My Current Hip Flexor Strength Routine

I’m doing this twice a day currently. (Sorry, physical therapist I met on Monday.)

Clamshells

30 reps on each side.

clamshell exercise

Source: Pro Motion Physical Therapy

Reverse Clamshells

20 reps on each side.


Similar to clamshells, except you hinge at the knee instead of the ankle to work different muscles in the hip area. I like this awkward-looking drawing because I feel awkward when I do them.

Sidelying Leg Lifts

25 reps on each side.

sidelying leg lift exercise

Source: Pro Motion Physical Therapy

I have to make sure my hips are rolled forward a bit in order to feel this where you’re supposed to feel it. But once you are in the proper position, it burns!

Bridge

Hold for one minute.

bridge exercise

Source: Pro Motion Physical Therapy

Marching Bridge

10 sets of marches.


From bridge position, lift one leg as if marching without moving the hips. Lower and repeat with the other leg. That is one set.

Single-Leg Bridge

10 reps on each side.


Cross one leg over the knee and raise up to bridge position. Hold for a beat, then lower back down.

My glutes/thighs are usually on fire by the time I get to the single-leg bridges, and I typically don’t make it through all ten on each side. Wednesday’s physical therapist (who sent me three of these exercises) said it is better to not do an exercise than to do one with bad form. So if you feel your form disappearing on any of these exercises, stop the workout. Focus on quality versus quantity.

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Adventures in Injury Screenings

injury screening form

I feel like “past orthopedic injuries” is a loaded question. What haven’t I injured might be better.

On Monday, I went to Nashville Running Company for an injury screening with Results Physiotherapy. I explained where my knee hurt and told him about my fall while trail running. “Are you new to trail running?” he asked. “Uhh, well I’d done it once before, but, yeah, I guess…” I stuttered, not really sure why that mattered. If I fell, I fell, whether I’d done it once or twenty times.

He had me do single leg squats on each leg. He asked if this was the first time I’d had knee pain. I explained that I always had knee pain on long runs, but I thought this was an unrelated issue as it was in a different location on my knee and confined to only the right one. Then he poked and prodded my legs before declaring that all my muscles were weak, I probably need extensive physical therapy, and I should not be a runner. Okay, not really, but that’s how I felt.

He had me demonstrate how I’d been doing my clamshells, but apparently I was doing them wrong. Then he gave me two other exercises (reverse clamshells and single leg bridges) to do three times a day. “I have a problem with getting them in three times a day,” I said. “I’m good doing one set in the morning and one at night, but I have a hard time fitting in the third during the day.” He just looked at me. No sympathy for the busy office worker? Okay.

His final diagnosis was patellofemoral syndrome, or runner’s knee. Which I think actually is my problem…on my long runs. I’m not so sure that’s what’s going on with my right knee. Not that it really matters because I’m sure it all comes down to my weak hips.

On Wednesday, I went down to Fleet Feet for their injury screening, hoping my doctor would be there so I could get him to determine I hadn’t actually done damage to my knee when I fell. He wasn’t there, however, so I met with another physical therapist.

Before I met with the therapist, the woman who greeted me asked me a couple questions about my pain. “I have weak hips,” I explained. “Everyone has weak hips,” she said. That made me feel a little relieved that I wasn’t some crazy abnormality.

Then I met with the therapist and told her about the trail run and showed where my knee hurt. She also had me do single leg squats, but she recorded them and played them back in slow motion for me. Oh geez. I never really wanted to see myself do a squat in slow motion, but here it was.

My legs are so wonky.

While just standing in a normal standing position, my left leg bends in. The squat on that side didn’t look horrible, but my leg does some crazy thing on the right side. Yikes.

Then she poked and prodded, of course. I could really feel the difference in my right knee versus my left with her poking at it. She also had me demonstrate how I’d been doing my clamshells and apparently I did a better job as she approved them. Then she gave me a few more exercises to do (I’m going to have hips of steel soon). She didn’t seem sure about the actual knee issue, but thought that it was possible I’d jammed the joint somehow when I fell. She said it felt really stiff and said I should foam roll and maybe squeeze a tennis ball with the joint.

As I was getting up to leave, she said, “Don’t worry. I don’t see anything that says you shouldn’t be a runner.”

Oh, thank God. That’s all I needed to hear.

Week of 5/12/14 – 5/18/14: Aaaand….injury!

week of 5/12/14 to 5/18/14

Monday

I haven’t ran on a Monday in over six months, but I decided to this week because thunderstorms were looking likely on Tuesday and Wednesday. My knee/IT band was still giving me issues, so I decided some short intervals would make this a truly easy run. I set my watch for 3:1 intervals and was off. Yeah, so, they turned into more tempo-paced intervals than truly easy ones. I ran one at a 9:30 min/mi pace, and most were between 10-10:30 pace. My average speed for the three miles was half marathon pace (about 11:20 min/mi), which is a little mind-boggling when you consider that I was walking 25% of the time.

I’m still not used to the amount of sweat that drips off me at the end of runs now that it feels like summer. I think I must be creating a new ocean.

Tuesday

The thunderstorms were holding off for the evening (though Wednesday still looked like it was going to be a wash, so the decision to run Monday was good). I went out with the Flyers. We met in a new location this week because Active Life Chiropractic was doing a free talk (with free food) afterwards. I kept this one truly easy, doing 3:1 intervals with Lori. Note to self: Charlie Daniels Park has about a 0.75 mile flat paved loop around it which may be useful for 1200m repeats (or 800m repeats with 400m recovery). My knee felt fine for this run (*cue ominous foreshadowing*).

Thursday

Thanks to Wednesday’s storms, a nice cold front settled in! That means the high was only in the 60s! Wahoo! A good thing, considering it was speed work day. Six intervals of 400m at sub-5k pace with 400m recovery.

I wasn’t nearly as consistent this week. I was pretty worn out after two or three. My fourth one was my slowest, but my fifth felt the worst (I felt all over the place pace-wise). Then on my last recovery before the final speed interval, that knee/IT band pain flared up! Owww! I had to stop and stretch. I finished out the run, really monitoring my form on the last interval to make sure I wasn’t doing anything weird with all the fatigue bogging me down.

Here are my interval times: 2:05.7, 2:10.2, 2:08.5, 2:13.4, 2:07.9, and 2:00.6 (speedy speederson!).

I think I might go out to the track next time to see if that helps with consistency.

Saturday

After taking Friday off, my knee felt better on Saturday morning so I went out for an easy 3:1 interval run. Yeah. I got about 1.25 miles in and the pain was too much. Actually I’m not even sure you can describe it as pain. It’s like this stiffness that makes me feel like I can’t bend my knee properly.

Frustrated and disappointed, I went home and gorged on some McDonald’s.

I don’t know if it is IT band syndrome or if I just messed up my knee when I fell on the trail a couple weeks ago. It certainly never bothered me before that and I haven’t been doing crazy mileage since the half, so I really doubt it’s an overuse issue.

I decided I was going to take the next week off and do every hip/IT band stretch/exercise I could think of and maybe then go see the physical therapist and/or the doctor. Sigh.

Pacing Redux: I no longer suck at pacing!

At the East Nasty Wednesday run a few weeks ago, I got to talking to a couple girls before the run. One of them had also ran the Country Music Half and asked what my time was. I assumed they were faster than me (as most people are) and told her my time, quickly followed by “which was a good time for me and faster than my goal time.” She said that she ran a 2:26, just a minute faster, so we must be around the same level! And then it came time for the run to start and she took off with the 9:30 min/mi pace group. Um, nope. Not the same level.

nope

I don’t know what her goals are for her mid-week runs, but, except for my weekly speed work and the occasional goal pace run, my runs should all be done at easy pace. But the truth is most runners probably run too fast most of the time (myself included). If that works for them, great, but it’s the main reason overuse injuries happen, and we all know that I am way too injury prone to be running faster than I need to be.

I know what you are thinking. “But if you want to be faster, you have to run faster, right?” And that is true, to some extent. That’s why speed workouts exist. But just increasing mileage will also help you perform better by having your muscles adapt and you can do this with less chance of injury if you run slow. There’s a great post over on Runblogger about this topic.

The easiest way to figure out your easy pace is to plug a recent race time into a pacing calculator. I’ve mentioned the McMillan calculator before. Using my half marathon time, it says my easy runs should be between 11:35 and 12:16 min/mi, long runs should be between 11:37 and 12:45 min/mi, and recovery jogs should be between 12:27 and 13:23 min/mi. The Jack Daniels’ (not the whiskey) calculator says easy runs should be between 12:46 and 13:31 min/mi (the site says this includes recovery and long runs) and marathon pace runs (which I guess if you aren’t training for a marathon is also a pretty easy pace) should be 11:31 min/mi. Thus, we can conclude that the majority of my runs should be between 11:30 and 13:30 right now.

So let’s see how I’m doing.

Here are the last 20 training runs I did before the half marathon (minus the Richland Creek race). The two runs highlighted in green don’t count because they were speed workouts (although one of them didn’t go well and ended up in easy run pace territory anyway).

pacing

Out of the 18 other runs, 12 of them were run at 11:30 pace or slower. That’s not too shabby. Most of the ones that were ran faster were done in my taper leading up to the race where I wasn’t doing any super hard workouts anyway and running less distance per week. Out of the other two, one was a goal pace run (aiming between 11:15 and 11:45 but went a little fast) and one was truly ran too fast. I think that’s overall a pacing success! And the result? I never got injured the entire training cycle AND ran faster than my goal!

Compare that to a year ago when I still hadn’t gotten the hang of running different paces and ended up getting injured. I did the same thing last September/October. I ran a ~33 min 5k distance in training but couldn’t match it in my races and then got injured. Classic overtraining.

The main problem as I start this next training cycle? If I want to continue running with the East Nasty group on Wednesdays, I’m typically going to be running those miles faster than easy pace. (See that 10:34 for East Nasty in the chart above? That was a six mile run!) They only go up to 10 min/mi pace groups. There’s another group, the Lasty Nasties, that leave fifteen minutes early and most of them do run/walk intervals. I’ve thought about running with them to keep my pacing easy, since I’m prone to running too fast on Wednesdays due to this.

Do you vary your paces in training?

Week of 5/5/14 – 5/11/14

Week two of no training plan! That’s all about to change, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

week of 5/5/14 to 5/11/14

Tuesday

I went and ran with the Flyers. This week they met at Long Hunter to run the two mile loop around Couchville Lake. Some people ran it once, others twice, and three times for the fasties.

As soon as I arrived, two deer walked by in the parking lot.

deer in the parking lot

I started out thinking I might run it twice, but I’d see how I felt after going around once. My car said it was above 90 again, so it was hot but the path was mostly shaded. I started out running with a small group of people, but soon I found myself mostly alone, as a few of them had surged forward and a few had stopped to walk. I considered walking, as it was so hot, but I didn’t. Close to the end of the loop, I spotted a turkey in the woods. From what I hear, sometimes this turkey attacks runners. I’m glad he didn’t come after me!

After I completed the loop, I decided that was enough. It was just far too hot. I could have done another loop, but I don’t think I could have without walking some of it, and I decided I’d rather have two miles of straight running than four miles with some walking. Average pace was 10:44–a little speedy considering the heat!

Wednesday

Day two of hot runs! I went out to run with East Nasty this week, and the route was a 4.5 mile loop around East Nashville. This route also happened to include a hill in Shelby Park that I happen to despise. (I’ve only attempted that thing once before.) I didn’t walk on the hill, but I did take a break soon thereafter on another slight incline just after the start of the third mile because we were in the direct sunlight. I took one other walk break with about a mile to go. Overall, my average pace was a little over 11 min/mi, so not too bad.

Thursday

I decided I should get my brain prepped for my upcoming training by doing some speed work this week. According to my plan, I’m supposed to do six intervals of 400m at 5k goal pace as my first workout of the training cycle. So I decided to do four and see how they went.

I had programmed my watch with all my upcoming workouts months ago. Probably before I actually finalized my training plan. I selected the workout that said “4x400m strides”, which I assumed was correct because it was the only 4x400m workout I had on my watch.

I did about half a mile warmup at 11:30 min/mi pace then hit the lap button to trigger the first interval. “Speed up!” the watch kept urging me with its beeping. So I did. I soon realized that the watch wasn’t programmed to get me to run goal 5k pace (9:00-9:30 min/mi); it was programmed to get me to run faster than goal pace (8:00-9:00 min/mi). Oh, that’s what it meant by strides.

But I did it. And I did it consistently. My times for each 400m (0.25 mile) fast interval were 2:08.3, 2:08.6, 2:07.9, and 2:07.2, respectively. That all averages out to be an 8:30 min/mi pace on all four intervals.

What makes it even funnier is that I thought I might just do three when I went out, but I still felt like I could do a fourth, so I went ahead. I may keep my interval runs (done every three weeks) at this pace; that is what the training plan originally called for, and I don’t remember why I changed it. We will see when I actually have to do six of them next week.

Sunday

I thought about running Saturday morning before I went off to second shoot another wedding, but I decided to relax instead. So my next run was Sunday evening, when I went out for a three mile jaunt in Clarksville, since I was there for Mother’s Day. I keep forgetting that it is virtually summer now. Spring never happened. I didn’t bring water, so I ended up walking a few times. I also wonder if my IT band was really tight because the outside of my right knee and up my thigh has been hurting ever since. Time to get back to doing my clamshells, I guess.