Proving Stamina and Strength in the Valley

Meditations in Motion

We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life — those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.- Oswald Chambers

I have written about many races I did over the past few months. You can read some race reports here, here, here and here. Races are like mountains (sometimes literally) for runners. They are the high points of our lives, beautiful attractions.

We look forward to a race for weeks or months, we put in hours of training before a race, and we sometimes travel to an exotic destination to do a race. Races usually have a festive atmosphere, like a big traveling party is going on, complete with food, drink, and entertainment. At these parties, however, the guests are providing the entertainment as well as being entertained. One French marathon that I wrote about serves steak, oysters, and wine to participants as they traverse 26.2 miles.

But racing usually makes up only a small percentage of the time we run. Most of the time we start out from home (or in my case, the local rec center), have a route in mind that will accomplish our goal for the day, and begin putting one foot in front of the other.

Meditations in Motion

Sometimes that goal is to do some intervals, a tempo run, or some hill repeats to increase our strength and speed. Sometimes that goal is to do a long run to increase our stamina. Sometimes that goal is to relax, recover, or socialize, so we set out with friends at a leisurely pace and converse.

I wrote about feeling jealous when I see someone running when I am not, even if I just finished my run. That feeling is amplified now that I am injured. For the two weeks I didn’t run at all, it seemed like I saw runners everywhere, jogging effortlessly along the sidewalks, gliding around the high school track, traversing the bike path without even breathing heavily.

If earlier, I wrote the good stuff about running, the races, the fun, the mountains, I now must write the not-so-good, grinding it out in the valley. Here are my tales from the valley.

Meditations in Motion

In order to determine exactly where the pain in my hip was coming from, I first visited my family doctor. She did some perfunctory tests, poked around a little bit, and told me that she would send me to a physical therapist for evaluation. She gave me an initial diagnosis of piriformis syndrome, which means that your piriformis muscle (a muscle in your butt) is exerting pressure on your sciatic nerve, which is what causes the pain. She also told me she didn’t think that was the only problem.

 

Meditations in Motion
By Patrick J. Lynch & KDS4444 – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skeleton_whole_body_ant_lat_views.svg, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53169641

 

I was able to get an appointment with the physical therapist the next day. She did some more extensive testing and agreed with the doctor’s diagnosis of piriformis syndrome. She had me do some exercises at her office, gave me a “stim” treatment with heat, and assigned more exercises to do at home.

Stim, by the way, refers to electrical stimulation. Yes, they shoot electricity into your damaged muscle. When my PT first applied stim, I almost jumped off the examination table. I have a very high startle response. After one second, I kind of liked it. It felt like a thousand tiny, tiny fingers massaging deep inside the affected muscle.

Some of the assigned exercises stretched my piriformis muscle and some stretched my hamstring. Those of you who know me will not doubt that I did the assignments religiously. I am nothing if not an overachiever.

The piriformis exercises made my muscle ache in a “hurts so good“, stretching-a-tight-muscle kind of way. I loved doing them; they made me feel like I was making progress loosening up a tight muscle. The hamstring stretches, however, hurt in a “Yowch!” kind of way.

I mentioned this to my therapist, who told me to do the stretch only until I felt a gentle pulling on my hamstring. The problem was, there was no point at which I felt “gentle pulling“. It was either no stretch at all or sharp pain.

After doing the stretches twice a day for a week and a half, my hip actually felt worse than before. Not the result I was hoping for. I emailed my doctor. She responded that my hamstring tendon is probably inflamed and is getting “ticked off” at being stretched. I agreed. She told me to stop doing the hamstring stretches. My hip began improving almost at once.

Meditations in Motion

After another week, I was climbing the walls, ready to try some form of aerobic exercise again. I stepped onto the elliptical machine at the rec center and started moving…no pain! I felt so good, I stayed on for an hour. The next day I could barely get out of bed, not from hip pain, but from pain in my calves, which were not used to the elliptical motion. My hubby just shook his head and smiled.

Here is a summary of my workouts since I have started again.

Tuesday: 6 miles on the elliptical
Thursday: 3.2 miles on the elliptical
Friday: 3 miles on the elliptical
Sunday: 3.3 miles on the elliptical
Wednesday: 8.4 miles on the elliptical, 4.6 miles walking, .25 miles pain-free running
Thursday: 6.3 miles on the elliptical, 1 mile walking, .5 miles pain-free running

It is a beginning. Greetings from the valley.

 

I am linking up with Clean East Fast Feets for her Week in Review, Shank You Very Much for  Global Blogging, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, and blovedboston for Weekending,

 

 

 

 

 

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41 comments

  1. I’m a life-long runner with a bad knee, so I really get this. Small steps…God has a purpose, even in this. My bad knee really reframed running for me. I now see it as a gift to run a couple of times a week and spend the other days on the elliptical. I can look back and thank God for all he has done…

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I say “hip”, it’s really a euphemism for my butt! 😀 The pain starts at the bottom of my butt and radiates down from there as I run longer distances. I do foam roll, but I use a fairly rigid foam roller with ridges and bumps a friend gave me one year for my birthday. I do lots of squats in body pump, but I only do them at body weight. Gonna give that a rest and see if it helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Got it. As the spouse of a massage therapist, I’m somewhat conditioned to believe that problems like these don’t come from weak muscles, but tight muscles. All the PTs I’ve seen over the years have focused on working opposing muscles but haven’t focused on releasing any tightness in any meaningful way. I even had a bursectomy in the 90’s when what (in hindsight) I needed was foam-rolling my inner quad. So there’s my opinion and a bunch of advice you didn’t ask for, When I see a soapbox sometimes I can’t help but stand on it. I hope you heal quickly – those non-running periods are hell.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel your pain, Laurie — literally. I’ve dealt with nasty sciatica in the past and have learned to be very, very respectful of my limits. Which is not to say that I don’t push those limits from time to time, and overdo it. Like this weekend with over exuberant weightlifting — and now I’m easing up at night with a very cranky hip. For us ambitious types, it’s pretty hard to stay within bounds ALL the time. But do your best to be patient, and this WILL get better. Promise:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jan. I did not know you are a weightlifter! I had to smile as I read your comment. When I read it aloud (in my head) it sounded exactly like a conversation I had with one of my sons! 🙂

      Like

  3. The valley can be a sucky place to be, but the good news is that you’re climbing your way out and will reach that mountain top again.

    I know my piriformis can start to ache when I begin a training cycle after just maintaining a base.

    The very worst thing is seeing other runners when you can’t run because yes, suddenly, they’re everywhere!

    Sounds like you’re well on the road to recovery, though.Hopefully it’s not a long one.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I have been there, unfortunately, I hope that it’s a quicker recovery than you think. Coming back from injury sucks, but it also has a tendency to make us stronger runners.

        I kind of feel as though I’m finally back to where I was about 5 years ago when I had a brief run-in with ITBS!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugg! I know how you feel about the valley of exercise…I’ve been there since March when I missed a stair and twisted my ankle badly…of course, I’ve been too busy to go to the doctor…and it still hurts. Maybe I need to make time to get it looked at! Thanks for linking up at Inspire Me Monday this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a fear of developing major piriformis syndrome as my piriformis acts up at times as well. Normally not enough to stop me from running, but it requires me to foam roll a lot. My hamstrings are quite tight as well and I know having a desk job contributes to that. In addition to foam rolling I take a tennis ball and put it between my butt and the wall and use it to roll over the piriformis. During a massage appointment I also had the therapist focus on that area and it too was a “hurt so good” experience. Good luck in getting back to running normally again!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have dealt with piriformis agony for many years…it’s a total pain in the a$$ and so frustrating. I have also heard that sometimes too much stretching can make it worse, so how’s that for another buzz kill LOL I’m sure (like any kind of ailment) every case is different for every runner…so good luck with your treatment. ((hugs))

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I just saw a patient in clinic yesterday with an injury who was probably making it worse by stretching. It’s just like anything else–one size (or stretch) does not fit all! I sure hope you’re on the mend.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am amazed at the number of people who really love running. It has never been a joy for me however I do love long walks through nature. Sorry for your pain, have been there due to standing for long periods on concrete at work. Hope it feels better soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Runners are my heroes – even when injured you are bucking to get back out onto the road. I stub my toe and lie down for a week 😉 In all seriousness though, I have muscular dystrophy which prevents running so I admire how much work you put into it. #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

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