looking back, looking forward

Wow, 2021 was a great year for running, walking, hiking, and bicycling – 725 miles in all. Including my first 5k race in years, and a 5.7 mile trail race. And I’m kind of proud of that. It’s a good number – 725.

But behind that number… I ended the year hobbling, in pain with 2 injuries. Achilles heel tendonitis and high hamstring tendonopathy, or piriformis syndrome, or plantar fasciitis, or some other ‘itis’ or ‘pathy’ affecting my left leg.

Looking back, I can almost pinpoint when it happened. Early last year, I was doing yoga and heavy stretching twice a day, getting soooo close to the splits, and I overdid it. I knew it. But yoga and stretching are supposed to be good for you, right? And one day in the early spring, I was on a great pace to run my fastest mile in several years, I felt that sudden pain of a pulled muscle in my glute (aka butt cheek). Did I slow down? Maybe slightly, but I wanted to finish that mile in a good time, so I could feel good about myself. Look how fit I am. I just ran a sub-9-minute mile. I must be in good shape.

Except that I was also in pain. Did I stop, rest, slow down after that? Maybe a little. But not enough to fully heal. Gotta keep getting those miles in. And because my upper hamstring, gluteus, piriformis area was all pulled and tweaked, my gait changed. I started running heavier on my heel to compensate. Which led to some plantar fasciitis and Achilles pain.

So, for the beginning of this year, I am concentrating on strengthening the muscles, doing isometric and body-weight exercises to strengthen and stabilize things. So far, so good. I already feel some relief in my glute and hamstring area. I bought a cheap pair of heel support orthotics, and have been wearing them for a week. I think they are helping. I’m also adding in some Achilles-specific heel/calf raises, and doing some massage of the heel area every night.

I’m trying to walk 4-5 times a week for 1-3 miles to keep some level of circulation and fitness going, and to get some fresh air after work every day. I’m walking gently, not like a speed walker. And I haven’t tried running or jogging in over 2 weeks.

Hoping to get back to easy running in a few more weeks, but we’ll see.

My go-to for strengthening and toning exercises right now: I am following @fullerrunsfar on Instagram – physical therapist/trainer who posts great exercises for specific areas to tone and strengthen. That has been so valuable for me – thank you for sharing your work! And @philrunsfar is a great follow too. I also found Caroline Jordan’s website and videos on YouTube and am working through her hamstring tendonopathy video regularly.

So, I’m hopeful for the light at the end of the tunnel and the return to running this spring. Who knows what my mileage number will be this year. The most important thing is that they are pain-free miles.