5 Ways I keep My IT Band Happy

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ITBS: Illiotibial Band Syndrome. Stress fracture might be one of the most feared runner injuries, but ITBS is right up there with stress fractures. It can linger a long, long time and opinions on how to treat and/or cure it vary widely.

I have struggled with it, and the truth is, while it’s been rather quiet recently, you never quite know when it will raise its ugly head.

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Today I am joining up with the  Friday Five 2.0  from Fairytales & Fitness and Rachel @ Running on Happy to share five ways I keep my IT Band happy. I think there might actually be a part II post at some point.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, a physical therapist, or a coach of any sort. Use your best judgement when trying my suggestions.

Strength Training
While knee pain is never fun, when it attacks, you really have to look at the big picture: is running your only form of exercise? Do you work on strength training? How about mobility, balance, and flexibility?

Many common runner injuries are due to imbalances in the body and/or overtraining. So it’s really easy to fall into the trap of only working on your problem areas — because they hurt and it’s kind of hard to ignore them!

But the body is all connected: muscles to tendons to ligaments to bones, or the proverbial the thighbone is connected to the . . . you get the idea. Working on strength training will not only help you be functional in your life, it can help make you a better runner, too.

And you already know that I’m working out with Killer Bs right now (read about it in this post).

Prehab/Dynamic Stretching
I totally get it: we’re all busy and seriously, who has time to stretch or warmup? Especially when it’s hot as Hades outside?

Wouldn’t you rather prehab than rehab, though? Rehab often means no or limited running.

One way I try to keep my IT happy is by throwing in exercises geared towards it as part of my dynamic warmup. A few of my favorites:

  • Hip Hikes
  • Step Ups
  • Iron Cross
  • One Leg Squats
  • Lunges (front, back, side)

Many of the above are covered in Strength Running’s ITB Rehab routine here.

Also read Kim @ Kookyrunner’s blog post “My Physical Therapy Routine” here for more exercises I include frequently.

Usually I pick a couple of exercises and include them in my warmup, using different ones each time.

Foam Rolling
People will tell you that foam rolling hurts. And it may — initially. Eventually, though, it should feel like a form of self massage. It doesn’t have to be done immediately following a run, although I find if I wait it’s less likely to happen.

I have read varying opinions about whether or not foam rolling is good for the IT Band. I’m going with it feels good and it doesn’t seem to be hurting me.

Taping
I will never forget the first half I ran with taped knees: Heartbreak Hill Half. Other than the cramps at the end (a sudden heatwave), I had never felt so good after a half. I was sold.

I started out using KT Tape Pro, but eventually switched to Rocktape (Amazon affiliate link), as I found it adhered better — although even Rocktape can come off during a hot, humid run (hello, Best Damn Race New Orleans!).

I would love to get to the place where I don’t have to tape my knees. I don’t tape for every run or every race. But if you’ve ever dealt with IT Band issues, you know how scary it can be. Taping gives me peace of mind.

Protein Post Run
Not being a scientist or a medical professional, and knowing that the IT Band is not really muscle, I’m not so sure that getting in protein post run really makes a difference here. But . . . I very much doubt it could hurt and we all know it’s important to get in some protein post run, right?

Actually, I did come across several posts saying that staying well hydrate — before, during, and after a run, could help with recovery — posts specifically aimed at dealing with ITBS.

And if you have been living under a rock somewhere, according to this post from Runner’s World, getting in protein post run has these benefits:

Protein repairs exercise-induced muscle damage, reduces the response from the stress hormone cortisol and even helps speed glycogen replacement

On a slight tangent, what about your beloved chocolate milk (not for me — chocolate shake, sure, chocolate milk doesn’t do it for me). I happened to find an interesting post on Runner’s Connect (read it here) that shows that a protein shake will do your body more good than chocolate milk — chocolate milk tends to have a lot more sugar than protein shakes (although that can vary widely) and is missing some of the amino acids that are important to recovery.

You are your own best doctor. I am not a doctor. And you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. I am just sharing some of the things that have helped me.

So let me know in the comments:

Have you ever had IT Issues?

What helped you overcome it?

What are your thoughts on post run protein (and its role with ITBS prevention?

This week I am also joining up with Running on Happy, Suzlyfe, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs each week for the Coaches’ Corner linkup

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23 thoughts on “5 Ways I keep My IT Band Happy

  1. Ahh, the dreaded IT band! I have to say that I’ve been able to keep mine very happy for the past few months (knock on wood). Strength training and PT exercises work best for me (thanks for the shoutout!) I also get ART every other week which can be painful, but effective.

    I’m currently working on your last tip – protein. i always crave carbs after a long run but I’m trying to focus more on protein (eggs, protein shake, etc)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you — I like carbs after a long run. And they’re important, of course. I’ve gotten better at getting in some protein, too. It’s a work in progress.

      My IT has been pretty quiet for a long time, but you just never know.

      Like

  2. I’ve had IT band issues twice (2014 and 2016), I thought it was just a knee issue until the PT explained how everything was connected!! I need to start incorporating the exercises the PT gave me back then just to be on the safe side with all the miles I am putting in. And KT Tape saved me with several races!! I still tape up when I know there will be never ending hills, like Nashville and Atalanta!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tips! My knees really hurt when I started running and I researched and I realized it was because I needed to add strength training. I feel like that really helped. But I have to get better about getting more protein, especially after runs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am almost afraid to disclose this in print…but I have never had any ITBs issues. I have had a lot of hamstring/glute stuff, though, and there was some Plantars Fasciitis in 2015 & 2016. I need to get back in a consistent foam rolling routine…I was so good about it before and after when I was training for my recent marathon. And you know what happened after that LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nah, don’t be afraid. From what I’ve read, most runners either struggle with their feet or their hips.

      Of course now I don have foot issues too . . . but my IT has been pretty quiet!

      It’s so hard to keep up with everything, especially when we’re feeling good.

      Like

  5. I find step ups with 4-6kg weights really good. You step up keeping one leg on the table, which is about 18inches high, all the time then swap over. Also, when stepping up raise the other leg up high and keep high for a couple of seconds. Really challenging but strengthens your legs for running. 20 step ups on each leg. Good tips, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh yes, I’ve had my fair share of ITBS woes. It’s such a stubborn injury. After years I finally figured out my glutes weren’t firing so I’ve made sure to really focus on them when I’m strength training. Fingers crossed it continues to help!!

    Liked by 1 person

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