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The Training Dilemma: Running vs. Strength Training

You need to stop doing all that deadlift sh*t

That was my son in law-a pretty competitive runner back in high school- giving me advice on how to get over my ITB tendonitis. I laughed, but in the last month, I have cut almost all of my miles out of my training, and continued to go to the gym and weight train and my ITB is no better. Maybe he is on to something?

To understand the dilemma we need to go back 4 years when I was strength training twice a week and running 3-4 times a week, always training for some running goal, either for distance or for speed. One spring I ended up with ITB tendonitis and continued to run and strength train and it lingered for almost 10 weeks. The pain didn’t disappear until I took a week off from all training. During that time I aggressively foam rolled, used the massage stick and walked. I went to physical therapy for a month and had one Graston session during that time. During my last PT session the therapist damaged a nerve by being too aggressive massaging my hamstrings.

This time I brought it on myself. I had been training for an early spring half marathon and I was ready to run 10 miles, not 13.1. I felt the twinge around the 9 mile mark of a pretty hilly course and then hobbled the last 5k to a finish. I rested and recovered for a  week and thought I was good to go, but so far in the last 6 weeks I have not been able to run more than 25-30 minutes without pain. I decided to experiment the last two weeks and all but eliminated my running, the rest would allow enough time for my ITB to calm down so that I could run a 10k trial race this last weekend. If you have ever experienced ITB tendonitis, you know downhills are torture. The trail race was basically down a mountain and then back up again. I managed to get through the downhill first half pretty good but I struggled through the second half and limped around the house for the next day and a half.

I decided to call my cousin who coaches cross country at the collegiate level and has a ton of experience rehabbing not only herself but her athletes and explained my situation. When I told her I had been rowing and using the Air bike at the gym she groaned.

You would have been better off running.”

My coaches at the gym like to remind me this is self induced pain brought on by too much running.

You need to stop running so much!”

They are actually both correct! I ran too much, too soon, and I continued to go to the gym and aggravate my IT band. I have two weeks until the Mt Washington Auto Road Race which is all uphill; my goal is to continue to condition myself while allowing my ITB to calm down. My running coach cousin told me to run for short distances, stopping before pain, ice immediately after, and massage the heck out of it. I have a pool so my plan is to deep water pool run as long as it doesn’t aggravate the issue. We are both confident I will be able to get up the 7.6 mile hill.

At the gym, my coaches are not quite as knowledgeable about the exercises which are contributing to my ITB issue, so I am planning to work on upper body and core conditioning trying to stay away from repetitive motions that stress that tendon. It has been 2 years since I moved on from a running coach that was also a strength coach and I am missing that secret combination. I am much stronger now having learned how to barbell squat, and press, but when working on a running goal, I may need to dial it back and go back to more conditioning work at the gym vs. pure strength training. I sometimes forget that the GOAL is the goal. Sticking to the plan to achieve the goal is the best plan. Right now my plan is to recover and not lose fitness to be able to run pain free for good.


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