Down with ITBS – Back to the Weights

In mid-February my right IT band finally stopped me in my tracks.  On a 30-mile run, only 7 miles in, I was limping pathetically back to my car.  I took a week off from running only to find myself in pain at 3 miles on a 5-mile run.   I knew I was done for and finally gave in to accepting that I wasn’t going to be able to run through this injury.  I don’t care how tough you are, it’s just not possible to run with an angry IT band.  I iced it for a couple days initially, upped my intake of anti-inflammatory foods, and increased my dose of MSM/glucosamine.  I have very little faith in foam rolling or massage as far as injuries are concerned so I didn’t even go that route.  Instead I decided to focus solely on leg strength, particularly of the quads and glutes.  I haven’t done any strength exercises for my legs whatsoever since I started running again after surgery last year.  It makes sense that could be the culprit.  So I pulled out my Insanity discs and have been doing those in place of running.  If you’ve ever done Insanity before, I’m sure you’re well aware of how intense it is on your legs and butt!  I also added weighted side leg raises to my lifting routine.  I did try an IT band strap.  It didn’t seem to do anything at all for me.  Maybe I still had too much inflammation at the time.  Anyway, I’m not even going to attempt to run again until mid to late March which will give me a full month’s rest.  I’m hoping (biting-my-nails type of hoping) with some amount of crazy luck that I will be able to make the first training run for my ultra in early April.  It’s probably a 50/50 shot.  Damn I’m mad at myself now for not taking off in January to address this as soon as I noticed it!  I will never learn!

During all this downtime, I’ve been trying to stay positive and shift focus to my weight training.  I’d love to build a little more mass than I had last year, and now seems like a great time to do it before I start training for my ultra again, so I’ve been eating slightly over maintenance.  The hardest part for me when it comes to adding on some muscle is accepting the fact that there is going to likely be some fat gain.  I just hope it’s smallish!  Then again, any gained fat should shred off pretty quickly when I start building mileage up again.

After only 2 months of returning to lifting, I am lifting at and slightly above what I was before surgery.  Muscle memory is sweet!  I was told I can’t do situps anymore, so I bought 20 lb adjustable ankle weights and do modified leg raises which are quite effective!

I’m still doing a full-body routine, because I really enjoy long workouts.  There are pros and cons to splitting it and not splitting it, but I figure the biggest pro is whichever one you enjoy doing the most!  I think if you are going to stick with full-body workouts, it’s a good idea to change up your routine from time-to-time.  If you always start with pull-ups and pushups, and give those 110%, then chances are you’re not going to be able to give 110% to bicep curls and French press afterwards.  So, I think it’s important to reverse, switch up, or do alternate exercises every 2-4 weeks or so once you’re well-adapted to your routine.  Of course, other good options are to lift in circuits, supersets, or drop-sets.  It’s all something you have to play around with and experiment to find what works best for you.  Nobody has the answers… that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned when it comes to lifting or even running.  Takes a lot of figuring shit out on your own.

Right now, I’m lifting 4x week and stacking it with Insanity.  Some people warn against doing this, but I have yet to see why and plan to find out for myself.  In the past, I did a milder version of stacking the two and can’t say I noticed any negatives in doing it as long as you have the energy.  I lift every other day, and off days are always Insanity days (usually a month-2 workout).  Twice a week, I lift and then follow it with a month-1 Insanity video (preferably something like the Pure Cardio workout).

Enough of that!  Get out there and go long!

Unleash the Beast!

Last Tuesday, 5 weeks out from surgery (exploratory laparotomy), my surgeon cleared me to run again.  My husband and I never expected those words to come out of his mouth.  I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor and I drooled all over myself.  I think my husband was really worried.  He told me, “I don’t think he quite understands what running means to you!  We’re not talking about a jog through the park!”  I just responded with the only thing that came to mind, “He unleashed the beast!”

Originally, my doctor had told me that it wouldn’t be until November when I could run.  Needless to say, the day he cleared me I came home and bounced into my running clothes and jumped on my treadmill for a test drive.  I didn’t get any stomach pain, but my ankles and knees were really tight and verging on becoming sore.  I felt heavy and slow.  I stopped at a half mile.  (Granted I had put on some extra pounds since surgery which I can definitely feel now when running.)  The next day, I got on my treadmill and ran 3 miles with minor soreness in my joints.  It felt like pure joy to run again.  Over the 5 weeks I was out of commission, I had developed a new relationship with running.  I felt so out of touch with life in general while I couldn’t run.  I obsessed over running constantly (I kinda do that even when I am running, LOL).  Suddenly, now, running is like this incredible gift I’d been taking for granted.

My endurance is fairly zapped, but there are lingering remnants of it.  My leg strength is definitely subpar.  After managing to run almost 12 miles last week, I have slightly sore muscles and tendons.  It’s going to obviously take a little time to get acclimated again.  Dropping my weight back down will help a lot.  I told my 15-year-old daughter to take advantage of me being back to base training and run with me.  So far, it’s been working, somewhat.  She’s even considering training for the Pensacola Half Marathon in November.  We shall see how that goes.

I do plan to still try to run the marathon.  Obviously, I’m not expecting any PRs.   If I don’t feel ready for it by then, I’ll just run the half.  My sister, who lives in hot and humid Mississippi, stepped back to the half marathon.  She was originally going to run the marathon, but she’s had her share of difficulties training for it.  There’s even some indication that my mother also might be attempting to run the Pensacola half!  It would be like a family racing reunion!

This week I think there’s a good chance I can get up to 15-20 miles.  I’m planning to run 5-6 miles today since my longest run last week was 4 miles.  If that goes well and I have minimal soreness the next day, I’m hoping to increase my long run dramatically over the next 3 weeks and begin running 2 long runs a week until I can run a 20 miler.  My muscles and tendons will dictate everything at this point.  Hopefully they will be quite agreeable.  I’ve got my heart set on hitting the trail this coming weekend.  I can’t even begin to express how excited I am to get back out there.  It’s going to feel amazing.  I don’t know if there’s been a night where I haven’t dreamed about running the trails since I got sick.  Anyway, I am planning to do a 10-mile jog/run and just take my time and enjoy myself.  Maybe I can get lucky and coax my daughter to tag along if I promise to buy us lunch!

New Beginnings

Monday, July 9th, 2012 was the last time I ran and would be the the last time for months to come. Oh, how July was the month of setbacks, major obstacles, and disappointment.

First, we lost power for over a week after a rogue storm came through here and dropped a tree in our front yard on the power lines. We spent that week trying to keep our disabled son in air-conditioned hotels while scrounging around for a generator. I still managed to find time to run twice during the whole ordeal. However, not long after getting power back, I found myself in a much greater predicament that would change my little world for months to come.

One evening, as I was getting ready for a treadmill run I experienced the onset of extreme abdominal pain. My husband ended up leaving work and taking me to the emergency room. They ran a few tests and sent me home with a diagnosis of constipation. I remained in fairly severe pain for another week before I went to a clinic. They sent me back to the emergency room where a CT with dye showed I had free air and fluid in my abdomen. I was rushed into surgery for an emergency exploratory laparotomy.

I woke up in the ICU with an incision that ran the length of my belly with 21 staples. All I could think about was running and weight lifting and how I felt so robbed of all my hard work. I tried hard to not let on to anyone how sad I was about the whole ordeal with regards to my fitness. It seemed so shallow and ungrateful. I spent over a week in the hospital. No definitive diagnosis was made as to why I had free air in my belly, so I will have to have further tests done once I’ve completely recovered from surgery. It’s all very frustrating right now.

When I finally got home, the real challenge began.

It’s been 2 weeks since the surgery. I had my staples removed yesterday which did provide some relief. I’ve been told I can’t run for about 3 months, but I was cleared for brisk walking. I’m still so very sore and have a lot of edema in my torso which is very slowly dissipating. I can’t lift anything right now and am told I can’t lift over 40 lb for 4 months. This means I can’t lift my disabled son which creates an immensely complicated situation. It just feels like everything is turned upside down. I’ve been bored, depressed, and confused as to what to do with myself. I’m incredibly impatient for the soreness to go away. I just want my life back so badly. Though I know everything will come with time and a few months pass in the blink of an eye, I just feel disheartened and long to hear the sound of rocks crunching under my feet.

I have to get my head right.

So, here I sit, somewhat demoralized, but more and more determined to formulate a comeback plan. I’ve decided to start a walking streak of a minimum half-mile a day until I feel comfortable upping the ante to 1 mile a day. I’ll do a “test drive” this weekend and see how it goes. I know it’s going to be a long, slow recovery, but damnit I’m not letting this get the better of me! I’m going to push through this, and I’ll be back on the trails by the time the weather is cooling off again this fall! I’m coming back, and maybe I’ll be tougher than ever!

Get outside and put some miles in for me!