comfortable. I signed up for a trial week so I have several more appointments scheduled. I anticipate I’ll return to the float tank after some hard workouts, much like massage.
I live in the Midwest where most things are reasonably priced. The first time fee was $45 for an hour. The regular retail price is $56. Monthly memberships with unlimited floats are $99.
Looking for other posts in our “#ExtraSalt” series?
Have you tried a float tank? Are you an Epsom salt bath fan?
I’m five weeks in and it’s already starting. The aches and pains, the fatigue, the daunting idea that the finish line is so far away, and the worst roadblock of all: the mental burnout and self-doubt.
No, it’s not marathon training. This time it’s the opposite — injury recovery. And damn, it can take a long time.
What I’ve learned, though, is that recovering from a serious injury is a lot like training for a marathon. You know, minus all the running. Read more >>
I’ve never been one to chafe, at least not like some people seem to. Sure if it’s really hot I’ll chafe along the shorts-liner, or I’ll get the occasional armpit hot spot, or for some reason my lower back chafes from time to time. Oh and this is kinda crazy. Since my two pregnancies turned my belly button into an outie, it gets rubbed raw if I run in the rain. But it’s nothing too serious: I lube up my little problem areas with the same tube of BodyGlide I’ve owned for several years, and am usually just good to go.
Meanwhile, I read about, and listen to my friends moan about their terrible chafing — one poor friend nearly had a skin-free strip under her sports bra strap last summer. But so far, severe chafing has been one of those things, like plantar fasciitis or melasma, that I imagine must suck but I really never fully appreciated the horror … until recently.
But #soblessed no more. A series of unfortunate events, environmental factors, and poor decisions led to the worst chafing of my life.
Many runners wish they lived with an orthopedic surgeon. No need to make appointments or get a referral, the constant around-the-clock care and in-home consultations. All in all, being married to one appears to be a pretty sweet deal.
Well, you know what they say about appearances.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about having my very own MD husband with whom to share my woes. After all, who wouldn’t want immediate access to assistance and answers, especially when you are a neurotic “Honey!! What is this pain??” kind of runner like me?
The issue is that my orthopod husband has caught onto my crazy impulses and frantic cries for help and he’s not biting any more. This means that 99% of the good doctor’s resounding replies to me can be summed up in three words: Rest, ice and Ibuprofen. Wa, right?
But, knowing an orthopedist as well as I do, has provided me with some insight I’d like to share. Up first: know your injury types.
Running injuries suck. But what can make them suck even more is trying to find the right healthcare provider to treat an injury. It’s hard to know which kind of practitioner to see and then, as we’ll all likely discover through the years, not all doctors, chiropractors, or therapists are created equal. Sometimes a medical professional understands you, identifies the injury, and gives you a realistic recovery plan.
Sometimes, a medical professional just doesn’t get it or worse, really doesn’t get it but keeps you coming back for treatment after treatment with no real fix or end in sight.
So, whether awesome or awful, we want to hear about your experiences with medical professionals.
Has a medical professional every worked a miracle on your running injury?
Have you ever been frustrated with a medical professional’s approach to you and your injury?
Do you have any tips for finding a great medical professional?
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You’ve probably seen the calves of ultra and elite marathoners as well as recreational runners adorned with colorful, skin-tight, often footless sleeves. Maybe, like me, you’re already a fan and wear them yourself.
If, however, you’re a skeptic, you probably have some questions about compression gear. What is it good for? Is there any science to lend credibility to its proponents’ claims? Is it worth the often spendy price?
So you’re at the gym and heading for your favorite treadmill for the 8397th time this winter, but you can’t stomach the thought of another run while watching Fox News or the Hallmark Channel (seriously, who picks these stations?). You could cross-train, but getting to the pool is a huge pain, all the ellipticals are taken, and it seems to take three times as long to get a good workout on a bike. Here’s an idea: strength train on the mill!
Yes, you will look dumb and your fellow gym-goers may laugh and, hey, you might even laugh at yourself. But changing up your routine is good for you. Strength training will challenge muscles that don’t regularly get used, helping you avoid injury. There’s a litany of other benefits of adding or swapping a run for some strength work even once a week.
Read on for ideas for using your treadmill as a strength-training tool! Read more >>
Patience has never been a virtue of mine. When I identify that I want something, the period of time between that decision and obtaining it is … minuscule. I purchased my car less than one day after I decided I needed a new one. I decided to go to graduate school on a whim. I even started running this way. I woke up one morning and said to myself, “I think I’m going to be a runner now.” And within a day or so, I plotted out my Couch to 5k training plan and the rest is history.
But thanks to running, you can now address me as St. Pumpkin, the f-ing patron saint of patience. Read more >>
Over the years, I’ve tried various recovery/preventive treatments during periods of hard training. While I never used any of these specifically to treat injuries, I used them to work out potential trouble spots, and mainly to help keep my body together while running high mileage blocks.
I’ve tried Graston, Deep Tissue Dry Needling, scraping, acupuncture
and waterboarding. Just kidding about that last one! Although these treatments might sound like methods of torture, and they are painful to varying degrees, in my experience they do work.
If you’re interested in giving a new treatment a try but are nervous about the pain, read on and I’ll describe each treatment and give it a rating on my Pain-o-Meter!
Many of us assume that with all our running we don’t need to add more to our workout routine, that running alone will keep us healthy from head to toe. You might have heard that strength-training can help us avoid injury, but maybe you’ve been lucky enough to escape injury sans strength work.
There is another reason that it’s important, though: muscle mass starts to decline as early as age 30. This makes strength training an important exercise for everyone, not just runners.
Why You Need to Strength Train
Maintaining overall muscle strength can help prevent injuries in daily life as well as in running. Also, running creates some muscle imbalances that can be remedied through strength building exercises. You may think “I’m a runner-my legs don’t need any more exercise!” But surprisingly, runners can be weak in muscles of the hips and gluteus. Weak hips can cause more strain on other muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments, resulting in injuries. Strong muscles help carry some of the load so that other areas are not overcompensating.
Imagine: you finished your last hard marathon-pace workout and reached the taper unscathed. Woohoo! Only two weeks until the marathon! You’ve worked hard all summer and you earned this rest day. You stroll down the sidewalk, sipping a #PSL and thinking about how much you love fall, when you step on a rock and twist your ankle, spilling coffee all over your boots. You roll your eyes, walk it off, and the next morning you can only hobble and limp because it hurts so much.
What happens next?
a) “Oh well,” you say brightly, because you’re always so chipper in the morning. “Guess I can’t run! It’s so great that I’ll have all that free time on marathon day!” You text your friends and make plans for brunch instead.
b) You experience a violent outpouring of unprintable words, panic, and desperate internal screaming that this cannot be happening.
Last week, Cinnamon explained how ice baths can impede the adaptation process our bodies go through after hard training. However, there are some circumstances when the benefits of cold therapy like ice baths, spot-icing, or cryotherapy may be worth the trade-offs. While the evidence suggests cold does not actually improve recovery, it may reduce post-workout pain and make a runner feel more recovered. The evidence is not clear whether this is simply a placebo effect, or that the ice does something to us physically to improve pain, but many of the world’s top athletes swear by cold therapy, particularly before their most important competitions.
When it comes to cold therapy, every runner who has every tried one has an opinion on the post-run ice bath. Those opinions tend to range from awful to very awful, and most runners spend their time in the ice bath counting down each minute of it. This probably explains why cryotherapy, which offers all of the benefits of the ice bath and then some in just three minutes, is becoming popular among athletes. I’m lucky enough to live in a town with more than one cryotherapy studio, and since I’m usually recovering from some sort of an injury, I’ve gone a few times and want to offer my thoughts for my fellow sore runners. Read more >>
AHHH! Quick! Get some ice! Get some NSAIDs! Elevate the problem area! Hurry!
Wait … why are we hurrying?
Relax, dear runner. Inflammation doesn’t have to be a gremlin. In fact, if you take care of it well and don’t feed it after midnight, inflammation can be a protective little guy who helps keep you running right. Read more >>
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