An overdue visit to Physical Therapy

Two years is a long time to ignore a nagging tightness in my hamstring.  With a new year and new goals in my mind, it’s about time I face this issue.  So on my recent check-up, I finally requested for a consult from my doctor to see a physical therapist. After the doctor briefly examined my hamstring, she suggested I should take at least a week off from running.  I was a bit skeptical as this wasn’t the solution I wanted to hear.  Then she asked if I needed medication to lessen the ‘pain’…  Why are doctors so eager to prescribe meds instead of determining the real issue ?  I declined the offer but eagerly accepted the phone number to the Physical Therapy department to schedule an appointment.  The next day, I ignored her advice and went for a run.

Photographs from various races have clued me in on my muscle imbalances.  It’s been apparent for several years now. However, my inconsistencies with doing hip strength exercises has led to very little progress.  Observe the energy lost from the lateral movement of my hips (hip drop).  I can only imagine how much my running economy could improve if I successfully correct this issue.

Such poor form! 🙁

Two years ago while on a training run for NYC Marathon with a fast group of runners, I tweaked my right ankle that forced me to take a week off.  Then I started having issues with my hamstring.  A mild feeling of tightness was apparent after a hard run then went away with aggressive foam rolling and easy runs.  I continued to train after my ankle felt better and finished the marathon without issues.  In 2015, I tackled another fall marathon – the Marine Corps Marathon. Fortunately, it was another year of running with only minor injuries – foot/ankle and mild hamstring tightness.

This year I settled on running half-marathons so I can give my body a break from the rigorous miles of marathon training.  Although I ran less miles, I still placed a high demand on my body as I aspired to PR.  More foam rolling, strength training and the occasional massage kept me healthy enough to achieve a half-marathon PR.  With only a month left this year, I look ahead to what I want to accomplish in the years to come.  I plan to run another marathon in 2017 and run it well.  I want to qualify for Boston again in 2018 so I can go back to Boston in 2019 – a decade after I ran my first.  Big-time goals I know!

This hat wants to be replaced soon!

With that, I prefer my hamstring to be 100% and build enough strength in my hip stabilizers to reduce the significant hip drop.  Fingers crossed that with the help of a PT, my running form will improve.

When I went in for the initial assessment, the PT identified weakness in my hip stabilizers on both sides but more so on the right side.  I also have an issue with balance, worst while standing on my right leg.  Without addressing the weakness in my stabilizing muscles for years, it caused my hamstring to work harder over time and develop into a low grade strain.  Because it’s not bothersome when I run, I was cleared to continue training for the trail half.

I think part of the reason why I waited this long to see a PT was the fear of being told to stop running.  But since my PT is also an athlete, he understood my desire to continue to train.  However, I have to commit to do specific strengthening exercises 5x/week, 2x/day which I’ve managed to incorporate into my daily routine.  My physical therapist wants me to build a stable foundation first before he starts doing any hands-on manual therapy.  Hopefully the manual therapy will make the tightness eventually disappear.  It’s only been two weeks since my initial appointment and I know the healing process takes time.  In the meantime, I plan to finish my training for the upcoming trail half marathon, run the trail half without a time goal, and focus the rest of the year on strength training.

Has anyone done therapy for hamstring issues?  With those who have a significant hip drop, any strategies for correcting it while on a run?

I am connecting with Ilka and Angela for their Sunday Fitness and Food Link-up.

Also connecting with Holly and Tricia for their Weekly Wrap-up.  I enjoyed seeing your Panama City Half adventures!