My hammy, heat or ice?

I’ve been noticing a tightness in my left hamstring, sort of a persistant twinge. It’s noticable as a weakness when I’m walking and I come to a curb. I’ll leap from my right leg and land on the curb with my left leg, but because the leg is bent at the knee when I strike the cement, there’s this quick pain and a weakness in my hamstring that almost feels like I’ll collapse.

I don’t, but that’s the best way to describe it. I also notice the pain/tightness when I sprint.

I don’t necessarily feel I need to rest my leg, but I do need to find some sort of stretch for it.

My hamstrings have always been tight. When I played softball in my late 30s, pulling a hammy running the bases was a regular occurrence.

Before the game, I’d have to do a proper warmup and stretch, which helped minimize it, but the threat of a pull always remained.

Part of the problem is, I hate stretching. I’m relatively inflexible and stretching hurts. I’ve never been able to touch my toes. I have to use a towel wrapped around my foot to pull myself into a stretch because I can’t reach my foot. Even with the towel for leverage, I’m still several inches away from my toes.

See this meme?

I can’t do either of those. Even the bottom person is closer than I can come. 

So I’m wondering, since I can’t get a significant stretch out of my hammy with the hurdlers stretch or the modified hirdlers stretch, if I need to find other stretches for it.

So I did an Internet search and I found these, which I’ll have to experiment with to see if the help:

Lying hamstring stretch

The lying hamstring stretch looks promising. I already have the towel for the hurdlers stretch, so it’ll be an easy transition to this.

Bench hamstring stretch

The bench hamstring stretch also looks promising. I’ll probably still need a towel to pull muself into the stretch, but otherwise all you need is some stairs or a coffee table.

I’ll research further to see if there are other stretches I can manage with my inflexible body. 

In the meantime, starting tomorrow… OK, fine, right away, I’ll do those two stretches and see if there is any improvement over the next week.

By the way, should you apply ice right after a run, or heat? Is the heat later after you’ve rested?

Run. Stretch. Ouch.

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Calf love

The good news is my hip and thigh pain that struck down my running in August is gone. I’m now running limp-free and it doesn’t feel like my hip is going to pop out of joint..

The better news is I’ve been able to increase my running time to 40 minutes now. Granted, the distance is only about 3.5 miles. Thats also was an increase, but considering the recent injury it was a leisurely pace; slow and steady is preferable to trying to push myself and risking reinjury.

The possible bad news is, last night I noticed a new pain. Not something constant, not like the hip/thigh pain that I felt all the time regardless of activity. No. This was a weird occasional stab of pain in my left calf muscle that would catch me off-guard. 

The first time it hit, my leg almost collapsed under me. That would have been fun if I had crumpled because the treadmill would have shot me into the wall behind me. A regular AFV moment.

And the intermittent pain kept up for about the first 15 minutes of the run, without rhyme or reason. It was like practical joke pain: coming when I’d least expect it. A quick sharp pain, then it would go away for dozens of step before striking again. Each time almost making me stumble. Funny, pain, funny.

But after that first 15 minutes it was gone. Did the muscle finally warm up? I don’t know.

All I know is I didn’t like it and now it’s gone. But for how long? And what needs to be done to prevent it?

Do I need to stretch my calves before running? Do I need to do calf specific exercises, like calf raises or even jump roping, to warm-up before a run?

I guess I just need to show some calf love.

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Ice is the new black

I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not quite as young as I used to be.

I also think that icing and stretching my post-run muscles is the new norm.

Back when I was in my twenties, I rarely stretched and never iced. Heck, I didn’t even warm up.

I’d step outside and I’d immediately launch myself into full stride. When I finished my usual 12 mile run, I’d relax in a chair. No fuss, no muss. PBR me ASAP.

Then after several years flaunting my invincibility — shin splints.

Then and only then did I stretch and ice, but stubbornly only my calves. The damage however was already done. At that point only rest would help. Years of rest.

Fast forward to now. My last run was Saturday and the pain in my IT band area that started August 16th didn’t seem to be improving any. So every evening since Monday I’ve been icing my left gluteus, hip, and upper thigh.

And I’ve been doing standing squats quad extensions, calf curls, and other leg exercises. I ordered those stretchy bands so I can add those to my leg repertoire. They should arrive today.

None of those aggravate my hip/glute/thigh pain.

Last night, I tried a treadmill run. It seems the icing and stretching and weight training are helping. I was able to walk/run for about 28 minutes. 

Despite my impatience, I took the advice I’ve read in other blogs and took it slow. The first quarter mile at a brisk 4 mph walk. The next three-quarter miles at a 5 mph jog. Then a short run for a quarter mile at 6 mph, then back down to 4 mph, then 3.5 mph, finishing with a relaxing g 2 mph walk.

Then stretching with an ice pack on my ass.

And today, the leg feels better than it has in a long time. As I said, icing and stretching nightly are the new norms for me.

I just hope running with pain isn’t. 

This is what I feel like when I don’t run:

Run. Stretch. Ice. Repeat.
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Body and inSole

This may sound like a familiar complaint (see Remember the Brannock Device?), but it’s a whole new one, I promise.

As you may recall, I injured my leg somehow last week. There was pain in the thigh and gluteus and when I attempted to run, the leg felt weak, like it was going to collapse under me.

So I took a week off running, then ran Thursday. Everything felt fine, the pain was reduced. Today, I attempted another run. The pain was there and so was the weakness, but it was only evident at a 5 mph pace or slower. At 6 mph it was fine and at what for me right now is a near sprint — 8 mph — it was also fine.

The problem is, I took a week off! Yes, exactly. My aerobic level isn’t there. I can’t sustain 6 mph. So instead I did 30 to 45 seconds at 8 mph and then did about 3 minutes at walking pace, 4 mph. I managed about two miles in about 25 minutes.

Before I ran, I did two minutes of warm-up on my Lifestyler Cardiofit (which is in the foreground of the picture. In the background is my Schwinn treadmill. In the center is my comfy chair for vegging out and listening to my collection of vinyl).

exercise room

Afterwards, I stretched.

But, as you may have noticed reading this, I’ve ADHDed around what my complaint was and what the subject of this whole blogpost was supposed to be about. (It’s been a bad day ADHD-wise, but I’ll not go off on that tangent and explain. I’ll try to keep on topic.)

Back in June, I bought a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 running shoes (see Saturday Shopping for Shoes). I tried on a few shoes and found them to be the most comfortable. The problem lately has been they just haven’t been as comfortable as they were just two months ago. That’s why I picked up the cushy pair of Saucony a couple weeks back, because the Brooks seems stiff and unpleasant, as if the cushioning had hardened up or something.

It was strange because my most comfortable fitting shoes were my Brooks Beasts and they’ve lasted for years. It seemed odd that Brooks had forgotten how to make good fitting shoes in such a short time.

Well, guess what it was?

Aw. You peeked.

Yes, it was the replacement insole the salesman at the shoe store talked me into. It was deja vu all over again. The insoles the salesman at Sports Authority (now kharmicly out of business) for the Asics I bought last year also hurt my feet. Now I find that the problem with the Brooks wasn’t the shoes, it was the Superfeet Orange Insoles I had in them.

superfeet_orange_pair_top_edit

Now, Superfeet is probably a very good brand of aftermarket insole inserts, but the problem I just realized today is: this particular pair hurts!

I put one of the original Brooks inserts into one shoe and left the Superfeet insert in the other and bounced in them. The Brooks insert felt the way I remembered the Brooks feeling at the store: cushy, yet supportive. Very, very comfortable. The Superfeet insert? It was only when I compared them side by side that I realized the problem was the Superfeet were too narrow at the heel. Instead of my heel fitting comfortably inside the hard plastic cup, it rested up on the sides.

So it never was the Brooks, it was a poorly-sized Superfeet inserts. I guess that was my fault. At the time, they seemed to fit. I didn’t realize they were too narrow or that the plastic sides were digging painfully into my heel. I just assumed a proper insert was supposed to be stiff… and, um, painful.

Now I know better. Maybe I’ll try to take the Superfeet back to Fleet Feet and say they weren’t the right size. It’s only been two months.

In the meantime, I was unhappy with my running shoes, but now I’m not. I’m very happy with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16.

And I wonder if aftermarket inserts are really necessary or if they’re just something shoe salesmen try to talk you into for an additional sale?

Do you use special inserts or do you use the insole that comes with your running shoe?

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Run like the wind

In my case, a slow, limping, overweight wind.

It’s been a week since I ran last. I was starting to feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The pain in my hip and thigh has been lessening, however, and I’ve been on a regimen of various stretches that I’ve found designed for your legs and hips and also for IT Band issues. They seem to have helped a little.

But just as importantly,  I rested for a week. No running since last Thursday, although I still did my daily walking at work which adds up to about four miles, albeit much more slowly and with a limp. And I still took the stairs at work.

I also did other leg exercises, as I mentioned in “Hostage Crisis Day 5.”

And yesterday, I rested. I mean, really rested. I didn’t do any exercises. Well, except for walking and stairs and stretching. But no weight training or other type exercises. That’s resting, right?

So today, I’d say the pain was somewhat reduced and I was walking without the limp. So at lunch, I walked much faster. Enough to raise my heart rate and break into a mild sweat. Without pain. So I took that as a good sign.

I was going to run.

Before the run, I warmed up doing some rows on my Weider Crossbow. I don’t usually warm up before a run. (On the other hand, I do do cool downs.) I would imagine not warming up is just asking for an injury, right?

Then I got on the treadmill and set it for 5k at a pace of about 5.2 mph. Slow, but not too slow.

And yes. There was pain. I think I was limping as I was running. Is that a bad thing? I’m sure it is. It probably throws everything out of balance.

But I made it. I ran the full 5k. And when I finished, the pain was diminished from what I had experienced when I had started the run. How much of that was endorphin-related, I don’t know.

So I immediately did a bunch of stretches, which is something I don’t usually do either. After a run, I just sort of plop into a chair all slouching and tired.

But this time, I did the stretches. Have I mentioned I hate stretching? I know I have. It hurts. Like Hell. It burns. It makes me grit my teeth and I breath in gasps of pain.

And that’s just getting down on the floor; the stretches themselves cause me to emit screams that make the neighbors think someone is being tortured.

I am.

It’s all over now though. My body, my legs, feel good. I needed that run. And I needed to stretch.

Tomorrow, I’ll see how everything feels, then decide on Saturday if I’ll rest or attempt another run.

I hope I can run.

I wonder if I should ice?

Ice?

Baby.

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Hostage crisis day 5

Yes, I’m entering day five of a hostage crisis. I’m being held hostage by my very own leg. 

The pain came on early last Tuesday (which was odd because my last run was Saturday, so I have no idea where it came from), but I attempted two 3.5 mile runs despite that. One on Tuesday and one on Thursday. Neither was enjoyable.

So I thought I’d rest the leg and not run by skipping my Saturday run. I kept thinking it would get better and I could run on Sunday. Or Monday. Or today, my normally scheduled run day.

But it isn’t looking like it. I mentioned I thought it was my vastus lateralis, like I’m some kind of doctor. I’m not. On the muscle chart, that looked like a good candidate.

Although I keep hearing about this IT Band, which isn’t a band at all, at least they don’t play music, unless you consider the occasional groan of pain musical.

I wondered why, as a runner who read nearly every running and Fitness magazine back in the ’80s, I’d never heard of the IT Band before, and I think it’s because they’ve only recently changed their thinking about it. 

It used to be thought as merely a stabilizer for the hip when walking, but now they believe it acts like a spring to aid locomotion.

Whatever.

Something in my left thigh from my hip down to my knee hurts and feels weak when I step on it. Running only makes the weakness and pain worse, so I can’t use the old adage, “run through the pain.”

I tried that with my shin splints back in the late ’80s. They’d burn like hell for the first few miles, but by the fifth or sixth mile, the pain went away and I could run relatively pain-free for the rest of my daily 12 mile run.

Except it got to the point where I could barely walk up stairs because of the shin splints hurt so bad. So I stopped running.

And I enjoy running. Not running makes me crabby. Not exercising makes me flabby. Getting flabby makes me more crabby. It’s a vicious circle.

Last night I decided to use this machine we have from the ’90s, like a rowing/biking kind of machine where you push with your legs and pull with your arms, but instead of your butt sliding back and forth on the seat like a typical rowing machine, the seat rises up and the whole thing works like a scissors.

They were all the rage.

I did 12 minutes on it, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a resistance machine with a variable resistance piston, and takes a lot of effort. 

A lot more effort than the ones they had advertised on TV back in the day. Those seemed more like kid’s playground toys, whereas this one, bought through Sears (after our stair stepper died), is more anaerobic than aerobic. 

The best part of using this machine: No pain. The action must work the muscles other than the area that is strained.

It occurs to me that if I’m suffering from a muscle imbalance versus a muscle strain from overuse, then working the muscles other than those used in running is probably very helpful.

Tonight, if my thigh is still bothering me, I’ll do some leg exercises on my old Weider Crossbow (similar to the Bowflex). Extensions to strengthen my quads and curls to do my hammies. And maybe some rowing motions as well. 

And I guess I could do some upper body stuff as well.

Exercises I should have been doing all along to keep the imbalance from happening in the first place (except that the Weider Crossbow was being used as a place to keep our folded laundry. Yeah. I know. Shame on me.).

And yes, I’ve been doing various leg stretches several times a day. Stretches that focus on the thigh, the gluteus, the hammies, as well as the calves. I’m hoping I can do a short, easy run by Thursday.

It’s very disappointing to have fallen back in love with running only to have an injury sideline me.

Run. Rest. Stretch. Weight train.

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New shoes new pain

The picture has nothing to do with the topic, it’s just my view at lunch while out walking on the Riverwalk in Milwaukee.

A couple weeks ago I went and picked up a new pair of running shoes: Saucony Grid Cohesion 9.

The main reason I picked them up was price. They were cheap and since my wife was getting a pair of shoes, and since the store has a Buy One Get One Half Off policy all the time, I figured why not?

In other words, it was a spur of the moment purchase not based on beforehand knowledge or research.

The Grid Cohesion 9 look nice and they have much more cushion than my current running shoes: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16.

I figured it would be nice to switch off shoes every other run. Except so far I’ve run 5 or 6 times straight in the Saucony.

They do have more cushion and despite weighing the same as the Brooks, they feel lighter on my feet. Weird, hey?

The first few runs, the extra cushion seemed to provide more bounce. I didn’t feel like I was landing as hard on my feet.

Yesterday, however, I noticed a pain in my outer left thigh that ran from my hip down to the side of my knee. I don’t know when it first appeared (and really, at my age sometimes you just wake up with unexplained pains and strains. It doesn’t help that my 70 pound dalmatian sleeps on top of and between my legs.).

At first I suspected it was from not stretching my vastus lateralis the way I should (however that’s done. I need to look that up.).

So I figured ignoring it was the best course of action and I treadmilled just as planned. I set everything up for 3.5 miles (an increase of 0.4 miles from my usual 5k distance) at an alternating pace of 5.5 mph and 7.5 mph.

The pain in my hip continued and was intense enough to make my left leg feel weak, almost forcing a limp, on each footfall. I kept the pace up for the first mile and managed to do it in 10 minutes and change,  a new PB for the mile, but the pain forced me to slow down and I struggled through to finish the 3.5 miles in 40 minutes and change.

Disappointing.

I’ve been doing some stretching to alleviate the pain, but I have to wonder–is it the shoes?

The Saucony Grid Cohesion 9 is a neutral shoe, whereas the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 has more support for us over-pronators.

I’ll give my leg a little rest, do more stretches, and go back to using the Brooks and see if the pain goes away.

I will judge the Saucony Grid Cohesion 9 as a fail. Good for neutral runner’s who don’t need support, but not so good for me.

Now I need to do some research and see if I can’t find a shoe that provides adequate support for overpronation while still giving a nice cushioned ride.

I’ll report back if I find something.

If, in the meantime, you have a suggestion, feel free to make it (unless it’s Nike or Adidas. I don’t care those.)

At least the Saucony will make a nice pair of walking shoes.

Walk. Run. Wear good shoes.

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