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Being a responsible hamstring owner.


July has been a fun month for life and work, but rather piss-poor on the training front. Possibly my crappiest month of “marathon training” ever. It started out on an uninspired note with a bad race, continued with general fatigue that facilitated flagging motivation for early wakeups, and closed out with taking several days off to head off what might yet evolve into some kind of long-term hamstring problem. My right and left hamstrings have been trading off every couple of weeks in terms of which one decides to be the problem kid. The issue is exacerbated by running fast downhill, which I’ve been doing at the weekly Summer Series here (a trail route with some extreme uphills and downhills), so, not gonna do that anymore.

Self-diagnosis: It’s the same old lower back/SI joint misalignment and piriformis syndrome stuff. Self-Rx: A few days of rest, new shoes, tennis ball trigger point therapy, heat on the glutes and lower back, and a suite of core PT exercises I’ve put together for myself.

Right now I’m in a cautionary waiting-it-out-and-resting period. My mileage has been pretty spotty since January, but it’s still been high enough over the past two years that it’s not going to simply disappear if I have a few low-mileage weeks or months. And frankly, I don’t have a choice. If you are altering your gait for more than TWO DAYS in a row, if you are babying anything, if you can’t turn your legs over at your desired rate because something feels like it’s hitching up… you need to manage whatever it is as if it is a real injury – the type that lays you out for a month or more. Even if there’s no actual pain yet. That’s my mantra towards aches and pains, and though it causes me a lot of anxiety and the “you’re blowing it way out of proportion” mental-spiral-of-doom sometimes, it’s served me well so far.

After last week’s heat, the weather was incredible this week. Cooler, perfect, with a few crisp mornings that spurred my brain ahead to fall, leaves on the wind, sweatshirts, thermos filled with hot tea, the wet chill and the mist on the river, hard runs through the Wissahickon with my breath on the air. I was so ready to just CRUISE on my runs, start piling on the miles, fly, feel the fatigue flooding my legs when I fall into bed at night in glorious anticipation of getting out there again in the morning for more and more miles. And then, the adaptation period, the fight-back response of my legs as I get stronger and stronger — the feeling I had last year at this time.

I wanted all of that last week, but this little hamstring hitch kept holding me back, so I exercised a bit of self-control and avoided the temptation.

I want to be able to start my real marathon training on a fully healthy system so that I can train full throttle in September and October.  Those are the months that matter. If that means base mileage loss now, okay. If there’s one thing I’m strong on, it’s base. I probably had too much last year. Maybe this low-key July is a blessing in disguise.

I haven’t been supplementing my lower-key weeks with anything else. A few half-hearted rowing sessions, a few half-assed body circuits. I don’t have the motivation to officially cross-train right now, which could mean I’m totally shooting myself in the foot, but I guess we’ll find out (personally, I file weeks like these under the “avoiding long-term hormonal damage” label and call them a victory).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/27/2013 09:34

    Smart move with the hamstrings. It’s great that you’ve figured that out – many people (myself!) have repeated nagging injuries and can’t get a handle on cause or treatment.

  2. Ewen permalink
    07/30/2013 01:55

    You’re right about it being a blessing in disguise if you can coax them back to normality over the coming weeks. Having been through it before is great, but yes, shame about missing out on some perfect running days. We’re just coming into that now, after suffering through a cold, sometimes wet period. About time I say. Hope you’re back into the normal enjoyable routine before long.

  3. 08/27/2013 20:52

    Agreeing with the aforementioned “smart move.” Here’s hoping things are back to feeling good soon. I miss fall running in Philadelphia. Have fun!

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