Training Update: Pain and Frustration

7 03 2010

Those of you have check out the Marathon tab on the SoapBox know that I have been training these past few months to get back in shape and attempt a marathon in the fall. I figured I’d give updates on the main page every once in awhile to give a little insight beyond the information I provide elsewhere.

Training was going pretty good up until about two weeks ago. Up until then, I was running 3-5 times a week, usually 3 miles at a time with a few longer runs. I did my running at the university’s tennis complex, which is a short drive from my house. The complex was built for the tennis team, and to have an indoor turf area, but they also have a gym area with cardio machines and free weights, which students can use if they have a recreation pass. I bought a pass after coming back from christmas break, because I knew I wouldn’t be too motivated to go running in the sub-zero weather of Iowa in January.

Everything was going fine until about two weeks ago, when the constant running on a treadmill started to have an adverse affect on my body. Previously, I had always been an outdoor runner. I felt like I pushed myself more when I ran outdoors, and it wasn’t as easy to become bored. The weeks upon weeks of the flat, unforgiving treadmill didn’t help my knees or my shins. I started to get shin splints every time I ran. For those of you who haven’t experienced shin splints, they are excruciating. After a run, it feels like someone is squeezing both sides of your shin bone and attempting to pull it off your leg. It makes it painful to put any weight on your legs, even to walk.

For the first week of my shin splints nightmare, I just kept running. It would be painful for the first half-mile or so, and then my legs would kind of numb out until I was done with my run. But then, as soon as I hopped off the treadmill, the splints would come back and I’d limp out to my car so I could drive home and pop some ibuprofen. I thought that I could just run through the pain, that it would eventually go away. And, I knew that soon it’d be warm enough for me to take my training outdoors, where the splints would hopefully disappear.

Finally, this past Thursday, the temperature was nearly 40 degrees, and I got ready for my first outdoor run of 2010. I started out on a 3 mile route, a simple loop that would take me down Benton Street to Mormon Trek, then down Mormon to Melrose, where I could loop back to Benton on Sunset and be right back home. I’d run the route several times in the fall of 2009, and knew it had a good mix of hills, which I thought would be a pleasant change from the flat monotony of a treadmill.

I had some brief pain in my legs as I started out, but it quickly subsided, and I thought I was in luck. However, about a mile and a half into the run (right near the top of the Mormon Treak hill), my legs started to cramp up and hurt. I stopped at the top of the hill to stretch out my legs. I don’t ever normally stop in the middle of the run, I usually just convince myself to run through it. But the pain was pretty bad, so I thought stretching could ease it enough to get me through the 3 miles. After stretching I started down the hill toward Melrose and realized my mistake. My brief stop had been enough for my body to think I was done running, and the shin splints hit. They were worse than ever, and I had to stop moving after only about 50 feet. I kept walking, but the pain gripped my legs so hard that I couldn’t walk very quickly at all. I shuffled down to the bottom of the hill, knowing that I was already halfway through the loop and had to keep moving forward to get home. I tried a few strides at a slow jog, but it was too much and I winced to halt. Swallowing my pride, I knew that all I could do was limp the last mile home.

It was insanely painful and incredibly embarrassing, but I limped my way up Melrose to Sunset, then back down to Benton. It took me a good 45 minutes to go that 1 mile, mostly because the sidewalks on Melrose were completely covered in leftover snow and ice. The last thing I wanted to do was slip and fall on my already unsteady legs, so it was slow-going through those areas.

I haven’t been running since then. Friday was my scheduled day off from the gym, so I rested my legs. Saturday, I was supposed to do a 5 mile run, but I couldn’t talk myself into, and had a packed schedule to boot. I’ve decided to go back to the gym on Monday, and to do my cardio work on an elliptical instead of a treadmill. The elliptical machines are easier on your legs, so I’m hoping using them will allow me to rest my legs a bit before trying to run outdoors again. Next week, I travel to Mexico for Spring Break with my family. I’m hoping that after a week of lighter workouts, I’ll be able to get back to running in Mexico, but I might take that week to shift my workout focus towards some light lifting and swimming. It’s kind of touch-and-go right now, but I’m hoping that when I get back from spring break, I can get over these shin splints and get back into a steady running routine.

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