Running: Or, how to be a runner without running

So, a funny thing happened on the way to the Flying Pig marathon. And by funny, I mean painful.

By Mikael Häggström via wikipedia, and used under Creative Commons license

I had just wrapped up the 5th week of training with a pretty good 12-miler, and was feeling good about nipping some nascent foot pain in the bud. But on my recovery run the following day, my back and upper pelvis on the left side started screaming at me. Long boring I-went-to-physical-therapy story short, my sacroiliac (SI) joint – where the spine meets the pelvis on either side – was inflamed and HAVING NONE OF IT WITH THIS RUNNING, thank you. The prescription was to stop running & start a boatload of core strength work, to let the inflammation cool and built some support for the cranky joint.

So how does a runner run to get ready for running, when she can’t run?

Run even though the PT told me not to.

In general, I’m a compliant patient. But we’d already booked a trip where I was planning to run the Race for Preservation 10k in Savannah, soooooo… I didn’t completely comply with my PT’s no-running orders.

I was hobbling in pain for two days afterward, but it was worth it – I set a 4-minute 10k PR in that race and ticked off another state from my Race in 50 States list!

Ok, seriously, don’t run.

After Savannah, the look on my PT’s face when she asked, “So, what other races do you think you’re going to run?” meant, “Don’t even think about running other races near-term.” So I quickly went from mid-30s-mile weeks to 0-mile weeks, and awaited a full mental breakdown to ensue. But thankfully, two new tools have kept me sane, moving, and much less homicidal than expected.

Defy gravity.

I’ve very lucky (and a few bucks poorer) because my PT’s office has an AlterG, the anti-gravity treadmill that uses a big inflatable bubble to counteract your bodyweight and reduce stress on joints.

I’ve been doing 2 workouts per week—my LR plus whatever else fits the schedule—in the AlterG and it’s been fantastic. I started out needing assistance equivalent to half my bodyweight, but now I can handle it with only 15% of my bodyweight cancelled out.

Something clever here about elliptical training.

Yeah, there’s nothing really interesting about using an elliptical, but they do provide a cardio workout that is comparable to running, minus all the joint-jarring and fresh air. So I’m logging a lot of miles on those suckers (blue on the graph below) at the gym I recently joined.

elliptical

Go from no running to a little less running than planned.

My PT gave me the ok to try some road running in very short increments, with the caveat that I AM NOT ALLOWED to do any more than I can do without noise from my back. And she also cleared me to run races, but only “if they’re really important” and with the understanding that I’m likely going to flare up with some pain afterward.

So, there’s no way I can be ready for the Flying Pig marathon in early May, or the Mustang 50th HM in Vegas in a few weeks. But I feel good about running the Mustang 50th 5k, and the half at Flying Pig. I’m now in week 5 of a (rehab-modified) training plan for the FP HM, and doing ALL THE CORE WORKS from PT along with it.

And hopefully by late spring or early summer, I can get back to being a runner who runs.

One comment

  1. […] I was frankly happy just to be able to finish, given all the work I’d done rehabbing my SI joint. And the HM course still allowed me a two-fer in my Race in 50 States quest, because we started in […]

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