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Carolyn’s Workout Diary: Week 24

In the lead up to the Queenstown Marathon Carolyn Enting decides to invest in a sports massage with enlightening results.

Carolyn’s Workout Diary: Week 24

Stretching is an important training component for runners if they want to remain injury free and it’s part of the recommended weekly prescription at specialist running clinic GetRunning.

As part of my training I’ve done yoga most Mondays though over the past few weeks other commitments have got in the way. So the other day at yoga I overdid it on one exercise. Embarrassingly it was simply lying on the ground with my arms held above my head. My arms should have rested easily on the floor behind me but my pectoral muscles were so tight it felt as though my arms might tear from my armpits.

The next morning I awoke with extremely sore pecs and a splitting headache. It was so bad I didn’t think I’d be able to make that morning’s training session but I forced myself to get up and do it.

As it turned out it was the best thing I could have done because the headache cleared. However, GetRunning coach Gaz Brown decided to book me in for a sports massage with Warren McGregor at Sportslab anyway.

The fact that it was my first massage in six months of training was in itself an incredible thing I realised because prior to putting myself into the hands of GetRunning, I was a regular visitor to the massage table and chiropractor due to pain in my lower back and hip flexors. Some days I had to roll out of bed – literally, I was so stiff.

It was depressing. I was spending so much of my time desk bound, as well as eating the wrong things, that I was putting on weight. Then I’d go for a run and my hip flexors would be so sore that I’d limp around for a few days. I literally thought my body was packing up, that it was a sign of getting old. Seeking the help of GetRunning was a move motivated by pure desperation. If anyone could get me back to pain free running, they could, I hoped.

So it was a wonderful moment when I booked an appointment to see Warren because I was struck by the realisation that all this exercise had helped with so much more than just losing weight and improving my running style. Through building the strength of certain muscles, as well as stretching, I was now pain free.

And the fact that my headache had gone after an exercise session was a good thing Warren assured me because it meant it was muscular.

“You’ve put yourself in an awkward position and held it for a long time and your body has gone into a protection mechanism,” said Warren. “And all the results from that are on-flowing, like the headache and feeling of tension. It’s good that the gym helped, that means that it’s muscular and that by doing the gym you’ve released it off yourself.”

Even so, he spent a good hour working on my anterior system to release off the tension, which he also put down to me having a desk job.

“Through working on the computer a lot your anterior system, all through your chest, etc, will always be in a shortened position,” he explained. “So you are always going to be quite tight and sore through there. Unfortunately how we are today generally most of us are in that forward shoulder position. Our anterior muscles like our pecs and abs are really tight because we’re doing a lot more sitting and computer work.”

As I lay on the massage table it was clear that my pec minor was not very happy, and Warren explained you have to stretch the pec major before you stretch the pec minor. This is because the pectoralis major makes up the bulk of the chest muscles and underneath the pectoralis major is the pectoralis minor, a thin, triangular muscle.

It’s easy to stretch these at home. Warren demonstrated (pictured) how to stretch the pec major first, by holding the arm on the wall at 90 degrees and then twisting away from it.

To stretch the pec minor, it’s essentially the same movement. But you hold the arm above 90s degrees.

One of the most common complaints that he treats, however, is pain in the hip flexor, which is something I suffered from terribly before I joined GetRunning and started strength classes.

So as I lay on the table being pummeled we chatted, and Warren solved the mystery of why my hip flexors had caused me so many problems in the past. It turns out that like my tight pecs, it had a lot to do with having a desk job.

“It comes down a lot to that sitting posture. When you sit you shorten your hip flexors so if you sit for eight hours a day, that’s eight hours of shortening,” he said. “Then if you go and run for an hour it stretches them out. It’s one of the reasons [they hurt] because you’ll be shortening them through sitting, and they get short and tight. Also while sitting the glutes turn off and don’t function and then you get that muscle imbalance of one side being short and tight and one side being dysfunctional, and then you try and run. The glutes don’t fire and the hip flexors fire too much.”

So that’s why!

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