I would much rather have a stress fracture than IT Band Syndrome. I'll let the five or six of you who were patient enough to read through my incessant whining about my broken ankle take a second to scream, curse my name and/or hurl your computer through a window. Finished? Now, let me explain why. A fracture is a cut and dry injury. You get an x-ray. You get a boot. You stay off it for six to eight weeks. It's healed. Does it suck? Yeah. But, at least you know the treatment and the timetable. There is comfort in a definitive diagnosis and prognosis.
IT Band Syndrome on the other hand, is an anomaly. It can last for six days or six months. I know runners who did nothing but rest and got better. I know runners who relied on intricate stretching. I know runners who relied on strength training. There are studies and web pages to support the merits of all three methods. Believe me, there isn't an article or message board post on the subject that I have not read. This of course can lead to information overload which can lead to an "everything but the kitchen sink" approach.
I took it a step further. I included the kitchen sink and remodeled the whole room with too many contractors. 10 weeks into the injury and well on my way to going crazy, I had only marginally improved. The problem is, any program like this needs to be sustainable. Obviously, once the injury is gone, you won't be rehabilitating anymore. However, to stay healthy you will want to do some of the exercises in the interest of prevention. So, with the help of a pep talk from my beyond supportive wife -- who has somehow resisted strangling me despite the money and time I have spent -- I have finally settled into a program that I hope will have me pounding the pavement pain free and that I can pull pieces from once I am running again.
Research as well as consultation with very smart doctors and physical therapists has helped me put together a more structured and consistent plan that involves cross training (a mix of swimming, elliptical and spin classes every day to maintain aerobic fitness), yoga (one to two times a week to enhance flexibility), strength training/physical therapy (At home stretching, band exercises, this routine to strengthen hip and glute muscles and two visits to the PT per week to work out scar tissue and loosen muscles) and even a little bit of running (more on that in a second). Yes, that is five things, but I left out the kitchen sink and laid off some of the contractors. I have taken acupuncture and the Alter G treadmill out of the equation. It's not because they are ineffective. I got treatment from one of the best athletic acupuncturists in New York City. However, I believe acupuncture works when you go consistently and often. With work and physical therapy, my acupuncture visits were a sporadic afterthought at best. As for the Alter G, I stand by my belief that it is the most important running invention of the last decade. However, for me it provided too much false hope. I'd have a great run on the Alter G and feel like I was ready to get back to training. Then, I'd go outside and blow up. This would not be a problem if access to the Alter G was more frequent and I could run on it every day. There are very few of these expensive machines in the city and understandably, the one at my PT's office is in high demand. That meant I was only getting a slot twice a week at best. I see no point in running twice a week. In fact, I think for me it's mentally tougher than not running at all. So, I stopped signing up for it.
There are several schools of thought on how to add running back into the routine when recovering from IT Band Syndrome. Some say to simply run through it. Others say just to run really fast for all of your runs. And others say not to run at all. I don't think any of these theories is wrong. But like everything else surrounding this injury, there are a number of right answers. Running through it was not an option for me. When it flared up, it hurt to the point that my gait was severely altered and then it hurt for the rest of the day. My attempts to start running again have all started at 30 minutes and would include running on back to back days, which I now know is too ambitious. For the next couple of weeks, my runs won't last longer than 20 minutes. While it is not even enough time to get your heart rate up, it is allowing the body to adjust. With no races whatsoever on the calendar, I can take as long as I want to build back to base mileage.
I am not going to say when I hope to be doing workouts again. I don't even have a time frame in my head because it's not up to me.
I wrote this entire blog while listening to the new Smashing Pumpkins album, "Oceania" streaming on YouTube. It's decent, but not worth buying.