Running is great, learning to run long distances is challenging and can place new strains on your body. As you increase distance your body begins to adapt to running, while this is good for some areas like building cardio fitness and leg stamina, there comes a point where running will begin to shorten your muscles and tighten other areas of tissue.
I was training for my first half marathon last year, when 3 weeks before the event I experienced extreme knee pain. I was running hills at the time and had never experienced this before. I got to roughly 8km and could not take the pain anymore. I stopped and walked back to the car, very despondent about my situation.
I booked straight into see my physio, who went through a bunch of tests, finally diagnosing me with a tight IT band. Basically this band of tough fibres run along the outside of the thigh – from the glute muscles along the outside of the thigh and attach to the tibia just below the knee. It works as a stabilizer when running, and helps the knee to track properly. When this tissue becomes tight it can pull out of alignment and cause rubbing – hence the pain, for me I felt this in the knee.
I saw the physio 3 – 4 times a week for 3 weeks prior to my race last year… This was expensive but worth every penny to relieve the pain and complete my goal. My physio also gave me one piece of equipment that I use all the time now before and after runs to make sure that I can work the IT band out myself and prevent any issues in the future. The magic piece of equipment is my foam roller.
Honestly I have a love / hate relationship with my blue roll of foam. I have a link below that shows you how to use a foam roller for the IT band from the runners world website. Personally I use this dense foam roll in a number of ways to work through my lower body. I use it to release my IT Bands, Hammies and Glute Muscles.
Honestly It hurts like hell to work out the tightness, but I know that it is releasing the muscles and fibres – allowing my body to stay supple and ready for the next run. A few minutes of rolling is a small price to pay for preventing injuries and stopping me reaching my goals. I try to roll out most days, but always after a run, sometimes both before and after plus I stretch out several times over the day and often for up to 15 – 20mins after my extended runs.
So if you are upping your kilometres, or increasing the number of runs you do each week; consider talking to your physio about options for stretches, foam rolling and yoga to avoid muscle tightness that can impacting on running. An ounce of prevention is worth it when you consider the alternatives 🙂
Stay supple, till next time – Lin