As I mentioned in a previous post, running and me are having issues. Running is never simple for me. I really should know what’s what by now but still I make mistakes (and some I’ve made so many times before).
I suppose it’s to be expected when you do something for so long and so often, and when you’re as injury prone as I am (and as stupid…). As I said, I should have taken a break from the marathon. I’ve already promised myself that I will next time and have instructed my parents to take my trainers away from me for at least a week after Chester in the autumn to ensure this actually happens. But anyway, I didn’t take a rest post Boston and here I am, feeling the effects of being over-trained, a niggly hamstring (more on that in a bit) and an indifference to running.
Luckily I have no races coming up and I’m in a nice comfortable position to take a break (a bit late but hey ho). Though I’m still doing parkrun as I can’t quite give that one up (like I’ve said so many times, it’s more than just a run). I made the tough decision to not do the Cakeathon on Monday. Too far to go for a race I wasn’t up for and it wasn’t fair to make my dad to give up a day’s holiday and drive me there. Only then for me to then undoubtedly have a crap race and be grumpy for the three-hour drive home.
Similarly, I was signed up ready to do Endure24 in a couple of weeks time which I’ve decided not to do anymore. It involved being part of a group of eight and running laps of five miles for 24 hours as a relay. It was going to be a great weekend of camping, larking about and running but realistically I know I wouldn’t have the best time. I a) would feel a bit down because I wouldn’t be able to run much (having barely done more than a parkrun for the past three weeks) or b) would be tempted to run too much and probably turn my hamstring into a full-blown injury. As my marathon training is due to start in July it’s risky business. I don’t want to start a training cycle injured. I’m very sad to miss out on all the fun but realistically I need to be sensible.
So my hamstring. Well it’s been niggling since before the Boston marathon as I said. Kind of came out of nowhere as a tightness and now it’s more of a niggle. I can run through it – it’s not painful or sharp, just a bit of a nagging discomfort that I can’t seem to shift. I don’t think doing deadlifts at the gym helped things. It seemed no worse after running (hence why I kept running – I have learnt something at least).
I’ve seen a physio and had a sports massage and both seem convinced it’s nothing serious, just a mild case of hamstring tendinopathy. After Googling it (obviously) and then proceeding to fall into a well of depression and despair I realise it’s actually not as bad as all the people online seem to have it. Whew.
What exactly is hamstring tendinopathy? Basically it’s a pain in the bum – high up on the hamstring, just under your butt cheek. The tendon that connects the hamstring muscles to the sit bone becomes painful. Things like prolonged sitting, running hills and sprinting can aggravate it. Thankfully my niggle isn’t full-blown tendinopathy but it could get there if I’m not careful. It is an annoying thing to get rid of though it seems as it’s a tough place for blood to reach and heal and because it’s not inflammatory, there’s little that icing can do. However, you can help things along with strengthening the tendon and massage.
Here’s where my friend the tennis ball has come into play…
Oh how my glutes do not enjoy this. Also, my sports massage therapist gave me a nice tip: sit on the tennis ball on a firm chair so you can roll you hamstring more easily as it’s tricky to do on the floor.
And I’ve been doing lots of strengthening exercises as well. Ideally the exercises you want for this are eccentric exercises. I received good advice from my physio and sports therapist and also online (good article HERE). I am obviously not a trained sports or medical anything, but I thought this might be useful if anyone has been/is in a similar boat. The exercises I’m doing regularly are:
Lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart, raise your bum towards the celling using your glute muscles trying not to arch your back (keep your body in a straight line).
I found the bridges to be quite easy as I’ve done them many times before so I straight away moved to single leg bridges, taking one foot off the ground and moving one leg up and down in a controlled movement, not allowing hips or bum to drop. At first I could feel the niggle when doing it (no pain, just an awareness) and now I feel nothing.
Hamstring Curls Using a Swiss ball
Lying on your back with your feet on a Swiss ball and arms by your side, roll the ball in towards you by bending your legs until your knees are above your hips, again not arching your back and using your glutes and hamstrings. Then straighten your legs, rolling the ball away from you in a controlled manner. Again you can progress to single leg versions of this.
Nordic Hamstring Curl
This is quite an advanced movement and tricky to set-up if you’re on your own. Basically you anchor your feet and calves to something stable (or have someone hold them) and then, while maintaining a straight-line from your shoulders to your knees, you bend forwards at the hips using your hamstrings to control the movement until you either cannot maintain the position any longer or you reach the ground. It’s a great hamstring isolating exercise.
Obviously good old fashioned core work helps as well. Planks are great for this and so easy to do at home. I mix it up with different variations, such as raising one leg (using my glute muscle) and then lowering again, or stepping out to the side while maintaining control and stability, or a new-to-me plank the supine version where you’re facing up rather than down (adding in leg lifts for this is great for targeting the hamstrings and glutes too).
Side planks as well are good for focusing on any weakness you might have on the different sides of your body. Raising one leg makes things more challenging.
I’m limiting my running and supplementing the above exercises with my usual gym work (though no deadlifts or really heavy squats at the moment). I don’t feel depressed that I’m not running, I’m just frustrated with myself for allowing this to happen again. And sad to miss out on a couple of good races. But these things happen and hopefully I won’t make such obvious errors in the future.
Have you ever had a hamstring injury or niggle?
Do you do any exercises regularly that keep you injury free?
Have you had to DNS from any races lately?