When Pain Becomes an Injury. What Next?

By Jessica Green

Returning to running after pregnancy is hard . . . even 8 months postpartum. Pregnancy is one of many things that can seriously throw your body out of whack. Don't let life events damage your running career long term. Take control and see someone before it's too late.

If you're reading this, then chances are you enjoy running and you have a long term goal to run for the rest of your life. I share that long term goal with you, but over the last few months I've been wondering why my body feels like a 55 year old body rather than a 35 year old body.  More specifically, I was afraid to try new workout classes or do intense speed workouts for fear that sporadic aches and pains that I've been dealing with since the birth of my second daughter 8 months ago would manifest into full blown injuries.  And then it happened . . . I got injured after throwing caution to the wind and doing an intense stair workout.

After two weeks off from running, I felt new again, but deep down I knew my body wasn't whole. In reality it hasn't been whole since the birth of my first child almost 3 years ago. Despite a marathon PR 14 months after her birth, I've felt muscular imbalances and weaknesses since her arrival that didn't exist pre-pregnancy.  As time progressed, I began to wonder how these would effect me down the road. Unless I did something to address them, they would only get worse. I started worrying about how I will feel by the time I really am 55 and beyond? The answer wasn't pretty. 

The recent injury coupled with the same on again/off again aches and pains since my first childbirth led me to seek out a physical therapist this month who is as committed as I am to helping me fit the puzzle pieces of my body back together. To an outsider, I don't appear injured. I'm able to comfortably power up huge hills on the trails, complete interval workouts and enjoy long runs on the weekends. Dig a little deeper though and you will find major deficits in some areas of my legs and glutes as a result of compensation and lack of strength. As long as I don't do anything, the chances of more serious injuries and discomfort only increase down the road - and my body will feel older than it should!

The takeaway, if you find yourself with nagging aches and pains that don't necessarily stop you in your tracks, but do prevent you from engaging in certain activities or feeling 100%, then take some time to fix them! This doesn't mean you have to stop running. For me, this means making a plan with my physical therapist. I see her once a week - It's basically the same commitment as a weekly workout class.  I have had tremendous success with my physical therapists in the past for both rehabilitative work and preventative work. Good ones are worth every penny.

Don't have a physical therapist? Not all PT's are created equal. Ask around for recommendations and find one that you connect with. If you don't like the first one you go to, keep trying. You're not locked in. It took me a couple tries to find a new one after moving to Portland, OR from NYC and leaving my favorite PT behind. Yes, I miss you Erica Meloe!

I'm not necessarily thankful for my injury, but I am thankful that it inspired me to take control of my body and reminded me that the more I "enable" my imbalances and weaknesses the more I throw off my game and limit myself in the future. I'm also thankful for these two little rugrats despite the chaos they imparted on my body!

My new long term goal? To feel 35 when I'm 55, not the other way around!



Planning for Postpartum Running

Jessica & Little Birds

Jessica & Little Birds

Today @ 38 weeks

Today @ 38 weeks

Little Bird onesie!

Little Bird onesie!

Life is about to change yet again for this Hot Bird as I prepare the arrival of our second little bird on or around September 30th! I can’t wait to meet the little one, but I also can’t wait be able to move again.

As anyone who’s been pregnant knows, these final weeks are the most grueling. You are uncomfortable, anxious and ready to reclaim your body. Additionally, like a lot of people will tell you, the second time around has been a little bit tougher on my body. When it comes to exercise, I had to stop pretty much all impact related activity (including running) beginning at the end of June due to what I call an unhappy right hip/pelvis.

Since then I’ve become an “avid” swimmer only to be lapped quite frequently by women more than twice my age.  It’s kept me sane and in shape, but I am literally counting the days until I get to trade in my swim cap for my running shoes and hit the trails again. 

This is a dangerous time though because it’s easy to forget that I will not only be recovering from labor and delivery, but also from 9 months of growing a baby (and an unhappy hip). All that extra weight and the crazy hormones cause changes to your body that don’t bounce back as quickly as the size of your uterus (which shrinks back up to it’s original size, not tone, in around 6-8 weeks postpartum).  As a result, I have to remind myself that although my body will be baby free by the beginning of October, it won’t be until 2016 when I start to feel whole again on the trails. 

So, it’s time to set realistic goals for my postpartum return. I encourage other expecting runners to do the same. As my guideline, I will follow the advice I provided in my Trail Runner article, “Returning to the Trails After Pregnancy.” In this article, I remind expecting mothers and newly postpartum runners that it’s best to hold off from running for at least 6 weeks. During this time you should work on reconnecting with your core and realigning your center of gravity. Stick to low impact activities and rather than intensity, set goals for frequency. Begin to figure out how exercise fits into your new schedule.

Once ready to start running again, it is essential to avoid overdoing it. Believe me, this is hard, but patience pays off. If you want a race to motivate you through your recovery, choose one that gives you ample time to build back up. Since I’m due at the end of September, I’m looking at a mid to late spring half that I can train for and feel strong about without feeling like I’m pressed for time or racing to get to the starting line feeling ready. This worked really well last time.

After the birth of my daughter two years ago, I waited 6 weeks full weeks to run, then enjoyed two months of running without stressing about my mileage, my time or how I felt. During this time I truly soaked up the ability to run and feel good about it before worrying about how fast or long I was running. By springtime, I was feeling strong. Then, in the fall, a year after my first birth, I PR’d the NYC marathon with a 3:16 finish (6 minutes faster than my previous best).  I credit this success to my patience and a slow, safe return to running postpartum. It is in these final weeks of pregnancy and the weeks immediately following my delivery that I will need to remember this!

Post-Pregnancy Lunges

By Jessica Green

Ask any fitness professional for recommended exercises to do post-pregnancy when returning to running and they are most likely going to include Clock Lunges as part of a suggested routine. This is because after pregnancy it's especially important to rebuild hip and pelvis stability.

Clock lunges improve hip stability PLUS ankle and knee stability while moving through all planes of motion. So, while these lunges improve stablity in the hips after pregnancy, they also help develop overall balance, activation and mobility for key running musculature. This is especially important for injury prevention and returning to running with proper strength and trunk support after carrying your baby for 9 months. Whether you gave birth a few months ago or over a year ago, considering adding clock lunges into your strength routine a couple times a week.

1. Imagine you are standing in the center of the face of a clock.
2. Keeping your right foot planted, step forward to “12 o’clock” with your left foot, reaching your arms forward at shoulder height at the same time.
3. Push off the left foot and bring your feet back together.
4. Continue lunging and reaching counter-clockwise around the clock with your left foot. Try to get at least 7 lunges in. Repeat 3 times around with each foot.

* Make sure to warm up with some dynamic stretching for at least a few minutes before doing this exercise. Do not do these exercises until you are cleared by a medical professional to start exercising.