This post is a part of my series, Tips for New Runners. It is based entirely on my own experiences as a new runner and may be missing a lot of information. This series is intended to help my readers find what works for them by sharing what worked or didn’t work for me.
I am very fortunate that in the short time I’ve been a runner I have yet to experience a serious injury. I firmly believe that following the Galloway method was largely responsible for that, but my own caution and attitude certainly helped. The two problems I have had were some minor foot pain and a minor to moderate issue with my right IT Band. Both were fairly easy to manage.
My feet, but especially my right foot, tend to stiffen up and become painful. They’ve always been this way and I’ve found that wearing good shoes with lots of arch support makes a big difference. When I started running, however, it became a little more pressing of an issue until a friend of mine recommended that I get a Foot Rubz ball. It’s a very firm little ball with nubbins protruding from it that you put it on the floor & roll back and forth under your foot. If you haven’t used it, or if you’ve tried a squishier version, you’d be surprised at just how effective it is. I usually wait a while after my long runs for the swelling in my feet to go down, and then I set it down and use it to work the stiffness out of my feet. My right foot usually pops several times, accompanied by a sensation of extreme relief. I keep my Foot Rubz ball in my purse or bag and use it any time my feet start to stiffen up, usually 5 out of every 7 days. My local running store sells these delightful little items for about $7 and it was worth every penny and then some.
IT Band Issues are no fun. Many, many runners have IT band problems at some point during their training and some get so bad that they have to take a break from training for a while. Not everyone seems to experience IT Band pain in exactly the same way, so if you’re having knee or leg pain and aren’t sure what it is, see your doctor or PT as soon as you can. In my case it was pretty obvious to me, from the way my knee felt like it was being pulled upward, that my IT Band was the trouble.
I did some reading and experimenting, and tried out the foam roller at our running store and bought one lickety-split. From that point forward I rolled my IT Band pretty frequently. At first it hurt like the dickens, but the more I rolled it, the less it hurt. I started to roll knots out of the fronts of my thighs as well, and that also seemed to help quite a bit. One day, I had the weirdest experience. As I lay on my foam roller, the knot just above my knee began to loosen as normal and then just suddenly melted completely. It felt SO weird! Afterward, my leg felt looser and better than it had in ages. I’m really, really glad I started using my foam roller when I did. I am not sure I would have finished my marathon training without it.
After buying my foam roller, I found Youtube to be a great resource for figuring out how to use it. Search for whichever type of rolling or stretching you’re looking for and check out multiple videos on that technique. Not all of the videos for rolling the IT band mention that once you find a knot you should stop rolling and sit on that knot for a while (recommendations vary from 10 to 60 seconds). It can be pretty painful to do that, but that pain is a sign that you really need to release that knot.
The night before the marathon I learned about a possible contributor to my IT Band problems. That night, Jeff Galloway, who was in town to run the Missoula Marathon, held a special motivational talk just for those of us who had taken the Galloway class. A number of runners mentioned IT Band issues and it was actually his wife who spoke up to ask us if we always ran on the same side of the road, which we all agreed was pretty accurate. It turns out that the camber of the road can contribute to IT Band problems and that one solution is to stop always running on the same side of the road. Oddly enough, the next day as I ran the marathon itself, I realized that the course kept us mostly on the side of the road I generally didn’t run on. Afterwards, my IT Band was not nearly as tight as it was after most of my training runs. Now I try to switch sides and vary the surfaces I run on and I haven’t been having much trouble at all.
If you’re having any sort of recurring pain that doesn’t go away, do some research and consider visiting your doctor. While it’s very true that new runners will have little aches and pains as their muscles grow and become stronger, other times the pain indicates a more serious issue. Don’t take too long ignoring it or trying to figure it out on your own before you see a doctor or PT. As I mentioned before, including information about those little pains in your blog posts or journal entries can help you to keep better track of them so that when you do go see the doctor or PT, you can give them the best information about what’s going on, as well as being helpful to yourself and other new runners.
Take good care of yourself and run happy!