Mystery hamstring pain

Last week was a whirlwind: I started my new job. We made a bunch of wedding-related decisions, and then, high on our decisiveness, we also put in an offer on a house. Pro tip: Try not to put in an offer just before you both leave town/cell service for the weekend. 

My new screen-profuse environment.

My new screen-profuse environment.

Last week was also my first-ever trip to PT. After my mystery hamstring pain that had lasted about 7-8 weeks, I wanted some expert advice.

After a great long consultation, during which the therapist stretched and prodded me in a thousand different ways, the only way we were able to reproduce the pain I've been having was to have me sit on the edge of a table, or to a lesser degree, do single-leg squats. Typically the only other times the pain presents is after running for a long time, or in the evening or morning.

The good news is that most of the scary stuff was ruled out. The bad news, obviously, is that he couldn't really find what was wrong with me, other than a "significant weakness" on my entire right side. (My logic: "How is this even possible when I always wear my heavy bag on my right shoulder?")

He marveled at my flexibility, but said that I don't have sufficient strength to stay steady while running, especially on the right. I guess flexibility isn't such a good thing when it is accompanied by a total lack of strength. Imagine my legs landing every which way when I run; hips, knees and feet somehow managing to point in different directions. The theory we came up with is that when I started running again and had that original hip pain, I ran through it and my legs, because they are flexible, compensated for that pain in various ways, leading to a deep pain in my hamstring. He wasn't exactly sure what's up with that, but thinks that I should really focus on fixing my hip weakness. He prescribed some PT exercises, which I then failed to do because I went to New York to see friends, go to a baby shower, and shop for a dress ("the" dress.) I also didn't run a single step last week -- I had planned to at least run in the city with a friend, but it poured on Saturday and we both wimped out. 

When I saw the therapist again on Tuesday I confessed that I hadn't really done the PT exercises and apologized for being THAT patient. Again, he tried to diagnose what was wrong with my leg. I ran about a mile on a treadmill at difference cadences and he videoed my horrible, floppy-limbed running form. Again, we couldn't really reproduce the pain, except for when I run or sit on the edge of a table. I don't know. I was starting to feel kind of crazy.

Here is what I am supposed to do going forward:

  • Change my cadence to >180 steps/minute. 
  • Try running intervals: 1 minute on/1 minute off at GHMP, focusing on form, and not letting myself get tired. "Form" here basically just means "Don't cross the midline," or, remembering to keep my hips/knees straight while running.
  • Clamshells to strengthen my hips, especially the right one.
  • Single-leg squats in the mirror, without collapsing my hip or letting my knee wobble left and right.
  • And, something called "engaging my core while I run." That is completely foreign to me, but I tried it the other day and I felt steadier, I think.

The plan is to return to semi-normal training now, doing these exercises, and then see how I'm doing just before the City of Oaks Half. My hope is that whatever I did to myself, it was minor (right? Otherwise we would have found something?) and it is now fully healed thanks to 1.5 weeks off from running, and, if I take strength training at least semi-seriously, I won't have this problem again. Fingers crossed.