Monday, February 22, 2010

Ready to Run

I started running the summer after my junior year of college. I've mentioned before that I gained a lot of weight my sophomore year; well that summer, I was home in St. Louis with a pretty cushy job that allowed me to go to the gym most days a week. Through some mild weight training and the elliptical machine, I lost 25 pounds that summer.

Well, the following summer I was living in Memphis, and for whatever reason, instead of continuing my journey at the gym, I decided to give running a try. (I consequently lost 15 more pounds that summer - igniting an unknown interest in running that has stayed with me since.) And I should say, I use the term "running" interchangeably with "jogging" - because in the beginning, I was unquestionably at an 11 minute pace or something really slow.

I remember the first couple weeks of running. I would park my car at the south entrance to Rhodes (on North Parkway) and take off via Hein Park to do the loop that circles the school. The first day, by the time I turned the corner into Hein Park, I was winded (this is about .1 miles), and all I could do was find a street sign (maybe another .1 miles away?) and tell myself to just run to that street sign. Then I walked the rest of the loop. The next day, I would similarly become winded, but instead I would chose a different landmark, a little bit further and run to that.

I don't know what made me continue to do it - why I didn't just get frustrated and return to the elliptical machine at the gym. But I did continue, and low & behold, by midsummer I was running the full 2-mile loop. And then, AND THEN, after I had mastered the 2-mile loop, I would do more! And it was the same sort of deal as before, do the first loop, and then gradually build up the next .1 miles day after day - running to that street sign or that tree or that house, until I was able to do 2, 2-mile loops! It was so satisfying, and the results were so measurable, I think that's what has kept my interest through the years.

I have dreams of doing a half marathon, or even a full; but sadly that awful, little 3-syllable word "injury" has plagued me of late. After college (before I made friends with the cute neighbor who had a treadmill), I would run outside through our neighborhood. This started the long, painful process of hip flexor injury and general hip pain. That pain, though, was remedied by running on a treadmill instead (I guess the street and sidewalk are too uneven? But LAME - treadmill running sucks compared to outside).

But then, after the hips were resolved, I started to develop the dreaded, often unavoidable beast: knee problems. And these are bad, and constant, and seem un-fixable. I SWEAR these started when I was toying around with Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred (where there are a few sequences of really fast lunges that are just too quick for attention to form). And then when we did the pre-wedding P90x, it felt really tough on all my joints. But the thing that bugs me most about my knees now, is that even after prolonged rest (cough, cough, two months of almost no exercise after my wedding, cough), the first run I took re-ignited the knees. Immediately.

I'm at the point now where I basically can't run faster than a 9-minute pace (or else it really hurts), I can't run outside, and I can't run more than 4 miles at the 9-minute pace (5 is the absolute maximum). And I mean, what am I supposed to do with that? For all you marathon/half marathon running friends, how have injuries impacted you? What about you, other friends who dream of running more but worry about your injuries - do you think you'll ever be able to?

And yes, I know physical therapy is probably the best option - but that expense (when it's not really necessary aside from helping me attain my dream of long-distance running) doesn't seem justifiable at this moment. I bought a knee brace from Target that offers mild compression (which helps), but knee braces don't really fix the problem, they just make it tolerable. But is this what I need? Just to tolerate it? Really friends, I'd love to hear your stories about running & injury!

7 comments:

Sarah said...

Hmm I'd want to know what type of knee pain you get. Swelling or just pain? Depending what's wrong, physical therapy may or may not be able to help you. Have you ever had an orthopedic surgeon look at your knees before? If it's cartilage that you tore, there is a very very simple surgery that would really help with the pain. However, there are a lot of knee problems that there isn't a whole lot you can do about... Weird that you are better on treadmills than outside, I am 100 times better outside than on a treadmill. One more thing- for me when I haven't run in awhile, I get sore/swollen the first time, but then my knees get "used" to running again. Good luck!

katie said...

ha. funny you should blog about this today. i went on my first run in quite some time today, and it was pretty rough considering all that's gone into my body this past month (think mardi gras and superbowl). i only made it two miles. but anyway, my knees def give me trouble...i swear i'm going to need knee replacements on both knees in my mid-40s. i don't have much trouble with my hips, though. i'd say you should get it checked out if it's unbearable pain and isn't allowing you to run as far as you normally can...

Patricia said...

An ice pack and heating pad were godsends for me back when I was running a lot. I would ice everything (knees and back give me trouble) right after running, and then any other time when I was sitting or lying down, I would use the heating pad. Maybe get a roller and stretch out your IT band before running to help your hips?

LB said...

I've always had pesty knee problems too - I used a brace while skiing and my knee was great, so I'll be interested to hear how that works out for you! I agree with Patti - a little heat/ice goes a long way. This is why I mostly do the elliptical now :(

Jackie said...

good comments, friends! hip & knee trouble seems like it should plague us when we're 80 - not now. but i should say, the hip doesnt bother me anymore (because i only run on the treadmill). and i didn't mention it's only one of my knees (that i've never been to a doctor about) - only pain, no swelling - and the pain is faaaaaaar from unbearable. but the longer/faster i run, the more it bothers me - so logic says i shouldn't "push it" too far (since i'm not really in the market for knee surgery or a replacement at 40). :)

Jackie said...

oh yeah - and i ice after every run - even if it isn't hurting too badly. but do y'all think heating is effective for the knee? maybe i should try that as well.

Nate said...

Hi Jackie, Brad Romig sent me an email about this post and asked me to read and respond if I felt I could help. Where exactly is the knee pain? Is it a generally ache throughout the knee, is it a sharp pain on the outside (lateral) side of the knee? I have been running for 10 years and have had my share of knee issues. The thing that saved me the most was not physical therapy. That was a waste of money and six weeks because while they are very intelligent and aware of the human body's movements during running, most of them are not runners themselves. If you can find a recommendation (from a local running store perhaps) for a sports massage therapist in your area that would probably be your best bet. They will be able to pinpoint from where your issues are arising and the best method to take from there. They usually run around $80 an hour or $50 per half hour. If they can't be of much help to you, they probably won't have you come back but will recommend you see someone else in their professional circle. Stretch everyday, even when you are not running that day (more important that stretching on days you do run actually).

Sorry that was so long, hope it helps.