Keeping you On Pace


by: Michelle Collie, RI

Michelle Collie, physical therapist, entrepreneur, mother and runner offers strategies and motivation to keep you exercising–on pace–year round.

It’s official, albeit being relatively mild, we made it through another New England winter and the first signs of spring have arrived.  The longer daylight hours, emerging colors of spring and comfortable temperatures are natural motivators for everyone to exercise. Springtime is packed with races of various lengths, from 5K walks/ runs to marathons and ultra-marathons—catering to all types of athletes, novice to elite. Athletes of all ages and abilities are planning, training and paying close attention to the number of weeks they have left to prepare for their spring events.

Having increased my total weekly mileage in preparation for a spring half marathon, I headed out for a long run on an unseasonably warm afternoon. Enjoying the solitude and listening to my book I noticed the return of a suspicious ache in my hip and leg. For a couple of years, I have managed a hip injury with physical therapy and dry needling, massage, by including yoga, Pilates and strength training into my exercise routine and by improving my running form. As I completed the 9 mile run a fleeting thought raced through my mind, “could my running days be coming to an end?.”  I immediately iced my hip and leg, and spent the evening using a foam roller and stretching.  

“Athletes of all ages and abilities are planning, training, and playing close attention to the number of weeks they have left to prepare for their spring events.”

Nearly 70-percent of runners will become injured at some point during their training. Despite this statistic, runners of all levels are devastated when it happens. Questions raced through my mind; will I be able to run the half marathon? If I keep running “through the pain” will I end up needing surgery? How will I deal with stress if I can’t run? I was upset and frustrated because I knew the injury was my body’s way of telling me to slow down after many years of long distance running. But my mind was still pushing me to go further and faster – or at the very least maintain my previous years’ mileage and pace.  The balance between what we want to do and what our body is capable of doing can be difficult to strike, and often leads to frustration and disappointment. I would propose an injury like many things in life, be considered challenge, even an opportunity, but certainly not a reason to quit.

There are many reasons for hip pain in runners including imbalances in muscle strength and flexibility, tendinitis, bursitis, a tear of the labrum and impingement. These problems are caused or exacerbated by changes in running frequency, duration and intensity, poor alignment, poor muscle strength, flexibility limitations and/or poor running technique. Often the reason is multifactorial and a thorough assessment is essential for treatment to be successful. I did seek help from a colleague in the days following that fateful run and developed a plan to address the underlying causes of my hip pain. I am confident my training schedule will barely be affected and this hip pain is just a bump in the road on the journey to reach my goals.  

An injury can in fact bring a sudden end to one’s exercise regime or sport. But I encourage you to consider an injury as a way to learn more about your body and your mind, and make each stronger, so you can stay on pace!
Michelle Collie PT, DPT, MS, OCS is a Physical Therapist, and the CEO of Performance Physical Therapy. She lives on the East Side of Providence with her husband and 2 children. She can be reached at [email protected]

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