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Week Eleven: Butt Stuff

May 12, 2017

Week Eleven: Butt Stuff

When I decided to rekindle my relationship with the marathon I compared it to reuniting with an ex, one you said you’d never get back together with.

As the story goes, the first few weeks were easy breezy, full of doe-eyed excitement and thrilling naivety - a true honeymoon period. But as time and miles wore on cute quirks became irritations, petty little fights erupted over stuff "I swore I was over", and pretty soon I was questioning our future while angrily flipping the toilet paper roll to flap-over for the millionth time.

Or non-metaphorically, dealing with an injury.

When this hip thing started, I refused to acknowledge that anything was really wrong. (My favorite way to deal with problems is to ignore them.) Without fail, 20-25 minutes into a run a looseness/tugging would set in and I’d slow to a walk, defeated. Like a real dumb-dumb though, instead of having it looked at or completely shutting everything down I kept going out, every other day, thinking THAT run would be different. That would be the day I wouldn’t have to throw in the towel early. That’s when everything would turn around.

I was scared of admitting I was really hurt. Wounds from past DNFs (did not finish) opened up and had me wincing at the idea of not getting to run in Cleveland, that all this training wouldn’t get its fair chance to shine on race day. I wasn’t ready to accept that fate.

After another one of those “maybe this is the one!” abbreviated runs I was sitting in the sauna at Recharge, thanking the heat for a sweat that running wasn't able to produce, feeling sorry for myself. As I got up to return to my regularly scheduled mid-packer day stuff, a local pro ultrarunner (because, Bend...) asked how my training was going. Struggling to balance the whiny despair and disconnected ambivalence in my voice, I explained my predicament. He looked at me knowingly and said,

"You should go see a PT. Something might just be jammed up and not firing. Maybe they can straighten you out in time."

Sometimes all it takes is an encouraging dose of reality from a professional athlete in an infrared sauna at a boutique recovery gym to turn your perspective around!

(That might be the least mid-packer thing anyone has ever said.)

I called and took the very first available appointment, and as I hung up my eyes welled at the acknowledgement that something was actually wrong. Lauren came in shortly afterwards and the threat of fat tears spilling onto my desk reached defcon-5 when she looked over and simply yet earnestly said, "Injuries suck."


Luckily my PT had a great idea of what was going on almost immediately, noting the hike in one hip and disparity of mobility in my legs. Tight hip flexors limited the extension I was getting on the back of my stride, which had my hamstrings working overtime and my glutes sitting there like flat pancakes, which was then putting stress on the glute connectors which live on the outside of your hip, right where my pain is. My running form - especially the shuffle-jog I employ for long runs - combined with a ton of sitting at work and in the car these past few weeks finally caught up to me, and now I've got a lame left butt cheek to whip into shape if there's hope for the marathon.

Here's how we're gonna do that. (Because yes, we're doing that.) 

An overzealous hamstring and a "just along for the ride" free-loader glute in action

Week Eleven:


2 x 2 mile Retest All the glute activation exercises I was so looking forward to re-running the 2mile baseline test we started training with, but being sour over not getting to isn't going to help anything or make my glutes magically start firing, so we're not going to dwell on it. I've done enough self-sabotage already. Here are the glute activation exercises I was given to fix my lame bum. 

Bridge + Lift

Laying on your back with knees bent and feet flat, squeeze and lift your butt so your torso and thighs are in (at least close to) a straight line. Keeping your hips still and knees together, extend one leg at a time, holding for 5 seconds. Lower butt between each round. Repeat 15-30x. 

Clammy Hands Shells

Laying on your side with knees at a 90 degree angle and feet in line with your bum, push your top foot down onto the other and separate your top knee from the other without rolling your hips back. Hold for a few seconds and lower with control until your palms become sweaty from the seemingly basic but painstakingly meticulous tiny movement. Repeat 20-50x on each side. 

Pigeon Butt

Get into every runner’s least favorite yoga pose (pigeon) with back toes tucked under. Squeeze your buns and slowly lift your extended leg’s knee so it’s in a straight line. Keeping the glutes engaged, lower knee slowly to ground. Let out a big exhale when you realize you’ve been holding your breath in concentration the whole time. Repeat 10-20x.

So that's the magic sauce. I get to continue running, as long as I promise to stop once that tight/loose hip feeling sets in and do all these exercises before and after. I'm progressing at a rate of about two more minutes of pain-free running every other day, which is encouraging isn't necessarily on pace to make 26.2 happen by next Sunday, but hey, miracles can happen.

If I’ve learned anything from this, which is the only way to make these last few weeks not feel like a giant waste of time, it’s to stop being such a non-confrontational pansy and fix the shit that’s bothering you straight away!

- Sarah