The Diagnosis: Strained Gluteus Medius (a.k.a. A Pain In The Butt)

8 miles at warp speed on the Alter G—engage!

The fix: Cancelling my marathon plans and diving head first into rehab. (Cue: Amy Whinehouse, “They tried to make me go to rehab.”)

I mentioned last week that my marathon training wasn’t going well. I’d been plagued with pain, and I was debating whether to push through and run the marathon anyway. To help me make the best possible choice for my body and future running, I made an appointment with physical therapist extraordinaire Michael Conlon at Finish Line PT. I picked him for three reasons: 1. He and Michael K. Farrell are buddies. 2. He takes my insurance. 3. He has the most adorable golden retriever, Miles, who sometimes hangs out in the office. (I’m a sucker for a cute pup!)

After a thorough evaluation that involved me standing on one leg and leaning awkwardly in several precarious directions, doing moves reminiscent of a hula dancer, and getting a torturous psoas massage, Michael diagnosed the problem: left gluteus medius strain. (I would like to formally apologize to my hip. I’ve been complaining about the poor thing for weeks, when it was a broke-down butt muscle causing the problem the entire time.)

I didn’t decide to cancel my marathon plans right away. Nope, instead I attempted to run a half marathon four days after being diagnosed. I dropped out when the pain set in at mile three—my first, and hopefully last, DNF…did not finish. I cried the whole walk home and I didn’t even feel better when a plate of banana and Nutella crepes showed up in front of me.

My legs are in outer space and my head is in Shasta County, California—I’m watching game wardens bust poachers on NatGeo’s Wild Justice.

I’ll be spending time with Michael at Finish Line PT for the next 4 to 6 weeks. I’m pretty bummed about not running the NYC marathon in November, but the gadgets in this high-tech treatment center should keep me distracted. And I still get to run—at 75 percent body weight on an Alter G treadmill! It’s not Central Park, but at least I don’t have to completely cut running out of my life.

Have you ever run on an Alter G treadmill? What’s your “pain in the butt” running story?

Penny For My Thoughts (That’ll be $456,982, please.)

Almost smiling! Brightroom captured me thinking happy thoughts at the finish.

Sometimes I have moments of incredible clarity when I pound the pavement and I’m able come up with answers for everything—including the solution to world hunger (Hint: It involves entomophagy). On other runs, I don’t think about anything at all and I get into a peaceful zone that feels like a full-body smile. Sadly, I didn’t achieve either of those mental states in Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon this past weekend.

Everything that popped into my head last Saturday felt negative. And that bad energy caused me to concentrate on all the wrong things—namely, an achiness in my hips. I had to think past the race just to get to the finish line. Around the 7-mile marker, I reminded myself that as soon as I got through this half marathon, I could focus on my next endurance challenge, hiking in the Himalaya.

I was in a just-get-through-this state of mind, and I’m a little bummed about that now. I don’t know why I didn’t pay more attention to the positive aspects of that race: the camaraderie of fellow runners out to have a good time, the cheerful volunteers who shared their morning, the shout outs from friends on the course.

This isn’t the first time my head has sabotaged what should have been a really fun experience. I was clouded by negative thoughts during the Boston Marathon back in April, too. And I’m wondering if my mental funk is a sign of something bigger. Or, more likely, maybe I’m over-thinking everything.

What’s on your mind when you’re running? What helps you stay positive during a race?

My Hips Are Working Harder Than My Backside

Grete’s Great Gallop, Here I Come!

My left hip flexor is angry today and I’m not sure if it’s from the Cat Hill repeats I did last night or walking around my neighborhood in hiking boots (those suckers are heavy!). Either way, I know from experience that this is a sign of a weak butt and lazy hamstring muscles.

I’ll admit it—I’ve been slacking off on the strength work. I used to squeeze in a few moves post-run, but there’s been a severe lack of lunges and squats in my life lately. When your glutes and hamstrings fail to engage while you’re running, your quads end up doing all the work and in turn start to rely on your hip flexors for help, causing them to strain. The last time I let strength work slide, my hip flexor became inflamed and impinged, and I was sidelined for over a month.

Hopefully, I can get through tomorrow’s half marathon without my hip flexor throwing any tantrums. Post race I’m getting off my butt and getting it (and my hamstrings) back in shape with a squat-heavy regimen and some moves from FitSugar.

How strong is your butt? Do you incorporate strength moves into your weekly workout routine? 

Big News: I Canceled My Entry In The New York City Marathon

Bigger news: I applied for a visa to Nepal. Even bigger news: I’m going to Mt. Everest.

I’m not going all the way to the top—my nose is too cute to risk losing to frostbite, but I will be embarking on a 37-day trek to Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit in one month (from yesterday). I have a lot to do between now and then: Organize my gear, break in some hiking boots (I’ve already gotten some funny looks while walking the dog in them), buy a headlamp, figure out if I need a new waterproof jacket, read a guide book or two… I’m excited! And I’m looking forward to sharing my adventure here with you, blogging as often as I can from the trails.

In the meantime, Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon is this weekend. Even though I’m no longer using this race as a marathon tune-up, I’m planning to run strong. I fell off the workout wagon last week because of a chest cold, but I’m feeling better now and I think I can still aim to do well—and hopefully PR—this Saturday.

Are you running a fall marathon? Have you ever been to the Himalaya?

(Fun fact: There is no such thing as Himalayas. The correct term is Himalaya, which means “the abode of snow.”)