Running Progress Report

12 minutes today. Nice brisk weather. I was pretty unmotivated this morning but ran anyway. By the end I was glad I'd gotten outside.

A Scary Moment

I had a scary moment last night just before going to bed. I was walking normally when, out of nowhere, triggered by nothing, I had a sharp shooting pain that covered most of my ribcage. It seemed to be coming from the T5 or T6 area of the thoracic vertebra in the spinal column.

The pain was so sharp it caused my knees to buckle. I wanted to lie down IMMEDIATELY. There didn't seem to be anything to do to relieve the pain other than get horizontal, so I took two shots of Jack Daniels and tried to sleep it off. The next morning only a small amount of residual pain remained. All day today a slight nagging pain in that thoracic spinal region remains. It makes me want to do twisty stretching exercises because the pain feels so like a severely cramped muscle.

This area has hurt before. The only thing to do is gut it out and let time do its healing magic. I suspect that this was initially caused by weightlifting exercises such as squats and dead lifts that compress the spinal cord. Yet another reason to approach weightlifting carefully.

I was very conscious of the area when running this morning. I tried to minimize the amount of up and down motion that would mechanically shock the spinal cord. The result was a flat, measured run. Not too exciting, but I got my minutes in. Some days, that's all that matters.

Later in the afternoon, the pain disappeared after a particularly hard sneeze. The vertebrae must have been pinching a nerve, and the explosive nature of the sneeze must have separated the vertebrae just enough to allow that nerve to get unpinched. Nature is a marvelous healer.

I don't know much anatomy, but two sites that give rudimentary spinal cord information are:



Up to now, my morning routine has consisted of waking up, jumping in to running clothes, and hitting the trail. (See Training for a marathon for early-morning alarm clock motivation.) No eating, no stretching, no nothing.

This early morning simplicity can't last forever. For one thing, your muscles are going to get stronger as you run, and the stronger they get, the tighter they get, and the more you'll feel like wanting to stretch. Three important areas you need to stretch are your hamstrings, your calf muscles, your groin, and your lower back muscles.

Stretching before your run makes your first few minutes very enjoyable. If you stretch beforehand, your muscles feel loose and limber.

Stretching after the run is probably important too. You won't need to do so at this time, since you're only running a few minutes a day. Once you get above an hour or two, however, this will change. When you get back from your run, you'll want to loosen up a bit before doing anything. The cooling-off period causes the muscles to tighten naturally, and stretching before that ameliorates somewhat the effects of the tightening. But more on that later.

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