Friday, January 11, 2013

Today I Got Stuck

Ever tried acupuncture?

IMAG1118

Today was my day. My back has been tight for awhile now, it comes and goes, but mostly comes.  My hamstring still tightens up sometimes and honestly I think I have running injury PTSD. This is when you have frequent flashbacks to a time when you were injured, sitting on the couch, staring at your crutches and wanting to punch every runner you see when you drive down the road.

Today I visited a medical doctor who has a holistic practice where she does acupuncture. She is 55 years old and did her first Ironman (she has done three) when she was 51. She has persevered through some setbacks and she made me see that setbacks are often just a part of the process. They are not a reason to quit or back down.

Unlike some doctors, this woman really gets it. She told me that a lot of times endurance athletes do what they have to do to hold their bodies together, and this usually involves some type of bodywork. She reminded me that we are a tough group, and that with the right blend of recovery and other resources such as acupuncture, massage, cross training and/or core work, we can usually find a way to keep going and avoid injury.

I know she is right. I have come to accept the fact that endurance sports – be it a long distance triathlon, a marathon or an ultra marathon – is what makes me happy. Training and racing and feeling strong in my body makes me feel complete and confident. I will do just about anything to keep moving, but I want to also be the healthiest version of myself (something that involves a cheetah skirt):

coloradomarathon

That said, I am not a pro athlete and will never be. I do not have unlimited time to train, unlimited money for coaches, therapies, etc. or dieticians to help me eat the best way possible. My life is real: I have kids and a job. This means what I do has to fit into my budget and my lifestyle without getting me off balance. It also means I have to do a lot of research on my own.

I think the trick is that each of us has to find what works for us. There is no set rule or solution. Finding what works for us includes, but is not limited to, asking yourself these questions:

  • What type of obligations (family, job, etc.) do you have outside of training and racing? How much time can be devoted to your fitness goals?
  • How many miles can you put in per week before you break down? Do you have a number?
  • How much, if any speed work, can you do before pushing the edges of injury?
  • What type of resources, if any, do you need in place to keep you healthy (massage, PT, coaching, acupuncture, chiropractic) and how much of it can you afford?
  • What foods make you feel the best, help you recover the best and give you the most energy?
  • How much sleep do you need per night?
  • What type and how much strength/core work do you need to do?
  • How many races, if any, can you safely and financially incorporate per year?
  • What type of cross training works best for you?
  • Where do you like to train the most? On trails, in the water, on the roads?

Customize a life that best fits your circumstances and who you are. Think about what makes you happy. Think about how to best find balance. Remember this is your journey and you need to do it your way, and not mirror anyone else’s path.

It may be too soon to tell, but when I got off that table, my back felt better than it has in months. Funny thing is, most of the work was not on my back, but on my IT bands and my left hip (where I had my stress fracture). She said my hip was so tight she wasn’t sure how I was running at all.

Bring on the training!!

What do you do to hold your body together while training?

What race is next for you? For me, looks like I’ll be training for the Denver Colfax Marathon in May! I’m sure I’ll throw in some shorter races as well – and some tris during the summer.

SUAR

43 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. That is a cool photo with both your feet off the ground! ;)

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  3. I tried acupuncture for some tendinitis I was experiencing last year before Boston. It didn't help because I think what I really needed was REST and to stop running.

    My friend swears that acupuncture helped her to get pregnant. She was having fertility issues for years and after a month of acupuncture, BAM! She was knocked up. :)

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  4. I have battled chronic back,neck and hip pain for years, used to see an osteopathic physician but she moved and there are few in my area who perform manipulations. I have thought about acupuncture from time to time but think I'll just stick with massage.
    By athletic standards, I have a terrible diet-love sweets and comfort foods. We grow beef, pork and eggs. No poultry as I don't like to chop chickens(have done it, prefer to just collect the eggs)The bigger animals are hauled to the butcher. Anyway, I am finding the more active I am, the more my body craves the good stuff-Fresh fruits and veggies with starches and meats in moderation-key word there.

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  5. So weird - I'm just about to leave to drive to my first ever acupuncture appointment. I hope it works!

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  6. By strange coincidence, I went to acupuncture myself on Wednesday, for the first time in years! My right hip and hamstring have been bugging me for-freaking-ever. I first had acupuncture back in 2009 when I was living in Tokyo and found it super helpful for my hip. Don't know why it's taken me so long to get back to it. Glad your back in feeling better! Will you go for follow up treatments?

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  7. First, I need a cheetah skirt? Where did you get that?
    Second, I added accupuncture to my healing routine 6 months ago and it has made a huge difference. I'm now suffering from a lumbar spine injury which has left my hamstring and left hip soooooo tight....and I too want to hit every runner I see, b/c I can't run - well even walking is painful now. But the lesson I'm learning is to take care of my whole body. While that means cross-training along with my runs, it also means not going crazy and doing unrealistic workouts that will cause harm. I now have PT, massage, chiro & accupuncture and hope that all of it will help me have a strong, healthy body...and I believe the cheetah skirt would make me unstoppable! Enjoy the accupuncture~

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  8. Chinese medicine and acupuncture have served me far better than conventional western medicine - fertility issues, aging issues, injury issues. And I fucking hate needles.

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  9. i just made my first acupuncture appointment for next week--but still am confused as to how it actually works. Any thoughts on that?

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  10. The internet just ate the loooong comment I'd typed out and I'm still too traumatized to retype it. So I'll just ask this for now: WHERE DID YOU GET THAT SKIRT? I really need one. I've searched high and low for leopard print shorts with little luck. That skirt is phenomenal.

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    1. It's from running skirts. I don't know if this is the exact one, but it's close:

      http://store.runningskirts.com/snow-leopard-running-skirt

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    2. thanks! i purchased the snow leopard version and am probably entirely too excited in anticipating its arrival. :)

      now to repost an approximation of what the internet ate:

      i was just having a conversation about this very thing -- finding ways to maintain the body in the face of demands and stresses placed on it by distance running -- and it's so nice to hear about other people doing similar things. i roll and stretch religiously; eat well/balanced, lots of anti-inflammatory foods, quality protein, etc (with, of course, treats every day) and have recently started supplementing with l-glutamine and vitamins; i use a recovery drink after particularly demanding workouts; cross train 3 days a week for overall strength and endurance and to support/counter the repetitive stress of running.

      i recently tried acupuncture for a hamstring issue and was blown away by how effective it was. unlike some other health practitioners, the acupuncturist didn't scold or try to warn me off of running because of the high impact. a former runner herself, she instead told me that she understands that there's no feeling like it and she recommended things i can do help maintain my body. (i have not yet tried making broth from beef knuckles and chicken necks and feet as she suggested....but i'm going to try it out). i'd like to make acupuncture a regular thing.

      massage has helped in the past but isn't financially viable at the moment. i'm lucky enough that a trainer i worked with for a few months has become a friend and is willing to roll my calves before long runs when.

      and my next race, which will be my second marathon, is boston in april. i'm chomping at the bit. :)

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  11. Your Dr. sounds like a keeper. I used to see someone like that and she has now retired and I am a total loss. She recommended acupuncture for me when I had the most bizarre vertigo episodes, I would feel like I was running down a hill when I was on the flats. My thighs would even tighten up like you do when you go downhill. It was strange. But any who, the fellow I saw also practiced chinese medicine and between his odd tea connections and acupuncture, the vertigo subsided. I had tried all the other treatments for vertigo. I have read many times over now how important some body work becomes as we get a little older. I keep it together by getting lots of rest, eating really well, and am now experimenting with herbal medicines, teas. Approaching menopause brings on a whole other set of issues.
    I am planning on running the Sun MT 25k in mid May.

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  12. I have to make sure I don't go out too hard for every session. Discretion in training is important at my age. I've done the acupuncture thing but that was more for illness symptoms and it was brilliant for that. Stretching, rolling and regular massage help keep me going.

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  13. I got the Tigger Point massage therapy system Ultimate Runners kit and the Foot and Lower Leg kit. I swear it has saved my running. I had a ACL replacement way back in the the 90s when they still used part of your hamstring as a replacement. I swear I've been off kilter ever since. The Trigger Point system keeps pretty well in balance. Not getting too fat and keeping excess weight off my poor legs helps, too. haha

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  14. I did acupuncture a couple years ago when I was having hip problems. I completely believe that every part of our body is connected. But acupuncture didn't work for me. It was actually an intense strength training program that did it. Thanks to my new coach who put me through that I am ready to go! Next race is less than a month away 5 mile trail run! Woo hoo!

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  15. Thanks for the list of questions that we all need to ask ourselves. Sense I'm not fast enough to turn pro (except for the 90+ age group), my running money needs to be spent wisely. I'm suffering again from an inflamed knee and I know it's from over-training...again. I'm getting to old for all this, but I'm not giving it up. I can't wait for another 10 miler, but for now I'm going to sit on the sidelines. This too shall pass.

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  16. I love your blog and have been following faithfully since I found it about 2 months ago. It’s always been good, but I feel like this week has been a very strong blog week in the SUAR world. I’d read a little about it before, but after reading your blog about it, I started to apply some chi running techniques on my run today and it was awesome. I was already running in a similar style. But the extra focus on my core and posture made the energy efficiency obvious. Thanks for that.

    I “hold my body together” by weight training at the gym five or six days a week. And I ride an exercise bike for an hour on my non-run days. But the best thing I’ve done recently was buy a massage roller. I thought they seemed kind of silly, but my IT band had me so scared that I might have to skip a run yesterday that I bought one immediately. I think I may name it and give it its own room. It helped tremendously and I was able to have a great run today. Happy Training.

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  18. I have been running for over 40 years and am headed towards my third Ironman next year at 61. I attribute weights and yoga for keeping me together. I work three days a week with special needs kids at a preschool. I am at work by seven and don't get home until after four. Those days I am up at 4:15 to get in a short run or swim. I am trying to get in cycling in the afternoons-but find myself coming home in the dark (good lights on my bike help!) My daughter is grown, so I have more time to train now. I need to keep my running probably under 35-40 per week to avoid injury. We hike a lot too (fast) so that helps me get and stay strong. Never tried acupuncture. Hope it works for you!

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  19. I *heart* my acupuncturist :)

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  20. I think that list of questions is excellent -- it really spoke to me and what I've been going through lately. Basically, I went to an ART guy who seemed great at first, but then kinda sketchy on the 2nd visit. I felt pressured to make a 3rd appointment, but cancelled it based on my weird feeling about him. Then, I went to visit my sister and it turned out that she has friend who is a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine! Her opinion and suggestions made a LOT of sense, and she wasn't trying to make a dime off me, so I really, really trusted her assessment.

    Anyway! I think my keys for a healthy and injury-free year are to race less and run slower for a majority of my runs. I feel like speed workouts really tear me up -- so I'm going to mix it up with more hill runs.

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  21. I first got acupuncture to help with sciatica. Amazing. One treatment and I could walk normally again. A few more fixed me up good. There's been a few more appointments from triathlon stuff, but I try not to overdo it.

    I'm a big fan of yoga and regular massage therapy. It takes very little speed work to push me to the edge. But then I'm old. I'm trying to do more core, or will when my cold finished up and goes away. Plus I get all the sleep I can.

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  22. I have a Ragnar relay next month. I love to do a TRX class once a week especially while training. 51! There is hope for me!

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  23. Ooo,I hope the acupuncture helps sooth out the back and hip kinks. I know this has been frustrating. I think I'm more of an endurance junkie, too...I think I need to do the Leadville 50 for my 50th birthday this year :). But we'll see. I have a little trail 33k in Moab in a few weeks to test out my mind, first!

    Saw this article not too long ago and thought about ya. Not sure why, but I did. :)
    http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/running-its-all-in-the-hips/

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  24. Ostesis Pubis...yep, that's what I've got. So take a wild guess where I got "stuck". Yep....right in the midst of the ol' coochy. Ahhh....the things we'll do to be able to run again.

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  25. Ugh. I'm being evaluated for possible stress fracture rt femur. How did you survive your stress fracture?

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  26. I prefer the traditional route of seeing my Dr. and doing physical therapy. I have a great Dr. that is also a runner and he knows that I am not going to just stop running. He always gives me options to remain active. My physical therapist is also a runner :) It is cheaper for me to go the traditional route. I only pay a $10 copay for Dr. and PT visits.
    If I could afford massages i would probably do that but that seems like a luxury to me :) I recently started Yoga and I wish I had started that years ago.
    I am running the Tinkerbell Half in one week!

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  27. I love acupuncture. It's the only thing they cured my migraines - I haven't had one since having my sessions. I also loved that my acupuncturist found ways to get insurance to pay for the treatment, as it wasn't usually covered.

    I hope it works for your back!

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  28. I have never tried acupuncture - maybe one day!
    When did you have a hip stress fracture? How long did you have to be non-running? I'm currently almost 6 weeks in to an 8 week non-running time for a hip stress fracture. I haven't followed many of the DRs orders, though so I'm hoping it is healing!!!

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    1. October 2010. I was on crutches for 4 weeks. Started water running after about 2 weeks. Got back to a run walk/plan after 10 weeks and ran a marathon 3 months later.

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    2. Good to know.
      I skipped the crutches and hobbled for a long time!
      I'm hoping that if I quit running hard every time I will be good to go when I start back which I'm planning to do in another week. (I'm not a good rule follower!!!)

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  29. I just came to this realization a few weeks ago when I thought, why do I need a Rolfer, a massage therapist, a chiropractor, and an acupunturist to be able to run half marathons? Then I decided that it works, I have figured it out financially (I have cut out regular cut/color--priorities!), and I am injury-free. Knock on wood. So why question it? Just be grateful! I'm running my 2nd half a week from today--Charleston Marathon--after a FNSF and femoral neck stress reaction each of the last 2 Januaries. And that is all that matters!

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  30. Huge believer in acupuncture here! Any ache or pain that persists more than a week or so, I go see my friend Jess. Usually two treatments later and the pain is gone. I also get the best night's sleep ever the night after acupuncture. To me, using alternative therapies as the first line of defense always pays off.

    Next up--she will be helping me with Chinese herbs to try to get my iron levels back up.

    Excited you will run Denver!

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  31. I did acupuncture the day before thanksgiving. After 7 years of back pain from a car accident, I was pain free. it was amazing. It's only recently started to "wear off" and I'm feeling some tightness again. I plan on going back!

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  33. I think that creating a training plan and goal within "real life" is very important for all of us runners. The bulk majority of us will never be professional athletes, but on the flip side, we do all have enormous ability of human strength and commitment. To me, I always feel we need to run for the completion more than the speed goals, unless we are trying to actually WIN for masters rank or get to the Olympics or some other specific standing in our sports competition. A strong finish, it doesn't mean time as much as it means being fit and healthy :)

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  36. I have tried acupuncture, it worked for me. I try to get a massage once a month and see the chiro when I need to if injury hits. I hate my foam roller but learning to embrace it to keep the muscles in training shape.

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  37. Maybe you need a pair of good shoes

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    1. Oh, you think? I just thought running in these crappy ones I got from Walmart would be fine.

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  38. I just realized there are pins in your toes, and for some reason that's really freaking me out. I hope it was a better experience for you...

    While my mom is not a runner, she swears by acupuncture. She used to have asthma and bad pollen allergies. After she started doing acupuncture, she was able to stop taking all her medications. She literally has not taken a fast-acting inhaler in 15 years (she used to have to take it pretty often), which I think is pretty incredible!

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