Running cross-country for Wheaton College back in the fall of 1980.
Besides the wonderful fall weather and beautiful foliage, it is also cross-country and marathon season. This is absolutely the best time of year to be a runner. Unfortunately this fall, I do not feel like much of a runner at all. I got my new orthotics two weeks ago and at first they felt great. I thought I would get used to them slowly and on the second day did 4 miles. I felt real good and did 8 miles the next day feeling even better. I then thought, I might have a long shot at finishing the Baystate Marathon on Sunday, even with the limited training over the past month and 1/2. However, the next few days found my muscles getting stiffer and stiffer as I walked around in the orthotics trying to get my body to adapt to them. By race morning on Sunday, I found it hard to even walk comfortably to the starting line. I stood around waiting for the start and when the gun went off, I let my brain win this one over my will. I knew it was not going to be a good day to run and any running I did would not be helpful or fun at all. I ran for 3 minutes and 12 seconds and pulled out of the race.
It has not been easy sitting around for over a month and a half and not running, but I have realized that my body cannot handle it in a healthy manner anymore. Everything is out of whack and running this way just reinforces all my imbalances. But thank goodness the medical establishment is to the rescue, I think! The last doctor wanted me to set up an appointment with a physiatrist. I tried to research as much as I could, but could not find a sports related physiatrist in the local area. I finally chose one nearby, based on the qualification that he looked young and my hope is he is up on the latest sport injury rehabilitations. Getting an appointment is another matter. You have to have your records sent over to his office. After figuring out how to do that, I have to sit and wait for them to call me. I did call Friday and they still don't have my records. I have the feeling this could take a long time. Update: I got an appointment and the earliest I can go in is Nov. 30. Nothing like moving through the medical system at a breakneck speed!
I do have ideas of what I want to try if the physiatrist does not work, unfortunately all ideas might cost some money and I have a kid in college, so I have to be quite sure about what I might do. Here are my ideas:
Because my left hip is still unstable and pinching tight even while even walking around and my left adductors are tight and almost painful when running, I feel I need someone who can move and manipulate muscles and joints around. Unless it is a labral tear, the muscles around my hip need a lot of loosening up. The loosest my muscles ever got was when I went to a resistance stretcher, a couple of years ago and I could do that again. One thing I might try is to go down to Boston and get worked on by the originator of resistance stretching and author of the book,The Genius of Flexibility: The Smart Way to Stretch and Strengthen Your Body, Bob Cooley (mega expensive) or one of the other trained stretchers at his clinic (expensive). This would help the tightness in my muscles, but I am not sure if it would retrain the patterns of movement that I have. My hope would be that it loosens my muscles and allows my orthotics to work with the idea that I could then more easily generate new patterns of movement without the restrictions I now seem to have.
I thought when I went through the entire rolfing series a few years ago that all my problems would be solved. It was an interesting process, however it did not last long. I never felt better than after a rolfing session. I had twelve. My thinking is that the rolfing fell apart for me because my feet, because of the hallux functional limitus, kept collapsing and I reverted back to my poor movement patterns as compensation. Now that I have orthotics to correct the FHL, maybe a rolfing tune-up would help my body heal and strengthen. I met a Gate City Strider this summer who goes to a rolfer about an hour away who is also a physical therapist. I was hoping that at the last doctor's visit, I would be allowed to pursue going to this PT, but the doctor wants me to see a physiatrist instead. I also noticed that the rolfer that I went to in the past is now a trained resistance stretcher. However, interesting that sounds, she never really fixed me in the first place, so it may be good to go to someone new for a fresh set of eyes. For those that don't know, rolfing is not really massage. Massage is for your muscles, rolfing is for your fascia, the covering around all your muscles and connective tissue. The goal is to give your body "space" so that it can go back to alignment.
Retrain My Muscles
Another option is related to a book that I started reading this week called Muscular Retraining for Pain-Free Living. I really enjoy the reading as it gets technical about muscles and functioning of the body, but it is written in an easy to understand way. What I like is that it talks about a kinesthetic sense to the body and how it moves. No matter how much therapy and things I have tried, I firmly believe that my mind has its own movement map of how to move, and that what it thinks is correct is actually incorrect patterns. This book explains all this and then offers a series of exercises to reteach your body for proper movement patterns. They exercises are simple enough and they seem like a mix of Egoscue and Feldenkrais movements. The descriptions of the exercise, what they hope to achieve, and the author's notes on what you should feel are all clearly written. This is something that is missing from many books I have seen. I have started doing some of these exercises and a few of them pull and loosen my muscles in all the right ways. If I think these have an impact, I could make an appointment with the author, Craig Williamson. It would be a bit of a drive as he is in Portland, Maine, but I am at the point where I really need to find the right expert to fix things.
Recently Running Times has been putting out a series of videos called "Fixing Broken Runners." There are two videos (video one and video two) of the UVA Center for Endurance Training. I found that there is gait analysis being done at the Boston Running Center in Boston. This sounds really interesting, but I would be worried that it shows me what I already know about my stride. I am not sure of the therapy to fix things. I need more than to just be told what I need to fix.
An Athletic Physical Therapist
Finally, last night I discovered some excellent videos from a website called Athletes Treating Athletes. The website has informative videos which they call the The A-Tx-A Self Treatment System. Currently, there are 13 videos in the self-muscle masssage section. I have only had a chance to preview a few of them, but I like the teaching style, the descriptions, and the techniques that are illustrated. I have a house full of trigger-point tools like regular foam rollers, The Grid, and most recently the RumbleRoller, and all sorts of other things I have tried. I also have some DVDs put out by Trigger-Point, but these videos look like they are the most thought-out and descriptive videos to learn self-massage techniques. It also seems that the Physical Therapist. Leigh Boyle, who is putting this website and videos together works out of Plaistow, NH. That is less than an hour away. She is also an athlete and Ironman triathlete, so she would know the endurance athlete's body. I also like the fact that she is sharing her knowlege and doing an excellent job at it.
Here is the video I spent time with last night and then tried out. It relieved a lot of tension in the front of my left lower leg. I am a slow learner at figuring out how to work with trigger points, although I have been trying for years. I really like this book, Trigger Point Therapy for Low Back Pain: A Self-treatment Workbook, and have been slowly reading it. I worked my calf and soleus trigger-points for a few night a couple weeks ago, and that worked real nice. I did overdue it because I could not find them again the night before the Baystate Marathon and I think that is some of why I felt a bit off. Maybe it was time to work on other muscles like these:
I will be spending time studying the rest of these videos and maybe I can get a referral to get some work done someday. So even though I no longer feel like a runner anymore, when the time is right, I have some new options to explore. Choosing the right option is going to be a tough decision.
The good news is that I only have my running idiosyncricies to complain about. This blog's purpose is to share ideas as well as to track my progress and ideas for myself. It is a lot of fun, but I would guess that someone reading it might think that I complain about running injuries a lot and that there is not much else going on in my life. I feel extremely fortunate that all that I have to complain about is running. It's not really complaining, but I enjoy the curiousity of trying to solve this running problem and I don't intend to give up. Otherwise, life is great: family, friends, and work are all great and so I have the energy and desire to figure this out. I would like nothing more to again feel the enjoyment of running fast, loose, and free.
Finally, I also have to look at the obvious. At the top of this page is a picture of me running cross-country in college. At the end of my senior year my right hip got really sore and I couldn't run without pain days before my final cross-country race. Almost too late, I figured out the problem. I carried my wallet in the right hip pocket of my jeans. This was causing the problem. I kept the wallet out but it was slow coming back to normal. I ended up being in last place in the midwest regional championships race at the one mile mark. At which point, my hip started relaxing. I turned it on and passed runners throughout the race and ended up with my fastest ever 5 mile race.
The obvious thing is my sitting posture. I sit a lot and this is not good. My computer chair is a horrible chair and I end up slouching and not sitting straight nor do I balance properly. The obvious is to find a better way to sit and a better seat. Duh! I better start working on that, too!