About a Muscle

I never expected to have the tri season I have had so far this year.  In fact, if you asked me in January, I wasn’t even expecting to race at all. So the fact that I have raced 3 half iron races and been better for each one has me over the moon.

If you have read any of my race reports, I mention how my right hamstring felt. I had injured it in late 2013, and didn’t admit to myself, much less anyone else, how bad it was getting until about August 2014. And didn’t really get back on a journey to health until after IMWI in September 2014.

The journey back has been long. And it wasn’t until July of this year I could start to say my hamstring injury is a non-issue – mentally and physically.  The journey back included many leaps of faith. I was so desperate I would have done just about anything. Including giving up running. Although knowing what I know now, that wouldn’t have fixed my problem, just eliminated one source of the issue.

By December 2014, after time off running and visits to a doctor and regular visits to a good physical therapist both pretty much said to me, “It just takes time. Keep running. We can’t do anything else for you. Bye!” But I kept “tweaking” my hamstring. I wondered if, since I was dismissed by the physical therapist and doctor if this was my new “normal” and was getting depressed.

I started working with a new coach, Matthew, and it happened again…it ‘tweaked’. I communicated this event to him via email or text (I was distraught so it’s all kind of hazy). I think he heard the tears in my writing, and was on the phone with me in about 5 minutes. He didn’t dismiss me! Instead he sent me a list of 3 people who may be able to help me. I chose two of the three, saving the last option for a nuclear option.

Apparently, I chose wisely.

First I made an appointment with Dr. Josh Glass at Georgia Sports Chiropractic. This was a big step for me, even after being dismissed by my doctor and PT as I have always been suspect of chiropractors. And I say this now not to dismiss the work he does, or other chiropractors, but to illustrate the leap of faith it was for me to go. And now I can say that I trust him. And I have gotten to see a few friends I haven’t seen in awhile when there too! It is an understatement to say he is a trusted figure in the Atlanta sports community.

I gave him my progression to my state at the time of my first visit, starting with my bike wreck where I hit a dog in April 2013. And he listened.   And gave his opinion. And what he said clicked.

I strongly believe in the body’s ability to heal, but sometimes it does need a little help. And mine did. And Dr. Glass was that help. He thinks that the injury to my back after my wreck affected my glutes and they basically stopped working. And so my hamstring took the load. Which is not good.

Dr. Glass’ assessment is reflected in that my physical therapist I had been seeing kept telling me to “fire my glutes” and I would say “I am”. Well, I may have been trying, but they weren’t firing.

Back to the Dr. Glass’ assessment: Eventually I over-stressed my hamstring and down it went. And since my glutes never helped carry the load, I kept ‘tweaking’ my hamstring.

And this is why I say, even if I had stopped running, I know this would have continued to be an issue, and would have grown regardless of what I did. Running was not the cause of my pain….it only exacerbated the root cause.

Second I went to have a run evaluation with Kyle O’Day at Continuum Sports. Actually, I had 3 sessions with him. In the second session he did some basic tests for weakness/strength, and he found pronounced weakness on my right side. And so he gave me very basic strength items that I did. Regularly. And my strength all around built back up slowly. And after visit 3 I have a new set of basic exercises to bring everything together.

Another change was my running. Everyone was saying “keep running”. I did. But, Matthew’s workouts focused on recovery and building me back up. Gone was speed work. Yes I ran… but short, steady, and controlled.

I also had (and still have) a host of strength sessions he gave me which included a lot of hip/glute work to help build my muscles back up.

I wondered if my beloved speed would ever return. It is – slowly. Which is fine. There is no short cut to achieving goals…just slow and steady work.

I also went from sporadic massages to regular massages with Jeff Trotti. He has spent a number of hours on my hamstring muscles and all I can say it is feels so good.

And so I worked steadily. Slowly. Patiently (well, not really but let’s pretend): strength and stretching daily. Daily items were small things so I wasn’t exhausting myself, but they took time, and dedication to do them daily.

There were times I wondered if things would ever really be “normal” again.

And then one day in the past month I was swimming and…nothing. A couple of days later I was in New Orleans for work walking around and…nothing! An absence of pain or irritation. Nothing. It was…wow! I was on Cloud 9.

And so right now I can say I am not only enjoying running again, but enjoying the feelings of my body engaging as it should when walking, going up stairs, and so many other mundane activities. I grin like a Cheshire cat. When I walk up stairs I don’t push with my quads I was pushed up by my glutes. And when I walk my right leg no longer goes wonky but straight under me pushing me forward. And it is fabulous!

It has been worth every bit of work I have done to take care of my body, and forgoing some other things. And even as things continue to get better I keep doing them and working to keep my body healthy. Because now I feel like I can enjoy not only running and racing, but life again. The pain is no longer infiltrating my daily life. And that is how it should be.

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