Friday, January 15, 2010

The Newbie: IT bands, Knees and Aches...Oh My!

My newbie running adventures are approximately 12 weeks old now. It's been really fun and motivating to be able to share with friends and family my weekly mileage, or my slowly increasing speed. It is also official---I got into the NYC Half Marathon lottery! Now I know for sure that my hard work will be put to use.

While I've enjoyed the challenge and the highs from workouts, I've recently hit a rut due to the wear and tear of running. As simple and natural as running is, it also can be quite brutal on your body. Years of swimming have tendered my joints to be flexible but not particularly strong, and the sport-switch is taking my body some time to adjust.  

I always thought of running as the "accessory free sport" but now I am the proud owner of a foam roller, tennis balls in my freezer, endless moleskin padding and some nice sport ice packs. The foam roller, if you've never used one before, is a log of foam that is basically self-torture (though it really does work). It's great for IT band pain, by helping to keep things from getting too tight. 
The tennis balls are to massage the neuroma in my left foot, apparently my old shoes weren't wide enough and as my mileage increased it caused swelling and now a distinctive nerve pinch between my third and fourth toe. Moleskin padding is almost permanently attached to the pad of my foot beneath the neuoroma to give some extra cushion and those ice packs practically go to bed with me now. 

Some days the aches make it hard to get up in the morning, and it can really frustrate me because a workout might get curtailed or changed due to another flare-up. 

At the same time it's taught me how important it is to pay attention to the details: my posture, how I distribute my weight, my gait/strike and how well I take care of myself pre- and post-run. While I'm somewhat of a free bird, I relish information and knowledge. The aches have led me to research more and be more aware of my body. 

When my neuroma flares up while running, I often recognize that it's due to sloppy form. When my IT band hurts, well...I was probably a wuss with the foam roller and didn't give myself enough time to warm up. I suppose I underestimated running's needs! 

The recent rut in dealing with pains have been well, a pain. I've been told my most running friends that this is probably as bad as it will get since I was vigilant about addressing the issues when they started. Now I suppose this is the less glamorous side of running: the rolling, stretching, icing routine that accompanies without fail, every run. 

While I often whine to myself I don't wanna! when I realize that I need to roll/stretch/ice before getting out the door, like a good kid I do it because I know it will save me and let me enjoy myself more on my run. 

As much as I hate being told what to do, running has tempered me a bit to listen better to my body. Man, I am totally an old lady huh? But at least a little smarter and hopefully in less pain in the future!! 

Much love and happy running,