Committing to Strength Training

I have known for a long time that I have weak hips and glutes. When I lived in Greenville, my riding and running buddies were mostly physical therapists. Having PT friends is a huge perk for an endurance athlete (read: free injury screening), but they also provided regular (gentle) criticism of my form and solutions to fix it. The catch? Solutions = hard work. At the time, this wasn’t work that I was ready to commit to doing. Why? Because I felt like I didn’t need it. I had never been injured and ran relatively low mileage, therefore my weaknesses weren’t causing problems.

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PT Runner Buddies. And a cow.

But two summers ago, in the midst of 70.3 training, I started to have some discomfort in my right hip. My PT friend Jenni is a hip specialist so she took a look at it. She said it was just a knot in my glute that I could work through with self massage, tennis ball sitting and {to treat the underlying cause} strength training. I halfheartedly did some strength training with Jenni a few times after Master’s swimming. It made me so sore that I stopped. The hip discomfort was intermittent and I found that a few sessions with a tennis ball would loosen the knot and I was good to go.

When I started training for Eugene and increased my mileage, that innocent knot started to become more troublesome. I started having chronic glute and hamstring tightness and discomfort. It was never anything that kept me from running and monthly massages kept it under control, but it got to the point where I didn’t really know what it was like to run without some nagging discomfort.

Once I moved to Chicago, I started doing ART, dry needling and Graston regularly and also dabbled a little bit more into the strength training exercises given to me by my new PT. By this point, I had mild chronic high hamstring tendinitis, but I was still more interested in treating symptoms rather than the underlying cause. Then at some point last fall, I started paying more attention to pictures like this:

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Terrible face. Worse form.

And this…

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Side view of the collapsed hip.

And FINALLY everything my PT friends and current PT had been saying resonated.

After NYC, I had one thing on my mind…Boston. And I wanted to do everything possible to prepare to have an amazing training cycle and race on April 21st. That included improving my lower body weakness. Between my PT suggestions, internet research and talking to others who had similar issues, I came up with a routine that works for me. (If you are interested, you can check out any of my weekly recaps where I include links to everything I am doing.)

Last weekend in NYC was the first chance I got to see how the strength work was progressing (in pictures at least).

Hip comparisonIt is a little bit hard to see with the watermarks and in tights, but there is definitely some improvement. The picture on the far right was at mile 17-19 and my form was completely deteriorating. My knee is collapsed but it still looks like my hips are more level than from the shots in 2013.

I have definitely learned a lot through this whole process and have made adjustments as I go. I am 100% still a work in progress, but in case anyone else is still in that “I know I need to change, but am not ready to commit” phase, I thought I would share some of what I have learned:

  • There is no instant gratification. In my mind, as soon as I started strength training, my form was going to miraculously improve (um, no). According to my PT, it takes 6-8 weeks for any changes to truly manifest. I have now been doing regular exercises for a solid 16 weeks and I still have a long way to go (see above picture).
  • Once I committed to “pre-hab”, it became part of my routine. I am now finally to the point where a 15 min round of strength exercises before any tempo or speed work is “normal”. Bonus is that my legs feel much better during workouts if I warm up with these first.
  • I added my strength training plan to my training calendar along with my runs. On Sundays when I get my workouts from Coach, I plan my strength work for the week around it. It took a little while to find a good balance, but I have a routine that works now. If I miss a workout, I color the box red on my spreadsheet. My Type-A perfectionist brain doesn’t like to see red, so it is a good motivator.
  • I have to make time. When I was traveling for 3 weeks straight, my strength training suffered. I would be in a hurry to get out the door for a run and skip it in favor of miles. I still need to commit to waking up 15 min earlier in those situations and just get it done.
  • Power Yoga is strength training. I go to hot vinyasa classes at a studio that I love and I 100% consider this strength training. When I hold a warrior II or chair pose for 8 breaths, you can bet that I am building my lower body strength.
  • Yoga has also helped my core strength. I despise doing ab work and as a result my core was just as week as my glutes and hips. I have found that consistently doing power yoga classes 2-3 times a week where there is not only dedicated core work, but constant attention to the core, has helped immensely. I can now complete core sessions that I could only do half of when I first started. And all of a sudden (really…that’s how it felt) I started to be able to get into poses that I couldn’t before, especially arm balances that require a ton of core stabilization.
  • I still get sore! It is bizarre to me that no matter how many weeks in a row that I do this workout, I am still sore. Every.Damn.Time. I suppose it is similar to running in that it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. I definitely can tell that I am able to control the movement and run through the exercises more steadily than when I first started. But darnit, I can’t wait until the day that I can do it without being sore the next day!
  • It’s working. Besides the little bit of feedback that I get from pictures, my body is also telling me that it is working. During NYC training, I would really only get relief from the nagging discomfort after a day off of running. It was just one of those things that I got used to. Now, despite being 13 weeks deep into marathon training, my hip and glute feels better than it has a long time. I still have to do my share of rolling and lacrosse ball sitting and if I sit in a car immediately after a workout, it will scream at me, but I don’t feel that annoying sensation constantly anymore. Also when I wear the Fastwitch, which are lighter shoes than I was in last fall and spring, it feels the best (better form?!).

Like I said, I am definitely still a work in process and I know that when I start triathlon training this summer, it will be tough to stay committed. But being able to run injury free and move from one training cycle to the next is 100% worth it.

 

About Corey

I am a 30-something swim, bike, run addict married to my best friend and in love with my two schnoodle doggies.
This entry was posted in Chicago, friends, Goals, Greenville, injuries, Races, running, Strength Training, training, work travel, Yoga. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Committing to Strength Training

  1. Jenny says:

    1. I love the picture montage. I know you put time and effort into that. #productive
    2. If we strengthen our grandma hips now, will we have grandma hips when/if we actually become grandmas??
    3. I would have skipped hip strength last week if you didn’t mention it. You da best!

  2. This is great! I definitely think your form looks better and its even more important that you can feel it. I really like strength training so I’ve been pretty consistent with it but during peak training it has taken a back burner. Im back on a dedicated plan now (P90x 3 – only 30 min a day which helps!) and feeling better already.

    Keep it up!!

    • Corey says:

      I have seen you tweet about the P90x 3. I am curious and looking forward to reading your thoughts about it as you get started. I feel like having something to commit to for 30 min. a day is definitely something that could work for me as well.

  3. Pingback: Friday Fun IX |

  4. erin says:

    Great post! I used to be a strength training fanatic (i.e. I CrossFitted seven days a week), but once I discovered tris, all strength fell by the wayside. Slowly learning to incorporate it back in to the schedule, though I still don’t do enough (10 push-ups – TEN! – last week, and my shoulders hurt for two days!). And, agreed… vinyasa yoga is absolutely strength training! Love me some time on my mat.

    Hope the last of your Boston training is going well!

  5. elizabeth says:

    i LOVE this!! I actually was going to comment on your form but deleted it in the post because I wasn’t sure if you thought I was crazy or not. 🙂 I tend to have the same problems with travel…and just told Molly this weekend I MUST squeeze in the 15 minutes to do it. Love the red on the training plan too. And, I still get sore. ALL the time. Guess that’s a good sign?

  6. Pingback: Proprioception and its Importance in Triathlon | Running with Memphis

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