I have spent the last month nursing my injured broken body back to health. Problem 1: The IT band. The iliotibial band, as the name suggests, stretches from the iliac crest of the hip bone, around the outside of the upper leg, and across the outside of the knee to insert just below the knee at the top of the tibia. Given its positioning, it rubs across the knee with every step, and in my case had become inflamed to the point of impairing my ability to walk. If you look up “Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)” on Wikipedia, you will see that the recommended treatment is RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and that banned activities while recovering include EVERYTHING!!!!! (well, everything requiring walking or running) On top of RICE’ing, improving the strength in the hip flexors and rolling/stretching the IT band help reduce recurrence of ITBS.
Problem 2: The Posterior Capsule. The posterior capsule connects the four tendons of the rotator cuff to the shoulder. Mine, according to my PT, is really tight. That paired with the general lack of strength in my back and shoulders has been causing instability in my shoulder and the compensatory behavior of the posterior capsule results in PAIN. Here, recommended treatment is physical therapy focused on stretching and strength exercises, which is precisely what I’m doing.
Given that the above two items knocked out my normal workout trifecta of swim/bike/run, I began looking around for another productive outlet for my energy. My sister invited me to come with her to a pilates class, and while I was a little skeptical, I checked it out. After class, I told her while it seemed like good core work, I didn’t really feel like I had done anything. When I woke up the next morning, my abs were so sore I could barely sit up, and I was IN!!! Pilates and yoga are both challenging me to try things I have never done, and they are connecting me with my body on a level I never knew was possible. My athletic life to this point has been results oriented – kick a ball, ride a bike, run, swing a bat – and while I have focused on form, I have never slowly, painstakingly articulated specific muscular movements. Now, as I listen to my pilates and yoga instructors, I am “sliding my shoulders down my back”, “rolling down to the floor one vertebrae at a time”, and “moving my scapula”. It’s a whole world of foreign vocabulary and foreign movement that I am slowly learning to love.
Meanwhile, this past week has marked my early baby bird-like attempts to return to my normal workouts. I am running one mile instead of 20, biking two hours a week instead of 5, swimming half to a third of my normal yardage, and I am THRILLED to be doing any of it again. Two weeks ago my knee tightened after 1.5 miles. A week ago, I ran a mile pain free. Soon I will try two, then three. While I can tell I have lost a good chunk of my fitness, I am hopeful that I will gain it back quickly. My constant tendency is towards doing too much, so I have my coach holding me by the shirttails saying “patience” on repeat.
The outpouring of support after I dropped out of the St. Louis marathon was tremendous, and it buoyed me when I could not see past the disappointment. Many people told me the age old platitude “everything happens for a reason.” My apologies if you, dear reader, are one of the people that told me this, but that saying makes me grind my teeth. However, a friend gave me another way to look at that saying – “nothing is either all good or all bad”. And my mom gave me an addendum “you cannot control all events, but you do own your reaction”. With that in mind, what I have chosen to take from this month away from my normal training routine is a much more holistic view of my fitness. I have taken the plunge into pilates and yoga, and plan to continue with both even as I return to my full workout load. Increased strength and flexibility at a minimum will help prevent a recurrence of my injuries, but I believe it will also bear fruit by way of improved performance.
I am eager to be back to full strength, but as I work to get back there, I am keeping close to heart a lesson that yoga, pilates, and Coach Todd teach me daily: patience. Soon though, hopefully very soon, I will see you out there.