My demented deranged hip

July 18, 2011

I started running a few years ago, thanks in part to a personal trainer who tricked me into liking it.  I realized that it can be a relaxing, enjoyable exercise and not hell from start to finish. I ran my first 5K in June 2009 and realized that running is an ideal exercise for the goal-oriented. I never liked spinning on stationery bicycles going nowhere or watching the back of some lady’s head in a step class, but with running I could challenge myself to faster times and longer races. So this year I signed up for my first half-marathon.

To help with my training, for Christmas my dad gave me a Garmin forerunner 210, a nifty toy that tracks how far you’ve run, how fast you’re running and your heartbeat, amongst other things. Plug it into your computer and you can see that the satellites have tracked exactly where you’ve run too, which falls into that neat/creepy realm that describes most new things.

If I were a member of the Chicago White Sox, I’d be Paul Konerko, not because I’m awesome but because I’m slow. In a tight game, you’d put a pinch runner in for me for sure. I knocked out about a ten-minute mile on the treadmill, normally. With the Garmin, though, I could see exactly how fast I was running, which started to give me something of a complex, especially when I ran outside, on the lakefront, on January days. If I could run faster I’d be home in the hot shower sooner. I started trying to run faster and faster and, not surprisingly, I started enjoying running less.

I also eventually began noticing a slight ache in my right hip. Nothing major--just after I ran, but still, it bugged me because it didn’t go away, not even after I replaced my running shoes. My trainer suggested I take a month or so off from running, which I did this spring, but the second I returned to running, the ache came back too, only now I started feeling it when I was running. And after. And in the mornings. And walking around. It was no longer aching, it was grinding.

The annoying thing about a running injury is that it’s so minor in the big picture. I wasn’t visibly injured, I wasn’t on crutches or bleeding or had a diagnosis, but still, it was bringing me down, and less coolly, making running a drag again when I had successfully un-drag-ified it a few years previously. I realized there was no way I could handle the anxiety of training for a half-marathon and worrying about my hip, so based on the recommendation of a friend, I made an appointment at RIC Spine and Sport.

I’m currently four appointments deep in a six-appointment commitment and I’m very intrigued by the whole process. The facilities are stuffed with equipment: padded tables, treadmills, exercise balls, stuff I can’t even identify. It looks very official. But I felt kind of like a dope when, for my first appointment, I was asked to identify my pain on a scale of 1-10. Well, clearly, 10 is for people who are getting stabbed and giving birth at the same time. Um...a 2? I felt like I was wasting their time.

Fortunately my therapist at RIC hasn’t treated me that way thus far. I was hoping for a cool-sounding diagnosis so that I could tell people I had something that sounds very official, like bursitis or something. When I asked her last week though what the definition for what my hip problem was, she made it sound like my hip is insane.

“What did you say my hip problem was again?” I asked today. “It’s demented?”

“No, it’s deranged,” she said, and then put me on a table called the RePex that bends you backwards like a delicious potato chip and makes squeaky noises like a ghost mouse. Long story made extremely short, my gait is wonky and my hip is weak and so I need to strengthen it and my various other muscles to get back in shape.

I like things that are effective (which, I know, makes me the specialist snowflake.) I tried acupuncture a few years ago for a different running issue and while it was relaxing, I hoped it worked more than I thought it was really working. Plus I had to pay out of pocket for it which I don’t have to do at RIC. So far at RIC though I feel like things are happening. I am given different stretches and exercises to perform which I do diligently (once again, goal-oriented, and a bit of a people-pleaser to boot). Per my therapist's recommendation, I ice my hip so frequently I uttered the phrase "I'm getting really sick of sticking bags of ice down my pants" to my husband last night. Today I ran both on the treadmill and the track so my therapist could figure out what’s wrong with my gait. I was told to imagine I was “running on clouds” next time, which is a delightful mental image. I also liked that I basically got my workout in today while at the doctor’s office.

I still have a few more appointments to go and at least 13.1 big miles to run before I’ve reached the end of this summer’s physical health journey. What have I learned? That if you have good insurance, you should milk every sweet cent out of it that you can if you’re not feeling well. That I am pretty sure that if running a half-marathon is causing me this much angst, a marathon is not in the cards for me. And that maybe running and simultaneously obsessively checking a computer strapped to your arm that’s talking to outer space isn’t the best idea ever.

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