Dealing w/ IT Band Injuries
I know I'm not alone in recovering from a racing injury. It can happen to first timers as well as seasoned veterans. The following is a brief commentary on my experience with "IT Band Syndrome" and my quest to get back to racing.
I first started feeling pain on the outside of my right knee after I completed the St. Jude Country Music Marathon on April 27, 2013. I took it easy for about a month only running 2-3 miles a few times a week and stretching. I would notice that after my runs it would be very painful to go down steps. Eventually I stopped running altogether for the next few months.
In August 2013 I began trying to get back into it. I started by running a half-mile and walking a half-mile followed by about 20 minutes of stretching. I did this pretty successfully for a while and ran the 2-Bridges 5K with some discomfort but nothing too bad. A few hours after the 5K I could literally barely walk. The pain on the outside of my knee was about a 7 of 10. I decided after this race that I would take some time off for a while.
After stretching and resting for the remainder of 2013 I decided to test out the knee on Jan 2, 2014. I went for an easy one mile run with basically no pain. I was incredibly excited that I was able to run pain free especially since I was border-line depressed after not running for the past 2 months. I was able to do the one milers for about 2 more weeks (2-3 times a week) and then decided to go for 2. When I got to about the 1.6 mile point the pain started to come back in the side of my knee. I was so pissed! My thoughts, "I just did a marathon...I was averaging 100 miles a month for about a year...now I can't run 2 miles without getting hurt!" I knew I was not going to be able to heal on my own so I began researching the internet for every article/blog I could find on ITBS. At this point I had convinced myself that I had to have surgery.
I began to start stretching with some of the stretches I found online and acquired a foam roller. I love the foam roller and have rolled my right IT band so much that I can no longer feel any pain when I roll it. The stretches and foam roller definitely helped but when I tried to test out running again my results were the same. (felt good on one mile runs but felt the pain around 2.4 miles) I decided to go to Fast Break on a Thrusday when they have PTs come in and assess injuries. The PT told me that I have some of the tightest IT bands he has ever felt. He gave me some great stretches to do but he also gave me some strengthening exercises to try. He said that he thought the issues with my IT band were more about having weaker areas around the IT band. I honestly had not thought about this at any point during the past almost year of IT struggles but it makes sense.
One of my biggest problems as an avid runner is that all I do is run. I hardly ever mix in cross training, swimming or biking which I know is a no no. I believe that my one dimensional training plan for the marathon is what led to my injury and could/should have been avoided had I mixed it up better.
Today is about 2-1/2 weeks from being a year since I ran the Country Music Marathon. I wish I was already back at it running and racing but I am not even close. I do however feel that I am closer to resolving the issue. With the help of the PT I met with and some online resources I believe I can stretch and strengthen my lower body and get back to training. Below is my current training program that I've been doing for about a month. I try and work in 15-20 minutes of stretching after any activity that involves my legs:
- Foam roller every morning/evening
- P90x 3-4 times a week
- The ITB Rehab Routine every other day
- Hill Sprints twice a week (8-10 reps)
I have not had any issues with the hill sprints so far which is encouraging. I'm going to stick with this plan for the next 2 weeks and then test out a short run. I will give an update on how the progress is going.
I've posted some of the links that have been helpful below. Please comment if you've had any experiences dealing with IT band injuries or if you know of any great resources. Happy racing!