It is unnerving, but true. Athletic endeavors can, in themselves, cause injuries.
It is sometimes difficult to talk about these injuries with people who do not participate in any strenuous physical activity. They are all too liable to respond with such helpful comments as: "You have to rest." "You are working too hard." "Running is not good for you." "You have to stop running." "I read that running can cause (fill in the blank here with whatever catastrophy you want to envision)."
It is even difficult to find a doctor or other health practitioner who understands that runners have to run. Far too many health practitioners are liable to tell you to lay around on the couch until the injury heals. That, in my opinion, only causes a general deconditioning that is not at all helpful.
I, however, believe, that while the body is telling you something, it is not necessarily telling you, with the pain, to stop a particularly activity. It is far more likely to be telling you that you need to do something differently, in a better way, with better technique, with better body mechanics.
The hard part, for an ordinary person, is finding the experts who can tell you how to exercise better.
If you can afford it, or have a health plan that covers it, there are some marvelous people around, that's for sure. Exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, dietitians, etc., who love working with athletes and understand that you cannot tell an athlete to stop working out.
So here I am, a week before the Niagara 1/2 marathon, nursing along a strain of my right IT band that is so painful, I can hardly walk. The pain extends from my hip to my right knee. But I am determined to run next Sunday.
How am I going to do it? Here's my simple plan. I am doing a lot of stretching and yoga. I am doing a lot of icing. I am drinking lots of green tea and yerba matte tea. I am getting some massages this week. I am tapering the distances and difficulty of the runs I do this week. I am going to the gym to do some cross-training which will strengthen all the supportive muscles around my hips and thighs. But most important, I am still running because when I run, the pain is actually not there.
Most difficult, however, is the mental aspect of it. I was terribly frightened at first. This is so similar to the injury I experienced in March 2007 when I was trekking in Ethiopia, that I had visions of spending months unable to run, unable to even walk longer distances, unable to take the stairs at work... It is far too easy to get frustrated and depressed.
Then, I thought about it some more. I gratefully recalled the different talks presented at the running clinics I've attended through the Running Room. I recalled the stories of other athletes who have worked through injuries to keep on achieving their goals. So, I am working at accepting where my body is right now. And I am working through my injuries, trying to find things that will heal my body and mind, trying to find ways to run better.
Yoga Journal poses for legs
Yoga Journal poses for knees
BodyMind Resources with great illustrations of the muscles of the leg & hip
YouTube video of an IT band stretch
Another YouTube video of an IT band stretch