One of the first questions I’ll ask a client who’s presenting muscular pain is, ‘Have you done anything differently recently that might have caused it?’
So when I started getting a sharp pain down the back of my right thigh it didn’t take me long to work out why. I’d recently increased the length (by five minutes) and regularity (from one to two/three times a week) of my run. The increase hadn’t been a chore. I have Arthur’s Seat on my doorstep with wonderful views of the coastline and across Edinburgh. Yet, I hadn’t experienced this kind of pain in my leg before. I’ve had clients who have. In those cases it was piriformis syndrome, the sharp pain caused by the piriformis muscle pressing against the sciatic nerve.
So I made an appointment with my massage therapist. In the session she focussed on the hamstring muscles and it did the trick as I’ve only had the odd twinge since. However I know that I need to take care so it doesn’t flare up again. I’d previously managed on a minimal warm up / cool down routine and my new run clearly was a step too far. Now I’m doing more although the time spent on the cool down varies!
My experience made me think about what cardio exercise I’d do if I couldn’t run. I love being outside, seeing the different seasons come and go across Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park and beyond. I know how important it is to have a varied fitness routine so it’s not just the same muscles getting the work out. During my run I try to include some side stepping so that those neglected leg and hip muscles also get a work out (I don’t manage this every time as I feel slightly self-conscious doing it!). The other fitness I like doing is boxing at Holyrood Boxing Gym, which is a great work out, but I can’t go as often as I’d like. I realise that I need to look after my legs!
There is much talk about the benefit of massage for runners. Some claims (that it can flush out toxins and lactic acid) remain unfounded, however research backs claims that it breaks down adhesions between muscle and fascia, which restricts muscle movement, and reduces DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). It’s definitely helped me by relieving the pain that would have stopped me running.
I’ve got a feeling my running routine may change again now that the colder months are upon us. 😉