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Back in September, I went running on the Appalachian Trail. This would give way to months of pain, setbacks, and frustration. It was one of the most positive experiences of my life.
First off, if you haven’t seen my write-up on the running excursion itself, click the link above and give it a read. My friend Ryan set the FKT for a supported run of the New Jersey section of the Appalachian trail, and it was totally badass. Worth the read.
I was along for only three and a half miles of his 70+ mile journey, and it was an awesome experience at the time. However, I was a total idiot.
To preface this all, here’s the deal: I have a very positive self image. Most of the time I feel and act like I’m invincible. I actively seek out things that I find scary, intimidating, or overwhelming, specifically to surpass them. It’s why I enjoy martial arts, fitness, public speaking, and everything in between. While this mindset has carried my through a lot in life, there’s one big problem with it.
I tend to ignore holes in my armor.
So leading up to pacing Ryan, for most of 2017, I had been running regularly. This was new for me! I’ve never been a big runner, always more into lifting weights, conditioning circuits, and riding a bicycle for cardio. I was really learning to enjoy it, and so when Ryan’s wife reached out for support/pacers, I decided to jump in. I was cautioned that it was pretty intense trailrunning, significantly different from flat ground stuff. Even though I had only run regularly on flat(ish) ground up to that point, I figured I’d go for it. It’s only three miles, right?
Ignoring hole #1.
The big day came, and we started running. If you read the writeup, I don’t need to reiterate the whole thing, but suffice it to say, I dropped out three miles in with knee pain on a downhill. However, I had been pushing through that knee pain and tightness for the better part of ten minutes leading up to that point.
Ignoring hole #2.
I had tightness the next day, but nothing too bad. Minor soreness/tightness continuing for a few weeks after that, but I shrugged it off and kept running/lifting/doing my usual routine. Finally, I was playing a pickup game of football a few weeks later, got new and worse pain/tightness, and ignored it again.
Ignoring hole #3.
Finally, I decided to give myself a month of rest after that to see if it got better before seeing a doctor.
Ignoring hole #4.
So, I’m an idiot. I’ve got a nasty case of IT band syndrome (AKA runner’s knee) that has now been bothering me for the better part of four months. I haven’t really run since October, and probably won’t run for another month or so. I also took time off judo, and leg strength training in general.
Well geez, Dan, that sounds like an awful time. How is this one of the most positive experiences of your life?
Because it helped me REALIZE that my armor needs repairing! Specifically, this whole experience reminded me of a couple things. First off, I need to stay humble, and not underestimate challenges. Ultrarunning and trailrunning are serious business. It’s not the kind of thing you can just start doing on a whim one day. I underestimated this, and paid the price.
More specifically, however, it alerted me to a specific weakness I had in my fitness regimen. Specifically, I’m super quad and calf dominant, and tend to use my calves and quads to make up for deficiencies in my glutes and hip stabilizers (which led to the IT band syndrome in the first place.) I’m now incorporating hip stabilization and glute strengthening and activation exercises into my regular workouts. For a while, I was pretending that squats and deadlifts were enough work for my legs. In fact, I was pretending this even though I knew it wasn’t true!
So, does it suck having to take some time off running and other stuff like that? Absolutely. But I was lucky enough to have self-injured myself in a way that I can remedy. That may not be the case next time I act like an idiot, so it’s better to realize when I’m getting myself in over my head, and deal with it before it becomes an issue.
Would I do the run again, given everything that happened? Absolutely, without a thought in my mind or a single second guess. However, I’d also respect the task a lot more, and prepare for it a lot better. Also, while I’m traveling back in time I’d like to talk to January 2017 Dan and tell him to stick some glute bridges into his routine, dummy.
Speaking of routines, I’m going to be recording what I’m doing right now to strengthen my legs and stave off IT band syndrome in a video for the Be a Game Character YouTube Channel later this week, so keep an eye out for that video. It’s part of my goal for 2018 to start working towards 5 videos per week on the channel, along with daily videos for The Best Dan Wallace.
We’re talking a lot about how we’re accomplishing our 2018 goals in RPG FitGroup, by the way. If you’ve got something you’re looking to improve on in the coming year, even if it’s not particularly fitness related, you should come join us!
I’ll see you again on Thursday with another new post! Until then, as always, remember to live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome!