One of the realisations I took away from participating in Lauren Shelley’s Pilates for Runners class was if a body part hurt, the actual issue was never where the pain was.
My lower back hurt, but the issue was with tightness in my glutes, hips and quadratus lumborum.
My shins were sore, but the issue was with my rock solid calves.
My knees were sore, but the problem was with my rock solid quadriceps.
Way back in high school, when my patellas used to slide out of place, it was because of my strong iliotibial bands and weak adductors.
My hip wouldn’t stretch out, and it was because the psoas muscle on that side was way too tight.
I had a sore heel one day, and in an attempt to relieve it, I foam rolled my calves. The foam rolling didn’t feel like it was working and distracted, I kind of rolled around on the foam roller, up my leg until my butt was perched on the roller. Bam! I felt this pulse of pain fire down my leg, and slam right into my heel. With some judicious Googling, I worked out that I must have had a knot in my piriformis, and it was pressing into my sciatic nerve running down into my heel.
I don’t know a great deal about human anatomy, but I have worked out that muscles need to both contract and extend. If your calf muscle is tight, it’s going to impact on the functionality of the shin muscles, and vice versa.
I have a sequence of stretches that I do regularly, in an attempt to free up all the issues, and sometimes I swear it’s like the Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly song.
In order to stretch out my hips, I need to stretch my hamstrings. In order to really release my hamstrings, I need to release my hip flexors. To release my hip flexors I have to release my quadriceps, but to really stretch my quadriceps, I need to have freed up my hips. To free up my hips, my glutes have to be released too, but in order to release my glutes properly, my hips have to be loosened up.
I have pretty much the same issue with every muscle in my lower legs and feet too.
So I end up doing each stretch at least twice. Release the quadricep a bit, to enable the hip flexor to loosen, and then stretch the hamstring so that I can then get stuck into my hips and glutes, to enable me to release the hamstring more. Once that has happened, I can get the quadricep really stretched, and also get rid of that last bit of hip flexor tightness, which enables me to stretch my hips and glutes out again.
Whenever I’m not completely certain why something hurts or aches or just feels ‘off’, I just do the whole sequence, and go through the Yoga With Adriene Runners Yoga video a few times, and at some point, I’ll usually succeed in releasing the stuck point, and be back to normal.
When I’ve done all that, if I’m still knotted up, I’ll go and get a good remedial massage and see if that’s enough pressure to fix the issue. And if I’m still broken after all that, then I go to the physiotherapist, because if I can’t run or move or do exercise, then my brain breaks instead.