*Note-I am NOT a medical professional and I only know what is right for me. My medical team is aware of what I am doing and has given me the green light to continue.
After my first marathon (Columbus in 2012), I experienced some alarming symptoms the day after the race: my back, triceps and abs were incredibly sore. I was baffled. Why would I be sore there?? Well, running is not just a workout for your legs. You need a strong core to stabilize yourself, and your arms move along with your legs to propel yourself forward (it’s kind of common sense now but was groundbreaking at the time.) I spent so much time running to get in shape and absolutely no time doing even the tiniest bit of strength training, neglecting all of the accessory muscles necessary to run efficiently and successfully. After taking weeks to recovery from that race, I swore that strength training would always be a part of my routine.
And it mostly has been. I’ve utilized TRX straps, KettleBells, bootcamp classes, the BodySpace App (specifically the Jamie Eason Middleton 12 week program) and my own hybrid strength plans obtained from Reddit (A gold mine if you ask me.) I lifted on my own for the most part, kind of just making sure I was hitting all the muscle groups. I also added in additional core work (think supermans, bird dogs, and inch worms) along with the Myrtl routine for hip and glute stability. I know that some is better than none so I was pleased with myself for sticking with it despite higher mileage. However, I started to have a sneaking suspicion as to whether I was reaching my full potential by doing this on my own. About every 2 months I would google the local cross fit/lifting gyms only to quickly dismiss the idea due to fear of being the newbie and having to learn new skills in a public setting. I would let self doubt sneak in and get the best of me. That is until Amy went to her first class at EpiqX Fitness and Performance. I saw the picture from her first class-she was lifting, like really lifting, a barbell with weight and everything! I always shied away from the barbell when I lifted on my own (too heavy? who knows.) That was the last little piece I needed; knowing that my BRF was there was the little shove that got me through the door. And sure enough, a few days later, I was at my first class.
I always assumed that in a strength focused gym, the majority of the participants would be your local meatheads, bicep kissers, and wannabe tough guys. And that may be the case at some gyms but not at EpiqX. I was immediately welcomed into a warm and supportive community made up of individuals at all levels. It was heartening to know that I wasn’t the only newbie. But more importantly, I’ve never felt “less than” or that I was being compared to someone who has advanced skills or strength. From the beginning, my small successes have been celebrated in a big way. And the area’s that need work (and let me tell you, there are many!) are gently and patiently explained by the expert coaches.
From my first “Murph” workout- 1 mile run (which I walked) 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, 1 mile run (walked).
Speaking of the coaches, they come with YEARS of experience, but more importantly, they embody the unique ability to teach in a way that imparts not just knowledge and wisdom, but enthusiasm and support. I feel supported even when I feel like I’m failing at just about everything. In fact, yesterday after I really struggled with some basic skills, Coach Martin said to me “there is no failure” and went on to reinforce that this sport is about learning from a neuro-cognitive level before a muscular level.
The classes are made up of a WOD (workout of the day) which include a warm up, followed by weightlifting skills which consist of learning or improving technique on various Olympic lifts (think snatch or clean and press.) The lift is often broken down into smaller components and performed under the eagle eyes of the coaches who constantly provide feedback which is possible due to small class sizes (my biggest class size so far was a whopping 5 people.) It is here where we learn the proper way to lift in a very controlled environment. It is also here where I’ve had to walk away from the bar in frustration but also where I’ve yelled out a joyful “fuck yeah!!” after finally putting together the components to a successful lift. After 30 or 40 minutes of lifting, we move on the Metcon (metabolic conditioning) portion of the class. Metcon is the cardiovascular or aerobic conditioning part of the class. Essentially it’s the part where you work harder in mere minutes then you do in an entire marathon (that’s a bit of hyperbole but you get my point.) I’ll give you an example from a recent class: For time; rounds of 21, 15 and 9 of a calorie bike, ball slams, and mountain climbers on the ball. In other words, I rode a bike until a burned 21 calories (really hard when racing), followed by 21 ball slams, and 21 ball mountain climbers. Repeat for reps of 15 and then 9. It took me 7 minutes and 59 seconds and my heart felt like it was going to pop out of my chest! I tend to feel most confident during the Metcon because of my endurance background.
Ok and here is why this is important to me right now. The research into disc injuries overwhelmingly shows that in order to properly recover, one must have the strength in the stabilizing muscles to properly support the discs. In other words, lifting with proper form will allow me to strengthen the weak areas. And this is a key point-I am not in a position to be lifting or working out by myself right now. The risk of injury with improper form is great both for individuals with back (or other) issues and those with no injury history. I currently have the green light from my medical providers to continue to lift in this supervised, controlled setting. I want to clarify that my disc symptoms, though present, are not seriously incapacitating. That may change at some point in the near future but for right now, the training is really helping to control the hamstring and calf pain/discomfort by increasing my strength. The most concerning symptom and the main impetus for discontinuing running was some right leg weakness. The team at EpiqX is aware of what is going on and I keep them updated with any progress or changes to my injury. They also help me figure out what to modify and assist with making sure that the imbalance caused by the herniation doesn’t affect my form.
I can’t say enough how happy I am with this plan for the moment. Yes, running is important to me and having to defer from my other big races does kind of suck but I am so grateful that I can remain active (unless something changes) and can stay in shape. In 2016 the herniation was much more severe then it currently is and thus led me to seek total rest. Today it appears as if that isn’t necessary so it does provide a small measure of relief that I can keep my level of fitness as well as make strength gains all the while recovering. I’m excited to finally have have courage to pursue something that has been a goal for as long as I’ve been a runner. I’m not sure what the future holds as far as running….not going to lie, I hop on ultrasignup.com about once a week to check out the Fall/Winter ultras but no registrations just yet. For now, I am looking to safely take my fitness to a new and different level!
If you are local and interested in learning more about EpiqX, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on instagram or check out the Epicx website. If you are ready to take the next step, head on over to Epicx for one free week of training!! Mention you are a reader of Runultrainspired!!