I was going to do this post tomorrow but I did pretty much nothing other than study yesterday to update you on so we’ll switch it to today. I actually feel a little funny even saying that I’m “injured.” I don’t have a stress fracture or a torn ligament or any acute injury, it’s more of a constant annoyance. I started noticing it in the spring, a slight pulling sensation on the inside of my shin. It didn’t hurt or change my gait, it was more of an awareness of a sensation than anything resembling pain. Then, it started to pull a little more. Then we went to Austria, land of mountains, and with all those inclines suddenly it wasn’t slight and it was just a little pull. It hurt and it was pretty constant. Not while doing day to day activities though, only if I tried to run or walked for a while. So I wasn’t worried about a stress fracture but something was definitely up.
I was lucky enough to be able to go to a sports clinic that has 3D modeling and biomechanical assessment (much like the SPEED clinic at UVA) thanks to a girl who ran for my school’s XC program and now has a PhD in biomechanical engineering. It was insanely cool, I got lasered up like a little video game figure and ran on a treadmill, which was assessed in real time and videotaped all with me looking like nothing but a skeleton. We also measured both the flexibility and strength (with a little device that you push on while in various positions) of every different muscle group that is important for running. My results were assessed in a 40 page work-up complete with graphs comparing me to the ideal runner for my height, weight, gender, and running ability. It was seriously eye opening, because I’ve always thought myself severely inflexible (I can’t even touch my toes) but I actually tested right around optimal level in nearly every flexibility test (and it was explained that you don’t have to be flexible to be an ideal runner, you just need specific flexibility!). But I also had a massive imbalance between my right and left sides when it came to anything hip-related. My right hip was either not strong enough or too flexible, always way above or below the ideal range and even more disconcertingly, never close to what my left leg was doing. Long story short, I learned that ten years ago when I tore my quad (soccer injury!), during the healing process an imbalance formed that I have never addressed. I’ve never had hip problems (as far as I know), but because your hips are so important to your running, that hip imbalance was causing lower leg tightness which was causing my posterior tibial tendinitis (eventual diagnosis!). So, to address my calf problem, I had to slowly strengthen and stretch my hips back into balance.
It has been a slow process, the tiny stabilizer muscles in my hips were the problem rather than glutes or any of the larger muscles. They needed to be worked a little every day for months rather than strengthened with heavy weights. So there has been no immediate relief, and I’ve been told not to run while still inflamed so for 2 months it has looked an awful lot like this: run 3 miles on Monday, inflamed Tues-Thurs no running, run 2 painful miles Friday, feel better by Monday and repeat. But in the last 2 weeks, I’m noticing a change. My hips have gotten a bit stronger, I can tell by how much easier the exercises are getting. And my runs are sore, but the inflammation lasts only a day and the pain is more like it was in the beginning, an awareness rather than actual pain. So I’ve cautiously begun running as of this week. 3 miles every other day to start. There are walk breaks involved, I have to stop every ten minutes to stretch my calves more. But it’s running, and I’m sensing a comeback that starts now.