Wednesday, November 7

Damage control

I know I need to learn a thing or two about damage control and recovery when it comes to running... I've been athletic all my life, but only recently became a runner, so I don't know the nuances of soreness and aches like I did as a fastpitch softball pitcher.

When I pitched, I knew exactly what would hurt. And I could usually tell why, too. I would strain muscles lining my spine by overcompensating for the directional latitude of a change-up, later requiring a heating pad and a chiropractic adjustment or two. I would extend my leg too far as I lunged forward to deliver the pitch and end up needing some sports cream and ice. I was completely in tune with my pitching arm. It was often sore from throwing as hard as I could for long games. But generally I would rub it down with sports cream and be ready to go the next day. Given: this is all in high school when my body was repairing itself with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew. I don't expect to have that same recovery speed ten years later. (Gosh, was it really that long ago? (Yes.))

Runners World discusses the timing of soreness and aches: on the run and aftershock. I've experienced both, at this point, I think. On the run muscle soreness sets in, well, on the run because you're pushing yourself and even in your awesome running shoes, the cushioning isn't enough to handle all the impact of your body thanks to gravity. Body chemistry and a physiological response get pain going and leave the ache... Careful return to activity and sensible limits for dealing with the pain, if it persists. (And getting to a doctor if it's sticking around too long or getting worse.)

Aftershock is when soreness sets in a few days later. It's the much discussed Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). I've definitely experienced this from car accidents... Runners World says the soreness is from the muscles moving in some new way, despite training and practicing. Makes sense. But when your muscles get feeling better, they really are better than before. The muscle tissue grows back stronger than before. Build and repair muscle, baby!

This makes so much sense. Lately I've noticed some different pains coming on at different times. On shorter, faster runs, I've had some shin pain that feels a lot like my muscle is squished up into a little tube. I've tried stopping and stretching it out, but I'm thinking I may just need to strengthen my legs in that region to help myself. I had my first running-related shin splint right before Pittsburgh's Great Race. I freaked out a little, but did some online research and ended up learning about the wonders of compression socks. (I wore them the evening before, to bed that night, and during the race and I felt no shin pain. It was a miracle because I had been in pain the entire week!)

From my last race... well, I felt like I got hit by a fleet of trucks, to be honest, but to be a bit more specific, here's what hurt:
  • my shins
  • my calves
  • the tips of my toes ("middle" and "pointer" toes; my pointer extends beyond my big toe)
  • my right knee (probably from a dog park incident two weeks ago)
I'm glad to have at least a primer in damage control so I can try to make responsible decisions about when to keep going and when to have a rest day, whether I want to or not! And even if I rest, I'll probably try a little massage and stretching to keep things limber while I wait for my body's cell repair team to go to work.

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