Balance and Focus

We are getting very excited for the Hurricane JEM all trail marathon and 16.5 mile race this Saturday. I am registered to run the 16.5 miler so I’ve been training hard. If you haven’t read the story about my relationship with running I am relatively new to running since I originally designed Unshoes as a minimal hiking/general outdoor recreation sandal. I haven’t ever run as far as 16 miles and so I decided to train pretty hard to get ready for the race. With this in mind I set out one day to go further than I had ever gone and try a good long run. Everything was going well and I knew that I was going to run at least 12 miles that day. The weather was nice and I had a smile on my face. Around mile 8 my knee started to feel a little bit tight but I was already out of town and thought that I just needed to keep going and it would subside. It didn’t take long for that tightness to turn into pain. Soon I was limping. Before I started running barefoot and in minimal footwear I had knee pain after a mile so in comparison I am doing well. Regardless of that thought I was pretty disappointed. After all, I’m not supposed to get injured running barefoot right? I analyzed my form and began to wonder if I was over extending my legs. Maybe I wasn’t bending my knees enough when I ran. Now my knee feels much better and I’ve been strengthening the muscles which support it. Needless to say, I’m not going to be able to run in the race this Saturday. :(

After doing some research it became clear that my knee pain was a result of my IT band. Anyone who has suffered ITBS knows that it can be a beast to deal with. One of the most common causes of ITBS is weakness in the glutes. When I read this I suddenly realized that I’ve been having a small pain in my glutes where my leg connects. Literally, a pain in the butt! It all started to make sense. I have now learned my lesson in listening to my body. It has been trying to warn me for a few months now. That little pain was telling me that there was something lacking there. It turns out that since I’ve been so focused on running further and further that I have neglected any other strengthening activities. I’ve always had a very wide variety of physical activities and I got a good balance of strengthening until now. Part of the problem is that I’m so busy working that I don’t have much time for other activities. Running is nice because I can just go out the door and run. It doesn’t require traveling anywhere. I also justify running as “work related”.

The moral of the story is that although it’s good to focus and train hard on a goal, you still need a balance. I think this is true in all aspects of life. Yes, it’s disappointing that I won’t be able to run in the race this weekend and that I need to back off in mileage for a while. On the other hand it is truly awesome to me that our bodies have the ability to stop us from destroying ourselves as long as we listen. This injury has refreshed my perspective and helped me remember how much I enjoy other physical activities. Now that I don’t feel the pressure to gain a certain amount of mileage in a short time I can just have fun when I workout.

There are many ways to get a well balanced work out. Some activities/programs that encourage a balanced work out include: yoga, dancing, martial arts, parkour, MovNat, swimming, rock climbing, etc.

About unshoes

Creator and designer of Unshoes minimal footwear.
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6 Responses to Balance and Focus

  1. Ludo says:

    I know it’s easier to write than to do but ITBS usually comes from bad running form.
    If you were to use your glutes for what they are intended to, you wouldn’t feel any ITBS pain.
    I found this out the hard while training for NYC marathon 2 years ago.
    I had the chance to meet and talk to Eric Orton (running coach of Christopher McDougall prior to the Copper Canyon race) and this video helped me understanding it what I was doing wrong:

    Good luck with recovery! Rest and walks help but understanding the reason why it caused pain is the key to recovery.

    • unshoes says:

      I’ve been a little bit suspicious that something in my form is off. I am not heel striking or anything extreme like that. I think that the problem is that I’ve been over compensating for something else and so my stride is not even if that makes sense. I’ve noticed that my left foot spends more time on the ground during my stride than my right foot does. I need to find a method to help me keep a smooth rhythm in my stride.

  2. C. Beth says:

    I have had IT band injuries for a long time, and about 4 months ago I finally decided to stop running and start walking, to let it heal. Well, it’s taking a lot longer than expected. :) I might be able to speed up the healing by going back to a wonderful physical therapist who helped get me past my pain last year, so that I could run 2 successful half marathons.

    But for now, I’m just giving it time. One of the awesome things about this is that I’ve learned to really appreciate WALKING…slowing down. I needed to slow down, for not just my physical health but also my spiritual health. I’m looking forward to running again but for now, I’m appreciating what the break is doing for me!

    Good luck with yours…. Just listen to that body. My injured IT band wouldn’t have been NEARLY as bad if I hadn’t attempted to run further than I should have, with it bothering me.

    • unshoes says:

      C. Beth,
      I actually read up on your IT band posts on the BRS website. That’s when I figured out what was actually happening. I feel like I have caught it early enough that I’ll be able to continue running but with MUCH less milage and more recovery. The things you and others wrote there have been very helpful to me so thank you! It is interesting how sometimes “setbacks” in life can turn beneficial with the right attitude like your experience with walking. I’m glad that you have been able find something positive out of it all.

      • C. Beth says:

        Good for you! I’m really glad you’re cutting the mileage back now. My mistake was getting too confident. Sounds like you are catching yourself early so hopefully yours will heal more quickly than mine because you aren’t letting it get as bad as I did.

      • unshoes says:

        I sure hope that I caught it early enough!

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