After spending last Thursday wallowing in my own laziness, I had three days of absolutely fantastic workouts. Three days in a row of five mile days, at a pace faster than what my race pace was a month ago. I was feeling great, and started to really look forward to the Run for the Kids 5K I have planned for Sunday.
Then I got out of bed on Monday, and my right hip was feeling not so fantastic. Every step hurt, and I could feel a sort of catch in my stride that threw me off balance. Since the pain was on the outside of my hip, I originally thought that my IT band was to blame, but a consultation with Dr. Google turned up some interesting information on the psoas, a muscle I had never even heard of, including an interesting Running Times article called “Runner’s Guide to the Psoas“. According to the article:
The psoas is a rope-like muscle located deep in the belly, which runs obliquely from spine to the femur. The psoas is joined at the hip, literally, by the iliacus, which travels from hip to thigh. Together, the psoas and iliacus make up the iliopsoas–the body’s most powerful hip flexor… The psoas enables you to run. Every time you lift your knee, the psoas contracts. When your leg swings back, the psoas lengthens… The psoas also promotes good posture. Along with a coordinated team of core muscles–abs, obliques, lower back–the psoas helps stabilize your midsection and pelvis. Every time you stand, walk, or run, you’re engaging the psoas. If the muscle is compromised, either by injury or tightness, your running inevitably suffers.
According to the massage therapist quoted in the article, the biggest reason that runners experience tightness in their psoas is that most runners spend their days as office drones, sitting in chairs. I am no exception. I love my job, but generally the only time I get up from my desk during the day is to get another cup of coffee. There’s nothing about my job that requires I sit, though, so on Monday and Tuesday I paid special attention to working standing periods into my day, popping my keyboard and monitor up so I could comfortably work while not in my chair (it helps that I’m short, so it didn’t require a lot of adjustment). My hip feels fine when I’m standing still, so my hope is that the standing is acting as a gentle stretch and isn’t aggravating an already inflamed muscle.
Given how great I was feeling, the last three days off have been frustrating. I’ve never been an injury prone runner, and to have this hit when I was getting ready to up my training for a late July goal race is annoying. I had originally planned to run through my race this coming weekend and keep my training going for my goal race at the San Francisco marathon on July 29. With the rest and icing and stretching, I’m almost completely pain free now, and I’m tentatively optimistic about my ability to run on Sunday. I’m caught between wanting to be cautious and not injure myself, and wanting to be aggressive and run a great race on the 29th. For now, I’m going to take the easy road, and do nothing. I’ll see how Monday feels, and plan from there.
P.S. According to the Wikipedia page on the psoas “In less than 50 percent of human subjects the psoas major is accompanied by the psoas minor.” Apparently there are optional muscles that a huge minority of people just don’t have as a normal course of events? I did not realize that was a possibility. There is so much in this world I do not know.