I have often said that being injured is more time consuming than being healthy. Furthermore, coming back from injury takes even more time out of your day. Returning to competitive running from a case of IT Band Syndrome as severe as mine is a science. It must be done delicately and with just the right amount of running, cross-training, stretching/massage and strength exercises. In fact, this is my fourth attempt and it is drastically different than the previous three which obviously failed. Gone is a timetable. Gone are goals with the exception of one: get back to running pain free. To remind myself why I should never again neglect to do necessary maintenance and to warn others of the dangers of skipping such an integral part of training, I am going to chronicle the process. Remember, I am embarking on this endeavor nearly three months after the injury sidelined me. Before I got to this point, there were hours upon hours of cross-training to maintain aerobic fitness, stretching routines, massages, three doctors, an acupuncturist and 10 weeks of physical therapy which I am still doing. I won’t got into the details as I have already written about them ad nausea and if you make it through this Tolliken-length tale, you’ll just be plain nauseous.
Monday: After working until just past midnight, I dragged myself out of bed before 8 with the intention of hitting the pool for 2,000 meters before my physical therapy appointment. Instead, I ended up laying on the couch for an hour and a half before sliding to the floor to do 10 minutes of rolling my IT Band on the foam roller and then headed to PT. At PT, Jason continued ASTYM treatment on my right leg and did some new stretches. Then, I walked to the pool to find out lap swimming ended at 10am. I guess that is why I put it on the calendar for 8:30am. Back-up plan. I hopped on the elliptical for a quick 45 minutes. Usually I do an hour, but I was short on time today. I got off the elliptical and spent five minutes stretching and then five more minutes doing hip and glute strengthening exercises with the resistance band. I put on my flats because super-awesome marathon runner Camille Heron told me she found success converting to flats only after battling IT Band Syndrome. Then, I headed for the West Side Highway. The plan was to run for 15 minutes and if there was no pain by the end, I could run 20 minutes on Wednesday. If there was pain, I’d stick to 15 minutes. I’m happy to report that the 15 minutes was a smashing success. When I got home, I iced my IT band as a precaution, guzzled a protein shake, showered and was out the door just in time to make it to work. I did another round of foam rolling and icing when I got home.
Tuesday: I was well into my day before I learned that it was not Wednesday. It was only because I tried to sign up for the 12:30 spin class at the New York Sports Club on 62nd and Broadway that I know now that today is in fact, Tuesday. My inconsistent schedule has the tendency to eliminate the “feel” of a certain day of the week. I had taken the train up to the Upper West Side early after another failed attempt at swimming. This time, I actually arrived at the Chelsea Rec Center during lap swim hours, but when I looked in the pool and saw each lane had no fewer than five people in it, I decided to bag it. You can’t get in a rhythm when the water is that congested. Once again, I searched for plan B. I wanted to get in a solid workout today, preferably with some intervals, so I looked up when spin classes were offered on Wednesdays at the NYSC locations near my house and office. The 12:30pm at 62nd and Broadway was the most convenient. With time to kill, I got home and did some stuff around the apartment before spending some quality time with my foam roller, and doing most of Coach Jay Johnson’s Myrtl Routine. I was at the gym by 11:30 with plans to do some light elliptical work then go to spin. But, since there was no spin, I improvised an elliptical workout. 75 minutes total with 20X1 minute hard in the middle. I gradually upped the resistance from 7 to 9 and kept the incline between 10-11. The one good thing about spending so much time on the bike and elliptical is that I get to catch up on episodes of All Songs Considered and This American Life. When I was done, I did my every-other day core routine. In the locker room, some meathead referred to the elliptical as the “machine for females.” Asshat.
Wednesday: Today was the day I wanted yesterday to be. I woke up five out of six days deep into a very long work week and was definitely feeling the effects. I finally started making my way toward the NYSC on 16th and 8th following roughly 15 minutes of hemming and another 15 minutes of hawing. My plan for today was pretty straight-forward: Light stretching, one hour of easy elliptical work, hip and glute strengthening and a “longer” run. The only thing worth re-capping is the run. I upped my time to 20 minutes today, a five minute increase over the previous four runs. It was another success with no sign of pain whatsoever. However, I am well aware that I am far from being out of the woods. I will do one more 20 minute run Friday and then up it to 25 minutes if that goes well. I continue to do all of my runs on the pancake-flat West Side Highway and in flats. I am off work tomorrow, so I hope to get in some solid work beginning with physical therapy in the morning.
Thursday: Today was my Saturday, so I figured it would be as good of time as ever to get some solid work in. I got up early to head to an 8am physical therapy session. I am hoping these are winding down. It’s not that I don’t love the treatment that I get at Finish Line PT. It’s that my insurance company is growing weary of paying for it. Jason added some dynamic work into my routine, most of which involves jumping and all of which involves me looking like an idiot. Around 11:45, I headed to the gym to do my core circuit and stretch/strengthening drills before a 12:30pm spin class. I take spin because it forces me to work hard in a group setting, but I don’t enjoy it. There are times when it is made marginally better by the instructor’s choice of music. This was not one of those times. It was all songs you might here at a rave DJed by Delilah of Delilah After Dark. Following what may have been the longest 45 minutes of my week, I put in another 45 on the elliptical with much better music and then called it a day. Following a quick lunch, I headed to Brooklyn for a much-needed massage.
Friday: The bad: I had to get up at 7:30am. The good: It was because I was meeting Michelle to RUN! I haven’t run with another human being in quite some time, so I would have made this happen no matter what the time. We did an easy run up the West Side Highway. This was another 20 minuter for me, so it was brief, but still rewarding. I ended up running 22 minutes by the time we got back home with no pain. It looks like I am graduating to 25 minutes for my “long run” on Sunday. After a 10am showing of “The Dark Knight Rises”, lunch and a nap, I logged one hour on the elliptical to get in my full cardio for the day.
Saturday: With the memory of Thursday’s spin nightmare still fresh in my mind, I signed up for another spin class at the same NYSC. When I am working the overnight shift like I am now, the structure of a timed group activity is beneficial for two reasons. 1) If I sign up, I am sure to go. 2) I can’t be lazy and slowly pedal along when others are watching so it ensures I work hard. Of course, before the spin class I had 30 minutes of circuit work to complete. Jason has added a hopping exercise to my routine which unfortunately requires way more coordination that I possess. But I try really hard so that has to count for something. The spin class was remarkably better than the last one, except the instructor seemed to be suffering from some affliction that makes it impossible to control the volume of her voice. She had a microphone on, but for some reason she kept yelling. The good news is, I pedaled faster and harder out of fear. When the class ended, I tacked on 15 minutes on the elliptical to get in a full hour of cardio.
Sunday: Another big test today. When work ended at 10am, I walked down to Tavern on the Green where I was meeting Michelle for a 25 minute run. For those of you who made it this far, that is a five minute increase over the last run. I did some deep stretches, then we headed toward the reservoir on the Bridle Path. It is always good to spend some time in the park. Logistically, it’s a little tougher with the runs being so short. For the most part, I felt good but there were a few pains in the IT Band, so I’ll have to see how Tuesday’s 25 minute run goes before making the next step. I had thoughts of skipping today’s yoga class, but with the ITB feeling a little tight, I figured the stretch would be an investment. Thankfully, Lauren went with me so it didn’t mean missing any time with her. I was on my toes for the first 45 minutes of the class, but I always have to keep myself from falling asleep when the yogi has you lay on the mat and close your eyes. One day, I am going to wake up in a dark empty room hours after a class has ended wondering where I am and how I got there. I decided to take the rest of the day off and eat ice cream (it was after all, National Ice Cream day.).
The hardest part of adding running back in is that it is the opposite of marathon training. When you are ramping up mileage for the big race, you push your body even when it doesn't want to go any farther. Now, I am forcing myself to stop even when I want to keep going.
If you thought reading this was mind-numbing, you should try to keep up with this kind of schedule. I ended up putting in 10 hours of cross-training and an hour and a half of running. To compare, eleven and a half-hours is exactly the amount of time I spent running during my highest mileage week of the Boston Marathon cycle. I spent absolutely no time cross-training or strength training during that week. Perhaps if I had, I wouldn’t be sliding on my shorts to go ride the bike again.