Before I head into NYC marathon training next month, I thought I’d give an update on what I’ve been up to post-half marathon, my current fitness level and routines, and goals for training.
What did I do in the weeks following the Brooklyn Half?
I took about 3 weeks off of running after the May 21st Airbnb Half (which I recapped here), and started running again last week after returning from Guatemala. During my little hiatus I finished the last week of BBG (a 12 week program), did some spin and weight workouts, and a lot of walking.
I had a lot of knee pain during this time off—not from running this time, but from walking. Every time I’d walk more than a few miles, my right knee would slowly start to hurt, and if I kept walking, the pain would build to the point where I couldn’t even bend my knee anymore. It continued throughout my trip to Guatemala, which was really annoying because I wanted to do as much exploring as possible, but couldn’t always do so. There were times I had to take an hour to sit and rest or end the day early because my knee just couldn’t take it anymore.
As the days passed, and the pain persisted, I started to get really worried about what this meant for me as a runner. I was seriously concerned I wouldn’t be able to run the marathon in November. If simply walking, not even running, put me in this much pain, how on earth would I be able to run 26 miles?
Four days into the trip, I decided to try walking around in my flip flops instead of the sneakers I had been wearing. I had just finished reading Born to Run (which I highly recommend), a book that talks a lot about the detrimental effects of wearing shoes with heavy support, so I decided to try a more minimalist approach and walk in sandals.
It turned out that walking in flip flops made all the difference. I walked miles and miles with no pain that day. I was ecstatic. I continued to wear flip flop/sandals for the remainder of the trip, and the pain never returned. Instead, my hopes to be able to complete the marathon slowly did.
I bought new shoes, the Saucony Kinvara 7s, the day I got back to NY about two weeks ago. They are a more minimalist shoe, recommended to me by the sales guy in the running store.
I tried them out on a 4 mile run the following day. After so much time off, I was beyond eager to get my legs moving again.
Mile one went fine , and I was still feeling good at the end of mile two.
If I’m still feeling good at mile 4, maybe I’ll make this a five mile run instead of a 4 mile run, I thought to myself.
Then, about 3.5 miles in, I started to feel a tight pain in my left knee. It was a familiar pain, the same pain that I had felt a couple weeks before the Brooklyn half. I knew what would happen next. The pain would build until it would become so unbearable that I’d have to walk. And sure enough, I was walking about two minutes later.
The most frustrating thing about this pain is that it doesn’t hurt at all to walk. It always fools me into thinking that maybe I can run slowly, considering I feel perfectly fine while walking. But no. As soon as I pick up the pace, even just a little, my knee inevitably starts to throb.
I walked home ashamed and heartbroken that day. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I let negative thoughts like, ‘Maybe I’m just not meant to be a runner’ enter my mind.
However, in the back of my mind I knew injuries are common. I knew I wasn’t alone in my frustrations. So I went online, researched my knee pain, and decided that it was probably iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), a very common injury for runners both new and elite. It occurs when the ligament from your pelvic bone to your shin becomes so tight that it rubs against your thighbone. The best way to treat this is to stretch, foam roll and strengthen your hips. I stumbled upon the website strengthrunning.com, which provides a rehab routine for ITBS, and decided to start doing that every other day.
This website turned out to provide way more than what I was initially looking for—they emailed me not only the rehab routine, but also a warm up, core, and medicine ball routine. I decided to incorporate the warm up routine before my runs as well, since that’s something I have yet to make a habit. Who knows, maybe it’s more important than I thought.
What have I been up to in the past couple of weeks?
- Running. Very, very slowly.
- I’m trying to build my endurance back without getting injured. This week I did 15 miles, next week I’ll do 20, the next I’ll aim for 20-25, and so on.
- My pace is 9:30-10 min/mile. My ‘regular’ (training) pace is around 8:30-9 min/mile, so this is really slow for me, but I’m totally ok with it. I can tell by my heart rate that I’m not yet fit enough to run a 9 minute mile comfortably. Regardless, I think the fact that I always ran at that pace contributed to my injuries, so this is probably a good thing. I need to learn to run so slow that it feels too slow.
- Warming up
- As I mentioned, I started including a 7 minute warm up before my runs.
- Strengthening my hips
- As I also mentioned, I am doing a 10 minute hip routine at least 3 days a week
- Strength training
- My gym (NYSC) offers a variety of fitness classes, so I’ve been doing a lot of those. In the past couple of weeks I’ve done a spin class, a tabata class, a barbell class, and vinyasa yoga. I’m loving trying out different classes, it makes working out way more interesting and fun!
- I’ve also been doing some weight training on my own. This includes lunges, squats, upright rows, calf lifts, wall sits, push ups, planks, shoulder press, etc. I’m still trying to find the right mix of strength training on my own, taking classes, and running, but I’m sure I’ll get into a flow once I start marathon training.
- I take at least 10 minutes after every gym workout to get a full-body stretch in. It helps me cool down and relax, and also makes me feel like an athlete. It always takes me back to my gymnastics days when we’d stretch an insane amount, and the fact that I’ve maintained most of that flexibility (although my muscular strength has diminished significantly) makes me feel like there’s still a piece of me who is the athlete I once was.
- It’s harder for me to do a full stretch routine after outdoor runs because my apartment is small (NYC real estate, y’all). I instead just stretch out my quads, hips, and calves, which takes me about 3 minutes.
- Foam rolling
- This is part of my stretching routine at the gym. I foam roll my calves, quads, and hamstrings. It takes me about 3 minutes total.
So far, this routine has worked for me and I’ve been able to avoid knee pain. Hopefully this continues as I increase mileage.
Goals for training:
- TO NOT GET INJURED.
That’s it. I’m not going to set a time goal or put pressure on myself to do anything more than stay healthy. I’m going to focus on smart training by running slow, increasing mileage slowly and steadily, focusing on my form, and strength training.
I am also really lucky in that I have a coach, Justin, for this marathon. I’m so excited to have a guide, mentor, and support system this round, something I’ve never had before. He has already helped me out a number of times while I was training for the Brooklyn Half; he calmed me down when I was freaking out about my knee pain and gave me advice on next steps. I know he’ll be a HUGE help to me in the next few months.
Cheers to training season. Who else is training for a big fall race? Let me know :)