For about the past 6 weeks, I’ve been having issues with my running to the point of not really being able to run at all without significant pain and a limpy gait. My left hamstring and gluts had been feeling like an overstretched rubber band and each stride felt like it could be the one that would snap that rubber band. I really can’t say for sure what brought this on. Just two months before my running was going so well! I was getting faster, feeling great and enjoying my Sunday long runs. I was feeling so strong! My mileage wasn’t crazy high and I was taking rest days. I took a yoga class that really hurt me for days afterwards – but who knows?? Sometimes it’s hard to define that moment or figure out the cause that takes one from good to not quite right.
Being a personal trainer and pilates instructor – I know about the body. I’m usually pretty good at figuring out what I need to do to address any aches, pains or temporary issues I run into. Given the tightness of my glut/hamstring – I chose the following protocol:
1. Rest – taking time off
2. Advil- to reduce any possible inflammation or irritation
3. Stretching and pilates – addressing especially my hamstrings and gluts
4. Limited myself to almost no running – letting my tightness be the deciding factor if I ran or not.
And after a month of this protocol- I was worse. My tightness – even tighter!! My flexibility even worse. I went from running five not great miles a couple times a week to struggling to run two miles once a week. I was frustrated. And I knew I needed another opinion so I sought out a physical therapist/chiropractor who I knew was also a runner and would not just tell me to “wait and see”.
I was worried that I had really done some damage to my hamstring or glut and the answer was not going to be a good one. Oddly enough- my glut and hamstring were totally fine. Seriously – no issues there!
What was causing all my problems??? My hip flexor had quit participating. All my efforts were focused on the backside or posterior chain when my issues were actually in the front of my leg. Advil, rest, and stretching weren’t going to do a thing for muscles that had chosen to no longer engage.
It was eye opening when the Doctor had me lie on my back and raise my right leg (the good one). I was instructed to resist his attempt to push my leg back down. No problem – I could probably win a game of leg wrestling with that leg. Next we tried my left leg- and the Doctor used just two fingers to push on my leg lightly- and I failed! I could not resist and had nothing to fight his light push with. Why?? Hip flexors asleep at the wheel. So why was my hamstring and glut area so tight?? Because those muscles were being asked to do things they weren’t designed to do and were holding on for dear life! The more I worked and stretched them – the less flexible they became. The more they fought back.
The good news is with nothing torn, strained or damaged – it was just a matter of getting my hip flexor to join the team again. I was given some simple exercises to do and instructed to run the next day! It’s been a little over a week and I am consistently doing my ‘therapy’. I’ve run four times- four miles each time. While I still have some tightness – it’s getting better and I don’t feel that I’m going to rip my hamstring with each stride. Sometimes I stop during my run and do one of my exercises – just to remind my hip flexor that running is a team sport and no muscles get to take a vacation from the action!
I leave you with this thought- no matter how much you know- sometimes things aren’t what they seem. I did quite a bit of research of my symptoms and never came up with anything close to what the real issue was. If you haven’t found the answer to your issue – don’t give up! Try another source until you find the answer!!