6 Ways to Treat Muscle Tightness in Runners

Happy New Year, everyone!

We are now officially in the same calendar year as my race. Eek! Last week, I told some of you that this week’s blog would be a vote to choose which character I would dress up as for the Disney Princess Half-Marathon 2016. I have some good news and some bad news about that.

Bad news first: that’s not what this week’s blog is about. You see, I’ve discovered that if I re-post pictures of the princesses in question (which was part of my original plan), there is a high likelihood that Disney will sue me. And, as much as I am, as ever, devoted to you, my blog readers, I do not have the capital to take on Disney in a court of law.

The good news, however, is that I have a plan for how to move forward next week without re-posted Disney images. So, the costume vote will happen then!

In the meantime, I’m afraid you’ll have to listen to me talk about running some more.

This week I ran what was, I confess, an exceptionally painful eight miles. No, this time it wasn’t because I was freezing. It was because I was experiencing a lot of tightness (and therefore pain) in my piriformis muscle and IT band on my left side.

Piriformis means “pear shaped” in Latin. And is part of your gluteal area. So, there’s a hilarious little anatomy joke for you. The muscle runs from your spine to your thighbone and can cause all sorts of pain and discomfort when it gets tight by pushing against your sciatic nerve. This can happen from sitting at a desk most of the day (which I often do), or from vigorous activity such as running!

So, yeah, I’m two for two and was pretty much guaranteed a piriformis problem. You might very well experience one, too. Let’s talk about what to do when you start encountering this kind of pain.

1. Foam roll. Come on, you knew this one was coming. Spend extra time foam rolling your lower back, your hips, and your IT bands. It’s going to hurt even more than usually, but it will be worth it when you start to loosen up.

2. Get even deeper myofascial release with a softball or tennis ball. This video will show you how.

3. Run through it. This might not sound entirely sane, but trust me. Obviously, you need to stretch and foam roll (and use a softball!) before you do this, but running really will help your muscle relax. Especially if you foam roll again afterward. I actually found that running was easier than walking at a steep incline, which caused the muscle to seize up again.

4. Use the cold plunge. If you dare!

5. Do a piriformis stretch at least once a day. JK taught me this stretch that can be done while sitting at your desk! While sitting up straight and tall, cross your legs so that one ankle is resting on your opposite knee. Press down gently on your crossed knee so that you can feel the stretch in your piriformis and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat this on your other leg. And then repeat the entire cycle two to four times.

6. If possible, get a massage. It’s pretty common knowledge that I would get a massage every single day if I could. So, when I found myself hobbling around the Club due to piriformis pain the day after my long run, I went to Alan at the RVC Spa & Salon. Massage therapists are honestly miracle workers. Their knowledge of the human body allows them to figure out exactly how to work the tension out of your muscles and have you feeling better. After half an hour on Alan’s table, I felt like I had a new leg!

Plus, there really is nothing like that post-massage high. If you’ve never pampered yourself this way, you really ought to give it a try!

Countdown to Half-Marathon: 47 days.
Mood: Pretty good now that I’m no longer in pain.
Longest Distance Run: 8 miles!
Number of Workouts Last Week: 4 (three running, one tennis).
Goal for This Week: Nine mile run!

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