I’ve been found guilty of a RWI, but I can’t imagine I’m the only one. That’s right: I’ve been “Running While Injured”.
For over a month now, I’ve been dealing with some knee pain, but the pain isn’t always there. When I wake up, it’s fine. When I walk, it’s fine. When I bike, it’s fine. When I run, it’s not fine. So have I not run since I first felt the injury? I wish I could tell you that I’m always disciplined enough to back off of running completely when I’m dealing with an injury, but in this case, that was not the case.
I wasn’t running every day with this injury, but I definitely wanted to find out what it was, if I was going to be sidelined for a while, and how I needed to manage my recovery. After the first couple of times, the knee pain would set in after 5 miles or so of running and would render my last 2-3 miles a slower, wobbly experience of the poorest running mechanics I could unintentionally muster. So many things to address here…First, I learned that it wasn’t inflammation or bursitis as I thought it could be. It was a condition that I hadn’t dealt with since my sophomore year in high school: Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). ITBS isn’t a fun condition to be sidelined with, but it’s also one of the best injuries to face as it is not that difficult to fix. Continuing to run while dealing with ITBS, however, is not one of the ways to fix this issue which brings me to my next “thing to address” and the main topic of this post: Running while injured.
There are some injuries that just don’t let you run and there are some injuries that, depending on the severity, may still allow you to run, but prevent you from continuing to train. If you are dealing with plantar fasciitis, bursitis, or ITBS, you might still be able to log some miles, but I doubt you would feel that the quality of these miles match what you were achieving before the onset of the injury. So if you are logging miles, but not able to mix up your training or increase the intensity at times, are you still training? What’s worse, those miles you are logging might be worsening your condition. I was en route to this being my situation.
I have run about 6 times or so since a run mid-November when the pain from ITBS caused me to have to walk some of my miles just to get home. One of those runs, a 6.5 miler, was done on snow-covered trails and the blanket of snow provided a layer of soft ground that prevented an ITB flare-up. I had read about the impact of running being a cause for flare-ups in addition to running downhill, but this was the first time I was able to get in a run on soft enough ground where I didn’t feel any pain; regular, non-snowy trails still resulted in flare-ups. So when I arrived in New Jersey, I decided to test out the IT band on a route that had as much grass as possible. I managed to get in 5 miles before the flare-up occurred, but I needed to get home so I slowed down to 8 minutes for the remaining 2 miles to get home without too much regret. I haven’t run since, but have biked and continued my stretching routines and I’ll probably head out and test it again sometime next week.
The New Jersey 7-mile run allowed me to feel mentally better than I have in a while, but that massage stick was my best friend for the next two days.
But what caused this ITBS problem to begin with? My educated guess: repetitive speed training. Was this intentional? Not at all. In retrospect, being in a Masters Degree in Nutrition program seemed to have messed with my approach to training and certainly the time I have for runs so I was treating every day as a speed day just to fit in 10 or 15 mile runs. Not good, I know, as this and not stretching after these repetitive training runs is what I firmly believe has led to my current bout of ITBS.
But here’s the good news: I drove to the local track today and logged 3 miles in 21 minutes without any pain. I guess my active recovery training over the past few weeks as been helping.
Proper active recovery is key when it comes to fixing ITBS issues and helping you get out on the road or trails sooner rather than later. See, with a running injury, sometimes complete rest is not the best way to recover. Recovery, in a way, is its own training. There are certain activities and stretches to be done, certain activities to avoid, and even proper nutrition that can help with recovery depending on the injury. (For stretches that I used, see the video at the end of this post.)
In my case with ITBS…
Activities to include:
- Certain stretches such as stretching my hips–tight and weak hips can result in ITBS.
- Exercises such as isometrics.
- I’ve also included biking to avoid losing too much fitness and to continue some general healthy cardiovascular exercise as well.
- Strength training and squats to strengthen muscles that may have been too tight or weak, leading to my IT band issue.
Activities to avoid :
- Running too soon; before really giving your stretches and exercises time to work may be defined as “too soon”
- Certain types of running; I can forget about speed training and hill repeats until I’m recovered.
Dealing with ITBS at the end the year has been kind of a blessing. I’ve been forced to pay more attention to my body and stretching which is ever-important and probably the only thing I preach, but practice poorly. Well, my Running 2017 NY Resolution is just that: to pay attention to stretching before and after my runs.
ITBS has also allowed me to use the winter break to relax and fully recover, mentally and physically, from the year. I’ve been planning my 2017 racing schedule and I’m taking my recovery seriously so that I can return healthy and ready to hit the trails and roads for marathon and ultramarathon training. Current races that I’m looking at for 2017 will be a blog post coming soon so check back for that!
Happy Running and Happy New Year!
I hope 2016 was good to all of you and I hope 2017 will only be better!
This video below is what I used to figure out what stretches I need to be doing. Thanks Physical Therapy!