“Listen to your body. Do not be a blind and deaf tenant.” – Dr. George Sheehan
When I began running in 2004 I never dealt with soreness or injury. I thought other runners who complained of runner’s knee, limited flexibility, tightness, strains, and so on, were full of it. I believed it was a cop-out, until recently. For the most part my Boston training has been injury free. However, I have had little nagging issues; soreness, aches and pains. A couple of weeks ago my right calf started to bother me (in short it hurt enough to see a doctor). His diagnose was a low level strain and the cure no running over a 5 day period. All runners know 5 days off is a lot to ask! I took his advice because I wanted to be 100% for Boston. He told me to take time off from running not from other activities. Over my 5 day recovery I attended spin class (which kicked my ass), weight lifted and took walks with my daughter. My legs were extremely sore following the 5 days of rest. I can’t stand to be inactive, it’s not my personality. When I returned to running my calf felt better but not 100%. The pain was gone during runs but returned post run. I am continuing with RICE every night until Boston. My strain has made me a strong believer in KT tape. I thought taping was a gimmick. How could a small piece of tape support my muscles? Somehow they creators if KT tape placed a little magic in it! I could not run without it.
I followed up with my doctor last week and he asked me an interesting question, “Have you noticed a difference in your running since you gave birth?” I have never thought about his question before. The answer is YES, a huge difference! Upon returning to running post baby I noticed several changes; my stride was off, I had trouble stabilizing my core and back muscles, my neck/shoulders were tight during activity, and fatigue set in quicker. I worked out my entire pregnancy (my abdominal muscle were still visible while pregnant), in hopes to recovery more efficiently post baby. I had one goal, which was to get back to running ASAP. It has been 15 months since giving birth and my body is starting to fully recover from labor and delivery. My doctor shared with me a few studies which have been focused on post birth and exercise. The body releases a protein hormone known as relaxin, which causes the ligaments to relax in preparation for child birth. Post delivery the hormone lingers in the body for an extended period of time; which makes the individual more susceptible to injuries. It takes a while for the hips to shift into alignment and the hormone to leave the body. This could potentially explain my stride being off and my broken ankle. FYI to all of the women out there, your body suffers for a LONG time post baby (but they are worth every second).
I believe the strain in my calf is to blame for my tough 20 mile run on Saturday. I have begun research on fatigue and its many causes. On Saturday my body felt physically strong but I felt complete exhaustion. It was the oddest feeling, one I had never experienced prior to Saturday. I ran 24 miles the week before and felt like a million bucks; how could a 20 mile run one week later be so challenging? I have been reading Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald. By the title you may perceive the book to be about mental endurance but it is not. It is an inside look at how the brain and the rest of the body communicates during the act of running. He discusses briefly the relationship between muscle damage and exhaustion (which could explain my hard 20 mile run). During the repetitive motion of running many microscopic tares form within the muscles which may cause soreness (this is to be expected). Over time the damage to the muscles can accumulate; which may cause fatigue during long runs. It is normal to experience soreness after a prolonged run. Matt suggests, if a person finishes a long run feeling sore and exhausted they have a significant amount of muscle damage. The damage is the major cause of the exhaustion. The reason for this exchange is due to the release of interleukin-6 into the muscles (released upon glycogen depletion). The release may send a red flag to the brain to slow down which may cause the fatigue. The brain will cause fatigue to save the body from greater damage. Interleukin-6 leaks when a muscle cell membrane ruptures due to damage. Studies have shown high brain concentrations of interleukin-6 causes fatigue in runners. The book explains in greater detail about the correlation between the brain, damaged muscles, interleukin-6, and complete exhaustion. Brain Training for Runners is an interesting read for those looking for a different training regimen.
My trapper has begun and since Saturday I have not felt the same form of exhaustion. I will see what happens this Saturday during a 12 mile run. Until then I will continue to RICE, KT tape, foam roll and engage in low mileage weeks. I hope all of you preparing for a race are experiencing injury and pain free training. Happy running to you all!
13 days and counting…….