Rut the Heck?

So, I haven’t written here in a while. Truth be told, I’ve been in a rut. It typically happens this time of year. My body, brain, and heart are ready for spring but it’s still gloomy, chilly, and windy outside. Work has been, well, work. The kids have been challenging lately, especially the three-year-old – lots of squabbling, whining, meltdowns (I think the weather is getting to them too).

And then the kicker: I went out for a six mile run two weeks ago, everything was fine, and then the next day (and then some), my left hip, knee, and calf were in a lot of pain. Not just normal post-longish-run pain, but “something is wrong” pain.

After my stress fracture last year, I of course went into “worst case scenario” mode. This probably serves me well in some regards, because I know better now than to run through pain. I give my body the rest it tells me it needs. But I also go into a dark place where I beat myself up for not doing it right AGAIN, for being weak, for not being able to do something that seemingly anyone else can do. I used to be able to run 15, 20, heck, even 30 plus miles a week no problem. Why can’t I do this anymore? Why is my body betraying me? Am I going to have to give up running? The kicker is that these setbacks always seem to happen just as I’m really hitting my stride with my training and starting to dream big dreams – and then reality rips the rug out from under me.

So, I let myself mope around for a couple of days, but then I snapped into phase two, which for me is the “take action” phase. I have known for quite some time that I need to focus on strength and mobility work if I want to be able to keep running and build mileage over time. I know this, but I have a hard time getting started and sticking with any sort of plan. This is partly because I don’t really enjoy strength work and partly because I am overwhelmed by all of the recommendations and plans out there, so rather than do something, I often default to nothing.

I think I used to be able to get away with my strength and mobility deficiencies when I was younger, but now that I’m a little older, my body says “no.” I also truly believe that two pregnancies close together kind of messed up my body. My posture is terrible (I tend to tilt my pelvis and arch my back), and I’m sure I started that bad habit when I was carrying a watermelon around in my belly. Though I gained a normal amount of weight during both pregnancies and lost the weight pretty quickly, my core is like mush.

Oh, and I found out this week that I have an umbilical hernia, and I will need surgery to repair it. After I had Isabelle, my belly button never quite went back to normal (it pops out on one side). I never really thought anything of it – I just assumed it was one of those weird things where your body doesn’t quite return to its pre-pregnancy state. I only got it checked out because the same thing happened to my sister after she had her second baby a few months ago, and just had surgery to repair it this week. So we’re umbilical hernia twins! Isn’t pregnancy a delight?

Anyway, even before I hurt my hip/knee, something felt off in my running, like I felt unsteady, almost like I was going to trip at times. This latest injury was a wakeup call: I need to address my issues, or I’m never going to progress beyond running 15 miles a week (and I have much bigger goals than that).

So, I made an appointment with an exercise therapist who works with a lot of runners around here. She specializes in soft tissue therapy and gait analysis/movement coaching. I saw her on Thursday, and it was amazing. She pinpointed some things right away – essentially, I have really weak hips and it’s messing up my alignment and making me really unstable when I run. So, the impact accumulated over many steps/many miles is taking its toll. She also worked on my legs for quite a while, like a really focused, intense massage, and when she was done, I could actually get my left knee down when sitting in a cross-legged position, which I haven’t been able to do because of the pain. She has me working on posture correction and stretching at home and I’ll go back to see her later this week, when she’ll do some more bodywork and give me some strength training guidance.

When will I be able to run consistently again? I don’t know. When will my children stop whining? I don’t know. When will it stop snowing in April? I don’t know. So many mysteries in life! But for now, I’m just trying to take it one day at a time, stay positive and have faith!

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