Last night I was a runner with piriformis syndrome, also referred to as a pain in the butt, and an Achilles tendon about to blow up; at least that's what I worried about as I had become acutely aware of a variety of tight spots in my body that had suddenly become exceptionally tight in the past two days.
A runner is always tired and always tight in some measure; it's a fact of life one simply gets used to. But just as there's a level of tiredness that is unacceptable - a sign of pending danger, there's a level of tightness that sends red flags to the brain. A runner who has been injured in the past knows to recognize them and to, hopefully, heed them in time.
As I push my body to the next level by running more and more often than ever, I am absolutely paranoid about pushing it too far. While I am confident that the training schedule I have chosen to follow is right for me, with a peak volume of 140km per week (though funnily enough this is called a recovery week as I noticed the other day) I am also a cautious athlete who is terrified of getting injured.
These past 13 days of training have felt fantastic, and it's almost like I worry that it's too good to be true. I know that I have done my homework in choosing my program and I don't want any spanners thrown in the works just as I am enjoying myself. I'm positive, optimistic and confident. But I am also cautious, very cautious.
That's why I think my mind went into overdrive yesterday, as my body signalled an increased level of discomfort (not pain) that was beyond my level of tolerance. I booked a double appointment (45 minutes) with my local chiropractor, who is also a runner, for an Active Release Techniques treatment at lunchtime today. Being familiar with ART treatments since October 2003, I don't expect to train on the remainder of the day after a treatment, so I needed to do the 18K session that was on my schedule for today in the morning.
However, with the tightness having developed into symptoms of major injuries in my active imagination, I wondered if i should skip my training. What if I pushed myself over the edge just before the treatment? What is one missed session if it staves off a problem that might stop me from running for days or weeks?
But I didn't want to miss my training. Besides, I was just tight - there was no pain. Perhaps I should simply try. If it didn't feel right, I could turn around and go home.
After a good night's sleep, I felt much better this morning, mentally and physically. It was a crisp clear day with temperatures just above zero, though they had dipped below that overnight. I warmed up with a hot shower, applied muscle-heating cream to my lower back and calves, and then walked Luka before getting ready for the run.
Still apprehensive, it was Friday the 13th after all (though 13 is my lucky number), I chose a route that followed mostly soft flat trails and decided to walk the two steeper, longer hills I would encounter, if I felt good enough to make it there, to avoid stressing those Achilles. I also decided to run a little slower than my goal pace for this type of session, which is 4:41 to 5:06 per km.
It turned out to be a good decision. Before I knew it, I was at 9km and feeling fine. I turned around and took the same route back. In the first half, I averaged 5:20 per km, and 5:10 per km in the second, as my heart rate stayed in the low 130s. I was happy; happy that I felt good - tight but good, happy that I had not skipped my run, and happy that I was about to get those muscles released.
Dr Leah Stadelmann of Chief Chiropractic & Sports Injury Clinic in Squamish did a great job of releasing, among other things, my glutes, psoas and hip flexors. I asked her what she thought of my level of tightness. She said that everything was releasing very well, which is good news.
So, what a difference a day makes; another run done and my mind at ease. Relieved and released. I very much believe in heeding your body's signs even if takes your imagination moving somewhat into overdrive; I'd rather seek treatment before problems have a chance to develop. Hopefully, that's exactly what I did today.
(ART providers I have seen and highly recommend in the Vancouver area are Dr Jenn Turner from Moveo and Dr Kevin Lunnie from Trailside Physio.)