return to running after injury

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?


Great week, running-wise. So much so, that I want to find a way we can celebrate our wins, big and small. What say you?
Maybe tweet the week’s successes on Fridays. What should we call it? What hashtag should we use? Something like #rungress (running progress)?
I’m thinking along the lines of what Dave Ramsey does on his radio show each Friday, where people who’ve paid off all of their debts call in to yell “I’m debt free!”
Well, think about it and do let me know. In the meantime, here are my most-favorite, bestest finds of the week:
Running inspiration
Who can’t use some before heading out for a run? Here’s a list of 20 inspirational quotes worth a read. 
I even made one of them pretty for you, using my new-wish toy, the Word Swag app.
Cushioned shoes? Wait, what?!
Big news for The New York Times, apparently.
And runners run … in the snow?
Thanks for pointing it out Washington Post. They even look like they’re having fun and we can’t have that.
Speaking of snow …
Adorable pandas play in it, too!
Lastly, food. Or at least food-like substances.
Shut Up and Run’s Beth Risdon reviews the Clif Organic Energy Food: Pizza Margherita flavor. It sounds disgusting, but what does Beth think? Watch her video.
Spoiler alert: She doesn’t have a Puerto Rican accent like she does in my head when I read her blog. 
Have a great weekend!
Did you have any great “wins” this week? What do you use for fuel when you run? Would you try pizza-flavored fuel?