My Worst Injury

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I have been somewhat lucky when it comes to injuries. Oh sure, things have niggled. They’ve been achy. They’ve even been somewhat painful. For the most part I’ve been able to keep on running through those aches and niggles. Except one.

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My post race photo. Proof I can smile for the camera no matter how bad it is.

The Perfect Race?
I remember the weather on the day I ran my half marathon in Rhode Island. It was just perfect: beautiful blue skies, not too cold or too hot. I lined up with the rest of the runners full of hope — despite the fact that a mysterious pain had sidelined me from running a couple of weeks before the race.

I was relatively new to running, and relatively new to running half marathons. This was my fifth half. I knew I felt pain when running as I entered my taper, and I didn’t know what to do (nor did I have the village I have now) so I just stopped running, figuring my training was done and rest would solve everything.

Which seemed to be working; for the first six miles. Then things got painful. Then things got really painful. By mile 10 I was walking. It’s the only half I’ve run so far (knock on wood) where I’ve had to walk the last few miles. It’s also the only half I’ve ever phoned Mr. Judy during — to let him know I’d be far, far later than expected.

I did finish. We went on to Cape Cod, where we’d rented an AirBnB (and we had the dogs with us). We were near the famous Sundae School Ice Cream shop, but I was in too much pain to join Mr. Judy when he went for his ice cream sundae. I curled up on the couch with Chester as my heating pad.

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Walking was sill painful (post race). Running — forgaadaboutit.

What went wrong?
I know now that it was an IT Band injury. Here we are 7 years later, and I feel like I am just now getting back to the paces I was running back then. Which are not particularly fast. I thought I had trained smart, but clearly I did not.

The minute it was too painful to run I should have sought help: from a chiropractor, from a physical therapist, from a running coach. Even though I trained with a group with coaches in the summer, it was not our training season and it didn’t occur to me that this was an injury.

I should not have run that half. I know many people say they are happy that they completed a half, no matter the pain, but it left me in pain while running longer distances for months. I came very close to giving up on running longer distances all together. I do not think running through an injury when it leaves you unable to run without pain is the right choice — but hindsight is 20/20.

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Same jacket, much better results!

How did I fix it?
I started out by wearing a knee brace, once I’d figured out what was wrong. Notice that I still didn’t seek out professional help — which of course would have helped. I was lucky; I only took a couple of weeks off running. Running was painful after just 3 miles when I did start running again Although I was running with my group again that Summer, I didn’t sign up for a half initially because long runs were still painful.

Finally I ran 7 miles without pain. I signed up for Smuttynose Rockfest, which billed itself as one of the flattest halfs in New England. Which is true. Which is also not to say that it’s flat.

Still, on a rainy, raw, cold day I had my redemption half and a shiny new PR to boot. I discovered KT Tape (and eventually Rocktape) before the next half, which wasn’t a PR, not even close — but it was pain free. I have taped for every half since then, 6 years ago. There have been other niggles and aches, but so far, knock on wood, my IT Band stays pretty quiet.

Of course I have also worked on strengthening my glutes and hips. I’m a dedicated foam roller. There’s never just one thing that gets you through an injury. I learned my painful lesson from that disaster of a half, and I have sought out Chiropractic help and on occasion Physical Therapy for other niggles and aches before they derailed my training. It truly does take a village to race for most runners.

Run through the pain or live to run another day? It’s a highly personal choice. Don’t listen to the people on the Internet telling you you can do it — they don’t know you, and they don’t know your body. Only you know what the right decision for you is. — Chocolaterunsjudy

Final thoughts
Running through an injury is a personal decision. For some people it’s worth the pain. I’d rather live to run another day, rather than risk serious injury. I want to keep running the rest of my life. I still have many states to run in.

What was your worst injury?

What did you do to help heal it?

What was the longest time you had to take off running due to injury? 

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Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner

This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.

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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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