Lessons from the IR List

By: Kevin Irwin

Pretzels. Clamshells. Is this going to be a post about food? No, although I do enjoy the epicurean delights, these are just some the names of the exercises which have suddenly become part of my daily routine.

How did this happen? For some time now, I have had a nagging issue with my hip. It wasn’t so painful as to prevent me from running, but it wasn’t improving. Sure, some days it was hardly there, but other days it was excruciating. Running with pain is nothing new – in a race as long as a marathon, you will have to do that sometime. Using the old rule of thumb that at long as it doesn’t get worse as you run, I didn’t worry at first.  But after the pain carried into the post-run, getting worse than during the run, the other rule of thumb – does it hurt when you aren’t running – came into play.

As I’ve said before, in the last half year or so I had finally come out of a long period of feeling unmotivated. I’d just rediscovered joy in running and was rebuilding my base, starting to round back into shape and start serious training again. I didn’t want to believe I was injured. I wanted to get back on track and own the local master’s division. But as stubborn as I am (and believe me, I can be stubborn – just ask my wife), I had to admit this was a problem I had to deal with sooner, not later. Just as the first step out of bed to go running is the hardest, admitting you’re injured can be the most difficult part.

My New Year’s resolution was to take care of myself.  So I brought myself to Dr. Spears’ injury clinic at Rogue. Now I find myself in physical therapy, doing the aforementioned exercises. It seems I have mechanical issues – misalignment in my hip – and need to address my weaknesses so I can correct it. Weaknesses which over time led to pushing things out of place. For now, that means no running. This is extremely frustrating for me, not just because things felt like they were falling into place (though it seem my hip was falling out of place), but with the recent Olympic marathon trials and the successes of Team Rogue, I am more excited about running than I have been in years. Still, even if I can’t run, I can channel that energy into my rehab, working at it as diligently as I would my training.

No one likes adversity (especially when it’s painful), but it does provide a good learning opportunity.  I’ve definitely learned – or more likely, relearned – some things in dealing with this:

1. Listen to your body. I have run for many years now and have felt a variety of aches and pains. Most of the time, these are minor and passing. I could run through it and did. As hard as it may be to believe, I was never sidelined by a serious injury in my high school, college, or post-collegiate running career. At least nothing that a few days off didn’t resolve. This time, it felt different. Paying attention to how you feel  in both good and bad times can help guide you when you start to hurt.

2. Remember the little things. Just like boiling the frog by raising the temperature a bit at a time, the little things can add up to be something big. As runners, it is easy to focus on getting from point A to point B, to the exclusion of everything else. But there are many muscles other than your quads, hamstrings, and calves involved in this process and they need attention too. You might not feel anything now, but tomorrow may be another story. Don’t neglect your core.

3. Be patient. As much as I hate to lose conditioning because I’m not running, I can always get it back in time. If I try to grind it out, it would only drag things out. In the long run, I’d only be further behind. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Soon enough, I’ll be back on the roads and trails.  And I’ll be running on two good legs, not one!

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