Before You Quit, Do Your HOMEWORK
Sunday, March 27, 2016
I love running, and I now weigh 230 pounds. I got stressed out over the last few months, and at some point I gave up on everything. Getting my eating under control is really hard for me, but I have a better attitude about exercise. I've been able to make it to the gym on a reasonable schedule to lift, but I only do that a few times a week, and it doesn't seem to help me as much as cardio for weight management. (Oh, but then, again, look at how much better my arms look and feel! It's totally worth it, and it relaxes me for days!) So, I have been trying to get back to running, at least on the weekends.
But weekend running is problematic when I don't make time to run at all during the week. It puts my body into a constant state of beginning again, when I am most likely to get hurt. So, a few weeks ago, I pulled my hamstring, which meant I sat out running again last weekend. I almost accepted defeat and quit due to the weight gain, but I decided to try it one last time yesterday and try a new stretching technique. And, I think it worked!
Let's backtrack. After a few days of being in pain and learning the hard way that my hamstrings are connected to my knees, hips and even shoulders and neck, I turned to youtube for some instruction on how to stretch hamstrings. After doing some full body stretches that did not really help, I came across some videos that made me think of my muscles differently. I came across an explanation that compared muscles to balloons. When you injure a muscle, it is like putting tape on a balloon. It's not the same material, and it is more rigid, creating a different set of problems. To fully recover, you have to break down the muscle so it is soft again. That's why massage helps.
After buying into this understanding of things, I started looking for different stretches. I found one that involved sitting on a small ball (and moving the ball down the muscle to create tension) and stretching out my leg. I put the ball under my butt, right where my hamstring begins. I straightened my leg. It didn't feel any different from other hamstring stretches. I moved the ball down a few inches and tried again. It felt OK. I slid it down a few more inches, and it got a bit more challenging. I could see my knee start to tremble. Then, I slid it down a few more inches, and I could barely lift my knee. It really hurt as I forced that particular part of my hamstring to do the work. I slid the ball down a few more inches: not as bad. Finally, close to my knee, annoying, but not painful. I did the same exercise on my other leg, but it was smoother and easier, no pain. Then, I did it a second time on the first leg. It still hurt, but I was able to get more mobility out of my knee this time. I did some other hamstring stretches, I felt like my legs were more even.
So, when I ran yesterday, I took the ball with me. I ran a very slow 3 miles. I felt my hamstrings totally tense up and I felt a bit defeated in anticipation of a painful week. I sat down on a bench and did the ball stretches on the leg that always bothers me. It was hard to get that same part of my muscle to stretch out, but I worked through it. When I got up, I felt good, and I am ready to run again this morning.
Moral of the story: Don't quit before you do your homework! I was ready to tell myself that I could not run because of my weight, but people add on extra weight to work out all of the time. My heart and lungs are strong and can run with extra weight. My weight wasn't the problem: my hamstrings were. I did my homework on the actual problem, and I learned how to fix it. Sometimes you do not have to fix everything, just one thing. The challenge is to sort through the information and try things out until you figure out what is truth for you.