Coming to terms with a running injury

The running Gods haven’t been too kind to me lately. Although I had a great race last weekend, got a new 5K PR and ran my first half marathon a few weeks ago, I can’t seem to shake these aches and pains from running. If you’ve been reading my blog somewhat consistently over the past eight months you know I’ve been plagued with my fair share of running-related injuries- runner’s knee back in the spring, IT Band Syndrome this summer and now self-diagnosed peroneal tendonitis.

I can be extremely thankful that none of these bumps and bruises have seriously sidelined me for any extended amount of time (knock on wood!) they have been extremely frustrating. This latest mishap has me more frustrated than usual. While it doesn’t hurt as bad as the IT band flare-up did, it’s more of a nagging pain. I can run with it, it even seems to go away after the first few miles, but I just want to run injury-free. Is that so much to ask for?

After seeking advice from some friends and going on a Google frenzy in search for stretches and exercises to ease peroneal tendonitis, I came to the conclusion that it might not be a bad idea to take a few days off. I haven’t done that in the past eight months so maybe that will help? Hopefully. I know I sound like I’m complaining but it pains me to “rest” especially when I see my friends and the close-knit virtual running community logging their weekly miles. I want to go running, why can’t I log 30 miles, 40, even 50 miles a week?

Oh, that’s right, I only started running eight months ago. I think my ambition and sheer love of the sport is the real cause for these injuries that keep sprouting up. I love running so much and am always itching to get out on the road or to hit a trail that sometimes I forget to really listen to what my body is trying to tell me- I need rest.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad a few months ago. My dad is a 16-time marathon veteran (he ran Boston eight times and boasts a 3:09 PR) and although he hasn’t been a consistent runner for awhile now, he can relate to my recent frustrations. He said to me, “Hannah, running is like a roller coaster. One day you can be high up and feel amazing and the next you come crashing down.” He explained to me that a lot of the time things happen for no apparent reason and you just have to take it easy to prevent further injury.

Old photo of my dad running Boston.

If this means resting a few days for me, so be it. I forget that there are so many people out there who can’t run. I get so down on myself when I get an injury and find myself getting jealous of those runners who say they’ve never been injured, but the truth is, every runner is different. I also need to be more patient with my running. I get overly excited by new PRs and longer distances that I forget I really haven’t been running that long. Moral of the story? I need to be more patient, listen to my body and be thankful for all of the progress I have made in the last eight months. The rest will fall into place over time!

Have you had any running-related injuries? What’s your advice on staying positive through injury? Share you stories in the comment section below!

How to correct your running form to prevent injury

A few weeks ago I started feeling a sharp pain on the outside of my right knee. It usually showed up about a mile into my runs and felt like someone had stuck a knife into the side of my knee. My knee would either lock up at this point, or, if I was able to push on and keep running, the pain would travel all the way up the outside of my thigh to my hip. I knew immediately this was an IT Band problem.

With a little more than a month left in my training for a half marathon on Sept. 30, and three weeks into marathon training for a race on Nov. 19, this was not going to fly. I needed a solution. Fast. After taking quite a few rest days, I felt ready to hit the road again for an easy, quick 2-mile run. Not so fast, my IT Band said and around 1.6 miles my knee locked up and I literally could not run anymore. I was devastated and took to Twitter, as I usually do, to ask my runner friends what was wrong.

After hearing from a bunch of people I was informed it was more important to find out what caused the problem before trying to fix it. One of my Twitter followers, Ryan Knapp, a triathlete and endurance running coach from Kansas City, suggested the problem may be my form. Ryan asked me to take a 30 second video of me running away from my camera and back to my camera. I then sent it to him through his website and he evaluated it.

He told me he could immediately tell I used to be a dancer because of my posture and he said he’s be able to help me. Here’s the video I sent to him:

(Don’t mind my Dad talking in the background…)

After reviewing my video, Ryan filmed his own video to explain to me what he saw in my running form and what I could do to fix it. He said overall, my form wasn’t terrible- I have good body position (meaning I’m not leaning to one side or the other) and I have very still shoulders. However, he told me I had three things I needed to work on- lifting from my core, swinging my arms correctly and lean more.

  • Lifting from my core- According to Ryan, the reason I was having the IT Band problems is because I was swinging my legs like a pendulum when I ran, causing my foot to land in front of me and subsequently causing me to heel-strike, a huge no, no in the running world. To fix this, Ryan said I need to focus on lifting from my core so my feet will land below me and be able to power up immediately after hitting the ground.
  • Arms- From what Ryan saw, I run with my arms kind of high up in respect to my ribcage and they go across my midline (the invisible line that runs down the center of your body). Ryan said this wastes a lot of energy and space. To fix this, he told me to “gunsling”- make sure my elbows go behind me and in front of me, somewhere down by my waist.
  • I run very erect- My running posture is very straight and according to Ryan, there should be a little bit of lean in a runner’s form. To do this, I want to lean from my ankles.

Here’s the video Ryan did for me:

Ryan said there were two simple exercises I can do to work on my form and get used to mid-foot and fore-foot striking.

  • Skip drills- This is where you literally skip down the street. According to Ryan, skipping helps the body (and feet) recognize what it’s like to push off from the fore-foot because it’s impossible to skip from the heel.
  • Jump Rope Drills- Simply pretend (or if you have a jump rope) like you’re jumping rope. This has the same effect as the skip drill but you’ll notice if you do this and then immediately stop, that’s the same effect as a heel strike, which is very bad. Jump rope drills will also help your body learn to mid-foot strike and fore-foot strike.

Yesterday morning I did these drills and put the tips into practice and I noticed a significant difference in my running. (Knock on wood*) I had hardly any IT pain and I ran an easy 5 miles in 45 minutes, pretty good time for me. I had to concentrate a lot more on my form throughout the run because the second I stopped paying attention I found myself going back to my old form. I talked to Ryan about this and he said, like with anything, it’ll take some getting used to. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

If you’re interested in getting your form analyzed, feel free to contact Ryan either through Twitter or on his website.

Week 12: Half-marathon/marathon training update

Sadly there’s not much to report from this past week. My training plan called for an easy 2-mile run to start off the week last week and because of my work schedule I didn’t get to do it until Wednesday. Two miles is nothing to me at this point but about 1.6 miles into the run my right knee locked up and it felt like someone stuck a knife into the side of my knee. The pain was so sharp I had to slow to a walk immediately. Weird thing was, it instantly felt fine. So I decided to start back up again when the pain came back with a vengeance and I decided to slow to a walk completely.

I was so disappointed and angry. I thought to myself, “I have not come this far to get injured a month before my half-marathon.” So I decided to do the right thing and rest all week. No running at all. I worked out though pretty much every day and did a ton of yoga.

After much research and consult with other runners on Twitter, I realized I have developed an IT band irritation and the cause is most likely my form. According to Ryan Knapp, an endurance running coach and triathlete, the IT band flare up was probably the result of poor form. I first noticed the pain while running a 5k a few weeks ago but it went away shortly after. I was able to run 12-miles no problem a few weeks ago and 9 miles two weeks ago but 2 miles killed me.

Ryan is helping me fix my form and according to him I should be back running stronger and better well before my half-marathon on Sept. 30.

If anything, not being able to run during the past week has made me realize what a gift running is and how much I have fallen in love with the sport. At this point I’m just trying to stay positive and put one foot in front of the other. I’ll be sure to do a post too about my form and keep everyone updated on my training!

Monday- power yoga and 3:04 min. plank a day and an ab workout

Tuesday- 2-mile run. Injured.

Wednesday- runner recovery yoga and variation of planks

Thursday- 3-miles on the elliptical and strengthening for legs, arms and abs. 4:00 min plank.

Friday- Power flow yoga and planks/ab workout

Saturday- Rest day, swimming in the ocean

Sunday- Rest day (I was at a graduation all day)

Twitter talk: Getting injured while training for a race

Getting injured while training for a big race is not easy. It’s hard to figure out if you should keep training, seek advice from a doctor, or just rest. I’m training for a half marathon and marathon now and an IT band issue cropped up. I decided to ask my Twitter followers for advice.

  1. FitHappyGirl
    How do you stay positive after an injury during training? #runchat #fitfluential
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 11:55:42
  2. RunningBecause
    @FitHappyGirl I focus on what went wrong first of all. Then enjoy the downtime. Then plot out a strong comeback.
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 11:57:57
  3. FitHappyGirl
    @RunningBecause good tip! I’m dealing with an IT band issue but have a half on Sept. 30. I’m trying to rest but I hate it haha #runchat
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:05:38
  4. RunningBecause
    @FitHappyGirl I had an ITB injury 2 years ago. Came back stronger and faster, but not after stupidly trying to run through it
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:12:15
  5. FitHappyGirl
    @RunningBecause good to hear. I was nervous if I rested too long I’d loose everything I’ve worked for.
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:17:50
  6. JWLevitt
    @FitHappyGirl I’m looking for answers on this one too. Have a stress issue in one of my arms. Not fun.
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:18:03
  7. ryanjknapp
    @fithappygirl What sort of injury do you have? I get my clients into another activity to keep them fit and happy!
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:25:29
  8. ryanjknapp
    @fithappygirl IT band..let’s look at cause and not treatment. Are you a heel striker at all?
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:38:01
  9. ryanjknapp
    @fithappygirl That is why you have the issue. Pronation only is an issue when you heel strike because of the roll from heel to toe.
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:53:27
  10. FitHappyGirl
    RT @ryanjknapp: Running injuries: If you have an injury don’t look at how to treat it. Instead, find the root cause and fix that! #runchat
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:58:42
  11. nathan7264
    @FitHappyGirl Mental counts a lot. If you have access to pool, consider pool running, did that with prior IT injury, not last year,&foamrllr
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 13:48:20
  12. Andrea_runs
    @FitHappyGirl you have lots of time. Don’t panic yet!!
    Thu, Aug 23 2012 12:27:06