My Foam Rolling Injury

Seriously – who injures themselves with a foam roller?

Apparently, I do. So as a public service I thought I’d give my two cents on the latest cure-all panacea to hit the fitness world – the foam roller.

I had heard great things about how it can help relieve sore muscles and loosen tight IT bands. Many people seemed to love it, so as a birthday present I gave one to my husband. I figured he could use it after his sometime runs, to loosen up his chronically tight hamstrings.

Of course, after he opened it and before he ever used it, I thought I should give it a “roll,” so as to be able to give advice. Seemed pretty straightforward and I’d seen them used plenty of times at the gym. What could go wrong?

So I rolled away. Up and down and back and forth across my calves and hamstrings and IT band and everywhere that was stiff and tight. Then I rolled it over my lower back.

Apparently, you should use the foam roller only on soft tissue. You should avoid bony protuberances, such as the sacrum and tailbone area. I discovered this for myself when I felt a sudden pain rolling over that area. Not sure what went wrong exactly but I can tell you that it immediately began to feel bad, and over the course of the next few days, went from bad to worse.

I asked around and the only thing I could figure out as to what happened was that maybe I had a bulging disk that I inadvertently rolled over and aggravated it. It’s odd, because I don’t typically get a lot of lower back pain but this was pretty doggone uncomfortable – every morning for about 2 weeks I woke up bent over and it would take 15 minutes and an ibuprofen for the discomfort to die down enough to go about my business. It hurt bad enough I had to back off running just as I was starting to get back to it after hurting my hip. But then it resolved and I was back to normal (whatever that is when you’re 40-some years old).

So that is my experience with the foam roller. I still use it occasionally but I’m definitely more careful with it now and would recommend doing what I didn’t do – read the instructions or have someone knowledgeable show you the best way to use it.

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Stupid Runner Tricks

When I started back to running last spring I didn’t want to admit to myself how out of shape I really was, and made the mistake many first time or returning runners make of piling on too many miles too soon. The way it seems to work is that you get away with this for a while, but somewhere along the line it catches up with you.

I got away with it long enough to run in the St. Patricks Day Dash, the Capitol City 10k in Sacramento, and a local 10k in my hometown called the Inspiring Hope in May.

It caught up with me two days after Inspiring Hope on a 4 mile trail run.  At the time I was trying to incorporate running on different types of terrain to prepare for the Beach to Chowder 10k run on the Long Beach Peninsula, which is run mostly on sand. That part sounds like I was trying to be smart but the fact that I’d not done a trail run in over 20 years and decided to kick it off with 4 miles of muddy trail was perhaps not so bright.

Keep in mind also that I went from running zero miles a week in February to running about 20 miles a week by May, without doing much strength work or stretching. I did spin class and then started running on the treadmill at the beginning of February. that was pretty much all I did, and I thought I was doing great because the distance didn’t bother me.  And I was getting faster each week, which made me feel like I must be pretty awesome.

So when I confidently went to hop over a mud puddle sideways I didn’t realize my hips didn’t yet have the strength to stabilize me, and something snapped. Suddenly it felt very painful to lift my leg, and I had to walk home. By the following morning, even walking was painful.

I had been looking forward to the race all season and didn’t want to give up without a fight, so I kept trying to exercise, but the hip only grew more painful.

Desperate for some reason to do this ridiculous race, I searched the Internet for information on hip injuries. From the sound of my symptoms I determined that I either had tendinitis, a strained iliopsoas muscle, or possibly a stress fracture. The only answer for either was rest of either 6 or 12 weeks. Even with the best case scenario, I knew I would miss the race.

Given that I’d miss the race anyway, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying out some self massage techniques I found on the Internet.  Turns out all I had to lose was the ability to walk.  Did you know that if you don’t know what you are doing, you can hurt yourself by digging your hand around in your body?

Yeah, turns out you can. Lesson learned.

So finally, having completely immobilized myself, I was forced to actually rest. And I did, until the week after Beach to Chowder. Miraculously at the 6 week mark my hip felt completely back to normal, so I gingerly started to run again, slowly and carefully.  And this time I decided to incorporate strength work and stretching so that hopefully I can remain injury free.

So far, so good. I’m still slower than I was before the injury, and running less mileage than I was before I hurt myself. But hopefully my stupid runner tricks have finally taught me to take it slow and listen to my body.