Category Archives: general

things I would write about if I had the time

pain in the (sort of) butt

I wrote an email to a friend in response to her question about how things were going with my minor running issue. As I neared the end of that email exchange, I joked with her that I might just copy and paste it into a blog post. Anything to break the silence here. I just can’t seem to get ahead these days.

But it’s not a bad idea, so I’m running with it.

If you follow me on Instagram, I mentioned back in January that a nagging pain that had started in December on some of my longer runs was still sticking around, despite having rested for several weeks during the coldest and darkest days of winter. A couple of miles into a run I start to experience a sharp pain on the outside of my left knee that doesn’t let up as I continue to push through it. After running, the pain continues for a few hours – not while walking around, but I notice it when heading up and down stairs.

I self-diagnosed it as an IT Band issue, and when it still persisted through the end of January, I decided to tackle it head on before spring running weather rolls around. I made an appointment for my routine physical, and my doctor agreed with my assessment, and wrote me a referral for PT. I contacted the PT that my dear friend (of earlier referenced email fame) recommended with “1000 stars”, and I saw her for the first time on Monday where she confirmed the diagnosis.

Turns out I’m really lopsided in how I engage certain muscle groups. My right (dominant) side is fine, but on my left side I’m using other muscles to do the work for me, and my left hip flexor muscles are way weaker than my right. So it’s time to target and build those up. As I’ve increased my strength training in my Body Pump class (if you have access to Les Mills classes, I highly recommend them), my larger muscle groups have been worked, but those smaller muscle groups can start feeling neglected. I didn’t ask this during my first appointment, but I have wondered about it since – I’m curious if always defaulting to starting with our right side – in Body Pump or Power Yoga or PiYo – means that the left side (then more fatigued) defaults to engaging the larger muscle groups over the smaller ones when doing the same work. I think I’ll ask that at my next appointment.

Other contributing factors? I cross my legs while sitting, and often sit with my left leg tucked under my body. In December I probably spent 100+ hours in that position while working on holiday cards (outside of the hours I sit on my tush in the office). Now I’m using a small platform for my feet, and catching myself every ten minutes on my leg positions. Breaking bad habits is so tricky.

I learned something else new – did you know that there is an ideal angle that an ankle bends to for running? I didn’t. That angle is 20 degrees. One of my ankles is three degrees, the other is zero. Zero!! This is why my heels never touch the ground in downward facing dog! I know I’ve got problem feet, and the rods in my feet probably aren’t helping here, but building some more strength and flexibility in my ankles will also help. That will reduce the stress on my upper legs as well when my feet hit the ground.

Next week I’ll have a running analysis, and I’m pretty sure that my Hoka days are numbered. (Also might have helped contribute to this problem.) I’m glad that I decided to get in front of this and talk to someone specializing in running health and strength, rather than throwing a bunch of ideas and gear towards the problem. I’ll let you know how it goes. And how exciting it is to do a zillion reps of strength building exercises while focusing on ONLY engaging the correct muscles. It’s a lot more thinking about my butt than I generally care to do!

Onward, upward!

questions answered, part seven (seasonal transitions)

I said I was going to spend January getting my act together before settling back in here, but I miss writing. So I thought I’d revisit a few more of the questions you asked last year that I never got around to. I’m telling myself to keep my answers brief – a couple of paragraphs – something I can knock out in just a few minutes. We’ll see how that goes.

Since I was just talking about transitions, I thought I’d address Sue’s question about seasonal transitions, although I’m not sure about the specifics here. I know that they can be tricky to navigate for a lot of people – particularly in the fall and in the spring. One of the things I like best about where we live is that we have four distinct seasons here. There are things that I love about each one of them, and I try to focus on those things as we launch into each new one. And there are things that get old each season, and although I try to just enjoy where I am in the moment, I still can slide into complaint mode. In my defense, how much swing can the human body really tolerate? We’ve experienced a 114 degree difference in recorded temperatures in the last six months (July-January), and nearly 140 degrees difference between wind chill and heat index for the same time period. So maybe a little griping is justified.

More than anything, I love the anticipation of the coming season. Each one allows me the opportunity to relinquish something for awhile, and embrace something new. It’s hard for me to let go of running in the winter, but the darkness forces me to do it – even more than the cold does. Every year I give a feeble attempt to move the running indoors, but it never sticks. Instead, I focus on other forms of physical activity – and this winter I’ve really pushed myself in strength training. I know that the gym will hold less appeal once the days grow longer and the temperatures start to rise. Those late winter / early spring runs are just glorious – even more so after a brief hibernation.

I miss the academic year in my adult-always-working mode. But I get a taste of it with the girls. I love summertime, and all the things that we pack into it, despite working full time during it. I love those hot and sticky nights at the Muny and the abundance of the farmer’s market. And just when blasting the air conditioning starts to get old, the days reach perfect running weather status again and I can fly. If I could freeze anytime, I’d stretch out fall a little longer. I think it can be a difficult time – it definitely feels like grief season for us, and I find that there are a lot of triggers for that in the season itself. I also have to actively work against feeling anxious in the fall. Part of it is just feeling like the season is so fleeting – sometimes it feels like the busyness of upcoming holiday season creeps in earlier and earlier. And I miss the sunlight, and each day that feeling increases a little more. But I think it’s good for me to practice at letting it go. Maybe that’s what fall does for me each year, forces me to turn off a few things, one by one. Let a few things slide, stop chasing (or fleeing) things, and settle into them a bit, in the dark. Because the sun will surprise me again in January, and the temperatures will surpass expectations at some point during February, and March will bring new bulbs and earth smells and magic and I can’t can wait.