Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Unconventional Training

When I look back on my favorite phases of running, up at the tip top is definitely right around when Marc and I got married - the October before, I trained for and ran my first half marathon with my sister.  I was shocked at how great the race felt and how great I felt afterward.  The following May, I ran my second half - my first of many Brooklyn Half Marathons, and I've never felt as good after a half as I did after that one.

It's probably no coincidence that I was feeling amazing running at the time when I was at my lowest body weight of my adult life - and I was cross training like crazy in an effort to fit into my ridiculously tightly corseted wedding dress with Refine Method, a fancy boutique-y workout class that I had gotten a great deal on thanks to my association at the time with Athleta.  It focused on a variety of weight lifting, bodyweight training, TRX, and cardio - it was a full-body workout that left you flat on the floor by the end, every single time.

I got in the best shape of my life, I felt strong and amazing - and then I stopped going, because it was expensive and my discounted deal had run out.  I don't even know if I noticed a decline in my running performance at the time, but I think random aches and pains became more prevalent.

Ultimately, when I ran the Disney Marathon the following January in 2014, that marathon pulled back the curtain on every point of weakness and consequence of bad form that there was.  My right hamstring, left knee, left foot, and overall running and fitness really suffered.

Finally, in the fall of 2014 after fits and starts of trying to get back to running post-marathon injuries, I discovered my incredible physical therapist (and if you need help with anything ever, you must go to him!) and have been on a journey ever since to learn more about my weaknesses, strengths, running form, and how to handle it all.

I haven't been injury free by a long shot since starting physical therapy, but each issue that crops up has been a tremendous learning opportunity and experience to get smarter and stronger.

Fast forward to two and a half weeks ago, and in the middle of a five mile run, as I excitedly got back in the swing of running post-Costa Rica to train for this year's Brooklyn Half, my right hip flexor started feeling a little weird and tight and sore.  I kept going, taking more walking intervals and trying to figure out the exact right way to stretch so I could access the weird pain I was feeling.  Was it inner thigh?  Hip?  Psoas?

It's weird, it's off-and-on - but unfortunately, running turns it back on.  I've been going to PT twice a week and after a couple of attempts to run afterward, I've finally been hit over the hammer with the fact that I need to completely stop until the pain goes away (it always takes me so long to learn that lesson...).

And yet - the Brooklyn Half is in 23 days.  And I've yet to do a long run beyond a couple of 6 milers before Costa Rica - back in early March.  And I've now gone a week without any running at all.

My one saving grace:  I'm back to really spending time getting my butt kicked and getting stronger in a cross training class, this time with my local gym, The Rock in Astoria.  It only took living five minutes away from it for nearly four years to finally join.  I'm stepping up my strength training game - modifying movements that bothers my hip - with a TRX class taught by the incredibly fun and tough Dorothy.

Now that I'm stuck in a situation where I need to train for a race and I can't run to train, I'm hitting the gym as much as possible without overdoing it.  Instead of an 8 mile run this past Saturday, I took a HIIT class with Lizette, another fantastic trainer, and I was a puddle of dead muscles and sweat by the end.  Adding to that some long walks so I can tire out my legs without upsetting my hip, throwing in shorter, harder bursts of cardio through jump rope and biking, and foam rolling like a monster, and I really feel like I'm doing everything I can to get my body in better shape than it was the day before - which is pretty much the point of training for any athletic event.

Even though I'm feeling very under the gun by how quickly the Brooklyn Half is approaching, I've ultimately come to accept that if my body's telling me it's not up for it, I have to bow out and take to the sidelines, cheering on the runners.  As my partner in the Bk Half for the last two years, my work wife, bestie and running Sole Sister Laura keeps reminding me - All roads lead to November.  This year is the New York City Marathon which I have striven to be a part of for over two years with blood, sweat, tears, and miles.  If this injury is here to teach me a lesson, I think I'm learning it.  And I will walk that damn marathon if I have to.

To be a runner, running can't be the end-all, be-all.  It needs to be a part of a larger puzzle that respects your body's limitations, needs, biomechanics, and the weak parts that are telling you they need to be made stronger.  For someone like me who likes to make a training plan and rigidly stick to it, whose favorite thing is running above all else - it's a hard lesson, and it takes a lot of painful repetition to stick.  I think, though, that I'm finally getting it through my head, into my body, and hopefully that will translate to my hip.

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