Learning from a Pain in the Butt

I hated this picture. All I could see was my short, stubby legs instead of the dancer legs I'd like to have!
Maybe some more yoga!!

For the first time in a long time, I had a DNF (Did Not Finish) in my race this weekend. I had a foreboding of it last week when I tried twice to make the distance and didn’t make it either time. I have nagging hip pain that is, quite literally, tripping me up. I talked to Jessica about it, and we’ve been trying to baby it for a couple of weeks, but it doesn’t seem to be abating. After describing exactly where it’s located, she said it’s not my hip. It’s my piriformis and glute muscles. I literally have a pain in the butt. If you have one, too, you might check out this article.

I had a physical therapist look at it yesterday, and he stretched me out. He confirmed the issue and told me I needed to do bridges and clamshells to strengthen my glutes. I guess my sitting all day is beginning to take its toll. You’d think with all the running and stuff, it’d be enough, but I guess as I increased my distance, I needed more strength in my … well ... my ass. My first thought while I was at mile 2 yesterday – running way behind the field – was I’m quitting. I don’t know why I’m running anyway. I’m slow as Christmas. No matter what I do, I don’t get any faster, and now I hate it. This sucks. I should go back to doing yoga. At least I could do that. I’m wasting all my weekend mornings doing this, and I hate it…… I could go on and on, but you get the drift. I went down the rabbit hole.

I finally told my mind to stop it. I started walking and informed the next water station volunteers to let them know that I was the last one, and I was dropping out. It was a nice morning, and I just enjoyed a 4 mile walk with my dog. The nagging pain was an issue, but it wasn’t nearly as bad when walking, so we took a stroll. Once I decided to just enjoy the day and make decisions on whether or not I would ever run again later, I had a nice time. I started to think about what logically I should do to heal my injury and keep my running as part of my life. I don’t race for speed. I’m not fast. That would be a lose-lose situation. My main goals are to keep running for my health and for fun. To run with an injury defeats both of those purposes. So, I decided to can my half marathon on December 7th and focus on my butt strength and endurance to do the Louisiana Half Marathon in January. I’m already signed up, so this will give me ample time to get ready.

At one time in my life, I was an avid yoga practitioner. Yes, I could do all of that crazy stuff. I can tell you that I never felt better in my life. I really need to get back to it at some level. In the last week, I’ve practiced 5 of the last seven days first thing in the morning. I used to struggle with the discipline to practice every day when I taught and worked full time. I’d lay off and beat myself up for not having a daily practice. I told a teacher how disheartened I was about my lack of discipline. He told me with kindness, “That’s why we call it a practice.” It’s not an event or a mandatory performance. I’ve learned to incorporate that philosophy into my fitness, health and eating habits. I still beat myself up. I was pretty angry with myself for being such a “loser” to get a DNF on Saturday. I can go down that rabbit hole. But, if I get my sanity back, and sometimes it takes talking to my trainer to shift my thinking, I usually get it that it’s not how I perform on a daily basis, it’s the idea that I keep coming back to it.

Every time something like this happens, I learn something from it. I’m very happy that I have been injury-free since I started running again in 2004. But, this is the first year that I’ve tried to run straight through without walk breaks. It may not work for me, and I’m okay with that. Or it may be that I have to increase distance more slowly when I’m not taking walk breaks. Or, maybe I just need to do more strength-training for my glutes which really come into play when I run longer distances. If I look at it as a learning opportunity and don’t push beyond just to make myself do it, then there is value in it. I learned that from my marathon. I had bad runs. With every race, I had at least one really bad run. My coach back then encouraged us to learn from it and not let it discourage us. If there’s nothing we could pinpoint as the problem, then just let it go.

I know there are athletes who push through pain in order to perform better. They are athletes who compete. I’m not doing it for that reason. Would I love to stand on a podium one day and win a medal for winning a race? Of course I would, but I never well. It’s in the acceptance of that reality that I get freedom to set other goals.

My goals are to:

  • Live a healthy lifestyle and stay healthy as long as I can.
  • Enjoy good-tasting, high quality food.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stay in good physical shape to enjoy hiking, kayaking and other outdoor activities without injury.
  • Choose social fitness activities as much as possible.

If I look at that list, I don’t see speed on that list anywhere. But, I do see a need to put yoga back into my schedule. I also may need to re-vamp my weekend activities to spend some time on other pursuits besides running. Maybe I’ve gotten a little heavy on that one thing. I guess I need to talk to Jessica about that. Maybe some changes are in store thanks to my pain in the ass. See, I’m learning already! Best pain in the ass I’ve ever had!

9 Comments on “Learning from a Pain in the Butt

  1. Beautiful Sharon! We can definitely restructure your training to fit those goals 🙂 and those goals are right in line with a forever approach to active living – much better than the hurried approach to racing!

  2. Sharon, I hope you get over your pain in the butt soon! Sounds like you have a solid plan of action (and rest). You are doing yoga even when you are not doing your asana….you are a yogini all the way through. xo

  3. I have the same problem. I was in therapy for a few months but that just took the edge off. I finally learned to run with the pain, though it has lessoned over time.
    Most of my pains do go away over time, but this one is hanging on. Sitting on the damaged area all day is certainly no help.
    I’m doing bridges and other glute and hamstring exercises in hopes that strengthening will help with the healing.
    Talk about a literal pain in the ass!

  4. I had piriformis pain for probably 6 months last year. I found a lot of relief with foam rolling both my glutes and my quads. I also kept a hard rubber ball in my desk drawer and would try to unobtrusively roll around on it a couple of times a day at work. These days, I’m pain free, and I try to loosen it up after all my long runs – lucky for me my husband’s truck bumper is just the right height to hit the pressure point, although I do get some pretty strange looks from passers-by 🙂

    Good luck finding a new balance between your running, yoga and other healthy interests. Isn’t it amazing how much we can still do with our strong bodies when we take care of them?

    • Yes, it is amazing! I couldn’t believe how it responded when I trained for my first marathon at 48. Thanks for the ideas. I’m going to find a rubber ball for my office.

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