return to running after injury

Are we really odd?

by lachicaruns on

Left my favorite doc’s office today with renewed hope and a straight back. Dr. Awesome has finally gotten me to where I can go days with almost no piriformis muscle pain.

I’m back to running with some increase in mileage each week. In fact, just this week I added a fourth short run to the rotation, with my long run still slotted for the weekend.

I had a big smile on my face as I checked out of the office. The genuinely lovely front-desk scheduler noticed and commented on my mood and apparent improvement.

Why, yes, I said. I’m feeling much better and am happiest that I  am back to running thanks to Dr. Awesome, aka Dr. Miracleworker.

“Oh, you’re a runner,” she said, with the same intonation saved for people known to kick puppies. “You’re all going to keep us in business forever,” she added cheerfully.

Wait, what?!

Granted, a lot of the runners I know have back problems, knee pain, foot pain or other ailments. But so do most of my friends and family who — wait for it — don’t run. Or who just don’t exercise at all.

So why is it that we’re labeled as crazy for doing exercise that has such a positive impact on our overall health?

Yes, Runner’s World Magazine has a plethora of injury-related articles in each issue. And no conversation between more than one runner will end without a discussion of everyone’s ailments and treatments.

But is running really that injury-inducing? Or are we getting a bad rap?

I remember tae kwon do taking out many a classmate at my local dojang. People broke bones, twisted ankles and went home with bruises. Our favorite saying was “well, it ain’t bowling!” I don’t remember anyone judging me for doing a sport where there was a serious risk of injury. Instead, I was mostly spoken to in tones reserved for people who jump over tall buildings.

So why the runner hate? It’s certainly something I’ll be looking into in the coming days. You know, in between my runs.

hey girl

Have you experienced some head shaking from non-runners? Why do you think that is? What’s a proper response?


Got to go for a three-miler today right after work. The sun kept peeking out, but the wind just wouldn’t stop. I didn’t look at my weather app before heading out, so I overdressed and had to strip off my windbreaker and hat right away (the hat mostly because it almost blew off my head!).

Not really optimal conditions, but this chica is not going to complain.

It was an even slower run than my usual shuffle (about 11:45/mile), but I thoroughly enjoyed being outside doing one of my favorite things. And so were a couple dozen or so people on the Lansing River Trail downtown.

Running the River Trail always reminds me just how much this city has transformed since I first came in 1989. The 13-mile trail is clean, well maintained and well used. There were several couples chatting and holding hands, a few folks walking their dogs and even a couple of families taking a stroll.IMG_3844

The 100-year-old Lansing City Market looked particularly nice and I noticed seating facing the Grand River, a potentially perfect lunch spot this summer. Going to have to check back on that.

I did slow down enough to take a couple of pictures of the “Inspiration” statue I’ve seen a couple of times on my River Walk runs, but had not taken the time to really admire. I later learned the 2,000-lb. stainless steel ribbon by California sculptor James T. Russell was paid for by private donations.

The ribbon was given to the city in 2009 after its sesquicentennial birthday celebration. The piece was particularly resplendent in the bit of sunshine that graced that part of my run.

Also particularly beautiful this afternoon with its white dome surrounded by blue sky was the Capitol, which I get to see most days. Even after more than two decades seeing this building, I’m still struck by its beauty and feel blessed I get to see it soLansing's Capitol building often.

It may not have been a perfect run, but I’m grateful for the time on the pavement.

So, did you run today? What’s your favorite place to run and why? Do you live in the city, burbs or sticks?


Even a twinge of pain can set this fearless (read: pig-headed) runner off immediately into the first four stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining and depression.

So a year ago when I had severe pain in my left butt cheek that radiated down my leg, I was in a panic. But instead of doing what I needed to do to heal, I spent about nine months in a loop that kept me from the final stage: acceptance.

Spoiler alert: you don’t have to suffer like I did.

When I started this crazy cycle, I was training for my first half marathon and ramping up my mileage with gusto. The diagnosis from my sports medicine physician’s assistant: piriformis syndrome.

The piriformis is a muscle in your butt near the top of the hip-joint that is key in stabilizing the joint when we walk or run. And because the sciatic nerve runs through – or right next to – this muscle and down the leg, when the muscle spasms, it can compress the nerve. Translation: when the butt muscle is irritated, ouch!

The culprit? Typically, it’s over-use, according to Dr. Mark Russell, an orthopedics and sports medicine specialist with Bronson Healthcare in southwest Michigan. Too much running, for example, and not enough cross training to give those muscles a break and to help build core strength.

So what’s a runner chico or chica who has muscle pain the gluteal area to do?

Sometimes, Dr. Russell said, it can be as simple as getting different running shoes to accommodate the runner’s gait. A gait analysis can help, he added, if you want to make sure you’re picking the right running shoe. He also recommends runners stretch before and after runs, and warm up before running.

Treatment typically starts with physical therapy to stretch the muscle and exercises to strengthen any weakness in the hips or other areas that could be contributing to the problem. Cortisone shots can help with the pain as can anti-inflammatory pain relievers like Naproxen, heating pads and the dreaded “R” word: rest.

Some doctors have had good success with Botox shots, Dr. Russell added, with surgery usually only done as a last resort.

My current doctor, a manipulative medicine expert at Michigan State University whom I adore, also recommended I spend some quality time with my foam roller and a tennis ball on the ground, rolling each on the areas that hurt the most. Yeah, it’s about as fun as it sounds.

If you have been having similar pain, here are some tips to get you from denial to acceptance and back on the road quicker:

  1. Don’t ignore the pain. If caught early, Dr. Russell says, piriformis syndrome can resolve in as little as six weeks.
  2. Don’t self-diagnose. Several other things, including a labral tear, a jacked-up sacrum (doctors call that sacral torsion) or a herniated disk can also cause pain in that general area. Only your health-care professional can rule out other causes.
  3. Don’t ignore your doctor’s advice. Do what he or she tells you, even when he or she says the dreaded words: take a break. Dum-dum over here waited until she could barely walk before doing as she was told and is just now getting better.
  4. Don’t skip a step. If you’re not putting in the time to recover, you’re just not going to get better no matter how many specialists you see.

As for me, I only got better when I accepted that this was something that needed attention. I had a diagnosis from the beginning, but I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. That didn’t work out so well.

Contrast that to the past three months, when I have been doing exactly as I am told. I am doing my stretches; getting re-acquainted with the foam roller; using a heating pad when things flare up a bit; discovered yoga and Jillian Michaels workout DVDs for core strength; and am resting when my body complains. And – wait for it – am feeling well enough that I am running again.

In fact, just a couple of nights ago I had one of the best runs I have had in months. One of those runs where I was thinking about everything but running. Not about hurting. Not about when the run would end. And most definitely not about stopping.

Dare I say that I’m back? The next few weeks will tell. In the meantime, I’m signing up for a half marathon this fall, just in case. But should I notice any pain, I’m taking care of the bottom line first.

Editor’s Note: This post originally ran in Do check out his blog for lots of great resources for runners. 

OK, chicos and chicas, let’s see a show of hands: Do you stretch and warm up before you run?

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Yeah, well, then. I didn’t use to either.

These days I do warm up before I run, but that’s a recent development and part of my get-my-butt-not-to-hurt-so-I-can-keep-running plan. It’s working, but I do need to make the time to start stretching before my runs, not just afterward.

To that end, here is a series of dynamic warm-up stretches from Bianca Guess, a Lansing, Mich., based fitness instructor and certified running coach through the USA Track and Field Association:

dynamic stretches 1 dynamic stretches 2 dynamic stretches 3

The whole series should take less than 10 minutes. That seems like forever when you’re already tight on time to go for your run. But getting injured is really going to cramp our style even more, no?

Dynamic stretching is one of Guess’ rules of running, which also include having a running plan that allows for flexibility to accommodate real life and strength training to prevent injury and improve performance.

I’ll feature her full list in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

C’mon, are you really going to start warming up and stretching before your runs? What other things do you know you should do, but just don’t? 



La chica’s moving on up

by lachicaruns on

Welcome to my new WordPress blog. Looks better than the Blogger version, no?

I just switched platforms (yawn, I know), but wanted to let you know so that you can update your favorites and so that you are patient with me as I fix any little bugs that remain from the switch-over. I’m very grateful that other bloggers have provided how-to videos on just about anything I’m dealing with right now, and am optimistic that I’ll be able to fix any issues relatively quickly.

Oh, and I ran more than 4 miles on the treadmill today. Still doing the Jeff Galloway method, 3:1 run/walk with a 5-minute warm-up and 5-minute cool-down. See?

See? I have to say that I was dragging a bit at the end, but I did it. I would have done a cartwheel and back flip when I got off the ‘mill, but my blood sugar crashed and I went in search of a Gatorade instead. Maybe next time.

The woman working at the gym wasn’t quite sure what to do when I pointed at my Road ID and told her to call my I.C.E. if I keeled over.

Since I apparently can’t count on her to roll me to my Jeep, I guess that means that I need to plan ahead better. I’ve never seen someone on the treadmill wearing a fanny pack, err, high-tech hydration system, so I’ll need to bring some watered-down Gatorade in a water bottle and maybe some candy, I mean, SportBeans just in case.

I might even eat something healthy before heading out for the gym. As it was, I had some yummy peanut butter-smeared banana bread with my cafecito. Guess it wasn’t quite enough or I left later than usual.

I did recover after drinking the Gatorade, so I’m pretty sure I’ll live. In fact, because Kroger didn’t have medals to commemorate my feat, I settled for eating a couple of double-stuff Oreos.

I felt just fine later and even made it out to the craft store (yeah, I hate that place) to pick up what I need to make a race bib/medals display. Thankfully, my kids’ abuela is handy, so I’ll have adult supervision. I’ll share my masterpiece when we’re done, or pretend it never happened if I manage to glue my fingers together or something.

Did you get out for a run today? Are you crafty or handy? What’s the craftiest/handiest project you’ve ever taken on?