When you take up running, you’ve essentially agreed to give yourself a crash course in how your body works. You learn about your muscles, pronation, cardiovascular efficiency and, in many cases, all about tendons and ligaments.

My latest lesson has been about the iliotibial band. The IT band runs from your glute to your shin, hooking over the outside of your knee to keep the joint stabalized as your body is in motion. This means that you put a great deal of pressure on the band as you’re working your body. When you run, you’re putting even more stress on your IT band, which means that it’s common for your IT band to get nice and tight on you.

This is why I’m sitting here with an ice pack on my elevated knee. I fought my IT band and it started to look like the band won. With just over two weeks between today and the half marathon, this could be easily seen as reason to panic.

That said, I’m now working the band back into submission. Thanks to a suggestion from Nicole Marie and a whole lot of research, I’m becoming a foam roller convert.

What’s this? A roller? Of foam? What gives?

Imagine, if you will, that you have a knot in your neck or shoulders. Someone is in the process of massaging it out. While you know that the end result is relief, the act of massage is a “hurts so good” situation – it hurts like hell until the muscle submits to the pressure and releases that tension.

Now imagine that the entire side of your leg between your hip and your knee is a chain of those knots. And you’re lying on your side, pressing your body weight onto a cylinder of foam about six inches in diameter, kneading that tension out of your body.

It hurts. A lot. I was gritting my teeth and actually cried out a few times because of the tension I discovered. But that’s actually normal.

But after starting this approach last night, I awoke today without the knee stiffness and limp that was bothering me yesterday. My hamstring’s still way too tight and it’s going to be a process to work this tension out entirely, but I’m going to get there. And I’m actually looking forward to continuing to work out the tension in the coming days.

In other words, this is another example of how runners are masochists. Whatever works, right?

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