My Legs Hurt – How Do I Fix That?
It’s been a few years since I’ve run a marathon, so I’ve blocked from my memory the rougher parts and just kind of focused on the warm and fuzzy feeling at the end when I get a medal and a beer.
Reality came crashing down on my after my first long run when my hips hurt like hell. And then there was that calf cramp after the next long run. Why is this happening?
The iliotibial band is the ligament that runs outside the thigh. When you run more miles than you’re used to it can get sore from over use. When it’s contracted it can cause knee pain and hip pain too. Sometimes when a person is tired they will turn their leg or foot at an odd angle, which can throw your whole body out of alignment casing aches and pains from your toes to your lower back.
Your skeletal muscles have two neuron receptors, the muscle spindles (which run parallel to the muscle fibers) and the golgi tendon organ (GTO). If you are doing strenuous exercise the muscle spindles trigger the myotatic stretch reflex, causing the muscle to shorten. (That’s a fancy way of saying you have a “knot”). If you ever had a knot you know just how painful this can be. This is where the GTO comes in.
The GTO is sensitive to muscle tension, and when it is stimulated past a certain threshold it triggers a message telling the muscle spindles to stop contracting the muscle. Once the muscle relaxes, the pain goes away. The key is for the GTO to reach that threshold, which takes about 30-45 seconds.
One of the quickest fixes you can do to relax these tight muscles is to do self myofascial release, which is fancy for “give yourself a massage using a foam roller.”
HOW TO USE A FOAM ROLLER
A foam roller is a long cylinder made out of foam. Let’s say your calf hurts. Sit on the floor. Put the foam roller under your calf and roll it back and forth until you feel the sorest spot. (You’ll know when you find it, trust me.) Then lean your entire bodyweight on that knot into the foam roller and hold it there for 30-45 seconds. It will hurt like hell but after the 45 seconds your muscle should relax and the knot will be gone.
After long runs I foam roll just about every part of my leg: thighs, hamstrings, calf, and the IT band.
There are other types of foam rollers with spikes and grooves on them to get deeper into the muscle tissue. Massage balls are another good tool. I have an Original Worm (four rubber balls in a neoprene casing) that I use all the time, especially to work on my feet.
To massage your foot I like to start the massage ball in the arch of my foot and then slowly roll it back and forth and up and down over the entire foot from toes to heel.
Hips hurting? The psoas is one of the biggest muscle in the hip flexors. It’s a core muscle stretches from the lumbar vertebrae to the femur. If you have a massage or tennis ball, lie face down on top of it positioned to the right of your belly button. Slowly roll back and forth until the ball reaches your right hip. Repeat on the left side.
Hope this helps!
I’m running a half marathon in honor of Johnny James Follis who was paralyzed from the neck down in a car crash just before Thanksgiving. Did you find this article useful?
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Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!!
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