I’ve been dealing with a glute problem recently that has been affecting various parts my right leg, hip and lower back. It’s something I’ve dealt with during every marathon cycle, but never to this extent. I’ve always been able to control this and run through with minimal discomfort. This time, it stopped me in my tracks. It’s the worst it’s ever been and completely shuts off all power in my stride. It’s hard for me to call it an “injury” because it’s just weak + imbalanced + angry muscles. I’m just going to call it FRUSTRATING!
It started bothering me during the last few days of September, but I thought it was the normal discomfort creeping back. I scaled back my workouts. I took it pretty easy for a few weeks straight before the Columbus half marathon because my training was pointing to a half marathon PR. I could taste it and wanted to be cautious before the race. By race week it was getting worse, but I was staying positive.
When I did strides the day before the race it was feeling pretty awful. I thought about not starting the race. Inside I knew this was something I wouldn’t be able to run through, but I didn’t want to listen to that voice. I wanted my PR. I wanted my reward for all my hard work postpartum.
But… I didn’t get that. Instead, I started the race and felt my right leg starting to drag a bit and not stride through at mile 2. By mile 3 my leg was completely shutting down. I had to stop the race right around the 4 mile point. I got a police escort back a few miles then tried to jog. I couldn’t do it. I had to walk to the finish. There really wasn’t a choice on whether to finish the race. My leg was JUST DONE and I was strangely proud of my DNF. At the time, I only wished I had listened to that voice in my head the day before that told me I shouldn’t even start.
Before the Columbus Half attempt, everything was fine when I was running easy, but fast running really bothered my leg. Part of me wished I had run an easy 20 miler that day instead of starting the race since easy running was tolerable. But the more I thought about it, I realized this was a problem that wasn’t going to go away without some medical attention. I needed to test it and get it to the point where I couldn’t even run to take the steps I needed to get better. I wish I didn’t need that drastic of a message to get it healed the right way, but I did. I got a massage that same day (something I should have done weeks earlier!)
Since then, I’ve received Active Release treatments, and deep, painful, massage and both seem to be helping. My practitioners seem to think this is a postpartum issue – all the muscles in my core and hips are moving back together, and little imbalances mixed with hard training can cause big problems. When this issue was at it’s worst, I had major inflammation near my SI joint, high hamstring and outer hip. (Now, when I get one of my deep massages and ART I’m told my muscles feel healthy, so things are definitely improving. And, I can feel that!)
After the big flare up, I took 4 days completely off, no cross training or running, just doing a few glute activation exercises I was given by the doctor. I started back up running 1 mile, then 2 miles, then 4 miles, then 6 miles. I’m now back up to running approximately an hour at a time and feeling good. I attempted a stride, just one 20 second pickup, and my leg locked up again so I know I need to stick to everything I’ve been doing and forget about speed work for now. Today’s run was the first day where my legs felt fast and normal. Still, I didn’t try anything fast or crazy. I just did a nice easy 50 minute run.
So many people have reached out to me with advice, comforting messages, and their own glute issues and all of this support has been awesome! Thank you! Many of you have asked me to write a blog post about the issue and what I’m doing to try to heal it. I’m going to compile a list of exercises I’ve been given from my medical practitioners plus advice and exercises I’ve been given from running buds. I hope this can help some of you and I hope you take the steps you need to get better before things get out of control! And I recommend seeing someone for help, despite the time, money, and any other resources. I wish I would have taken this advice sooner…
The Rehab Plan:
- Active Release technique 2x/week
- Deep Tissue Massage 1x/week
- Daily foam rolling
- Jasyoga videos daily
- Hot/Cold Contrast Bath daily, studies are mixed on this technique but I’ve found a lot of relief since starting this. I have a peculiar house set up with 2 bathrooms side by side and always thought this was the most ridiculous thing. But now I found a use for them! I fill a bath with ice water. I fill another bath with hot epsom salt water. I alternate every 5 mins for 25 mins, starting and ending with cold. Sometimes you can do this technique in a bucket, but this area is hard to fit into a bucket, unlike a foot/ankle/achilles problem. If nothing else, ice packs are your friend, multiple times a day.
- Exercises from medical professional, 10 reps multiple times/day, both sides:
- Bridges: just to activate the glutes, (not til muscle fatigue)
- Knee to shoulder: From a seated position on the floor, legs out in front, cross one leg into a “four shape” then pull that knee toward the opposite shoulder
- Hamstring dynamic stretch: Prop foot on something of varying heights, from weight bench to higher and bend at waist toward propped foot, pointing toe as you bend+reach and flexing foot as you come back to start position
- Unweighted dead lift, activating glutes/hamstrings on way up
- Assisted hamstring stretch/lengthen: start on back knees bent, feet flat on floor. Have a partner lift one straight leg into a hamstring stretch while you push down (against their stretch) lightly, like 10-20% effort.
- IT Band stretch expanded- Standing position, cross right leg over left and bend slightly toward left. Then bend down toward toes, reaching for the left foot (though I’m only flexible enough to get just past knee!)
- Added exercises from runners going through similar problems:
- One legged bridge
- Back lunges concentrating on pushing through hamstring and glutes
- Hip capsule stretch (google this for youtube videos-lots of options!)
- Theraband exercises, front/back/side motion
- Lacrosse or tennis ball on the glute, against the wall
Advice other runners have given me:
- Don’t cross train too much
- Think about simply activating the muscles before strengthening them
- Peppermint or Deep Blue essential oils
Let me conclude by saying, I don’t have all the answers. I’m definitely not healed. I feel sad about this every day, when I’m getting ready to run and just want to bust out a fast workout and cant. When I’m doing endless rehab/rolling/icing. When I think about how just one month ago I was killing my races and workouts. But I also feel optimistic every time I see some improvement. I don’t know what will happen with my goal race (CIM). I’ve scrapped all racing until that day to avoid another flare up. I’m still planning to race CIM right now, and I’m just taking things day by day.
Anything you want to add? Please share in the comments so we can all help each other!